Steven Francis Q&A

Thanks for the links as usual kitkat1

As for the content of this one, some points I found remarkable:

  • fear based system (ergo don’t screw up or you’ll be punished with calisthenics) which flies in the face of the idea that anxiety will create performance decrement and ultimately slower speeds
  • apparently no time monitoring regarding speed work beneath the speed endurance and special endurance lengths
  • 90% of training being the same regardless of event
  • all work being over distance or out of blocks; no flying sprints
  • being willing to scrap the entire plan and change everything in favor of a new idea

Just listened to it and yeah i gotta totally agree with James, Im not a fan of the fear based system. Overall I must say I cant see myself using anything from his system.

Fear based management is crap. 60’s style management. I prefer Jack Welch management philosophies…teach, team-build, empower, hold accountable, reward the best people.

It seems it has been successful for him and his coaching - athlete environment. I really like the fact that he coaches to his environment. One of the most intriguing aspect about high performance squads, groups or organisations is that their training doesn’t always include what the book says a high performance environment should be or look like. The question that should be asked is why did he come to the scenario of using a fear based system? (unless he mentioned it and I missed it). I actually quite enjoyed the interview it showed that he keeps things very simple thus allowing him to focus on the actual day to day art of coaching. As he mentioned he doesn’t keep time that often. I would be intrigued to see what feedback and cues he provides to his sprinters to illicit the responses and technical model he seeks for each of his individuals.

Thought you would like the fear based system, your boy Nick Saban is all about that. lol

He also mentions that his athletes run in groups (A, B, C, D) according to ability and that you move from one group to the other if you show that you’re worth it. That sounds more like Jack Welch.

I still don’t really know how he manages to coach 86 people at the same time, even with 4 assistants. There can’t be much room for individualised programming (technical or physical). Could it just be a matter of statistics: one simple system, a high number of talented and hungry athletes, thus for some the program will match their individual needs?

Again what a set up they have created. Competition, competition, competition. Within this structure they have also created an environment of belief as individuals in group D can see athletes who have been where they are making now in group A and making it. It can never be underestimated having athletes around developing athletes who have been successful as it helps them see that it is achievable and also what it takes to make it. I think you will also find he probably focuses on the top group (A) thus he has a group of maybe 20. I am sure there are days when the groups are separate and days where the whole squad trains together. Again the options he has at his disposal to get the best out of his athletes is extensive. Nothing like being in a world champ final every day to have you on prepared for international competition. Like he says creating a team atmosphere in an individual sport has been something they have tried and obviously been successful in doing…would make turning up to training very enjoyable.

The one thing I have noticed from the few videos I have seen of his groups working is that it really does look like a lot of fun to show up at the track with all the camaraderie that must exist in such a large group. Sure group training has its down sides, but in my experience, I’d rather work with a group even if the program wasn’t anything to write home about. The ability to run with and against others trumps a lot of complicated bullshit.

Even retailers like the Running Room have basically ripped off the Kenyan style of large group distance training for the average athlete, and they are incredibly successful with getting people to turn up regularly for their runs simply due to the social aspect. I suspect that the impact of some of the “negativity” (e.g. calisthenics) that any coach shows toward athletes can be mitigated by the positive attitude and feedback from the other athletes on the team. I remember Wayne Gretzky saying that when the Edmonton Oilers traded Dave Semenko (a mediocre hockey player but a tremendous dressing room personality) it literally cost them a Stanley Cup.

Also, I am really wary of stereotyping cultures here, but I can’t tell you the number of times that sprinters of Jamaican origin who train at York University have told me often hilarious (in retrospect) stories of the spectacular whoopings they received from not only their parents, but teachers, old neighbours who live down the street, etc. I think it’s fair to say that fear-based leadership is still socially acceptable in Jamaica, and Stephen Francis is a product of that culture, but I don’t think it makes him a bad coach.

I really like what he had to say at the start about the provincial attitude you often find in former colonial countries- “I’ll never make it unless I leave this place.” Charlie Francis did a whole lot to change that attitude in Canada, and Stephen Francis has done the very same in Jamaica.

I must first state that it is coach Francis who is to be respected for putting in the work that he did to create and organize his track club and the associated opportunity he has created for who knows how many athletes. I think he is to be commended for these things.

I’m also confident that coach Francis could give a flying @#&% about a group of individuals debating his methods on a computer forum.

That said, I must question his skill at management as well as coaching based upon past factors as well as a glaring contradiction he made in the interview:

First the contradiction: he mentioned the importance of understanding the energetic demands of the various events then goes on to state how the majority of athletes perform the same training (ergo 100m and 400m athletes performing 90% of the same workload). This is a course of action that is inconsistent with someone who understands the energetics of the various events

Which leads one to further question Asafa’s past inconsistency in multiple rounds (while it’s a guess, I have to question how his training reflects the bioenergetic demand of multiple rounds on consecutive days)

  • the pec tear that Asafa sustained (Charlie shared that this was reflective of some supra-max slow lowering of the barbell which is beyond unacceptable; particularly for an athlete of that caliber)

The talent pool he has to work with, as well as Glen Mills Racers Club and any other coach whose stable is so densely packed with talent, cannot be ignored and the holes in his statements in the interview, as well as in other text interviews and youtube clips I’ve seen over the years, justify, in my view, the questioning of his coaching and management tactics.

If it were one athlete then maybe one could question certain aspects. But he seems to have done a great job with Melanie, Shelley and a few others…i didn’t see to many issues with them getting through the rounds and then performing when it countered in their respective finals. Its easy to single out one athlete and key issues that may occur.

Lets remember he doesn’t control the strength development aspect he employs someone to do that and maybe just maybe it was that individual who was responsible with respect to that pec injury.

I think we are all well aware that with any great squad there can always be one that doesn’t quite forfill their potential for a multitude of reasons. That being said Asafa is still running and thus has a chance to answer his critics.

I am still impressed with his ability to control that immense amount of talent and on a whole help them achieve their potentials and perform on that given day when it counts. There are many with squads loaded with just as much talent that never achieve anywhere near what Francis and his squad have.

Three things stood out for me from this interview; first, it sounds like Stephen Francis set aside a potentially lucrative career in finance to run a track and field club. Second, he mentions massage therapy within the first minute. Third, at 20:30 he talks about never assuming you know who will be fast, and relates a story about giving some random boys who approached him in the parking lot a chance to run with one of the world’s most famous track clubs. Do these three concepts sound familiar? :slight_smile:

Aside from whatever Asafa’s individual issues have been over the years, putting the athletes first by not trying to be a money making operation and being anti-selective is brilliant, and is the polar opposite of how a great many track clubs work.

Those are great points. I’m sure the culture dictates a lot of the style of dealing with them. Not that it’s right but you have to realize many are not grown ups.

That’s a good thing that they have a track club with so many different ages and abilities. Keeps the sport alive.

Some actual trainin gin Lignano Sabbiadoro ( Italy) last week: ( a couple of athletes I know actually trained on the same track with them.
SAF : day 1 3x120 ( under 13 sec) + 3x100 ( under 11), Day 2, 6x50 blocks + weights ( 6x50, Nesta Carter did the same, although i do not know the other training days of him)
400m guys/girls did lots of 300+100 or 200+200…I’ll have to llok at the notes to post more precise stuff…

Pretty fast day 1 for having speed the next day. They must still follow the Day 1: SE Day 2: Speed format?

That sounds very very similar to what I was told was comp phase for Racers. Not surprising.

Still think Charlie’s approach is better, safer, smarter.