Tommy Boyle

Tommy Boyle is one of Scotland’s most successful coaches ever.   He is also known across the globe as a successful coach who is readily prepared to talk about his work, his sources of information and inspiration and the athletes he has worked with.   He followed the traditional route of Scottish, indeed British, coaches who start out as runners, go on to become ‘Johnny a’things ‘ in his club – working on the committee, raising funds, sweeping the floor after races, etc with some coaching thrown in.   The coaching becomes a full time job with maybe a wee role on the committee and selling some raffle tickets.   Where Tommy left the traditional club coach role was when he realised that an exceptional runner required exceptional methods.   The various club roles were stripped away so that he himself could learn how to provide these exceptional measures.   Having taken this decision he tackled it with honesty, with intensity and dedication.   The results were there for all to see.   

This profile covers all aspects of his life and career, because the one influences and shapes the other more than in generally recognised.   Tommy has been very helpful in the construction of this profile and in fact almost all of section three comes direct from him.   The tale is told in four parts with some comments from some of his friends and colleagues on a separate page.   There will also be the text of some of his lectures added.

Tommy Boyle: the Background       Tommy Boyle: Club Coach        Tommy Boyle: Master Coach  

Tommy Boyle: Life Coach                ‘As Ithers See Us ..’                        

Tommy Boyle: ‘as ithers see us.’

One measure of how good a coach is, regardless of the success of the athletes coached, is what their peers and rivals think of them; how they stack up in the eyes of critical contemporaries.  We asked some coaches, athletics aficionados and others who knew/know him what they think.   

Anne Howie

First up is one of the athletes that he worked with back in the beginning in Bellshill, Anne Howie, and she encapsulates in her comments all that Tommy Boyle is about.   She says:

I met Tommy when I was around 14 or 15 when I changed running clubs and joined Clyde Valley AAC in the mid 70s.  I joined along with a few others who had jumped ship and we all became part of a mixed ability endurance training group, males and females, which included athletes who were already members of the club – an amalgamation of several other athletics clubs in the area, including Bellshill, Motherwell, Airdrie and Coatbridge.

Our section of the club was based at Bellshill YMCA.  Our club nights were Tuesdays and Thursdays. During autumn and winter we trained around the streets of Bellshill and on the playing fields of Bellshill Academy.  We also had sessions inside the school – circuit training in the gym hall as well as intervals in the long school corridors – they were hard!  Longer interval sessions took place at Strathclyde Park, mainly on non-race weekends and most of the group would meet up on Sundays at some pre-arranged location for a long run, which was mainly at a sociable pace so we all could chat and have a bit of a laugh.  Another facility we used was the Police Hut in Bellshill where we did strength work using weights – it was no fancy gym like the ones around today but it was a great resource for the club.  From spring through the summer track season we relocated to the track at Coatbridge on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and also some weekends. 

Tommy planned and led most of the group’s training but we would also do some sessions with other coaches leading; I recall sessions where we did running form drills under the guidance of a sprints/hurdles coach – diagonals across the school’s cinder pitches.  Whilst we mostly trained as a group, somehow Tommy always managed to individualise our training plans so we were working towards our own specific performance goals.  Our training paces, the number of interval reps we did etc., were all geared to help each of us achieve what we had identified as our targets for the season.  It never felt like one athlete was being favoured over another, at least I never felt like this, as Tommy put just as much effort into coaching the back of the pack runners as he did those at the front.

Looking back, I think Tommy, in many respects, was ahead of his time as a coach.  His structured and methodical approach to training his athletes was based on the wealth of knowledge and understanding that he was continuously accruing and applying.  He was on a constant learning journey and he liked to learn from the best – he went on lots of coaching courses and had good relationships with coaches at all levels including the national coach at the time, Frank Dick.

He used methods and approaches that I read about athletes incorporating into their training today as if this is new.  Tommy was applying these techniques to our training way back then – over 40 years ago.  An example of this is speed ball training.  Whilst mainly part of the training for sprinters, Tommy also built it in to the training plans of his endurance athletes too.  Nowadays, training based on heart rate zones is commonplace using heart rate monitors built into sports watches etc.  Tommy was applying this well before this technology was available using a stop watch and getting us all to manually take our pulse rates.  As indicated above, we also did strength and conditioning training with weights, which many current professional athletes claim to have only recently added to their training programmes and are extolling the benefits of.  I’m sure we also did high intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions which have become a ‘new’ phenomenon in the field of fitness training.

Tommy also encouraged us to keep training diaries to log the different aspects of our training – endurance/strength/speed endurance/speed etc. – to build an overall picture of our training load, identify imbalances, weaknesses, performance progression or regression and used this information to change or adapt our training as required.  I did this with coloured pencils, now you just upload your Garmin data to a spreadsheet on your computer or other device.

Tommy coached a number of athletes to international success, including Tom McKean, who was in our endurance group and Yvonne Murray who came under Tommy’s guidance at a later date – Tommy’s accomplishments as a coach had clearly prompted Yvonne’s move from her previous advisor.  He also coached a number of sprinters who achieved national titles and represented Scotland at various levels.

Helping young people reach their potential on the track was obviously a driving force for Tommy, however, it wasn’t just about winning medals and gaining national titles; Tommy was equally, if not more, interested in helping his athletes to succeed off the track – he was a life coach as much as he was an athletics coach.

Most of the young athletes Tommy coached, me included, were from low income/socially disadvantaged backgrounds and destined to remain in that demographic into their adulthood, all things being equal.  Tommy had other ideas; he wanted more for his athletes, he wanted them to, clichéd as it is, be the best they could be personally, socially, emotionally and academically.  At the very least, he wanted to broaden their horizons as to what life had to offer, how they could do and achieve more and move beyond their current circumstances through hard work and application, developing resilience and holding themselves to a higher standard.  He didn’t preach, he gave sage advice and, as far as possible, provided emotional and practical support.  

I always recall Tommy saying that most people in our group would marry someone in the same social bracket, who lived within a few miles of each other and would settle down in the same area where they grew up.  Nothing wrong with that if the two people are happy but what he was saying was ‘go out and explore the world, meet other people who have different experiences, expose yourself to other experiences and then decide who with, what and where you want to settle down, if that’s what you want to do’.  

Tommy also emphasised to his athletes the importance of their education and was clear that it should be prioritised over athletics even though he also believed that participation in sport provided young people with many opportunities to develop skills as well as personal qualities and traits that would benefit them as adults in terms of both future employment, health and well-being and life in general.

There were individuals in our group who could easily have found themselves on the wrong side of the law but Tommy found ways to keep them on a more positive path, steering them away from health damaging and anti-social pastimes/activities and getting in with the ‘wrong’ crowd.  He took an interest in them, listened to them and helped them to learn skills and develop characteristics that would give them a good chance of ‘winning in life’ long after they’d, metaphorically speaking, stepped off the track.  To this day, though I have lost touch with a number of the individuals from our training group, I’ve not heard of anyone I knew back then falling into or being in a negative life situation.

Tommy’s belief that participation in athletics and sport in general, with the right kind of guidance, could help build character and equip young people with skills for life has continued beyond his time as an athletics coach through the work he undertook in the latter part of his career prior to his retirement (I believe he has finally retired!). 

Although, I didn’t keep in regular contact with Tommy after graduating in the mid 80s, we remained long distance friends (I moved away from Lanarkshire permanently) and there were various occasions when we reconnected – weddings, birthdays, Christenings; however, a few years ago he got in touch with me regarding a project he was working on and brought me on board to assist in evaluating its impact – I have a background in health related research and evaluation.  The project, in my opinion, sums up everything Tommy is about – a passion for helping young people achieve their potential in life through sport and creating the conditions to facilitate this i.e. enabling the adult influencers that surround young people – sports coaches, teachers etc., to develop, instil and reinforce in their charges positive character building traits that will give them the best possible chance of succeeding as adults in this challenging and complex world.

