Backley Back To Basics of Movement

The Times January 16, 2006

Backley spearheads mission to launch future champions
By David Powell, Athletics Correspondent

STEVE BACKLEY, winner of three Olympic javelin medals, three times the world record-holder and European champion for 16 years, believes that he may have as vital a contribution to make to the future of the sport in Great Britain as he did as a competitor. At an indoor arena in Stoke yesterday he was attempting to show how.
Backley, a greying 36, and in his second year retired from the track, has developed a training method that he describes as “the missing link” in the development of young athletes. “If we do not make changes in the structure of how we are developing correct movement we will continue to have this hole,” he said.

Having worked 40 hours a week for a year on his remedy, and convinced UK Athletics that there may be something in it, Backley was given an opportunity in Stoke to try it out for the first time on a group of young athletes. As javelins tend to bounce to earth fast when thrown indoors, not a spear was in sight. And, in any case, only hurdlers were there.

This was Backley working with sprinters. Thus the point was made that his innovation, which he calls PAC training, stretches way beyond the limits of the javelin. “PAC stands for Power, Agility and Co-ordination and can be applied to any discipline,” he said. “I used to train alongside sprint hurdlers and we were all after the same thing: balance and agility while being quick.”

As well as sprinters, Backley’s programmes can meet the specific needs of throwers, jumpers and middle-distance runners of all ages.

Yesterday, though, Backley’s appearance at Northwood Stadium indoor arena was strictly for juniors in the first of a series of sessions under the Spar Sprints Initiative to find British sprinters for the future. As a boy, Backley dreamed of being a runner, of lining up in an Olympic 1,500 or 5,000 metres final. His father, John, was a 4min 10sec miler and, at 6, junior was racing cross country. Those dreams faded, though, when, at 8 , Backley was knocked down by a car, causing an injury that proved the starting point for his journey to PAC.

A broken hip from the accident prevented Backley from running for two years, during which time his interest waned, and it was only while being at a loss for something to do, when accompanying his father to a club night, that he picked up a javelin for amusement. He was warned that he would always have trouble with his hip.

“It never stopped me throwing but sometimes it was mind over matter,” Backley said. He has known for five years that he was heading for a hip replacement and, two months ago, so it proved. But, before he went for surgery, he put almost 20 years of experience on film. “I knew I would be asked to pass on my ideas and that I would not be able to demonstrate personally,” he said.

Hence PAC was born. “After I retired I filmed all the training I had done, using the best bits of everything I have learnt from travelling and working alongside the world’s elite,” Backley said. He would have been the Olympic champion twice but for Jan Zelezny and, eager to learn how his closest rival trained, in 1997 he went to the Czech Republic to study him in his home environment.

“They were not doing anything revolutionary, just the basics incredibly well,” Backley said. “They were agile, balanced and in control. I have repackaged the best of that and added other bits from around the world that could be used as a model for Britain. I went to Prague and saw young athletes at structured practice in agility training. It slapped me in the face that we are not doing it in Britain and we need it.”

After meeting Dave Collins, the UKA performance director, last week, Backley believes that the governing body is ready to adopt his innovation. The concept, which Backley is marketing commercially, is, he said, a tool for all.

“I am helping people to understand and apply the basics of good athletic movement,” he said. “Anybody can get a training programme off the website tailored for individual needs. I will oversee every schedule, be it for elite or beginner.” By David Powell

Athletics Correspondent Crossing the boundaries of sporting prowess is a well-trodden path, as these four examples indicate . . .


Crossing the boundaries of sporting prowess is a well-trodden path, as these four examples indicate . . .


A world record-breaking sprint hurdler during his career on the track, the Welshman has become better known recently for his appearances on Strictly Come Dancing and in the BBC commentary box. But he also has a role in swimming, as coach to Mark Foster, the world short-course 50 metres champion.


Made a name for himself in the 1980s as one of Great Britain’s top sprinters, reaching the 1984 Olympic 200 metres final at 17 and winning the European indoor title in 1989. He went on to become a fitness trainer at Chelsea Football Club.


Coached England to victory in the 2003 rugby union World Cup but, eager to test his skills farther afield, he has entered football with a view to management eventually. He is now director of football at Southampton.


Engaged in cross coaching while he was head coach of the Great Britain athletics team in the 1980s. He acted as fitness adviser to Boris Becker, the Wimbledon champion, Katarina Witt, the 1988 Olympic ice skating champion, and Gerhard Berger, the Austrian Formula One driver.

backley has a website:

which links to his PAC training website:

I have sent off for the CD rom, I’ll let you guys know what I think when I get it.

I read in Athletics Weekly that he is going to be directly involved in coaching any members of his website. That could be great. there’s no doubt that ex british athletes will have a wealth of knowledge