Coaching Track & Field Successfully is a comprehensive educational book by track guru, Mark Guthrie. Using tried-and-true methods, personal success stories, positive examples, photographic demonstrations, and tips from experts, Guthrie covers all areas of track and field, in a straightforward manner that can benefit coaches and athletes of all abilities and experience levels.
Coach Guthrie had unusual success in his 19 seasons as the head boys Track & Field coach at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where his teams won 22 NCAA Championships. This book was written in 2003, at the height of Guthrie’s success, when his teams were in the middle of nine consecutive NCAA titles, and while he had 13 NCAA event champions and one Olympic champion (Andrew Rock) on his roster. Before coaching at UW-La Crosse, Guthrie had tremendous success as a high school coach at Fennimore (WI) and Naperville North (IL). After UW-La Crosse, he had success as both an assistant college coach in Division 1 at the University of Wisconsin and as head college coach in Division 1 at Central Michigan University, showing Guthrie to be a proven winner on virtually every level. The variety of his experiences and successes shine in Coaching Track & Field Successfully.
Before delving into the techniques and strategies for each different event that are typical of most training books, Guthrie spends the first six chapters going over general coaching methods, procedures, philosophies, and implementations. Some pieces of advice that he gives aspiring coaches hoping to develop their own coaching philosophy are to be yourself, exude confidence, stay calm, and serve as an example. He also gives specific examples of oft-ignored coaching tools, such as printed practice schedules, team policies and procedure sheets, and daily workout handouts.
There are plenty of other important tips and techniques available in this book that will help improve your own coaching.
In addition to philosophies and general coaching advice, Guthrie breaks down every event in track and field from a technical and tactical standpoint. Guthrie himself writes the chapters on the sprints, relays, hurdles, and high jump, and employs some of his top-notch assistant coaches to write the rest of the chapters on their areas of expertise. Dr. Phil Esten (distance), Joshua Buchholtz (pole vault), Evan Perkins (long and triple jump), and Dennis E. Kline (throws) all write excellent chapters on the training, methods, and techniques of their various events, complete with pictures, charts, training maps, and detailed explanations.
The world of track and field contains many different philosophies on each of the various events. While this book attempts to cover the scope of those varying philosophies, the experts ultimately give their advice based on their own evolved philosophy. Coach Guthrie’s philosophy on running the 400 meters, for example, emphasizes longer, slower intervals with little time to develop speed and acceleration, even contending that athletes should never run faster than race pace during training. That advice conflicts with the short-to-long program emphasized by some other coaches. But even if general issues like these underlying philosophies are out of touch with your own values, there are plenty of other important tips and techniques available in this book that will help improve your own coaching.
The last two chapters in the book focus on coaching meets, a highly underrated aspect of the sport. Again, Guthrie fills in what most coaches might overlook, such as relaxation, mental recall, pre-meet routines, and expectations. He stresses details, even encouraging coaches to provide an itinerary and a list of items to pack.
Perhaps the most valuable part of the book is when Guthrie digresses from the organized structure and gives personal examples from his coaching career. In one such example, he talks about the way he adapted in his very first coaching position when the school did not have a track: They drilled holes into the sidewalk to install blocks, painted lines in the parking lot, poured concrete for throwing rings, used a tractor to dig a hole for the jumping pits, etc. He ended the anecdote with a great quote: “The biggest tool or stumbling block you have for maximizing your current facility is your imagination.”
Coaching Track & Field Successfully is straightforward and masterfully written, and manages to be both simple and comprehensive at the same time. By exposing the reader to not only his own vast knowledge of the sport, but also to that of his expert assistant coaches, Guthrie provides the tools that can help any level of track and field program achieve success.
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