A lesson on dedication at the college

THE Borders Coaching Conference must be protected, according to the Scottish Borders Council’s senior sports development officer.

Dougie Anderson made the comments after more than 100 coaches from across a wide range of sports listened to tales of glory and how best to coach young sportspeople from Olympic swimming gold medalist Duncan Goodhew and ex-athlete Brian Whittle, a double European Championship gold medalist.

Anderson said: “The keynote speakers, Duncan and Brian, were magnificent and so passionate, enthusiastic and knowledgeable on modern coaching requirements.

“The sports-specific workshops were also well received and there were some very exceptional coaches delivering there also.

“We hope that this event continues. If the attendance from Borders coaches is anything to go by, then we must do all we can to safeguard this event.”

Goodhew talked the conference, held at Borders College in Galashiels, through his difficult childhood, suffering dyslexia and complete hair loss aged 11, to achieving a gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics in the 100m breaststroke.

He also acknowledged his psychological problems in the pool, culminating in his seventh-place finish at the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

“I fell to pieces and had to learn to swim again,” said Goodhew,. This led to the Englishman working with Dave Haller.

The 53-year-old described becoming mentally stronger and practiced visualising the perfect race.

He added: “I adopted a mentality that when I had one of my worst days, I would work at my hardest. In the end, my worst days turned into my best.

“It was about the integrity of my performance. Soon people were saying ‘Duncan never has a bad swim’ and competitors thought the same thing.”

He used his renewed mental strength to help him win his 1980 gold medal, which he brought with him to Galashiels.

Goodhew said: “You are kept in a holding area for 45 minutes with the other seven fastest swimmers in the world in tense silence.

“I decided to sit down and started reading a book. The other swimmers could not believe it.

“I didn’t have a good swim but I didn’t have to, because the others let me win.”

Goodhew added: “Winning is setting out what you want to do – whether that is winning an Olympic Games or swimming a length.”

Brian Whittle described his most famous race – running in Great Britain’s 4x400m European Championship relay win in 1986 despite losing a shoe at the start of his run. He described being pulled into the team after two team-mates suffered late injuries.

“I had dreamt of running in a major finals since the age of 10 but if someone had offered me root canal treatment without the anaesthetic I would have taken it then,” he said.

Whittle also recalled the German team scoffing at his appearance in the relay team. “That changed my whole psyche – I was still nervous, but there was also anger in there,” he added.

On the loss of his shoe as he prepared to run Britain’s third leg, the 46-year-old said: “People have asked me ‘How do you know you could run without a shoe?’

“I didn’t. I had two choices – run or stop – and stop was not an option.”

Now chairman of Athletics Coaches Scotland, Whittle added coaches have to adapt their methods when teaching children.

“I am fed up of people saying that children are different from 20 years ago. Of course they are,” he said.

“But we have to change as coaches. We cannot maintain the same systems as we did 20 years ago.”