Talent Transfer (Part Two)

Following on from last Monday’s blog, where I examined the decision making process that an athlete or person considering transferring their talents should go through, today I will expand a bit further on some ideas regarding how to best adapt to your new endeavor. Part Three will follow next week, and conclude the mini-series.


  1. Set Goals


Specifically, you need to have an end goal, and then plan your process goals leading up to it. Once I had fully committed to bobsleigh, I went through this goal setting process. My outcome goal was selection in the Great Britain Team for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Within this goal, I had a “Dream” goal, which was to win a medal as part of the GB1 4-man team, and a minimum goal of just getting selected for the Games. All my process goals were set with the dream goal in mind, and the minimum goal as a back up. My process goals addressed how this maximum goal was to happen, and were time phased.


To make the GB1 4-man squad, it meant that, realistically, I had to be in the top-3 brakeman. This ranking is decided from a combination on single man pushing, team pushing, and other subjective and objective criteria (the list is too long to write here,  but you can find the Olympic Selection document here; and, even if you had fulfilled all the criteria and reliably outperformed other brakeman, they could still appeal your selection through a well set out legal process).


To be ranked good enough for selection to GB1, I decided I had to, at worst, finish 2nd in the on-ice individual tests at the start of the season. To qualify for this camp, I had to finish in the top-8 at push-track testing in Bath a few weeks before, so that became another goal for me. For these two goals to occur, I also set plenty of physiological and skill based goals, again which are too numerous to go through here. I constantly reviewed these goals to see how I was getting on, and used them to measure my progress. Knowing you’re outperforming your goal is a strong motivator, as is knowing you’re falling behind!


  1. Become An Expert


One question I am often asked at seminars and workshops is “If you could offer one piece of advice to an up and coming athlete, what would it be?” My answer is to become an expert in what you do. If you want to be the best at something, you’re giving yourself a head start if you become an expert in it. Learn all there is to know about what you do. This obviously takes a long time. With my transition, I tried really hard to become an expert, going from knowing absolutely nothing about bobsleigh to being able to hold my own a year later. To do this, you have to immerse yourself in it fully. You can definitely learn via osmosis, so spend time around people that are already experts. Ask plenty of questions; I must have sent Jacko (John Jackson, the GB1 Driver) and Bruce Tasker mental by always asking questions. Fortunately there were very patient with me. I listened to what my coach, Michael Khmel said, and learned as much as I could from Chris Woolley, the bobsleigh performance coach. At competitions and training camps I watched the best in the world push and load, trying to learn from them. I watched videos on youtube. I did video analysis of myself and other GB athletes performing. I downloaded the bobsleigh rules document (it’s a tough read). I decided I had to become proficient pushing on each handle of the bobsleigh, not just the one I hoped to be selected on. I traveled out to Switzerland a few times to work with possibly the best bobsleigh coach in the world, Dominik Scherrer. I thought long and hard about how my technical ability and physical traits needed to be modified. I tried to fully immerse myself in the culture of bobsleigh, to become as much of an expert as I could.


  1. Understand The Skill Learning Process


Becoming an expert isn’t enough; you actually have to have to perform well in your chosen discipline. This requires you to learn many new skills. Running 100m on a track was something I was used to. Running 40m downhill on ice, holding a handle and having to jump into a moving object wasn’t. You have to learn by doing, and so you have to do it time and time again. If you’re transferring into something new, you’re taking on people who are already experts in this field. You’re playing catch up all the time. British Bobsleigh decided that 200 pushes was a good number for all the brakeman to achieve come the Olympic Games. I decided that, as I was playing catch up, I had to double this number, so 400 pushes became my goal. To achieve this, I did a 5-hour round trip to Bath pretty much once a week in order to use the push track there. I tried to collect as much data as possible on all my pushes, including video, so I could analyse what was going well and what wasn’t. If I ever got an opportunity to push, I took it.


