Athletics News

Coaching conversations with Frank Dick

Coaching conversations with Frank Dick

The former UK Athletics Director of Coaching talks about his philosophy, the role of the coach and why people skills are becoming a key tool

There are few people who could match Frank Dick’s depth of involvement in coaching.

The former national coach in Scotland, from 1979 to 1994 he was the British Athletics Federation’s Director of Coaching, as well as personal coach to two-time Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson.

A motivational sport, business and performance speaker, Dick has also worked across a range of sports and organisations, and currently serves as Chair of the Global Athletics Coaches Academy, created on behalf of World Athletics.

Kriss Akabusi and Frank Dick (Mark Shearman)

How did your coaching journey start?

I went to Royal High School in Edinburgh and ran the under-16s half-mile at one school championships, finishing third. I really thought I could do something in athletics. I got selected for the school team for a competition that was coming up against George Watson’s school. I think I finished first in that race and that sold me. I persuaded my mum and dad to pay to let me go to the Scottish Schoolboys course and I can still remember this giant of a guy called Tony Chapman, who was the Scottish national coach.

I worshipped him because he was coming out with so much wisdom that no other person in the world had ever spoken like this before. And at the back of my mind, probably then, I wanted to be a coach.

I had a passion for athletics but I developed an even deeper passion for understanding more about it and for passing that on.

How do you view the role of the coach?

I think a coach’s function is to create a learning environment. But for what reason? It’s to create a process for the athlete to take ownership of their development and of their performance. If we broaden it further, taking the holistic side, that doesn’t apply to just helping you to perform better in the arena, but to perform better in life.

I really embraced [American basketball coach] John Wooden’s concept of what a coach’s job is when he said it’s to take people from who they are to who they’re capable of becoming.

How would you sum up your coaching philosophy?

We are brought up with a fantastic basic philosophy in athletics, and it’s around a concept called personal bests. This sums it up – be better today than you were yesterday, every day. And that applies not just to a junior athlete just starting out but it applies to Usain Bolt….

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