Then former Scottish national coach and British National Coach, Frank Dick, comments briefly:

“Tommy has been an outstanding ambassador for Scottish Athletics and coaching, he did a truly fantastic job with Tom McKean and Yvonne Murray.”

From Norman Poole, above, President of the British Milers Club:

Tommy Boyle is undoubtedly one of the top Scottish coaches of all time whose athletes have won numerous medals at major
indoor and outdoor Games.
I first got to know Tommy at various Games during the late 80’s and in particular during my own time as the UKA National
Middle Distance Event Coach in the 90’s. It was during this time that his two most well known proteges, Tom McKean and
Yvonne Murray, were at their peak. I always remember the calm, controlled and studious nature of Tommy at the Games no
matter the level of stress experienced within the competition arena. Tommy never appeared ruffled, always in control and this
is what he transferred to his athletes. A vital ingredient for success at World level for both athlete and coach.

I have heard Tommy speak about his training methods and coaching philosophy in the past and have had discussions during
our times at the various Games. He always struck me as a coach who planned his athletes training schedules meticulously,
investigated all areas of concern for them and was a stickler for the fine detail which he knew could make a difference to their

He also emphasised the importance of assessing the aim of each major session and designing it around the needs of each
individual. I well remember how this was exemplified when he was attempting to perfect certain areas of Tom McKeans training.
In the early stages of his development Tom was experiencing difficulty with key 800m sessions and complained that he could not
cope with the recoveries between sets. These were recoveries Tommy knew were appropriate for other 800m athletes he had
coached. To further understand why Tom had this problem Tommy invited physiologist Myra Nimmo to check Tom’s lactates during
a session. Myra found that Tom’s lactate levels were remaining high for substantially longer periods of time compared to most
other 800m athletes. By increasing Tom’s recoveries the times of his sessions improved to acceptable levels and also met the
criteria set for the aims of the sessions. Tom went on to improve his pb’s.

This is a story that I have never forgotten and always refer to it when planning the recoveries of major sessions for the varied
individuals I have coached.

Some months after Tom McKean won the 800m Gold at the 1990 European Champs in Split I had the pleasure of listening to
Tommy deliver a lecture at the European Coaches Conference in Finland. He was rewarded with a standing ovation on the
completion of his lecture. An ovation that continues to this day.


Gordon Crawford, above,currently National Coach in Switzerland, working with their elite and Under 23 squads, says:

“Tommy Boyle for me as a young endurance coach was an inspiration. At the time Tommy was coaching three World Class athletes whilst doing all of that in Scotland. Truly amazing. More importantly and a fact that has influenced my own approaching to coaching is Tommy’s ability to inspire and develop top class support teams around his athletes. The integrated approach to the development of world class athletes for me was ahead of it time. Tommy is a great innovator and reflector in his coaching and has a very open mind, very much a growth mind set and positive approach to coaching. Tommy has never been afraid to make tough decisions. I get on very well with Tommy and class Him not only as friend but a top class person. Tommy is very intense but has a great sense of humour but is a private person and a family man. For me Tommy is one of the great Scottish Athletics coaches and a real prescience and knowledge of athletics.”

Doug Gillon

Doug Gillon, above, formerly athletics writer and journalist with the ‘Glasgow Herald’ as well as for some other publications such as the highly regarded “Scotland’s Runner” who is a long time friend of Tom’s adds this assessment:

Tommy Boyle seemed to come to public notice for the first time when a talented young junior, Tom McKean, compiled impressive performances at 200 and 400 metres in the years following the 1980 Olympics. Of course, like all coaches who seem to have nurtured an overnight success, a lengthy unseen apprenticeship had been served, by both athlete and coach. Boyle, who had guided McKean since 1974, when he arrived at the Bellshill club aged 11, was ensuring McKean served his apprenticeship, by developing his speed. However, Boyle always knew that his real talent lay over 800m. And he was not going to do it by making the lad a slave to the miles, in the Scottish harrier tradition. He was going to develop and harness his pace.

What singled out Boyle, as  his protege began to make headlines over two laps, was his attention to detail. There was no lottery in the early ’80s, and no chance of a working- class kid, a labourer laying slabs for the local council, finding the wherewithall to even approach what we w ere beginning to become a ware was available at the likes of Loughborough. Or the USA, or Soviet Union. 

Boyle identified a range of deficiencies and potential service providers, then set about trying to fund them. But the medical, scientific, nutrition and coaching components only began to come together when he found an eager listener in luxury car dealer Glen Henderson. Years earlier, Henderson had identified similar deficiencies in his own sport, speed skating, and had set about bringing the best Dutch coaches to Scotland. Boyle found himself knocking on an open door, and brokered a complex sponsorship and employment package. 

Two  visionaries were looking through the prism of elite  performance development from the same angle, yet  the scale of Henderson’s willingness to invest in what Boyle perceived as essential, proved staggering.

Boyle left no stone unturned, and Henderson’s funding meant scrutiny of every potential   avenue became possible. The concept of ” marginal gains ” had yet to be coined, but Boyle was laying down markers which seemed to become eerily  familiar decades later, when we watched the progress of   British cycling .

So Tommy was a workaholic, an innovator, and an analyst, as befitted a man with a background in the science of management and quality control. I was fortunate in following and charting the career of Scotland’s most exciting talents that Boyle was prepared to share his vision and his methods. Unlike many coaches, we were welcomed – even encouraged to come to training sessions, including over Christmas.

And when science and technology did not have the answer, the pragmatic Boyle invariably did.  Like preparing McKean for the hurly-burly of elite two-lap racing. He set him up with a big Lanarkshire policemen, and instructed the cop – no mean athlete, with excellent pace – to lean on McKean, or box him in, to give him an appreciation of the physicality of the event.

His psychological approach was also fascinating, and when McKean’s performances reached a domestic plateau in the late 80’s, Boyle scared McKean into finally following instructions, and achieving the times his training indicated were possible. He warned McKean that if he could not run as instructed, they were finished. The outcome was a victory at Crownpoint in 1:44.79, a time which will celebrate 30 years as the Scottish native record next summer (2019). There has been only one other holder of this record since 1970!

I believe that discovering what he was capable of on his own, may have been the key which helped  unlock McKean’s ability  to wait in front, and repel all challenges – the tactic whereby he won European outdoor and World indoor gold. 

Boyle swore afterwards that he had meant every word that day at Crownpoint in 1988. And more than once, when he considered withdrawing his protege from races for which he believed he was not properly prepared, or focused, Boyle would remind me that he saw his responsibility as looking out for McKean’s future, not as an athlete, but as a human being.

I suspect Boyle might ultimately have concluded that he never quite got the best out of McKean (either time-wise or in terms of global titles). I always felt that the Bellshill Bullet was a unique talent, possessed of reserves that not even Boyle could manage to unlock.

Not that he was rigid in his approach. When he inherited Yvonne Murray from Bill Gentleman, he quickly concluded that he lacked the tools to add a finishing kick which might cope with suspected drug-fuelled Eastern Europeans. He enlisted Stewart Hogg, a sprint coach steeped in the traditional Scottish pedestrian tradition. It proved a marriage made in heaven, with Yvonne mastering a kick which was first unveiled when she won European 3000m gold, in 1990, in Split. It was masterly team work, brilliantly planned and executed.

Nor was Boyle a one-trick pony. His energy and enthusiasm for his training group at Wishaw was boundless, and the success of numerous athletes at Bellshill YMCA, and their reverence for the coach, was testimony to his effectiveness.

The Boyle era, coinciding as it did in the rivalry between Murray and Liz McColgan, was one of unprecedented success for the sport in Scotland. 