One thing I knew was that skill learning happens best when you are right on the edge of your ability, and feeling uncomfortable. To achieve this, I was constantly pushing myself, pushing in different positions and combinations on the sled. My rule became that if something came up that scared me or that I didn’t want to do, I had to do it. I would break the skills down into chunks, so that I could work on them separately. One day I would work on the hit, another on the first 5-10m, another on 10-40m, and another on loading well. Then I would try and layer them together, so I would have a good hit and first 10m, and in another session a good 10-40m followed by a good load. Then I’d add them together more, until I could perform the whole skill well. I’d make the sled heavier, so that it would be slower to push, magnifying my technical errors. I’d invent my own drills to get better at various aspects of pushing and loading. I’d practice little and often, as opposed to pushing myself into fatigue, which is counter productive. In the end, all these little things added up and I became pretty good at my new skill. (As an aside, if you’re interested in learning more about skill learning, you should read “The Talent Code” or “The Little Book Of Talent”, both by Daniel Coyle).


  1. Compare Yourself To The Best In Your Field


This tip isn’t specific to talent transfer, but it does make it much easier to decide on what things need to improved on to become an expert. As explained earlier, I was constantly watching the best bobsledders in the world push, including Bruce Tasker, and comparing myself to them. What were they doing that I wasn’t? I was also comparing myself to them on a physical basis; when I started bobsleigh I was about 85kg, and I noticed that the best brakemen generally weighed in-between 95-105kg, so I did a lot of work to get my weight up to this level. I would try to find out everything I could about the best bobsledders training programmes, to see if there was anything I could utilise, or if they were addressing any physiological or skill development issue that I had neglected, or were doing so differently.


Throughout this period though, I wasn’t just copying the world’s best. I was also considering if I could do things better than they could. Were there any skills or techniques or physical attributes that I had that meant I could do what they do but better? Could I do it differently? Was what they were doing optimum?


In the end, through a long process of research, asking questions and critical evaluation, I like to think I copied the right bits, and changed what I needed to, to get the best out of myself.


That’s it for this week. Check back next Monday for the final three tips on a successful(ish) talent transfer process.

Interesting And Cool Stuff This Week (26/9)

The first in what will hopefully be a regular round up of cool and interesting stuff I have come across in the week. By cool and interesting, I of course mean cool and interesting to me. Given that I am neither cool nor interesting, you might not enjoy this!


FREE BOOK! – Brendan Chaplin has made his ebook, “It’s Not About Sets And Reps” available for the price of £0.00 on kindle. Get yours here.

Mobility Wod – Very soon, Kelly Starrett will be bringing out a new book, “Ready To Run”. If you don’t know who Kelly is, check out his website. I recently started right back at the beginning of his daily videos to refresh my knowledge on stretching, mobility, and improving performance. Kelly’s first book, “Becoming A Supple Leopard“, is also excellent.

Unbreakable Runner – for some reason, Brian Mackenzie of Crossfit Endurance has also decided to release a book about how to prepare your body for running. He and Kelly have even got the same co-author. You can read an excerpt of Brian’s book here.

DATA! – This week Liverpool and Middlesborough had a mammoth penalty shoot out, that stretched to 30 penalties! What are the chances of that you ask? Oh, about 1.5%.

MORE DATA! – The best book on Infographics I have ever read is “Information is Beautiful”. This week, a sequel was release called “Knowledge is Beautiful”. See an example infographic here.

RIVAL BLOG – In a move I can only assume was designed as a deliberate act of war, James Campbell has also set up a blog. James is both funny and a terrible human being, which means its probably worth checking out. There will be drama.

Twitter Recommendation of the WeekYann Le Meur. Produces brilliant infographics of exercises science. My two favourite things.

Book I Am Currently ReadingThe Future Of The Mind. If you’ll excuse the pun, this is absolutely mental. I’m 4 chapters in, and the author has already discussed; experiments where a question was asked to different hemispheres of the brain, and got a different answer; if you cut off the connection between right and left hemispheres, were stuff happens; telepathy is becoming increasingly real, as are surrogates (like Avatar). Definitely worth a read. Also check this video.

