This is me, Rob Gascoyne.
Speed Academy was my idea. The story below will give you an idea of who I am and why I will do everything I can to help every athlete I have a responsibility to.
At school I was on most of the sports teams, but never really set the world alight. My games teacher (Yosser Hughes) used to call me his utility man. I could do a competent job wherever he put me. Despite being quite athletic, I was tall and gangly, and easily physically dominated in team sports.
However, at athletics and other individual sports, I had some reasonable success and loved the attention I got from winning. I found that I could pick skills up fairly easily just by watching people on the telly. Where others struggled with the triple jump and hurdling, I picked it up quite naturally (this principle did not apply to javelin).
When I turned 16 I started to train with the local semi-pro football team. This was my introduction to actually training for something. It was here that I discovered that when I relaxed and got myself balanced, I ran faster. I also found myself loving the training as much as the actual games on a weekend. Like a typical young kid, I made every drill competitive. Very soon I was the fastest at the club and the fastest in the school.
As a track and field athlete, I never trained nor received any coaching. I would do sports day and win, area trials and win, county trials and win. But things never got any further than that. Our school didn’t offer training or an out of school club. The nearest athletics club was 18 miles away and I had no way of getting there until I got my first car.
Luck struck in my final year of 6th form when our supply PE teacher was an athletics coach. He saw I had a bit of form and arranged for me to go to Scarborough Harriers athletics club to get further competition. I still didn’t get any coaching because they were essentially a running club with a 300m grass track but there was a strong youth section with some who were of a very high standard. Competing with these guys was great fun and exciting because as a very small bunch of talented juniors (I was the eldest at 18) we blazed a trail across the North East senior leagues.
By the time I was 20 though I was staring athletic retirement in the face as I had to give up on the triple jump. I was getting serious knee, lower back pain and, ankle pain. I would have to psyche myself up just to jump. It got to a point where the pain outweighed the enjoyment. At the time I blamed my body, but looking back what did I expect. I was a very skinny kid trying to compete every weekend in a power event with no technical coaching and no foundational strength or conditioning.
By accident I turned to the 400m hurdles. Our regular hurdler got injured in warm up, and rather than see the team get no points I stepped up and won by a good margin. The rhythm of the event suited me and I enjoyed a good degree of success. I moved to a bigger club and, with the help of some very good training groups, competed in the top flight of the British League for about 10yrs.
However, I wasn’t running the times that I and people around me thought I should. You see, like most people I believed in the talent theory. You either had it or you didn’t. In training I felt I had it but when I didn’t run the times that I was expected to, then I assumed that I just wasn’t talented enough. It didn’t help that I would injure my right hamstring or Achilles whenever we started to increase the intensity of the training in early summer.
I trained very hard and listened well, but I wanted to know if there was anything I was missing out on.
To compound things, every time I started to work with a coach, they moved away from the area within 18months. I’m not joking. I made one coach retire, one had a break down, one moved to South Africa, one moved to Middlesbrough and took up coaching rowing instead and the other gave up coaching completely half way through the season to do a PHD. I was beginning to get a complex. But the problem was, I didn’t get the chance to establish a long term relationship with them or develop a long term plan for my training.
My point to all this is that looking back with the knowledge and skills I have now, with the right support and advice, I could have been more successful and enjoyed my athletics career a lot more.
I now know that I was limited by serious imbalances that weren’t picked up. I was led to believe I had good running technique, but it was massively flawed.
I went through my whole running career not knowing why I was doing the drills I was doing, let alone how to get maximum benefit from them. Or even if they were the right ones for me in the first place.
Like many athletes, I’d learned to make several technical compensations to cover up the imbalances and lack of structural strength.
Why did nobody pick up on this? I spent a lot of money on numerous highly respected physiotherapists, osteopaths, podiatrists and even a Chinese herbalist in an attempt to get to the bottom of my injury problems.
This is the major driving force for what I do today. Through Speed Academy, I intend to prevent as many athletes in as many sports as possible, from failing to fulfil their potential.
By working with young athletes, I can help them to develop their movement literacy as they grow and develop as an athlete. Just like learning Maths and English. You need to know the alphabet before you can read and write. Today’s young athletes are being asked to perform skills that they haven’t developed the physical attributes for. That’s like asking a 14yr old to do quadratic equations without ever being taught to add, multiply and subtract. Just because he’s 14 doesn’t mean he’s ready. You can’t jump stages of development.
FRUSTRATION LEADS TO CHANGE
My real frustrations that led to me setting up Speed Academy are in the realms of long term athlete development.
During my time as a Strength and Conditioning coach in professional football I was seeing that the standard of athleticism in young players coming through the academies was inadequate. To play professionally, these players have to play 50-60 games per year, each one as important as the last. They also need to be able to train the same specific movements 4-5 days a week. That’s a lot of accelerating, decelerating, and direction changes. To handle that for a 15 year career, you’d better be strong, and you’d better have good mechanics.
But the kids coming through, if they were cars, they’d be stock car racing fodder, not F1.
I could see that there were players who I could make a huge impact, not only on their game, but their career. But I just didn’t have the time with them to do so. I could see these players had so many issues and I knew that in my toolbox, I had the skills to completely redirect their career.
Through my work with high performance athletes in other sports, I know that this isn’t just a football thing.
So I set up my own Academy that focuses on movement capability and develops athletes who are fast, strong, powerful, efficient and ready for anything.
LONG TERM ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT
Young athletes are not being developed athletically by the sports coaching establishment. They enter senior sport without the physical competencies required by the sport. Like myself, this predisposes them to recurring injury and falling way short of their potential.
Just like use of calculators affects numeracy skills and word processing and the Internet affect literacy skills, technology and lifestyle is having a profoundly negative effect on young people’s movement vocabulary.
As such, there are many potential young athletes out there who have all the desire, but early sport specialisation and too much sitting (school, car, computer) mean they fall frustratingly short of their potential.
The growing body has windows of opportunity where it responds better to certain stimulus. If you are to optimise your athlete’s potential these must be capitalised on. In the past, creating a Lionel Messi was just good fortune. A case of getting the right young person doing the right things at the right time. But now we know what those things are, we may find much more Messis, Federers and Jessica Ennis’s.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
It is my intention for Speed Academy to be completely meshed into the sporting fabric of West Yorkshire.
From a selfish point of view I want to have fun helping young people who love their sport, to fulfil their ambitions and not be frightened to achieve their potential. To this end, I have a set of principles I run Speed Academy by:
Speed Academy will provide the finest systems, specialists, and facilities, seamlessly integrated to efficiently and ethically enhance our athletes’ performance.
Speed Academy is solely dedicated to helping our athletes maximise their potential by:
Decreasing injury potential
Motivating through education
Helping athletes achieve their potential is our passion and priority.
Those values drive me every day.