Boyle was a man ahead of his time, a n innovator and a deep  thinker. He was heart-warmingly steeped in his athletes’ welfare, but did not suffer fools.

He helped  fuel   one of the most exciting periods in Scottish athletics history, and had his era not coincided with intense doping skullduggery in Eastern Europe, there might have been even greater triumphs. That’s part of the tragedy of doping. It haunts athletes and coaches for life. One never knows what might have been. “

Mark Munro

Mark Munro, CEO, Scottish Athletics

I first remember Tommy Boyle when I was a young athlete at a Livingston Open Graded meet, Tom (Mckean) was also there and Tommy was somewhat of a ‘legend’ having masterminded the careers of Tom and Yvonne (and latterly Susan Scott). He also had a reputation as being quite ‘fierce and intimidating’ if I remember. However, following my 800m run which was nothing special, I remember he asked me walking past, “was that a PB son, you did well, you attacked it”. Those words stayed with me for many a year.

Having left the sport as a competitor in my early 20s, I met Tommy again around 7 years later when I had started working on the Positive Coaching Scotland programme through my employment with the SFA. We struck up a very strong and effective working relationship from that point and then Tommy was instrumental in my appointment as Head of Development at Scottish Athletics some 7/8 years ago now.

Tommy has since remained a mentor to me and he’s one of our most successful coaches ever. Someone once asked me how I would describe Tommy and my response was;

Very successful, extremely detailed, straight talking, fiercely competitive, intimidating when he needs to be……….but very fair…….. and arguably the most successful coach that Scotland has produced in, and stayed in Scotland”

Sir Bill Gammell, 

“Tommy Boyle is a legend. He embodies all the values that he Coaches and Teaches.   Aspiration, Insiration, Determination, Perspiration, Innovation.    Tommy’s passion is in helping others to become the best that they can be, and he has left a huge legacy with his work since inception at Winning Scotland Foundation. “


Gregor Townsend

Gregor Townsend, SRU,

Tommy has been of great help for me throughout my coaching, both as a source of valuable advice and as someone who has supported me when times have been tough.    I feel very grateful to have met Tommy and spend a few years working alongside him for Winning Scotland Foundation.    The timing of this was very fortuitous for my coaching career, as when we first met I was taking the first steps into my new life as a former player.   We’ve had many a discussion about coaching, helping people reach their potential and how to get the best out of a team.    He is undoubtedly a world class coach who still thinks deeply about the coaching process.    I usually leave our meeting with a notebook full of ideas and energised to get out there and coach.

Tommy cares deeply about improving the lives of young people in Scotland and is just as passionate about Scottish sport.  It’s been an honour and a real pleasure to call him a friend.

Susan Jackson

Susan Jackson, Winning Scotland Foundation

Tommy was an inspiring member of the team at Winning Scotland Foundation.   He was passionate about the ambitions of the organisation and what it stood for.  He gave everything he had to the work of the Foundation and inspired so many people along the way.  We often had some animated and heated discussions and on many things didn’t see eye to eye.  But this was so good for both of us and these “discussions” ultimately strengthened our relationship.  I learnt so much from Tommy about leadership and the support he gave me, particularly during challenging times, was tremendous.  I always knew he had my back.  A fantastic colleague that I am now proud to call my friend.

Jim Fleeting

Jim Fleeting, Director of Football Development, SFA

Tommy Boyle was Mr Positive Coaching. His expertise in the project and enthusiasm to make change for sport all over Scotland was fantastic. He was a true leader and was always on the end of the phone should we require some guidance. A good man and one we enjoyed working with.

Judy Anderson, finance and progress manager at WSF.

When I think of my dear friend Tommy Boyle there are several phrases that come to mind which I will try and summarise as succinctly as possible.

An Amazing Mentor

I first met Tommy when I started work at Winning Scotland Foundation in 2008. Fresh from a challenging job at a very successful oil company I was full of enthusiasm and energy to make a difference in the charity. What I didn’t realise was that Tommy would completely challenge and change my attitude and beliefs on each individual human being’s personal potential in life.  I have never had the privilege to meet someone who has such a god given gift to bring out the best in each and every person!   He makes you believe and know that you can shoot for the stars!    He challenges you, helps you, puts you right out of your comfort zone, mentors you and out of that comes a very different human being.   Blessed with a brain unlike most he was never afraid to speak his mind or challenge anyone at any level and because of this he was absolutely instrumental in the success of Winning Scotland Foundation. After 7 years working with Tommy I completely understand why he was such a successful athletics coach.

Hugely Committed to Developing Young People through Sport

Despite Tommy’s international coaching success I know that what he cares about most deeply is developing each and every young person to reach their potential and giving as many young people as possible the chance to develop themselves through positive experiences in sport. During his time at Winning Scotland Foundation Tommy invested blood sweat and tears in the Positive Coaching Scotland programme which was latterly recommended by the Scottish Government for National roll out. A huge achievement! The journey to get there was not easy but perseverance and doggedness is in Tommy’s genes and despite some seriously challenging times the programme became a national culture change programme adopted by the national agency for sport and many of the sporting governing bodies in Scotland including Scottish Football. Because of this Tommy can be hugely proud that many more young people in Scotland will have the opportunity to develop themselves through positive sporting experiences.

A Dedicated Family Man

I have had the huge pleasure of getting to know Tommy’s family over the years who are incredibly special to him. Tommy and Julie are blessed to have wonderful relationships with their sons and grandchildren.

A Very Special Friend

Above all I am hugely privileged and blessed to be able to call such an extraordinary man a special friend. I know that he and his wife Julie would always support me in any time of need and likewise I would do anything to help them.

And finally, Tina Syer (above) had a lovely piece published in the RCA blog.  Unprompted and sincere, you can find it at



Tommy Boyle: Mastercoach

Tommy in 1991 with the Post Office Counters Coach of the Year award : Other contenders that year were Ron Roddan (Linford Christie’s Coach), John Trower (Steve Backley) as well as Mike Whittinghame, Ron Murray (Geoff Parsons), Judy Vernon and John Isaacs (Mike McFarlane)

So far Tommy’s coaching career echoed that of many others in Scotland.   He was a  young runner who had been encouraged to do some coaching by one of the top men in his club, did the coaching courses, read the books and gone to the conferences.  He served his time in a supportive club where he worked on the committee and in all the roles that good club members fill while learning his trade as a coach; he had coached some very good athletes who had won SAAA championships, and he had worked as Group Organiser for the Sprints in Scotland.   

Everybody has theories about what a coach is.   The international sprinter who said that a great athlete made a coach famous rather than the other way round was maybe half right.   It assumes that all the coach of a brilliant athlete has to do is get him fit, point him in the right way and then get out of his road.   But how does he get him fit , then how does he decide on the right road and when does he get out of the way?  The basic assumption is that coaching an international athlete is straightforward and easy.   Then there is the comment made by a Scottish Games athlete that “no matter how often you polish a piece of glass, you’ll never make it a diamond.”   The unspoken question is how do you polish a diamond?

Then there is the eternal question about whether coaching is an art or a science with the weasel-words answer usually given that it is ‘a bit of both’.   The problem is that the relative percentages are never discussed seriously and most coaches do not have either the time or the inclination to really develop the ‘science’ side of the argument.   

