Coaches Question and Answer Session: Kirk and Linda Smith
Scottish Athletics Club Coaches of the Year 2018
- Firstly, we’d like to get a little bit of background on your involvement in athletics before coaching. You were both competitive athletes, what did you enjoy most about the sport and what were your biggest achievements?
(Linda) – I enjoyed being relatively successful as a young athlete. Winning East District and East v West District medals, Winning Gold and Bronze respectively at the first Euro Junior Scottish Championships at 800 and 400m in 1985 and Bronze at British Indoor 800m Championships at RAF Cosford (which was the only indoor track in Britain at that time). I also did well at cross country and got to represent Scotland on both the track and cross country. As a senior athlete I had a recurring achilles problem so did not race very often. If only I knew then what I know now about dealing with that type of injury.
(Kirk) – I competed in athletics back in the day as a colt, what is now U11, for Edinburgh Southern Harriers. Initially like most kids I had a go at all events but it was the longer distances on the track, cross country and road that I enjoyed most. As a young athlete I had some success winning district track titles over 3000m and district selection at cross country. I also represented Scottish Boys Clubs over the cross country. As a senior I was a similar level just making the transition from 3000m to 5000m on the track. I enjoyed being part of a club and various training groups over the years, making friends with the other athletes in the group/club some of whom I still meet regularly today. I also feel fortunate for the experiences the club gave me. As a young athlete (18) going down to the National 12 stage road relay was an amazing experience, being part of the same team as Allister Hutton but also seeing guys like Sebastian Coe who at that point was double Olympic 1500m champion warming up as he was running the 4th leg for his club Haringey.
- How did you both get into coaching – was there any main motivation or key event which inspired you to volunteer?
(Linda) – Amy our daughter wanted to try athletics. I ran for EAC when I was young but Lasswade AC was local so we took her there. I was too nosey at the time to leave her and wanted to see what training the club would do with her. Davie Hand knew who I was from my running days and asked if I wanted to help out. At first it was just holding a stopwatch but I wanted to get more involved and gradually took the sessions along with Davie H and the other coaches who were helping at the time
(Kirk) – I got involved in coaching after Linda as I was kind of the stay at home Dad with Matthew as he was too young to take part. I then got involved in football coaching with Matthew and once he was old enough to join Lasswade I started to come along to training. I was still running myself so I would just go a run or do a session on the track as Linda coached with the kids. As Linda says we both knew Dave Hand and he (as anyone that knows him will know) is always keen to get people involved with the club and he asked if I would like to get involved in coaching. Linda had also been encouraging me to get involved so it had to be with the endurance group.
- What have been your proudest moments as coaches? Everyone here at Lasswade Ac was very proud of your Scottish Athletics Award in 2018, which was wholly deserved.
(Linda) – We have been lucky to have had a very talented group of athletes that we have brought through from U11 to present. Seeing these athletes grow and all they have achieved and are still achieving makes us proud. Being nominated and then winning the Award was a huge honour for us and we would not have won this award without the great group of athletes we have along with the support of their parents.
(Kirk) – Obviously Linda has been coaching a bit longer than me. However, since I have being involved I can only echo what Linda has said in that we have been very fortunate to have a very talented group of athletes who are incredibly focused individuals. They all get on well together and are incredibly supportive of each other and us. Winning the coaching award was a huge honour not only for us but for the club. We could not have done it without the incredible support from athletes, parents and the club who put us through all of the coaching qualifications. In terms of athletic performances there are lots and I think I said this at our meal last year. As well as our own children (Amy and Matthew) all of you have given us some great memories which we will treasure. Many of these have made me very happy for the individual/s as it is always fully deserved and a result of their hard work and dedication. I think that is part of the beauty of athletics in that you don’t always have to win a race or even a medal to progress or achieve a goal. Everyone can have their own personal targets and to see the elation and pride of a young athlete when they achieve that target is very rewarding.
- Given the current period of uncertainty and disruption, some athletes are finding it hard to keep motivated without definite races. How has it affected your coaching? What advice would you to your athletes?
(Linda) – We have had to adjust the sessions and have basically extended the winter training. There will not be much of a track season this year (if any) but the athletes still have to be ready for any races that do go ahead. I think the virtual races that are now starting to happen are great and athletes are encouraged to make these their targets for now and give them a go. This situation will not last forever and you should just look on it as one of life’s not so nice experiences! Hopefully everyone will get through it and stay healthy.
(Kirk) – There is no doubt that it is hard to keep motivated when its unclear when or if you will be able to race this track season but whether it is 3 weeks or 3 months there will be races again. It is easier for the older athletes to train on their own but more difficult for the younger athletes who may be too young to run themselves and may at this point come to training for the social benefits. The longer the club isn’t operating the greater the risk that some young athletes may not return to the club. This is part of the reason that we are trying to maintain a degree of contact via social media and also set some training goals for them. In the short term virtual challenges will be something we will encourage athletes to target until competition returns – keep training so that your ready when it does!
- Finally, some quick-fire questions:
- What is/was your favourite training session?
(Linda) – Fast sessions – 200s
(Kirk) – 10/12 x 400m (60 Sec Rec) – Quite a tough session so you need your head in the right place mentally. Always found that this was a great indicator of fitness.
- What’s the most impressive sporting performance you’ve seen, why?
(Linda) – (1) Kelly Holmes winning 800/1500 Gold at 2004 Olympics given she has been injured in the run up to the games and (2)When Jo Pavey won the 10,000 as a 40 year old – that was an amazing race to watch and (3) Watching Coe, Ovett and Cram racing in the 80s – gave you goosebumps watching them and (4) more recently Emma Coburn winning World Championship 3K steeplechase.
(Kirk) – Ovett v Cram 1500m at Crystal Palace was just a great race with two of the top 1500m runners in the world at that time going head to head.
Callum Hawkins 2019 London Marathon setting a new Scottish Record. Although in terms of the times some of the Africans are running it is not super quick but still world class performance. I think after what he had gone through in the Gold Coast that it was a fantastic comeback Marathon.
Emma Coburn – World Championship 3000m Chase – With 5 Kenyan’s in the final (one running for Bahrain) everyone was writing her off but she won the gold.
There’s lots of other great races and performances in fact being at Glasgow a few months ago for the indoor Pole Vault world record by Armand Duplantis was fantastic!
- What is your favourite quote?
(Linda) – Never say Never!
(Kirk) – Believe you can and your halfway there!