Karl Goodman is the Associate Head Coach at Coastal Carolina. He is the coach to two World Relay Champions (Senior & Under 20), two USA Champions (Senior and Under 20), one NCAA Champion, 12 All-Americans, 20 Conference Champions, and 31 Conference medalists, and he has also coached athletes to seven Sunbelt records. Karl holds an MSc in Exercise Physiology from the University of Texas at Arlington, and he was a collegiate athlete representing UTA and the University of Mount Olive.
Freelap USA: You’re a young coach in the collegiate system and have some great mentors. Can you share some of the coaches that have had a big influence on you and what you have taken from them?
Karl Goodman: The biggest influence on my practice is the staff at UT-Arlington, and Coach Tyrone Edgar in particular (who is now at TCU). I was a graduate assistant at UTA, and Edgar taught me how to recruit and identify talent and wasn’t afraid to tell me if I was doing something wrong. If I set up a practice wrong, he would explain the mistakes and make me do it again. I really appreciated the fact that he was so honest with me because it enabled me to see some of the shortfalls I had in my own practice and work on them to become a better coach.
Coach Edgar also had a lot of good mentors, so I could ask him about his experiences with John Smith, Pat Henry, or Dan Pfaff, for example. He and I still bounce ideas and workouts off each other. In the past, we were in the same conference—so while it could be seen as competitors helping each other, we just tried to elevate and bring the best out of each other. I see him as a big part of why I’ve been able to help the athletes I’ve had be successful, and I’m thankful for that.
Additionally, Coach Matt Kane has been very helpful, and we’ve spoken a lot about the transition from being a collegiate athlete to being a professional athlete. Prior to his current role at FSU, he exclusively coached professionals. He still has some pros alongside his college group, such as Trey Cunningham, who went professional at the same time as Melissa Jefferson. He’s helped me with workouts and interpreting workout performance and determining what that may translate into in racing performance, specifically with regard to the 100m.
Coach Sandy Fowler, the Director of Track and Field at Coastal Carolina, has been great for my development. She has given me a good deal of autonomy within my role and allows me to spend the bulk of my time actually coaching on the track, working with the 32 sprinters and hurdlers we have on our roster. The way she has managed and delegated tasks has really allowed me to refine and develop my coaching practice.
I have also had Zoom conversations with Håkan Andersson regarding resisted sprinting and how to implement that into my program. I have to say he has been really helpful in this regard.
Freelap USA: You grew up in the south of England before competing as a collegiate athlete and then coaching in the U.S. What are some of the differences you’ve noticed between being a young athlete in the UK and a young athlete in the U.S.? Do you think your coaching experience would be different if you were in the UK?
Karl Goodman: I wasn’t ever an international-level athlete, but my experience of being an athlete in the UK is that it was more of an amateur setup and largely required self-motivation. I didn’t have to train if I didn’t want to, for example, and my dad would drive me to training twice a week to be coached by volunteers—whom I had a tremendous amount of respect for because they did this on their own time out of love for the sport.
At the top junior level, my perception is the British athletes might have it easier because there isn’t the same depth as in the U.S. Therefore, they may get made to feel more special and get access to resources, such as treatment, that they might not be entitled to in the U.S. if they were running the same times. And I wonder if this impacts how effective Great Britain is at transitioning junior talent to senior talent. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot of these athletes’ backgrounds and circumstances. Still, from an outsider’s perspective, I feel like I see a lot of talent at the junior level in the UK that I would expect to see do well as a senior, yet it often doesn’t happen.
In the U.S., I think you have a spectrum where, at one end, you have a high school athlete who has a private coach, facilitated by the financial investment of their parents in the hope of them getting an athletic scholarship—and this can be the case even if the athlete may not love the sport. On the other end of the spectrum, you have under-coached athletes who simply do the high school season without any external coaching. They may have more of a love for the sport as they haven’t been exposed to so much pressure, and their involvement is perhaps for purer reasons.
In terms of coaching in the UK, I think many of the more prominent coaches have either been international athletes themselves or have, at some point, been through a UK Athletics apprenticeship-type program. As I do not fall into either of these categories, I am not sure if I would have the same support or opportunities to be successful there that I do here.The U.S. collegiate system is a very chaotic environment, with many other factors outside of writing and managing a training program built into the role, says @karlgoodman. Click To Tweet
The U.S. collegiate system is a very chaotic environment, with many other factors outside of writing and managing a training program built into the role. I think this can bring challenges to the role that a developing coach in the UK may not be prepared for. Of course, there are different challenges in the UK, so while it is a chaotic environment in the U.S., there are structures and systems in place to hold the athletes accountable and make sure they are at practice. In the UK club coaching sector, it is far more challenging to provide the athletes with the same level of accountability.
Freelap USA: You have done a fantastic job with Melissa Jefferson, and it was really only in 2022 that the track community realized how talented she is and how much potential she has. Were you expecting her to be as good as she is when you started coaching her? Was there anything you saw in her that you feel others may not have seen?
