Coaching Profile - Philip (Taffy) Jones
I caught up with “Taffy” at one of his recent training sessions in Wellington with Ryan Tinkle the Hammer and Discus thrower. It was very interesting hearing all the scientific and bio-mechanical terms, his approach to coaching and his aspirations for some of his current athletes.
Philip (Taffy) Jones.
Originally Jones coached squash and rugby but now he coaches the throwing events in athletics. He says he loves athletics and says that it’s different, as you can coach the same person for life. “The athlete that you started coaching can be with you for their sporting life.” This is what happened with Shaka Sola who was the New Zealand Shot Put and Discus Champion for a few years. Sola also won various Championships in the Oceania region.
He says that the coach learns off the athlete and the athlete learns off the coach and that they both progress together. Sola is the athlete that he has made the most progress with.
Now there’s Ryan Tinkle, who’s off to the World Youth Championships after setting various records in the Hammer Throw this season.
Jones thinks that Tinkle could be a more competitive discus thrower than a hammer thrower going by what juniors of the same age in other countries are currently throwing. He currently throws over 54 metres for the discus. He says that the discus could be what he performs best at when he goes to the World Youth Championships.
In the Hammer Throw he thinks that Tinkle will need to throw about 67 metres to get into the final, it’s going to be easier for Tinkle to get into the discus final. Next year all going well he says Tinkle should improve to over 70 meters in the Hammer Throw.
When asked why he thinks he’s been so successful with Tinkle recently, he says that they live so close together, train every day, the fact that he’s also a very good trainer and he’s quite fast as well. “I think if anybody is prepared to put in as much time and effort as Ryan they would be successful, he’s a very determined competitor.”
Taffy and Tinkle at a recnt training session. Photos by Gary Nesbit www.nesport.co.nz
Then there’s 15 year old Leesa Lealaisalanoa who is also competing at the World Youth Championships in the discus. He says that Leesa could go a long way over the next four or five years, she’s ranked number two in the world for her age, she bettered Te Rina Keenan's record in the discus for her age group. He says that she is going to be a great discus thrower and has thrown nearly 52 metres already.
But so far this year, the best thing for Jones was Wellington College winning the McEvedy Shield. He says “we had a lot of good throwers, and because we had lots of good throwers we won the competition. Throws are a very important part of athletics and teams that lack a throwing coach can be very disadvantaged.” More on this McEvedy Shield competition is here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/1995711/Wellington-College-grab-shield-back
Jones, who doesn’t smoke or drink, spends a large amount of his spare time coaching. He finds the time spent with the athletes is very rewarding.
He says “Winning is very important, and it’s not just being able to teach people how to throw and all the things that go with throwing, you also have to get into the person the desire to win and to beat people on a regular basis. You need to be trying to win, and nowadays they seem to be afraid to say ‘you want to win’. If you lose you just need to go back and work it all out and start again. Competition is about winning.”
Jones was born in Wales, about one mile from Cardiff Arms Park, and watched rugby for a good part of his life. The first time that he watched athletics was in 1958 at the Cardiff Empire Games. His father took him and he can still remember all the results of the events. He came to New Zealand in 1965, and played rugby for Marist. Coming from Wales has earned him the nickname Taffy.
The coaching course held in Auckland in 1996 with Klaus Bartoneitz which Jones attended, has had a great affect on Jones as a coach. “Klaus was a great coach. I kept all the material from that, it was one of the best coaching courses I have ever seen for athletics coaching in NZ. Klaus gave us all literature and video tapes. The videos were self explanatory - you just had to watch them. Klaus was a big influence for me - I’ve never seen a coach in any other sport as good as him.”
He thinks that experience is more important than courses, and doesn’t think he could get any better than what Klaus gave in that course back in 1996. “Once you’ve been to a coaching course you start looking for the things you don’t know, and how to solve problems. Basically if there’s a problem it’s normally the coach who has to sort it out – specially with younger athletes. Coaching younger athletes is the hardest. At 13 to 14 years old, that’s the age to be coached. You may not be the most scientific of coaches but you’ve got to be able to show the younger athletes, how to do it.”
He finds the internet a valuable tool for video and other written information. He says “There’s more information about sport there than anywhere else.”
Even though he has a really good eye for spotting a thrower’s technique, videoing is one of Jones’s tools. He tapes his athletes training sessions as well as their competitions. He has tapes of all the world class throwers (javelin, discus, hammer and shot put). He goes through them methodically frame by frame and compares the footage with Ryan’s footage. This means two TV’s and two VCR’s side by side - they learn from looking at what the top thrower does.
Jones has a gym at home with weights which his athletes use. If you are coaching the throws you need to know everything about Olympic lifting as well as the four throws. You also need to be able to coach sprints and you need to know all the sprint drills.
He’s keen to see a weight room at the local track at Newtown Park. He is also keen to see a track and field facility at Porirua go ahead. Throwing athletes need a weight lifting room at the track so that they can do the lifts and then go out and do the throws.
He says “A coach shouldn’t be one-dimensional, he or she should be able to coach anything.”
He thinks that you should know all the necessities for coaching and if you had to coach netball, you should be able to adapt. The coach needs to be accessible all the time and there needs to be a love relationship between the coach and the athlete. Sometimes the coach may be even more important that the parents - it’s almost a 24 hour job.
Jones loves what he does so much that he even drives his athletes around in his taxi; he says that the taxi job is quite flexible. He even carries the coaching gear in the taxi. “I love watching throwing, to me it’s exciting. I wouldn’t still be coaching otherwise.”