Tommy asked himself that question and went further down the science route than almost all of his contemporaries.   He then spent much time finding out about the demands of the events he was coaching, the fit between them and the individual athletes in a practical way.   Before looking at that, I’ll quote another top class Scottish coach, Ian Robertson, who said that ‘if you are doing it properly, then you can only coach three athletes at a time.’   The clear message being that coaching Olympic athletes is not just a wee hobby.  A point emphasised by another high quality coach, Jimmy Campbell, who used to say to would-be coaches, that if they were doing their job as coaches, they’d be heading for “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” 

The message seemed to be – almost full-time job.   Reevel Alderson in the “Scotland’s Runner” magazine for November 1986, had no doubt where Tommy stood on the science/art divide:   “The man who works at the only factory in Scotland to make mainframe computers takes a scientific approach to coaching.   And at the European Coaching Convention this month he’ll unveil the results of that work.   Graphs will be produced detailing minutely the development of his protege Tom McKean from competent club runner to the man who, if meticulous planning goes well, will take the World Championship 800 metres title.   It’s the sort of scientific and professional approach to athletics which is needed in Tommy’s view if Scotland’s athletes are to reach their full potential.   In fact, professionalism is, in his eyes, the only way forward from the disappointment of the Commonwealth Games.”      

As for Tommy, if we look four years down the line (1991) at part of an article in ‘Scotland’s Runner’ number 60, we see what kind of detail Tommy went into.   The complete article can be found at  this link  where the amount of detail that went into his work with Tom can be seen.   

Tommy is seen here to have analysed the demands of the event and measured his runner against these.  We all do that but the extent of his analysis and measuring went beyond the usual for Scottish coaches.   He was using terms that not many were even familiar with, never mind using at the time, such as OBLA runs, mmols of lactic acid. video feedback, etc.   The question was whether these were these empty measurements which led nowhere or were they meaningful measurements which were of practical use?   To find out we should start at the beginning.   The information quoted below comes from a paper that Tommy delivered in 1986 on Tom’s early development between 1976 and 1980.

Tom McKean (Date of Birth 27th October, 1963) had joined the club as an 11 year old in 1974. and by 1980 it was clear to Tommy that he had a big talent on his hands. 

“The knowledge gained during that period (as a club coach up to 1980) has proved to be a valuable asset which could not have been obtained in any other way. However, the tremendous enjoyment derived, and enthusiasm generated were gradually being eroded by my over—involvement in administration and dealing with increasing numbers of very well-intentioned but totally blinkered individuals. Fortunately, I was forced in 1980 to take a very serious l00k at my commitment to athletics as we were expecting a family. I asked myself a question which we repeatedly ask our athletes — “What do you want from athletics” — answer — “To coach athletes”: solution — simple — remove everything which was not directly related to coaching,

The result was that, after a transitional period, I ended up coaching a small group of athletes three times per week, thus allowing for a more balanced life style and one where I was once more able to enjoy the challenge of coaching athletes.

The next stage was to critically assess the efficiency and effectiveness of my coaching and to ensure that what little time I had was managed in a more professional manner.”

The above was taken from a talk that he gave to the Edinburgh International Coaching Convention in 1986 and reflects his approach to the situation: there is a saying in coaching that the athlete should not be restricted by the coach’s limitations.   Many (most?) coaches do not realise that they have any limitations which restrict the development of the athlete.   Tommy was almost brutally honest in his appraisal of the situation.   The decision which was taken then to cut away the extraneous club activities, to recognise that they were distractions from the main task and that he himself would have to give more time to coaching, was proved by events to be the right one.   And it was all athlete driven.   

Having taken the decisions to concentrate completely on the coaching, the first thing Tommy Boyle had to do was map out the route that Tom had to take.   Good coaches seldom coach for the current year, they are always looking ahead and Tommy was no different in that respect, but he was different in the detail as he went down the road to the future.  The plan might need altered, tweaked or even changed but having a plan that can be changed is far better than having no plan. A look at how he structured the crucial Junior Man – second year senior man transition is perhaps instructive.  The following is taken from Tommy’s report to the International Coaching Convention in Edinburgh.

Junior Man 17 – 19

Cross country is now seen only as conditioning with races as fitness tests or fun with the boys. Weights were introduced in the circuit format with the major training objective being the development of sprinting ability and refinement of technique aiming to significantly improve 200/400 metre times Which would be the limiting factor in subsequent specialisation at 800 metres if we recognise where the event is how going With Sebastian Coe t s world record l:41.73 (1:40 by 1990).

First Year Senior 19 – 20

The plan was to reduce his 200/400 metre times but with a shift in emphasis via the introduction of structured track training for 800 metres.   However disaster struck when during a very cold spring, he increased intensity too quickly during the transition to track training.   Result – shin problems – which, combined with a typical cavalier approach by a 19 year old, we had a bad injury which almost finished his athletics career through the sheer frustration of having trained hard all winter only to miss the full track season.   Fortunately Tom Craig did an excellent job – gave Tommy one race where he finished second in the Scottish 800m championship.   This kept him in the sport, but only just.

Second Year Senior 20

The first objective was to consolidate the pre—injury performance and then to begin the next phase of development which was to specialise in the 800 metres event. Tommy was gradually introduced to increased workloads, training plans, short and long term objectives and gradually the process of transferring greater responsibility to the athlete was underway. major and minor objectives established and achieved — confidence in the coaching and training increased through realisation of goals discussion were now common with valuable feedback flowing in both directions. The year was concluded by introducing Tommy to a four year Plan, aimed at Edinburgh/Stuttgart and, as we were now half -way through having successfully achieved all objectives served the dual purpose of establishing confidence and presenting even greater challenges.”

Tom wins against Paul Ereng: probably his best ever race: he won in 1:43.89.

Splits of 24.43, 50.14, 1:16.57 and 1:43.89:

At this point we go back to the transition from coaching a domestic Scottish champion to working with an international class runner.  We have seen that he had a problem with an injury as a first year senior that almost put him out of the game before he was properly in it.  It was effectively dealt with by Tom Craig, highly respected physiotherapist whose day job was with Rangers FC and we will come back to that.   However we have commented already on Tommy’s total honesty and he accepted responsibility for the injury.   He was equally honest with Tom though – 

“The increased free time, meeting girls, loss of the training discipline, resulted in the gradual realisation that he was not going to fulfil the promise which the previous year’s performances were suggesting he was capable of.   I had a head on collision with Tommy where the hard facts were laid on the table: either 100% or nothing, and for some three months he messed about before eventually realising that he was throwing away the very thing he was good at.   

As a coach I learned much from the situation:

(a) You can be the best in the world with the most talented athlete but unless he wants success more than anything else, forget it!   You are wasting your time.   

(b) The other harsh fact which emerged was the realities of our sport in Scotland: here we had another talented athlete out for a year and no one asked a single question why.   It was a case of facing up to the facts and organising myself accordingly to ensure that I was suitably equipped to bridge the chasms in the system.”

The second fact above is worth looking at again.   Tom had been injured and almost totally out of the sport in consequence.   No one in authority in the sport had investigated the reason.   Tommy had gone to Tom Craig, one of the best if not the best, physio in the West of Scotland.   But Tom, however good he was and however well he communicated with patients, was not full time in athletics.   He once told me when I took a Scottish international athlete to see him that if the athlete had been a football player, he could get him fit to play the following Saturday but ….  and gave us some advice on exercises, treatment and how to approach track running in the near future.    His priorities were not athletics and he was not immediately available.   In addition it was the coach or athlete who had to foot the bill for treatment.   If Tom were indeed going to tackle other world class athletes, there would be injuries serious and minor which would require immediate treatment from a quality physio or sports doctor.   

Every good coach/athlete will conduct an objective review at the end of each competitive season.   Tommy, true to form, conducted a more detailed (and debatably more honest) assessment at the end of 1985 season.   Instinctively he knew that the apprenticeship was over for both, Tom was laying slabs in a youth employment scheme, not conducive to becoming a world class athlete, we had to be ruthless in our review, Tommy used his business skills and developed a model which he honed in future years.   (See Susan Scott 2004/5, below)

The review led Tommy to several conclusions: 

# Tom was now committed to the four-year plan;

# Tommy was confident he knows what is required to prepare a world class 800m athlete with Toms potential;

# He had to be able to train twice a day and be able to work part time;

# They needed to build a support team Physiologist/Physio /Podiatrist /Legal advice.

How could these requirements be achieved?   For the breakthrough to world class competition, he needed a carefully crafted marketing plan.   Having known Frank Dick, UK National Coach, for some time and sent him a call for help.   Frank helped and between them  they agreed the outline of a strategy for 1985.   Tommy understood it was only a plan, however he took a pragmatic approach,: they had nothing to fear no one expected Tom to really do much more than he had – just another good age group potential.

