Ask the Expert: Jared Deacon (Scottish Rugby Academy)

Jared Deacon is a former international 400m athlete. He has worked for UK Athletics, English Institute of Sport and is currently Lead Academy S&C Coach for Scottish Rugby in Edinburgh. Alongside S&C coaching, Jared has also coached international sprinters and hurdlers as a track coach including European, World and Olympic medallists.

1)What has led you into youth sport?

It wasn’t anything intentional to get into youth sport, but the athletes I seem to have worked with the most throughout my career as an S&C coach and a track coach just tend to have mainly been in their mid to late teens. This was a specific focus at UK Athletics and working as part of the under 20 team coaching staff for European and World Junior Championships, and now having worked with the under 19s and under 20s for Scottish Rugby I think I have just found the zone where I feel my skills lie and I enjoy the most. My background is as a PE teacher in secondary schools so I have pretty much spend my whole working life around teenagers – although I’m not sure how much this will help me when my own children hit their teens!!

2) What has been your biggest influence in your practice in youth sport?

The athletes themselves. There is a great motivation working with young people with their energy and attitude where nothing seems impossible to them. I have drawn from various people to help me understand my role better and how I develop athletes in the right way, but it is really just getting to know them and educate them has been the biggest influence on how I work with them.

3) What is your particular area of interest?

With my background it probably seems obvious that is it speed skills would be an area of interest. However, I still go back to the fundamental biomotor abilities that underpin all movement as being the most important as all else gets build on top of that. Not enough time or attention or patience is given to this area and we seem to want to get very sports specific very quickly these days. Children now aren’t coming in with the same levels of physical ability or mental robustness they did in the past so we have a role in assisting them in exploring and developing these aspects.

4) How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletes?

As hinted at in the previous answer, all athletes should have these fundamental aspects in place and in the development years we should take the opportunity to set up them for their senior/performance years as best we can. This would go right back to pre teen years and getting lots of different physical stimuli from various sports and activities with particular emphasis on gymnastic basics and running, jumping and throwing setting up qualities which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their (not just) sporting lives.

5) What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

There is no rush, take your time. I link this to the quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” We should spend time sharpening the axe to have a far better, more useful tool at the end of it.

6) What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes?

Don’t undervalue your work. It is often thought that the ‘best’ coaches work with the senior athletes when they are at their peak and winning their medals. Without the work of the coaches putting the time and efforts in to develop these athletes in their formative years then they wouldn’t be in as good a position to achieve those adult performances. As the athletes/players step on through their developmental stages they will have different coaches adding different elements to their armoury and hopefully it is well thought out and strategic enough to be doing the right thing at the right time. Those working with younger athletes have the skills to get the best out of them. As Malcolm Arnold (look him up) once told me – you don’t expect your primary school teacher to be lecturing you in university. This was a really important point for us to be specialist with a certain group and people to appreciate the role played with that group. No one asks a primary school teacher if they are an aspiring secondary school teacher or a secondary school teacher if they are an aspiring university lecturer – the skills sets are very different yet totally dependant upon each other.

7) Can you recommend any particular resources for youth sport coaches?

As probably been mentioned a number of times on this website, Kelvin Giles is always a go to. I love hearing him speak and his passion for what youth athletes can be doing.

My favourite book is called “Speed Trap” by Charlie Francis (available as an ebook on charliefrancis.com). Clearly there are drug related stories within this, but removing those (as they might be interesting but should ultimately be useless to us) and reading this as an elite coaching manual anyone will get a lot out of. It is heavy track and field in its nature but the principles of the coaching approach is applicable across the board. You don’t have to be coaching elite performers to be an elite level coach.

8) Where can people find out more about you and your work? 

Mainly twitter @jaredmdeacon although you will be just a likely to get something related to The Jam or guitars as you will to sports stuff, but if I come across things that I think are useful, interesting of good report or praiseworthy then I will put it out there .

Thanks to Jared for giving us his time and expertise!

Are you a grassroots youth sport coach or PE teacher who wants to improve the athleticism of your athletes?? Check out our Fundamental series athletic development programs here.

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