As one of the newer coaching additions to the GB Snowsport team, Para Alpine coach Blake Williams lets us know how he keeps the athletes engaged while also improving overall performance.
How and why did you get into coaching?
“As soon as I started working in snowsport, I immediately realised I preferred working at the performance end of skiing where I work with committed people that have the desire to improve. Initially, I worked with junior skiers in France, these were ski club children from the UK that were on ski holidays with their families. This then evolved into coaching role for the last 10 years working with juniors, FIS, masters and ski instructors working towards their race exams.”
What are your main responsibilities as a coach?
“To help find ways to improve performance. This includes creating a positive training environment where people want to be, setting up the sessions with a goal in mind, providing feedback and helping development. There is an ongoing and constant collaboration with the athletes, discussing future targets to help plan future training.”
How important is the mental/psychological side of coaching in a modern athlete’s development?
“I would say it’s very important! Learning what your ideal performance state is and then learning how to put yourself into that frame of mind for learning and competition is a skill that has to be worked on. I’m not old enough to tell you how it was 30 years ago but certainly in the modern age at the top levels of all sport it is taken seriously with sport psychologists having a part to play in most teams.”
Is analysing competition/training footage useful for athlete improvement and development? If so, has tech like mobile phones and drones made this easier?
“Essential, I tend to use a camera/tablet combination that we can use to do video feedback. This is a portable setup which means it can be used on the mountain mid-way through sessions. This has significantly improved the quality of feedback and the speed at which it can be given and has therefore helped to increase productivity during sessions.”
What was the biggest challenge coaching athletes during the most restricted moments last year? How did you manage to maintain a coaching approach with athletes during lockdown?
“I wasn’t with the GB Snowsport team last year so can’t comment too much on the challenges that the team faced. From my own experiences the challenges were the complex travel arrangements, understanding the impact of Brexit, resort operating restrictions (3 days per week) and keeping moral high. Everyone realised the situation was tough, but we made the most of the resources we had. I left the day-to-day coaching to our coach based in France who was excellent at keeping moral high and staying in communication. We couldn’t select our days off, we could only ski 3 days per week, so we had to make the most of every one of those. That meant looking ahead, making plans with bad weather contingencies. We liaised almost daily, on planning, video review and how to progress.”