25th NACACTFCA Congress
October 8-11, 2015
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
The 25th Congress was held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and brought together some 50 coaches from several NACAC federations and a handful of the best presenters in the region: Sue Humphrey (USA), Ismael Lopez (TRI/CUB), Raul Calderon (CUB), Patrick Dawson (JAM), Daniel Osorio (CUB), and Alexander Navas (CUB). The theme was “Developing Systems in Athletics” and addressed many levels of development of coaching, federations, systems of training, and traditions of success in areas of athletics.
Richie Mercado, Secretary of NACACTFCA, framed the theme of the Congress with a brief discussion of the types of systems present in athletics – a coach and philosophy (ex.Tellez, Arbeit), a “school” of coaching, a training group or club/school (ex. Racers Track Club in Jamaica) or federation, an athlete (ex. Bolt), a “model” (Petrov), and the factors that affect these and allow for development and success at different levels (culture, education, money, federations support, facilities, etc). Also noted was the trend of many successful athletes staying in the islands instead of going to NCAA programs in the US, linked to improvement of coaching education over the past 30 years and the positive effects on the development of athletics and sport culture in the NACAC region.
Sue Humphrey, coach of many world class high jumpers including Charles Austin, presented an actual progression of the approach and takeoff in the high jump in the conference room using one of her athletes and part of a landing pit. Humphrey simplified the whole movement of the approach, takeoff, and flight through a practical demonstration. She also emphasized the importance of a strong foundation for long term results – athleticism, technique, strength, mental development. A primary school physical education teacher, she also stressed the need and desirability of finding athletes in sports like basketball and volleyball and utilizing the training aspects of those activities if sharing young athletes. She also gave a historical summary of women’s coaching in the United States and the growth of development of women’s coaching and support from her perspective as a long time female coach who had worked her way from ground up to coaching Olympians, and as the chair of the USATF Women’s Track & Field Committee. With years of work individually and institutionally, women have many more opportunities as coaches and athletes in the United States and all levels.
The Cuban system was evident in the basic philosophy and specific training programs of all of the Cuban presenters. While Ismael Lopez has coached in Trinidad for many years, he was trained in the Cuban system and thus many of the things he utilized in his development of throwing from the ground up in Trinidad come from his disciplined grounding from Cuba and also CAC and NACAC and IAAF coaching education programs. Lopez discussed his philosophy of development from introducing athletes to the throws to specialization to long-term development in the sport. He detailed the multifaceted training approach of sprints, jumps, hurdles, weights, and throws to develop youth and maturing athletes, as well as the phases of varied percentages of throw and strength training loads with more advanced throwers. Lopez also gave an overview of the development of the throwing culture in Trinidad, which was built from the ground up over years with very little infrastructure – neither facilities nor programs. The result has been a thriving throwing culture in all disciplines from youth to international level.
Daniel Osorio discussed his program of identification, development, and preparation for Pedro Pichardo and how he arrived at 18 meters. The major factors were the development of better symmetry of strength and coordination, great jumping ability at takeoff of the first phase, and increased overall velocity. From 16 years to 22 years Pichardo progressed from 15.57 to 18.08 meters. Osorio discussed the basic training plans to improve both Pichardo and all triple jumpers and showed several video examples of drills which stressed balance, coordination, and improved jumping output.
Alexander Navas detailed the development program for the pole vault in Cuba with the specific program that he developed with the preparation and successful career of Yarisley Silva. Pole vault is growing in Cuba and is evident at junior and senior levels and in the combined events. Navas stresses the overall development of the athlete with respect to sprints, jumps, throws, hurdles, strength, gymnastic, and technical training over the long-term. The details of Silva’s program showed skillful progression and interaction of these different training aspects throughout the phases of training and the developmental results of testing and performance over time.
Raul Calderon, as with the other Cuban presenters, discussed the same principles of talent identification and total physical and mental development, but he also stressed the partnership of the team comprising the coaches, physical therapists, psychologists, professors and researchers, and medical personnel in the overall success of the long-term program of athlete development. Calderon detailed the three levels of talent identification at the age of 13-14 using basic testing, laboratory testing, and ultimately more specialized testing to identify athletes for each discipline area. The same principles of the long term pyramid of development hold for all coaches in the Cuban system, and a good foundation of technical development along with growth in strength have resulted in some very successful discus throwers from the Cuban Federation.
Patrick Dawson of Jamaica discussed the cultural and systemic development of sprinters and sprint culture in Jamaica. Jamaica has a history of sprinting success since 1948, but this has exploded in the last decade. Track and Field has become part of Jamaican culture and the national sport! Youth use it as a vehicle out of poverty and a means to get quality education. Kids start to compete early from 3-6 years old in various events at a championship. Primary and prep schools continue this development and offer championships. High school coaches go to the prep school meets and recruit the talent and bring in the parents. Athletic ability will allow them to attend a high school on scholarship and the resulting growth in talent and competition pushes rivalry among schools. The JAAA pushed for more attention to girls, who were performing very well, and now there are full stadiums and tremendous popularity of track and field among most Jamaicans for the combined championship. Usain Bolt decided to stay at his school and help develop the program. This system spills over into the professional clubs, with several operating successfully in Jamaica with home grown talent. Athletes used to go to the US for better competition; now the coaching and support have allowed for great competition and opportunity here. Stephen Francis proved it with his club and athletes; Glenn Mills and Racers TC and others are doing the same. Athletes came back to Jamaica, and now many never leave! Support staff, especially at the high school level, include the coach, mentors, organizers, administrators, physical and medical support, and alumni play a big role as well in funding and mentorship, even adopting athletes to help pay expenses. Total athletic development is a priority – talent only goes so far. Teaching athletes how to compete and have confidence to take on any competitor is a part of the system. Respect and rivalry and competition help teach Jamaican athletes to take care of business. Dawson also stressed that coaches are at the center of everything and coaching education and development is vital to the success of the sport. It is the coaches’ responsibility to do his or her best to improve ones’ coaching ability and that translates into better programs and athletes, even though most coaches from the high school level on down do not get paid. They do it for the love for the sport!