Stuff I’ve Done This Week – I’ve been busy working on some presentations (more on those soon), but I also managed to get involved with an Exeter University Athletics Club sportivate project. You can read about it here, if you so wish.

That’s it for this week – have a good weekend!

Talent Transfer (Part One)

In this blog post, I will examine my journey from being an Olympian in one sport, to being selected for an Olympics in a completely different one. This process is known as “talent transfer”, and is becoming increasingly common. Within my second sport, Bobsleigh, everyone in the Great Britain squad started off in another sport. The most common of these sports is athletics, with sprinters and long-jumpers making up the vast majority of these. Globally, bobsleigh teams are increasingly recruiting from athletics; Lauryn Williams and Lolo Jones compete for USA, Jana Pittman for bobsleigh, and 2008 Olympic Silver Medallist Hanna Marien for Belgium. Outside of bobsleigh, Rebecca Romero successfully went from rowing to cycling, winning Olympic medals in both. Michael Jordan transferred from basketball to baseball, and back again. The opportunity is there for athletes who fancy trying something new, for whatever reason, to do so. So, below are my 11 tips for transferring your skills from one arena to another.


This will be a multi-part blog, as it’s pretty long. In part one we are going to examine the decision making process that leads to transferring your talent. Parts two and three will look at the more practical aspects of actually transferring your skill, and integrating into a new team.


  1. Consider Your Options


There will likely be a stimulus for you wanting to consider something else. For me, a few years of relative underperformance and injury in athletics led to me being removed from funding at the end of 2012. This left me with two options; find a real job and continue with athletics, or find someone else who might be able to fund me. I thought I would struggle to balance athletics training and full-time employment, plus I was fed up with hoping that next year would be better in terms of performance. So I decided to consider other options. A very attractive option, and one that I had considered (fleetingly!) before was bobsleigh; my athletics coach was now employed as a coach by British Bobsleigh, and two of my training partners were bobsleigh athletes. The performance director also kept joking that he wanted to see me have a go; turns out that he was semi-serious.


After this stimulus, you need to consider your options. What are the pros and cons of a) doing nothing and staying where you are, and b) changing to another sport/job? Why would you want to Talent Transfer? The main pro for me was the chance to go to an Olympic Games within 16 months of first considering bobsleigh. This was especially attractive as I had missed the 2012 Olympics through injury. The chance to meet new people and have new experiences was also really attractive, particularly as athletics was essentially the same people and places year after year. Added to the fact that my 100m personal best wouldn’t even qualify me for the athletics team anymore, it seemed like a pretty easy decision.


  1. Approach People In The Know


Once you’ve had the stimulus to consider your options, and thought it through, you need to know if other people think it’s a reasonable idea. The first person I approached was my athletics coach, who was employed by British Bobsleigh and was a former bobsleigh athlete himself. I asked him what if he thought I had what was required to be successful in bobsleigh, and he was very positive. I then thought about the other bobsleigh athletes that I knew, and considered about whether, on a physical level, I could compete with them. I thought that I could. So then I approached the bobsleigh Performance Director, Gary Anderson, who was very keen to meet with me and discus options. Gary told me that I had been one of his target athletes for a few years – whether this was true or not, it was really good to hear, and added to my confidence that this could be a successful move.


  1. Have A Taste


The next step is to see if you will actually be any good at your new endeavor. You don’t have to be brilliant straight away, but similarly, if you show no potential, then it’s probably not a good idea to pursue this change. Before announcing that I was going to transfer to bobsleigh, I traveled down to Bath for an appraisal, which consisted of some of the standard performance tests British Bobsleigh carry out. I was incredibly nervous for this, as it was probably the time where I would have to decide whether or not I was good enough for bobsleigh; fortunately I tested incredibly well, which further fuelled my belief that I could successfully transfer across.


