Interview with Matt Horsnell – Coach of Nicola McDermott
We all know that this current period of time has been a challenging one for all and we thought we would check-in to see how some of the athletes who were bound for Tokyo 2020 are now dealing with the shift to Tokyo 2021 and what they are doing to adjust their training regimes.
How are you going & how would you describe what you are doing in the current situation?
We are going okay under the current circumstances. What we did at the end of the athletics season was not having a break like we normally would. Instead, we regrouped and started working on our strength and conditioning phase of work. This has been giving everyone some sense of purpose.
How are you conducting your coaching sessions right now?
Due to the current regulations and restrictions, we are currently conducting our coaching sessions on a one on one basis, I am having online sessions with my athletes, they send me videos of their sessions and I give them feedback and this has been working well. We also have a Facebook jumpers page where we share information. I have had to prioritize the one on one sessions with athletes in close distance to only be travelling locally. Nicola McDermott just lives up the road from me so we have been able to maintain all her training sessions. I can already see a good improvement from last season!
When did you start coaching Nicola?
I started coaching Nicola when she was 11 years old attending Gosford Little Athletics in 2007. She trained alongside a then 17-year-old Chris Dodd who was a 2.23M High jumper until his career was cut short after being run over by a car. Chris was a great mentor for Nicola back then.
Why did Nicola and yourself choose High Jump as the event to train for/coach?
I started coaching athletics in 1992 mainly because my kids had taken up the sport, I gained my level 1 coaching course with the Australian Track & Field Coaches Association. My daughter Alice was a 1.70M high jumper at 15. I enjoyed the technical nature of the sport and have had some great mentors helping me like Peter Lawler, Ian Garrett, and Sandro Bissetto I think I have been very lucky to have some very talented athletes progress to very high levels, I have found the more I learned the more the athletes progressed. The biggest focus for me has been having athletes progress injury free and that is ingrained in our philosophy.
Nicola has said she just loved high jump from day one, and her time at Little Athletics was just all about having fun. She was very tall at a young age, but not very strong or coordinated. From 13 she started general gym work with me and 3 sessions per week of conditioning. This was all about movement and switching muscles in the early years, with very minimal loading and not many plyometrics as she was not strong enough then. At 14 she started to learn the basics of how to squat properly, how to power clean and how to control her body. It has been a long process, every year Nicola progressed in the gym injury-free with a nice slow progression. She has produced a personal best every year that she has trained with us with no major injury setbacks which is something I am proud of.
Nicola has had a good understanding from around 16 that if she improved her running, strength, conditioning and technique she would get better. She has an understanding that every aspect of training has its place and the combination of these facets produces results. A lot of young athletes fall into the trap of just wanting to do the event, just jumping does not make them better.
How is the postponement of Tokyo 2020 changing your training plans?
For Nicola, we are trying to focus on the positives. This allows her to put together a very big block of work over the next 6 months, which she has found has given her a personal best every year for the last 10 years. She is excited about doing the work and having a gradual overloaded progression. We have also looked at her weaknesses and have put together programs to strengthen these areas. Nicola is 100% injury-free so this is a huge bonus when starting new blocks of work. Nicola’s view is that she will be better in 2021, so bring it on.
What message would you give to young kids and parents during this current climate?
I think over this time, try to keep active and work through this period. Don’t get too much caught up with electronic devices and social media. Have more family exercise time. Use this period to get fit.