17 March 2017
Brad Woods - pathway to full-time coaching at Trinity
Here is an interesting coaching pathway. Ten years ago, Brad Woods fell into coaching, now he is working full-time at Trinity Grammar, one of the most successful athletics sports programs in Australia, and also coaching across other sports and their elite and development programs. In this interview, Brad talks about the challengers of coaching in the short school year. He also tells us about how he remained patient as coach, while an athlete played three other sports, but eventually returned a successful athletics career.
ANSW: How did you become involved in coaching? Age?
Brad Woods: I got involved in coaching through a chance encounter where I was asked to cover another coach at Meriden in 2007. This then led onto a role at Sydney Grammar and finally to Trinity Grammar School in 2009 where I now hold a full-time coaching position. I started coaching at the age of 20.
ANSW: What events do you coach? Where do you coach?
Brad Woods: I coach at Trinity Grammar School. I directly look after the middle distance and cross country squads but I also coach the mighty 9Es and Fs Basketball, the Junior School’s TAP and EAP (Talented Athlete Program and Emerging Athlete Program) and I also help out with the Junior School’s FAST (Fundamental Activity and Skills Training) program.
ANSW: Tell us about some of the athletes in your squad?
Brad Woods: We have a very large number of boys competing in Cross Country (90+ throughout the CAS Cross Country season) and Track & Field (150+ in CAS Track & Field and 80+ in the Trinity Athletics Club). Probably the boys I am most proud of currently are Nathaniel Davies, Jonno Batson and Lelland and Nicholas Hui. These four boys started in year 7 and I thought we had a really soft age group in the middle distance. None of them had broken 5 minutes for 1500m or 2:30 for 800m, it was going to be a challenge. However, they found a calling in running and with a little perseverance they are now our strongest age group, each having represented the school or club at a national level. We also have state medallists in Kash Powell, Ben Bishop, Logan Kaye, Ethan Brouw, Patrick Cantlon, Theo Christian and Will Cooper who form the bulk of the squad.
ANSW: In your short career as a coach can you tell us about some highlights or special moments?
Brad Woods: I think the most special moments in my career as a coach stem from coaching and supervising Cameron Griffith (1:50 for 800m, 3:45 1500m) throughout his school career and now going into his second year at the University of Arkansas. I started looking after Cameron in 2009, and he was no doubt a talent, but he wasn’t super keen on running as he played soccer, AFL and volleyball as well. We had to nurse him through some growing pains and at one stage we thought he wouldn’t come back to running. And all of a sudden he came to me and said I want to give this a real crack. From here he went from strength to strength on very little work, slowly building up his weaknesses which resulted in him winning a few national medals and narrowly missing the World Youth and World Junior qualifiers. But besides his performance highlights I have had the privilege to see him grow and mature into a fantastic young man and lifelong friend.
ANSW: You were an elite athlete, can you talk about the transition from athlete to coach. Did it occur suddenly or gradually?
Brad Woods: It has been a long process from the time I first started coaching until now. Although the transition has been a little bumpy as I still run quite frequently but my own running is definitely on the back burner. I had a few injuries which sidelined my own career, and the energy I put into my own running has definitely been transferred to my coaching.
ANSW: Why coach?
Brad Woods: I have always wanted to give back to the sport of athletics. It has been a major component of my life, I started Little Athletics when I was 7 so 20+ years. I have always enjoyed seeing the joy people get out of their own running and the excitement they get out of racing. Athletics can take you to some amazing highs, and some disappointing lows. So why not be a helping hand. I think at Trinity we are quite lucky where we get to transfer a very individual sport, where the athlete is almost solely accountable, and create a team environment where each of the boys rely on each other, push each other and enjoy others success. I aim to create a real brotherhood and ‘esprit des corps’ amongst the athletes.
ANSW: Enjoyable aspects of coaching?
