Invercargill based coach Lorne Singer has been coaching since 2006. He says he did reasonably well at athletics as a competitor. It opened a lot of doors for him and it taught him alot along the way. The following interview looks at how he got into coaching and his coaching philosophy.
He says "I was married on a running track (Surrey Park, Invercargill) - very symbolically at the 400m start line, although some cheeky person asked if it was the finish line."
Have you always been involved with only athletics or have you had other roles in sport?
My roles in sport as a coach or administrator have only been with athletics, although I have taken on board alot from other sports and have enjoyed playing other sports like cricket, rugby, football and American football.
What got you into coaching and when did you first become a coach?
I have always wanted to be a coach and was inspired by many coaches throughout my career. My first coaches were Jenny and Trevor Jones from the Titahi Bay Club in the late 80s/early 90s. They gave us all such a good grounding in athletics and had the ability to relate to us really well. There were also experts on hand to help us, like former National Champion thrower Henry Smith. In 1994 I was a Rotary Exchange Student to New Mexico, USA and while there ran my quickest times over the 100m. The head coach (Bob Sepulveda – now retired) was such an inspirational man that I said I wanted to be exactly like him one day. I believe I am now living that dream.
How many years have you been coaching?
I have only been coaching since 2006 and it started out really slowly due to my profession at the time (law). In 2007 I made the decision to ditch a career I found depressing and follow my dream. I am now a fully registered primary school teacher and teach athletics fundamentals to children this age during school hours (as the Athletics Southland Development Officer). I also teach/coach at six athletics clubs on rotation as well as personally coaching a reasonably big squad of athletes at various times after school covering six days a week.
As a coach where are you based?
Invercargill, although there is travel all over Southland because of my job and how the clubs are spread out.
How did you first become involved in athletics?
It’s probably quite a common story, but I was a hyperactive six-year-old and my parents believed athletics would allow me to burn off excess energy. I think I remained hyperactive, but just at a quicker pace.
Are you attached to an athletics club?
I have been a member of six clubs – Tawa in Wellington (ceased operating a couple of decades ago), Titahi Bay in Wellington, Kiwi in Wellington, Hill City in Dunedin, Leith in Dunedin and now St Pauls in Invercargill.
Which athletics disciplines do you coach?
Everything to at least a basic level, but my specialist area is sprints.
What is your coaching philosophy?
This is a hard one, as I could go on forever about this. It is always being fine-tuned and sometimes takes a major change in direction because I am passionate about ongoing learning and upskilling. Essentially athletes of all ages need to enjoy what they are doing. For performance to be maximised, they need to be happy with what they are doing in life in general so that they can be in a positive frame of mind. I have been fascinated with brain research that shows positive thoughts literally strengthen the body and negative thoughts weaken it. It is for this reason that I am interested in the person as a whole, not just the running/jumping/throwing machine. I believe the best coaches care for their athletes beyond the sport and often long after they have stopped coaching them. In a nutshell, for the rest of it, variety and progression are key factors, as is planning based around realistic short to long-term expectations. Finally you will get no where without communication and respect. Working everything around the body’s energy systems is key for my planning. For this reason you need to know what your athlete is doing in terms of other sports etc, otherwise what you plan for them could be completely counter-productive and even damaging.
Why do you coach and what motivates you?
There is nothing more powerful than the human soul on fire. I love that quote. Doing reasonably well at athletics opened a lot of doors for me and it taught me alot along the way. A number of coaches gave up alot of their time to help me become a better athlete and ultimately a better person. I like to think I am now doing the same. The joy of a PB, achieving a goal, watching young people work hard to be the best they can be – this is what makes coaching so rewarding. I also really love the sport and it’s a great environment to be in.
What qualifications do you have as an athletics coach and how necessary have these qualifications been for you?
Run Jump Throw lecturer, L3 Sprints (mid way through) and of course being involved with many great coaches along the way – some of whom have coached Olympians such as Alan Coulson in Wellington and Brent Ward in Dunedin. Not to mention those who have achieved great things themselves like Chris Sole in Dunedin (South African Mountain Running Champion – I have never seen anyone scale a goat track like this man and he is 50). We also have a master coach here in Invercargill (Lance Smith) who has been churning out National Champions for years and he has been a great mentor for me. I’ve been to two coaching congresses in Australia and as two in NZ as well as taking an opportunity to instruct about 50 PE teachers in Samoa in Run Jump Throw (and I am very grateful to the support of Athletics Southland for these opportunities). All of this has been absolutely critical for my development as a coach.
How many athletes do you have in your coaching group?
Around about 30 (a couple of them being throwers who I help in terms of their speed work), but the most in any one training session has been about 15, as they all have different commitments etc and come at different times/days – so I guess I’m lucky I have the ability to be flexible and have an extremely patient and supportive wife for the long hours that I am away from home!
What sort of ages are these athletes?
Between the ages of 12 and 19 being a mix of absolute beginners through to NZ Champ medallists.
How often do you meet your athletes for training?
One or two times a week for the youngest ones over the athletics season (I’d prefer them to play another sport over winter because of their age and avoiding early specialisation) up to five or six days a week (twice a day two-three times a week if you factor in weights) for my oldest athlete (19–year-old).
Are there any other facts about you that you think readers might be interested in?
My childhood athletics nemesis was Christian Cullen of the Paraparaumu Club. He went on to become an All Black great and I assume earn a good living off sport. I went on to win a pizza voucher and a drink bottle by winning a few races up the world’s steepest street. Hmmmmm….
I was a guide runner for blind (B1 category) USA 100/200/400m record holder (and World Paralympian Gold Medallist) Winford Haynes. He had one of the best starts I’ve come across and was 20m down the track before I could catch him and link onto his arm (under the elbow). Getting into his rhythm at the speed he was travelling at was no easy task, but one of the best experiences I have ever had.
Many years ago as a student in Dunedin (we were all young and silly once) three 400m runners and a 100/200m runner (all of whom shall remain unnamed) claimed an unofficial NZ record for the nude (right down to bare feet) 4x400m relay. I may have been involved in this. The splits were timed at 51, 51, 56 and 52 secs, which was quite reasonable given the state we were in and being in the middle of winter at midnight with ice on the Caledonian track. The first leg ran a season’s best!