Tommy later shared the plan with journalist Doug Gillon when the first part had been executed successfully and we were in the new frontiers phase daring to dream the plan (and subsequent results) was:

Open the season at Scottish YMCA champs 400 test the speed low key no pressure: result 1st  in 48.0

Win UK closed 800m in Antrim – no one would expect Tom to be anywhere but he was 1st in 1.49.19

Andy Norman, Mr UK Athletics back then, was a no-nonsense ex-policeman from the South of England and a bit of a bully.   Many athletes were a bit scared of him but he had the power to help or hinder an athlete’s career.   He gave Tom his ticket home before the heats on Friday and told him “You will get a flight home to Glasgow tonight.”   However the race didn’t go to script: Tom took David Sharp in the home straight to win. Suddenly everyone was asking who was this Scotsman?  Tommy had prepared him well for the rough and tumble of a top 800m by training against top 400-man Ian Callander training pal from Bellshill YMCA: Doug Gillon refers to this in his comments on another page of this site.    At this point we quote Tommy directly.

“Next up we convinced Andy to get Tom a race in Europe Madrid result where Tom was 1st in 1.47.7  – new PB

Absolutely key in the plan was to go head to head with Edinburgh’s Paul Forbes, by now a 1.45-man, tough competitor and coached by my pal Bill Walker from whom I had learned so much.  Tom was again 1st in 1:53.4 massive confidence boost.

We had calculated correctly that this would get him selected for two internationals: the first was at Gateshead against Steve Cram it was a fantastic opportunity to make a name for himself and Tom seized it and was 1st in  1:47.25  for another new PB.

Next was the second international, critically again televised, and the result was another 1st  in 1.47.1 – a  PB -against Chris McGeorge (coached by George Gandy)

Tommy went on to say “ It is fantastic when a plan comes together, however we still had to have a bit of luck.   This came in the form of Sally McNair,an upcoming TV Presenter, who did a fantastic piece on prime time news.   Within 30 mins I had a call from car dealer Glen Henderson.   He said he wanted to meet the coach,so I travelled down to Prestwick in my wee Ford Escort and met him  in his big flash Mercedes Garage.    

Glen asked the direct question: “What do you require to make this guy world class?”   I replied that it would take a part time job, transport,  financial assistance with medical support and help with travel to competitions in order to be independent from agents.   He replied, ” I will support you both – provided Tom stays with you and you leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of world class performance.”   Glen added “I will give you a week to find the top Physiologist and physiotherapist,”

I called Professor Myra Nimmo and she agreed to be part of the team.   She also suggested that Dave McLean, physiology lecturer and exercise physiologist with the SRU would be a wise choice.  We subsequently recruited Jim Black, podiatrist,  a nutritionist and, as athletics was in middle of the transition to professionalism, we recruited lawyer Doug Whyte, ex athletics coach to look after trust funds.   The team was in place by the end of the year and Glen agreed to a package of funding, valued around £ 40, 000.

He also advised on negotiation of a sports wear contract with Puma, a tough negotiation with Derek Ibbotson, Marketing Director and Olympic medallist.   Derek became a great friend and eventually Puma sponsored both Tom and Yvonne.  He was a great guy with a wealth of experience and  was always willing to advise at major competitions, indeed he was in the warm up arena when Yvonne went on to win her bronze medal in Seoul Olympics against some rather suspect opposition which we shall discus later .

Next up was an unplanned race over 1000 m at Meadowbank .  Tom did not run well and we both learned the hard lesson of competing at this level when you have not trained for 1km .  The second half of the season was always going to be ‘in at the deep end’ and learn how to compete against the best on the circuit and vitally in televised races with good appearance money.”

The Competitions were:

Venue Position time comments
IAC Crystal Palace second 1:47.8 J Cruz 1st
Budapest second 1:46.05 New pb
Europa Cup first 1:49.05 very tactical race
Zurich B Race first 1:46.28 massive learning experience
Berlin GP sixth 1:46.09 Painful experience of back to back comps in same week

Coaches always learn from every race their runners take part in and Tommy learned more about Tom, when he was exposed to the unknown.   The race was in Cologne where he was first but it was at the end of a hard season and he was out of gas by then.   Tommy had guided his protégé to “world class” – but, probably more important, he had developed a strategy to maximise the opportunity when it happened, securing a unique sponsorship package with Glen Henderson and building a support team which did not exist in Scotland at that time.

Tommy knew sports science could help them however the challenge was to find out how.  This resulted in a whole programme of testing conducted on every session  – OBLA every mile round the streets of Bellshill, then in the lab, lactate testing of circuits, power circuits and many challenging discussions on training load mix and recovery.  Myra once asked Tommy why he was doing a session – he replied “Because I am the coach.” She immediately responded,  “Why are you giving Tom this session ???”  One of the biggest lessons Tommy learned. 

The Team then reviewed Tommy’s next four-year plan, specifically the review of 1985 and the plan for a massive year in 1986 Commonwealth and Europeans within one month.   Once again it was back to the process of critical review tackling the issues of Where are we now? What we learn — performances v plan, where are we going now?   how will we get there?

Tommy reflected that the strategic plan was working, he had successfully navigated the athlete through the myriad of challenges which occur in every young athletes’ life.  He remembers his observations at the time regarding the landscape in Scottish sport and specifically Athletics, there was no institute of sport, no real performance strategy ,a fact concealed by a group of willing volunteer coaches  who tried manfully to promote specific events against a tide of mediocrity in the sport, I really admired these coaches who gave so much of their time in an attempt to improve the standard of coaching and performance across the country.I    think they were given a very small fee to cover a massive task ! True heroes and legends of the sport .   Tommy also discussed with  Doug Gillon, a font of knowledge, how he had observed that almost without exception Scottish coaches and athletes who succeeded in reaching the highest performance levels in international athletics did it in spite of the system, they tended to work in small groups and just did their own thing-  a critical success factor he had learned from the people in pro athletics who produced more top class sprinters than amateur athletics ever did.   Tommy was smart enough to learn from this discussion and it only reinforced his belief in the strategy which he had developed ,do it your own way and becomes self sufficient

He remembers a discussion with Myra Nimmo who firmly believed that very soon sports science would become part of the support mechanism for top athletes,however we were in the then and now facing the unknown.   Tommy knew he had little experience in the four year championship cycle, he was also painfully aware of the lack of real experience in Scotland .   We can perhaps get a good insight into his thinking and how they approached the commonwealth games and European championship year by reading an extract from a lecture he later did LINK

Phase III – Fourth Year Senior 22

Careful analysis of the previous year’s situation clearly indicated that we had several flaws in our armoury.  To reinforce these weak spots necessitated strengthening the support team.  Fortunately, Tommy’s major sponsor, Glen Henderson, in addition to being a very successful motor dealer, was also a very knowledgeable sports enthusiast who specialised in speed skating and was able to advise in which direction we should move if we were to continue to progress in the cut and thrust arena of World Class athletics.  This was gradually achieved by the recruitment of the best help which we could find:  every aspect was improved.

Training workloads were increased in line with the requirements of three-round championships.   Physiological testing was commenced to monitor the effect of present and past training and to provide a more accurate guidance of future training.  Physiotherapy was made more readily available and this, as Glen Henderson had predicted, proved to be a crucial factor when Tommy was injured in three separate occasions but was still able to complete “safely” and “successfully”.