  1. Commit


At this point, you’ve considered your options, you’ve spoken to people in the know about your idea, and you’ve given it a go. There isn’t anything left to do but decide, so make your decision and commit! Once I decided that I wanted to do bobsleigh, I fully gave it everything I had. I knew my athletics career was going to be significantly affected, if not finished, at least for the short term. And this was actually a relief to me. Having grown up wanting desperately to be a successful athlete, and (almost) every year of my senior career falling short of those goals, to be liberated from that feeling was actually a really positive feeling.


If you’re serious about transferring from one area to another, then you really do have to give it your all. If you try and keep a foot in both camps, then you’re stunting your potential in both. Being world class at anything requires you to live and breathe that particular thing. Failure to commit will lead to you becoming a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of none.

Twitter Tips For Up-and-coming Athletes

It’s probably best to start by addressing the elephant in the room. By writing this blog post, I am not, by any means, saying that I am a social media expert. I have just under 7000 followers on twitter, and I have some experience in managing my “public image”, but that’s about it. However, I am probably in the top 50% of athletes who use social media well, and so, statistically, I am better then most (assuming a normal distribution; lets get the maths out of the way now too). What follows are some rules and twitter tips that might be a good starting point for a young athlete on how to use Twitter.


  • Start by understanding the difference between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tinder, Grindr, etc. etc.


Unless you make your twitter private (something which I absolutely do not advocate), everyone will be able to see your tweets. This is different to Facebook, where you can adjust your privacy settings (and you absolutely should!) or make a fan page, which is a better place to share your personal photos. Instagram is for photos only, LinkedIn more for professionals, and Tinder and Grindr; well, if you don’t know, I won’t tell you.


  • Decide on what you want to use twitter for.


What do you actually want to use twitter for? My goal for using twitter was so that people could see a different side to me; rather than the skin headed, grumpy, reasonably scary, pumped up guy they see fleetingly for 10 seconds making up the numbers of a race somewhere in Eastern Europe, I wanted to show that I’m actually alright. Although I still am quite grumpy. To this end, I post things that interest me, pictures of me doing different things, and updates on non-sporting things that I’m doing. It’s also a really good opportunity to engage with people, apart from trolls (more on them later).


  • Decide on your user name


Remember, this will be how people find you. You can change it, but it’s best not too, as it can confuse your followers when they want to tag you. My username is @craig100m (https://twitter.com/craig100m) which at the time was highly descriptive. When I changed to bobsleigh, I didn’t change it, in part to keep it easy for people to tag me. @allgirlswantme is obviously hilarious, but less so when BBC Sport is tagging you in a tweet to their audience of 2.8 million. Remember, you want it to be as easy as possible for people to find and tag you.


  • Be authentic


This is your chance to show people what you’re really like. Make sure you update your timeline on a regular basis. Engage with people. Be the real you. If you’re only posting to sell/push a product, your followers won’t like it. If its not you posting, people can tell, and again you will struggle to find followers.


  • Don’t be (too) controversial


As I said earlier, everyone can see your profile. What you tweet will be on the internetz for a long, long time. It can come back to haunt you. My general rule is that I won’t tweet anything I wouldn’t want my mum to see. This means that I don’t swear or make inappropriate comments (I’m aware some of you might have a different relationship with your mum). If you slag someone off, assume that they’ll see it, which isn’t ideal, and leads nicely into my next point:


  • At some point, you might well have to meet people you have tweeted in real life.


I’m socially awkward at the best of times. If I have to meet someone who I’ve argued with, insulted, or just been rude too, its going to be about 1000 times more awkward. If you’re an athlete, you’re probably going to be meeting these people at an athletics meet, when you should be focusing on running well, not feeling awkward. Make good decisions.


