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UK Coaching Week: Kristian McPhee on Coaching

This week is UK Coaching week where we celebrate the instrumental role that coaches have been in keeping us active, connected and motivated both before the coronavirus pandemic and during the period of isolation and disruption caused by the lockdown.

To kick off we thought we’d share some insight from Brunel Head Coach Kristian McPhee who won the 2019 BWL Outstanding Contribution Award.

UK Coaching Week: Kristian McPhee on Coaching

How are you able to utilise your own experience as an athlete when coaching others at competitions?

Having competed in a variety of competitions throughout my career and had enough things go right and go wrong I use my own experience to get into the mind of my athletes and find ways to get the best out of them, whether that means pushing them when they need it or psychologically supporting them in the hard situations. Coaching is after all acting and you must tell them all they need to know but no more than that. My Coach Mike Pearman is known for being an expert in the competitions with his vast experience from amateur to the Olympic game, so a lot of athlete mental tricks and verbal style during competition is from him and I think the younger generation of coaches can really benefit from learning from those with decades of experience in high pressure environments.

What qualities do you look for in an aspiring coach and how do you bring them to fruition?

Good coaching can take years to develop so the biggest qualities I look for are open mindedness to learn, we always want coaches who are looking to further their own knowledge from a wide range of disciplines and coaches. If we had all the answers we would have everyone at a high level. Secondly, adaptability is very important, whether that means adapting your coaching style to the individuals or group you are teaching or the willingness to give up your free time for the love of sport for a weekend competition or to jump straight into the coaching suit after competing yourself. With such a diverse club it is important they love all levels of weightlifting and lead by example in their own discipline to training.

  From your own experiences at Brunel, how has the sport grown at a university level?

 The number of universities engaging in weightlifting in the UK is astounding compared to five years ago. Whilst some universities have dipped and dived, it seems that the love of weightlifting across the country has grown as has the quality of facilities and the provisions for Olympic weightlifting, making it easier to train than ever before. When I started at Brunel, my original university (LSE) only had a gym with treadmills chucked on top of carpet with dumbbells in the corner. So I used to have to race over to Brunel after classes to train with two Brunel Students Andy Ruegg (5 time British Champion) and Steve Coll. Myself and Ross Roberts were not even students of Brunel! The coaching and facilities at Brunel has attracted a lot of people interested in weightlifting (or already doing it) and so to grow from four people training in the corner, into having our own dedicated area with over 100 registered students is really fantastic to see and I hope other universities can find that balance between amateur and elite weightlifting.

 And finally, what one piece of advice would you give to someone who is new to coaching?

Learn from everyone (I like to joke about "stealing" everyone's ideas!). I have travelled to Poland, Spain, France and Cyprus to learn from the national coaches, and learned from the best coaches and athlete's in the UK. Try to find the coaches that are producing good weightlifters and/or good weightlifting communities. Some of the most experienced coaches don’t always have an online presence, if you are looking to develop yourself you will need to build relationships with coaches outside your own gym environment and make the effort to visit their gyms. These coaches are generally open to being observed and sharing their experiences. Andrew Callard (Europa) and Mehmed Fikretov (Mems Weightlifting) are two of the individuals I have learnt a lot from, they have great experiences as ex-athletes and have coached some of the country’s leading lifters. The depth of knowledge from such persons are truly fantastic and I truly believe the more clubs and coaches visit each other and share information, the greater our country will become at all levels, amateur and elite.

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