The objectives were established – competition plans compiled in such a manner that the minimum of exposure would obtain the desired effect – recognising the degree of expectancy which would inevitably exist and gather momentum leading up to the Commonwealth Games.  Experiments were conducted in minor races, previous personal bests achieved but, importantly not surpassed, offers to run in major races were politely refused, the opposition and their ploys totally ignored as we became engrossed in the seemingly impossible task of getting Tommy through the injuries in the correct mental attitude.   This was done and the final preparation for Edinburgh checked and re-checked by Stuart Hogg, long time friend and senior sprints coach.     Nothing was left to chance in our quest for competitive advantage for the athlete – result:  2nd position – 1m44.80, new Scottish National/Native Record.

The next task was to overcome the vacuum created by the post Games anti-climax.  This proved to be an even bigger problem than I had thought it would be and this is where the team approach really “proved its weight in silver”.  Our solution to the problem was a total change in environment – training partners – coach – and, probably most important, to escape family pressures – a very high risk some might say but we prefer to think that the final week’s preparation in Glenrothes was a sensible response to a very difficult situation – result:  Coe 1st, McKean 2nd, Cram 3rd – new Scottish Record – new PB.”

Glen Henderson was a very interesting person and had himself been a competitive sportsman.  A motor dealer, motorcycle racer and speed skater he broke the quarter mile British speed skating record in 1954. He later became one of the largest motorcycle dealers in Scotland.     A pupil at Ayr Academy, he left at 15 and opened a motorcycle repair shop in the town supported by his maternal grandmother Ann Aitken who even pawned her fridge to purchase fuel for her grandson’s racing bike. Glen won the Scottish Motorcycling Championships on the sands at St Andrews a year later.  He went on to race at Brands Hatch, all the British racing circuits and all over Europe. He sustained a serious crash at Kirkcaldy and stopped racing for good and took to preparing racing bikes.   One of his Honda motorcycles came second at the Monza circuit Grand Prix to the amazement of the Honda Factory Works Team who could not understand how a tiny workshop in Scotland could achieve such a result. When his close friend Bob McIntyre was killed, while racing, Mr Henderson gave up all his racing activities.   He was also involved in speed skating: in 1954 he broke quarter mile British record. He went on to establish the Scottish Speed Skating Union and this involved developing a training programme for young promising speed skaters. This was so successful that several members set World and European records.   So his interest in sport was not a new thing and his experience of competing internationally himself gave him an insight into what was required to do so effectively.   In addition as a businessman he was direct in his approach.   This was just what Tommy needed.

Glen Henderson

The dream of every coach who is fortunate enough to coach an athlete with potential, is to take them the full journey to the ultimate challenge in athletics the Worlds and Olympics, the Worlds were in Rome 1987 and the Olympic Games were in Seoul in 1988, Tommy was determined to ensure his protégé was provided with the very best opportunity to make this massive leap both in performance level .

Tommy reflected on the World preparation,  saying, “the team were in place Tom appeared to be handling the increase in volume and intensity which would prepare him to run four rounds in sub 1.45 seconds which we anticipated.   Early season racing went well he won the Europa Cup for a second time and had a few other competitions including the UK trials.   I remember Derek Ibbotson sharing a piece of his hard-earned experience, he said you can only get experience of competing in these races by doing it, you may be fortunate, but many athletes require one full cycle to learn how to handle the external pressure – Tommy and Tom were later to reflect just how wise these words were!”

Tom navigated the first three rounds in a spectacular manner attracting a great deal of media attention and expectation.   Tommy remembers the hype and how Tom was sweating profusely in the warm up area a new experience, the call room to track was a long process and then the athletes were held on the track for a very long time, another first experience.   The race was brutal: the Kenyans had a plan, very well executed – one athlete (Mara) ran on Tom’s shoulder, he was boxed in for 450 metres and then just as the gap opened he tripped on Peter Elliot’s legs in what was to date the fastest race of his life and for the first time in his career he appeared to be lost.   He was devastated, finished last and coach Tommy noted a weakness which perhaps would define Toms world level career. Tommy was later to hear his Mentor at Winning Scotland Foundation, Sir Bill Gammell, repeating the statement “it’s the ability to think fast under pressure which separates the truly greats in sport and life “    However the greatest surprise was the manner in which the British press crucified Tom as a coward.  It was shocking and Tommy told a few of them that they should hang their heads in shame, however Tom was scarred by what the press said .

Coach Boyle himself learned the big lesson that “it is in failure that athletes really require a coach to support them in navigating the mental minefield of focusing on the learning from any life lesson”. Tommy remembers his dad’s advice when he fell of his bike in an accident with a bus,   “he said get back on now and go for a long run on the road with traffic”.   Tommy discussed with sponsor Glen Henderson and they agreed Tom should not only race but chase the winner of the worlds – Billy Konchella – and take him on head to head to bury part of the scar.   He did and beat him three times before the season finished including a great pb in Lausanne. He says, “We were later to learn the surface scars healed quickly however Tom had personal issues in his relationship with his long-term girl friend and went of the rails a bit in the winter, visiting night clubs in Glasgow a mistake which would come back and bite hard at the moment of greatest pressure  –  The Olympic Games.”

Tommy was asked to coach Yvonne Murray (4th October 1964) in October, 1987.   She was already a considerably good athlete who had been third in the 1986 Commonwealth Games 3000 and in August 1987 had finished third, this time at the European Championships in Stuttgart, in a time that would have won gold in Edinburgh.   She had fastest indoors times by a Scot for 800m, 1500m, 3000m and two miles; she had outdoor records at 1500m (both native and national), 1 mile (Native and national), 2000m national, 3000, (native and national) and in 1987 in the world rankings she was 9th for 1000m, 6th for the mile, 2nd for 2000m and 7th for 3000m.   It is not an easy task being asked to coach a runner of that calibre and improve that athlete’s performances.    Tommy wasn’t the first Scottish coach to have this challenge: there was an article in World Sports magazine about John Robson changing coaches with the new coach saying that John was a great runner, he would make him a great champion.   No word of it being a challenge, he would make John a great champion.   Several months later, deep inside the magazine was a quote from John saying that the toughest thing he ever had to do was ask his old coach to take him back!  

It was at the end of the 1987 season that Tommy was asked to take on coaching Yvonne Murray and he remembers advising Yvonne to go back and talk her coach.   However she said it was over and wanted to move on.   Tommy remembers I knew little about preparing a world class athlete for 3000 metres, but we had a fantastic professional support team in place and I knew from what I saw that we could improve Yvonne Murray.

Tommy coaching Yvonne and Stuart Gibson doing 1000 reps at Strathclyde Park

“It was back to the drawing board.  We used the tried and tested strategy,” understand the event requirements, evaluate the athlete’s status and then establish short medium- and long-term plans to ensure the athlete was gradually developed to compete to win at world level”
I remember contacting the BBC and requesting copies of videos of previous competitions, followed by long hours studying her races, identifying her strengths and weaknesses, we embarked on a full physiological screening programme to objectively assess the athlete, Myra Nimmo was awesome and could relate well to Yvonne having been on the journey as a female athlete herself.   We only had one year before the Seoul Olympics.  We took a few risks in our planning – cut her mileage in half, focused on quality as she already had a massive engine with a very low heart rate (which we had checked thoroughly) Stuart Hogg agreed to work on Yvonne’s leg speed and over that winter she spent most Saturdays in Glenrothes doing sprints, long intervals and circuits at night, Myra, Dave and I focused on the quality of her running utilising the OBLA runs, weights and circuits to ensure Yvonne was physically capable of sprinting from a long way out.
However, it was probably the combined effects of the total support package, leveraging off our success with Tom McKean, we negotiated a sponsorship with Glen Henderson, part time job and car combined with a shoe contract with Puma Yvonne was furnished with all the physiological back up which provided that critical confidence that what she was doing was working and she could confidently go for the win.”