Brad Woods: I think one of the most enjoyable components of coaching is understanding the different aspects of your athlete's personality, all their idiosyncrasies, their strengths and their weaknesses, and how to improve their mental approach to both training and competition. Obviously in an effort to create their best possible chance to succeed and improve.
ANSW: Do you have any advice to other coaches?
Brad Woods: My advice to other coaches is very simple, knowledge and passion are key. If you are passionate about something whatever that maybe you should give yourself every opportunity to pass it on, you need to become an educator of your passion. To fuel your passion you need the knowledge to support it, this means learn, learn, learn, and never stop gaining knowledge.
ANSW: Coaching philosophy?
Brad Woods: My coaching philosophy is quite varied depending on what time of year it is and what part of my squad is training. At a school level most of the time I am dealing with boys who may not be the most talented athletes, or even actually interested in the sport but are required to do a sport over winter. So with this in mind I need to make it as enjoyable for them as possible and hopefully that ignites a spark. Then for the boys who choose to compete for the school and club they train all year round I break it down into two parts;
-For the boys in year 9 and below I encourage the boys to run by feel, learn the different aspects of training, and learn to enjoy training. I also believe that the boys should not specialize in any sport too early, and for this reason over the cross country season a large portion of my athletes will do their main sport as a priority then attend cross country when they can.
-For the boys Year 10 and above my approach is simple and broken down to 4 main points.
Less is more, more is less
Work on your weaknesses and maintain your strengths
The more you know
The idea behind these four points is that we create an environment where the boys are training consistently, without any injuries and without the risk of injury and are learning how their bodies cope and adapt to training with the hope that they enjoy running. This approach continues with the boys who continue on when they finish school.
ANSW: Who have been your coaching mentors…?
Brad Woods: I have been lucky enough to have a few coaching mentors throughout my career. Obviously my own coaches have imparted a large amount knowledge on what to do and what not to do. These include Ken Green and Lindsay Watson. However, I do like to read and take information from wherever I can get it. Vin Lananna and the Oregon System, Steve Magness, Harry Wilson, Peter Coe, Jack Daniels, Mihaly Igloi, Jerry Schumacher, Dan Pfaff and Vern Gambetta and local coaches Jimbo Fitzgerald, Justin Rinaldi, Adam Didyk and Philo Saunders have all provided great insights into running coaching. However, I do not limit my gaining knowledge to just running. I enjoy tackling information on swimming training, strength and conditioning, psychology and philosophy to influence my training approaches.
Andrew Murphy, Olympic Triple Jumper and Director of Athletics at Trinity has had a huge influence on the direction my career has taken so far. Also Michael Spratt the Master in Charge of Cross Country has influenced the more pastoral and nurturing side of my coaching and the simplicity of the ‘just love your running’ approach. Without these two mentors I would definitely not be in the position I am currently in.
ANSW: Background? (Age, work/study, family)
Brad Woods: I am 30 years of age, I currently live in Sydney with my beautiful wife Kate and our dog Rocky. I am very lucky that Kate is very supportive of my role as a coach and the time commitment that goes with it. I work at Trinity Grammar School and coach at Canterbury Little Athletics.
I grew up in Dubbo NSW where I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who were passionate about sport and self-improvement. I was very graciously supported by Athletics NSW through the Western Region Academy of Sport. I would ultimately like to see a system or program in place to correctly support rural Athletics so rural athletes can achieve their potential.
ANSW: Your own athletics career highlight/s?
Brad Woods: I have a few favorite highlights in my mind. One was obviously being able to travel doing something I love. My other favourite memories are going sub 4min for the mile at Santry Stadium in Ireland, the same venue where Herb Elliot set a World Record for the mile 48 years prior. Another is breaking the 4x1500m Australian Record with the Randwick-Botany Harriers team. This record was later eclipsed by a national team.
David Tarbotton for Athletics NSW
Image: Brad Woods and members of his squad at the recent NSW Junior Championships (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)