Karl Goodman: I started my coaching position at Coastal Carolina when Melissa started her first year, so I wasn’t involved in recruiting her. However, when I took the position, looked through our roster, and checked everyone’s performances and videos on MileSplit, I saw the state championship in which Melissa was racing, and her frequency stood out. To this day, that is still one of my favorite races to watch, and despite her time only being 12.0, it appeared to me that she had something special.
Throughout her first season, which was the first year impacted by the pandemic, I noticed she was making sacrifices that a first-year college athlete typically would not. For example, she paid special attention to things like her diet, and she would come to the office early in the morning and ask me if we could do some extra practice before the actual session was scheduled to start. Additionally, while she did not have a 400m background, due to the fact we didn’t have a huge amount of depth at this time, she would run a leg of the 4×400 meter relay with no questions asked.
All this demonstrated how motivated she was, and combined with her talent, I believed she was going to do something special. I remember being in a staff meeting in February 2021 and telling the coaching staff that I thought Melissa would run 10.9. From then on, I set about fixing some of the issues that I felt prevented her from expressing that level of talent, most of which were centered around her acceleration. If you look at her 60 meters progression, you can see that in 2020 she ran 7.55; in 2021, she ran 7.41; and in 2022, she ran 7.09.
Throughout the first year, we worked on her maximum velocity a lot—through wicket drills, for example—and while that improved, it wasn’t translating as well as I would have liked to better race performances. What I found was that Melissa could execute maximum velocity mechanics really well from a standing start, but it was more of a struggle for her to do so from blocks. We went about targeting her acceleration so that she could use it to set up her positions better to capitalize on the maximum velocity skill set she had already developed early in her collegiate career. It didn’t need too much tweaking apart from perhaps trying to increase her stride length slightly.
Freelap USA: What are your key performance indicators for sprint performance? Do you use much technology to help you assess whether an athlete is improving with training?
Karl Goodman: With Melissa, the two main tests I use are a 300-meter time trial in the fall to assess her specific endurance qualities and a 40-meter test to assess her acceleration. Many of my assessments have been based on what I see and hear: Is the athlete hitting the positions I want? Do the ground contacts sound sharp? But more recently, I have started being more thorough with respect to timing workouts and paying attention to the progressions I see here.
For example, on our first day of practice, I had the Freelap timing system out and timed some accelerations. Then, three weeks later, I got the Freelap out again and compared the sets of times to judge if the training was trending in a positive direction, which can reinforce what I’m seeing and hearing in terms of technical abilities. As a matter of interest, before the 2022 indoor season started, Melissa had run a 7.15 60m using the thumb pad, so I had a strong inclination that she was ready to run fast that season.
I’m not sure if it necessarily counts as technology, but I mentioned I use resisted sprints, and I am starting to implement more assisted sprinting into the workouts. However, I want to be very careful how I do that to ensure I’m not doing any damage. Therefore, I have slowly added this into the program in small doses and seen how the athletes respond, and then I adjust the dosage from there.A benefit I see with technology is that it holds the coach accountable, says @karlgoodman. Click To Tweet
One point I would like to stress is that a benefit I see with technology is that it holds the coach accountable. The implementation of technology often requires planning and/or setting up. Therefore, if I want to use technology, it means I need to invest time in planning and setting up the sessions properly before the athletes are out on the track.
Freelap USA: What does a typical training week look like for Melissa?
Monday – Extensive/intensive tempo day that is typically 800–2000m volume, often with circuit exercises between the runs to assist in conditioning the athlete while avoiding extra impact that greater running volume would incur. Lift.
Tuesday – Acceleration and shorter speed work. We typically do acceleration work and finish with a rep or two in the 50–60 meter range, but we never go further than 60 meters here. Lift.
Wednesday – Recovery day, which might be yoga, massage, bike, or pool; in the off-season, this is largely up to Melissa. But as we get toward the season, I’ll guide her more toward yoga or massage than bike or pool.
Thursday – Maximum velocity and shorter speed endurance with work in the 12–18-second or 120–150-meter range. I may include some wicket drills or runs over 50, 60, or 80 meters in the maximum velocity component, and Melissa particularly likes workouts such as 60m, 90m, 120m, 150m, 120m, 90m, 60m or 30m, 60m, 90m, 120m. Lift.
Friday – Hills, and this can be a combination of short and long reps to develop acceleration and/or conditioning qualities, depending on the time of year and the goal of the workout.
Saturday – Exercises that take place on the track or turf (but typically not running) geared to power development, such as bounding.
This is the basic structure, but I am flexible with this. Things like the weather can place constraints on what we do, so I may move the days around. In the same respect, sometimes, if it’s colder and I don’t feel that it’s safe for the athletes to be running on the flat, I may swap in hills for any of the track sessions as well.
In addition to this, Melissa will lift on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and we have been experimenting with a fourth day of lifting because I felt she needed to add a little bit more mass as she was very light by the end of the season.
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