Tommy now had two athletes in prep for the Olympics.   Tom had a big fright at the UK trials when Martin Steel, a low level 800 athlete went through in a 48. sec first lap, Tom chose to go with it.  However at 700m the wheels came off, swimming in lactate he just managed to hold off the fast finishing Steve Heard to gain the qualifying place with Steve Cram in first place.   Tom again:  I remember that night in the bar Doug Gillon did his usual ferreting and learned that Martin had been asked to go though fast with a view to taking Tom out – I wonder who would benefit?   Martin and ??
Next experience for Coach Tommy was a week before the team flew out to Japan, being confronted by the Sun newspaper saying they had dirt on Tom. He had been stung by a kiss and tell girl:  in the winter of 87/88 he met a girl in a Glasgow night club, had a short relationship and made the big mistake of going back to the club in the summer where he was duly ambushed for a picture.   “I met the rats and told them they were vermin, however they said they would print the story on the day the team left the UK, I called Doug and Alex Cameron for advice.  We agreed to get a counter story in the record with a picture of Tom and Yvonne with his fiancé however the damage was done. You can imagine the row in the McKean family and how and where his head was as he met the team,all the boys giving him the big ra ra as he boarded the plane for the Olympics in Seoul.
Combined with this Yvonne Murray had a big shock incurring a bursar in her hip just three weeks before flying out Tommy and Dave took the gamble got top SRU surgeon to inject, with the result we were able to quickly accelerate training and Yvonne was set for her big dream .
The Olympics was a massive challenge for the team, Seoul was at the other side of the earth.  High temperature high humidity with big security issues for UK and USA teams, .  I remember long team meetings throughout the winter adapting Yvonne’s training to maximise improvements ,planning every detail of the trip which would involve a holding camp in Japan, it was an up market country club with over three hundred army personnel guarding the perimeter, with the UK and US teams confined to the camp .
Tommy and Stuart had a massive challenge now disaster recovery, with Tom’s head back in Bellshill, Yvonne still lacking the confidence to push those vital 300m reps, OBLAs had to be done through the village with the coaches pedalling frantically to avoid traffic and keep up with Yvonne.    Once again, all the hard graft paid off and I utilised every ounce of my experience to get our two proteges to the start line ready to perform.   Tom did a 600-time trial in 74 sec he was ready Physically!!!

The prep had been done, it was over to the athletes.  Tom was in excellent physical condition,but in the second round he was in another world and woke up in sixth place with 90m to go, he pushed his way through to the qualifying position only to be disqualified after a protest by Holland.  That was a long hour, indeed a long journey home for him and he disappeared from the radar for a few months to recover his relationships back home .

What an experience the whole competition day was for Tommy, Yvonne and support team; she qualified easily for the final, which was loaded with world class athletes and many who were suspected of taking illegal substances. Tommy reflects “drugs were a massive problem at that time especially female athletes from the eastern bloc.   Derek Ibbotson was with us in the warm up arena, it was intense, however with his usual Yorkshire wit Derek said did you see that Tommy I said what?  Paula Ivan going into the porta loo with her bag, He instinctively started his watch, the time ticked by, this was minutes before these athletes were to run the biggest competition of their lives. Time went on.  Yvonne was buzzing to go, we observed it was 13 minutes before Ivan emerged    It was a fantastic race third fastest of all time, but Yvonne was in awesome condition, see the race   here  .  The result:

1st Tetyana Samalenco later known as (Tetyana Doroski and not found positive until 1993 and a load of medals later)
2ND Paula Ivan Romanian with mysterious background who disappeared from the scene shortly after??
3RD Yvonne Murray 8.29 smashed her pb and in my opinion cheated out of an Olympic Gold.

Tommy went on, “this was a fantastic example of what could be done with a talented athlete with the requisite support in place and done in Scotland without the use of performance enhancing drugs.”
However ever the perfectionist Tommy noted after a study of the video of the race that the habit of looking round at 200m was still there, work to be done in the learning process perhaps an extract from a lecture in 2005 gives us a short insight into the 1989 season.   Tommy says:  
I had to teach Yvonne to believe in herself and learn to be ruthless in the pursuit to WIN.
The ultimate challenge for any coach is standing tall with your athlete in adversity and I had been taught this all my life at home, in sport and at work, now was the time to find out how much I had learned and if I could help Tom return from disaster.   I knew how good Tom was and firmly believed he could do much better and win titles and subsequently spent a great deal of time convincing the sponsors to stay with him which they did !

1989 for both athletes the winter consisted of consolidation of the training regime which we had implemented.
• Increasing load – reducing recovery/increasing intensity
• Improving every aspect of technique – circuits/weights/running
• Construction of a competition programme which would ensure the athletes had the opportunity to learn from previous mistakes and learn to win at championships.
• Lifestyle balance was again improved with every aspect scrutinised and corrective actions implemented
The plan for Yvonne had two major objectives – teaching her to change pace of speed and sending mis-information to her rivals, I discussed with her how to beat female drug athletes, what will frighten them – she replied no female enjoys going from way out in a 3k -THE AHA moment.  

The plan with Tom was straight forward: just convince him how good he was and train harder than ever before and race harder to build his confidence especially against the Kenyans

During the complete season I spent three weeks on the European circuit with Tom and Yvonne learning how they coped with the situations and each other this was to prove a very valuable experience in preparing for the Commonwealth Games Europeans indoors and European outdoors in 1990 – result was an extremely successful competition season with many fine performances
Tommy was quoted as saying ‘these were two of the best years I spent with Tom and Yvonne.  All the hard work was paying off we were a great team at that point it was one of those magical parts on all of our journeys through life’ 

 The highlights Tommy remembers being for Tom – 
• Increase in exposure to Grand Prix Competition with very fast first laps.
• Taking on the best in the world week after week.
• Front running the Scottish Championships and new Native Record 1:44.79 at Crown Point.
• Chasing and beating Paul Ereng (Olympic Champion) unbeaten over 20 races in one of the best races of his career (1:43.9 – Scottish National Record at Crystal Palace)
• Winning the Grand Prix Final
• Finishing Top world rank at 800m in the world.

Highlights Tommy remembers for Yvonne were
• Grand Prix Final Kick at 200m (Gold) – 9:02.59 3k
• World Cup Final Kick at 800 (Gold) – 8:44.34 3k
• First British Winner of Women’s Track Event at World Cup Final.
• Ranked no 3 in the world at 3000m
• Critically no one knew where Yvonne would kick from in a competition.

Tommy remembers remarking to Glen Henderson in their annual review, “Glen I feel we are on the cusp of big things with these two athletes” little knowing that Glen was under sever financial pressure because he had invested so much in building a speed skating arena in Prestwick and their sponsorship would soon end.   Coach Tommy was right.   1990 proved to be a fantastic year for the athletes and the team.    He reflects that it was “the culmination of years of hard graft by everyone involved the strategic planning, the massive research, focusing on mastery coaching versus short term win at all costs, yes it was tough especially with a load of critics in Scotland.   We were all still learning what this level was all about 1990 posed numerous challenges perhaps best explained in a lecture link?” 

1990 – Phase IV – Winning at World Class Level
The objective was to develop a double periodised competition plan aimed at preparing an athlete to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand in January followed by European indoors Glasgow for Tom with a second competition phase aimed at winning the European 800 and 3000 in Split Yugoslavia in August. The challenges were immense, and included: –
• Further refinement of all training loads;
• Meticulous planning of double periodised year;
• Travel – accommodation – medical – physio – communication;
• Pre-Games training camp in Australia then travel to Auckland
• Coach support in Auckland – T Boyle/S Hogg;
• Competition opportunity limited 1 Comp each – Result Silver for Tom in relay and silver for Yvonne in the 3000
• Tom transition back to indoors prepare to win Europeans in Glasgow which he won!
• Yvonne transition back into volume training in Scotland.

