Traveling from his base at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, Coach Chris Gallagher arrived at Altis for the first time in May 2015 to attend the Gill Apprentice Coach Program. Following his return home, Chris wrote to us about his experiences. It’s been a while since we shared the inside view on what we do here from a visiting Coach’s perspective; so rather than take our word for it on the Gill ACP experience – we decided to share his thoughts. Enjoy!
“I can’t recall precisely when I first became aware of Altis and the great stuff they were doing. All I can say is that the avalanche of info that continuously flowed onto social media from their coaches and their twitter account really impressed me.
Ultimately I did the smart thing, and booked myself onto the Gill Athletics Apprentice Coach Program to benefit from the knowledge and experience available first hand. I won’t make a better decision this year. Everyone is aware of the stars of the show when it comes to their coaching line up, the Dan Pfaffs and Stuart McMillans. But there is breadth and depth across the entire staff.
All the coaches, support staff and athletes at Altis are incredibly open. In considering the high calibre of athletes in the programs at Altis, and the attitudes of others within performance sport, I was impressed and somewhat surprised at the full access to the training process. Everything about the athletes training, preparation, rehabilitation, recovery, nutrition and anything else was open for discussion and open to see. Throughout the training sessions we were in constant dialogue with the coaches and athletes alike about what we were seeing, and any questions relating to the training that popped into our heads were happily answered.
Whilst at the ACP it was repeatedly explained that Altis expect their athletes to be at PhD level understanding in their sport, and that all support staff should be able to have in depth conversations – not just surface chatter – in all disciplines of support provided by Altis. This was highly evident in speaking to the track coaches, as well as the therapists and the athletes themselves. It wasn’t just us Apprentice Coaches who were diligently scribbling notes in our notepads. Many of the athletes had their own training diaries with more detail than a PhD thesis!
Perhaps it is the nature of working in athletics or a function of the way the careers of Dan and Stuart developed, but the staff at Altis really do have an holistic approach to athlete development, and they walk the walk when it comes to having a keen understanding of this.
The warm up for Altis athletes also serves as a screen for the coaches and the athletes themselves. The coaches can assess body language, energy, movement quality and compensations. Should they identify any movement dysfunction then the coaches are able to pull the athlete to the side of the track for a brief (5-10minute) manual therapy session to keep the athlete “on track” with their training program. The aim is to keep athletes on plan A or as close to it as possible. Once again though, it showed the philosophy of Altis staff being skilled and knowledgeable in all areas relating to sports performance.
“Elite performance is achieved by doing the right things correctly and consistently over a long time”
As a coach we are always telling our athletes there are no magic bullets, no magic exercises. Elite performance is achieved by doing the right things correctly and consistently over a long time. The ACP was a reminder to myself that a coach’s journey is much the same. Attending a course or a conference, achieving a new qualification – these things won’t make you an elite coach overnight. Rather, they arm you with the knowledge and skills to graft at you craft and over time you can aspire to the levels of the very best. With this in mind, it was encouraging to hear that even these elite coaches started out under the tutelage of their mentors, being able to only process and analyze small parts of athletic movement. Over time, diligently studying their athletes and their disciplines, these elite coaches are now able to analyze movements from a number of different perspectives at once. Looking at skill execution and analyzing it for ranges of movement, joint angles, speeds of movement, ground contact times and movement dysfunctions simultaneously.
Another important concept that came out of the ACP was the reliance Altis has on their network. Every time they meet with and work with a new coach is an opportunity to grow their network. This becomes a wide ranging and wide reaching resource with which they can interact. Remembering of course that it is a two way process. If you only take from your network and never feed into it, it will wither and die. Through attending the Altis I have already added a number of apprentice coaches, intern and elite coaches to my network with which I aim to continue to share, develop and grow.
I’ve been in contact with some of my fellow apprentices already, setting up ways to share the information and knowledge from our visit. I’ve begun contact with Altis coaches to follow up with some of the things I saw and that we discussed whilst I was in Phoenix and aim to continue this process. I’m already planning my next visit to the Altis!
My time there has influenced me in other ways too. One of the most profound experiences for me there did not relate directly to the physical development of athletes. As already mentioned, Altis philosophy is of holistic development of the athlete and the person. So it was as I was ending my week with a sneaky workout in their gym, after the course and the training week had ended that I saw Coach Chidi Enyia in deep discussion with a Altis sprinter. The conversation was longer than my workout, and really dialled in on the mental side of developing a robust and professional athlete – and an individual who takes responsibility for their development and career. As such, the athletes at Altis are given a large amount of autonomy and responsibility for their own training. This creates a greater buy in from the athletes to their own training and athletic development.
It was a direct result of experiencing this that I had a more in depth and challenging discussion with one of my rowing athletes back in Hong Kong. Challenging them to take ownership of their development as an athlete – to begin this process of becoming a PhD in their sport. Despite it being a more frank and difficult conversation than they are perhaps used to, I received a message later that night thanking me for challenging them in such a way. It is almost as if I have found an increased motivation for coaching and I am working differently with my athletes already.
I’m just beginning the process of going through my notes, course materials and videos from the week. I am contacting Altis staff and other people I met through the course trying to squeeze every ounce of knowledge and personal development from the experience that I can. So if I was to sit down and write a blog like this again in a month’s time there will surely be even more to share. However, I wanted to strike while the iron was hot and get as much down as I can whilst it is fresh in my mind. The personal development as a coach from this week will surely last much longer than the duration of the course.
Sure there may be a few concepts and training ideas that I could discuss which were newly introduced to me whilst I observed the coaches last week. However, it is the philosophies, experience and deeper understanding of the science that really shape your coaching. New ideas and exercises will come and go. Some good, some not so useful. What will really develop you as a coach is:
– Defining your life and sport philosophy.
– Developing a professional performance environment wherever you work.
– Instilling accountability and autonomy in your athletes.
– Understanding that developing athletes is about more than the right program or exercises.
– Communication, relationship building and an holistic approach to athlete development are
– Always being hungry to learn, develop and grow.
These are the major concepts I will take away from my time at Altis.. If you are interested in developing as a coach and have a free week to spend in sunny Phoenix, Arizona then I can’t recommend Altis ACP enough.”
With the last Gill ACP of the 2014-2015 season just a few days away, you can find out more here.