  • Photos


Guys; I’m sure you look great without your top on. But I don’t need to see picture after picture of you posing with #SunsOutGunsOut. Girls; your new running shorts are great, but I don’t need a full on shorts and crop top selfie in front of the mirror. These are both examples of the Humble Brag, and it’s annoying. Instead, use photos to show something different. Flicking through my profile, my most recent photos of me are; me stood with a penguin; me sat on a rock, and me running on a beach (with my top off, because I’m a hypocrite – but it was used as an example of training in a different environment, honest).


twitter tips

(Me with penguin)

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously


Things won’t always go your way. If you’re a good athlete, things will, at some point, go badly for you in a race. The better you are, the more likely this race is going to be televised. Being able to take a step back and laugh at yourself or the situation is really important. I’m just glad twitter wasn’t around back in 2008……..


  • Deal with trolls effectively


Hey, guess what? Not everyone likes you. The better you are, the more abuse you’re going to get. I like to think I’m quite good at this. Rule #1 is to not take it too seriously – if someone has gone out of his or her way to troll you on twitter, they’re already an idiot. Rule #2 is to turn it around and try to wind them up. Say, for example, someone has said that you’re rubbish and should retire. You might want to point out that they’ve never represented their country, and their girlfriend is quicker than them. Rule #3 is to take the high ground; don’t let it degenerate into an argument. Take the hypothetical situation outlined in rule #2 – if the comeback to my comment was “yea but I’ve got a brand new car and I earn £24k a year in my job”, you’ve won because that person has degenerated into writing nonsense. Remember, this is all hypothetical. Rule #4 – If someone has insulted you, its fine to insult them, but try and be funny about it. And don’t start it. Rule #5 – Beat them at their own game. Nobody wants to troll a troll.


  • Retweets


A retweet is a defacto endorsement of whatever it is you have retweeted. It’s fine to retweet interesting articles or tweets. It’s probably not a good idea to retweet anything that doesn’t conform to point #5.


The higher your profile, the more you are likely to be asked by people to retweet something for charity, or to highlight something they are doing. It’s best to have a policy to deal with this. Generally, I won’t retweet something that I have been asked to retweet unless I really believe in it. Asking for retweets is very annoying.


  • Remember you have Direct Messages


Some things shouldn’t be tweeted. I don’t want to see awkward flirting on my timeline. View @N_Togun (https://twitter.com/N_Togun) or @Jrsmallin (https://twitter.com/Jrsmallin) as examples. Also, remember point #6 – you will have to meet them one day in real life. Decide now how awkward you want that to be.


  • Model yourself on athletes that do it right:


@daigreene (https://twitter.com/DaiGreene) and @andrewsteele (https://twitter.com/AndrewSteele) are examples of very good twitter profile management. Dai in particular is good, as it is actually him that posts, and he puts up pictures that show him doing different things, really allowing you to get an insight into his life away from athletics. Andy is an example of someone that engages with people as much as he can, across a range of social media outlets, which is exactly what you would expect from London’s top hipster.


So, that’s it. 12 points that I thought of off the top of my head to potentially help up and coming junior athletes better manage their twitter profile. If you found it helpful, please retweet (I’M JOKING). You can always ask me further questions on twitter at @craig100m.

Speed Training Masterclasses

A busy few days for me last weekend with two Speed Masterclasses. On Saturday I was at Salisbury AC, working alongside Lee Ness, and on Sunday I was at Andover AC. Over the course of the two days I worked with thirty athletes, showing them the drills that I use to correct speed mechanics, and then taking them through acceleration and maximum velocity sessions. I was able to film these sessions with a high speed camera, and give individualised feedback to every single athlete there. I think they found it helpful, and I really enjoyed it. If you’re interested in me coming to your club to deliver a masterclass, then please get in touch.

Strength and Conditioning Level 3

This weekend I’ll be delivering part of a Strength and Conditioning training course at Leeds Met University.

My session is at the start of Day 2 and is on Speed Development and Plyometric Training.

Strength and Conditioning Education

The course is a 3 Day Accelerated Coach Development Level 3 Programme – 1st4Sport Level 3 in Strength and Conditioning run by Strength and Conditioning Education

If you’re already going, then come and say hi!

strength and conditioning