The main Competition phase was the European Champs.   Preparation consisted of :-
• Meticulous planning of load intensity;
• Thorough evaluation of competition;
• Competition season designed to create picture in opposition mind;
• Final preparation – in warm up area –
• Convincing Tom to run from the front to win
• Reassuring Yvonne that she could out kick the drug athletes by going from long way out
• And as it transpired staying focused in warm up knowing Tom McKean had just won Gold!
• Result both Scots won Gold a massive result for everyone involved.    

Coach Tommy was now in big demand he remembers requests to lecture all over the globe, numerous athletes requesting to join the squad, However as Tommy says I had proved to myself, I could coach athletes in different events to become the very best they could be , the strategy had been proven and training methodology tested to its max, I was not a massive EGO guy ,and was more interested in coaching Tom and Yvonne in the final stages of their athletics journey and leveraging off these results to help the local athletes ,club and hopefully to better promote the development of athletics in Motherwell and North Lanarkshire and I did just that over the next few years .
Securing sponsorship from Smith Clyne Beecham –(for Lucozade product for the athletes and the club ) we used this to provide every child with a can of Lucozade in every schools cross country and Tom and Yvonne would be there to present awards these events were massive and grew until we had 90 % of primary and secondary schools competing with thousands of young people introduced to the sport Tommy said I found the success we had achieved opened doors and I was determined to leverage the opportunity to its max .
I always did one lecture at the start of each year just to sharpen my thoughts and refresh ideas therefore I agreed to do the European Coaches Congress in Finland ,not knowing that Frank would ask me to do two lectures -wow that was a challenge with loads of interpreters over 150 delegates from across the globe ,it went down well and I received the coach of the coaches award -it was nice to be recognised by your peers .
I remember after I had finished my second lecture, which was emphasising the scientific approach with pulse monitors, lactate analysis and stuff like that, Gordon Surtees, a great friend, came on and opened with the statement, ”I have never used a pulse monitor or lactate analysis in my life.” A MAGIC MOMENT FOR COACHES AND LESSONS THAT EVERY ATHLETE IS A PROJECT AND THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO ACHIEVE THE SAME END GOAL !

Tommy still had unfinished business supporting Tom and Yvonne. Glen Henderson had business challenges and had to withdraw his sponsorship Coach Tommy and Jessie Hill Tommy’s PA (who was now looking after most of the athlete’s administration issues) went into overdrive to recover the situation, digging deep into their business experience they secured a sponsorship with Giltron Office Supplies for Tommy and with Scottish Equitable for Yvonne.

Puma also pulled the plug on Tom’s contract as Derek Ibbotson was replaced as Marketing Director.  Once again we were proactive and negotiated a contract with New Balance for both Tom and Yvonne I think the headline poster was “The New Balance of Power “with a picture of Tom and Yvonne winning the Europeans .Many people have asked why we kept things so tight as a team ,indeed why we provided so much support for the athletes , Perhaps  Sir Bill Gammell defined Tommy more accurately than most when he said “Tommy is one of the few people who have real vision, can see the big picture, but also has that unique ability to be able to translate vision into a strategy and then implement practical solutions to big challenges .”

Tommy reflects, “I had loads of critical comments regarding the way I coached, the way I managed the athletes, the way we trained, indeed just about everything we did, however that is what happens in a small nation when you become successful load of “experts” keen to knock you down!

Fortunately, I had been brought up the hard way, family of 11 children, no money, we learned the true meaning of G.R.I.T. very early as had Tom and Yvonne.”

Tommy added “history has proven we were ahead of our time recognising that to succeed at world level athletes would require to become professional and be supported in a professional manner, as is now the case in most sports I guess we were trail blazers in our approach “

Tommy moved to Livingston with Honeywell Computers into a very demanding production management position, so his time was now being stretched even more, Business demands increasing

Coaching and managing world class athletes who depended on athletics to earn their living, supporting the development of local athletics made it inevitable that something had to give and Tommy ended up in hospital –  a sharp warning .However he had already moved to what he calls the reflective stage in coaching athletes, that is where you listen to the athletes and just reflect back on what they say and think, maybe adding a wee bit advice on the way, indeed Tom and Yvonne and the athletics squad were actually out in Portugal on warm weather training when he landed in hospital so the final stage of the  process had begun .

1991 was World Championships year and Yvonne was asked what she wanted to do.   She said she’d like to try altitude training; so Tommy did his usual in depth research and preparation, Myra contacted Tim Noakes, Yvonne contacted Margaret Strang, mother of Internationalist  David who was part of the 4 x 400 silver medal team in Auckland,  1990.   Tommy planned his holidays so that he could go out to Johannesburg for three weeks with his son Mark  to support Yvonne.   Then it was down to sea level for a few weeks.   Physiological testing was coordinated by Myra and Tim Noakes .

Tommy remembers “I was shocked when I met Yvonne at the track in Stellenbosch – she was very emotional, I knew something was not right -too much work on her own – however we pulled it together did some great work and then Yvonne went back to altitude for the second phase.

Did it work?  Tommy says they learned loads however, with hindsight world championships year was not the time to experiment, – “hindsight is a fantastic thing!” he says, before looking at what was ahead..

1991 The main competition season for Yvonne:

  • Major mistake in Europa Cup, Frankfurt when we decided to experiment with Yvonne going after one lap. She went too fast on that first two laps and really suffered.  Therefore, it was an experiment which backfired in the HEAT! Tommy was now increasingly aware of the challenges for Yvonne running in high heat and humidity her body did not handle it well and she did not perform to her capability despite loads of preparation .he remembers long discussions with Myra and loads of research mainly into the knowledge gained by the army, they concluded that to see real adaptation Yvonne would need to be in heat and humidity for around six months ,just not an option we had to make the best of it and perhaps be more selective however the worlds were in Tokyo and Olympics in Barcelona both hot and humid ???? 
  • Quickly back on course with good victory at Meadowbank in 8:36.05;Tommy remembers that one well “What a competition that was against Liz .   I had told Yvonne to give Liz utmost respect and run inside her vest, which she took literally and as she had poor spatial judgement due to an impairment in her left eye she bumped into Liz repeatedly.  it was a brilliant run by Yvonne, however when they finished Liz gave me an awful glare ,when in reality I was paying her the highest respect a coach can give an athlete .
  • The Worlds was always going to be tough on the back of beating the Russian in 1990 we prepared Yvonne as best we possibly could, used a treadmill in a local authority greenhouse in East Lothian to try to help acclimatise to the heat and humidity
  • The race went well but I could see Yvonne was over heating and she knew it, she went a wee bit early given how she felt and could not go with the pace of the two Russians, one of whom would later be found positive for drugs.

As for Tom in 1991:

  • Fourth European Cup Win
  • Major wins in Europe on the circuit
  • Worlds made a Minor mistake, in what was a brutal qualification first time we had experienced it one person through in each heat Tom misjudged his run on the home straight against 400m specialist Mark Everett, yes it was a long journey home.

A year later and in 1992  the Boyle camp was focused on the Olympics in Barcelona


  • The year was focused at preparation for the Olympics
  • Main competition season went well – most objectives achieved
  • Major issue was trying to overcome the acclimatisation to heat
  • Result Olympics – did not perform to capability in the conditions.
  • With hindsight Yvonne once again did not compete well in high heat and high humidity. we must accept and move on to other challenges.


  • Tommy remembers that yet again he had to dig deep use every ounce of coaching experience to support Tom in rebuilding his confidence after 1991 however Tommy sensed the athlete was not totally focused or confident in his own ability, once again we got Tom into fantastic shape.
  • Tom had Major wins in Grand Prix circuit that year.
  • Tom then qualified for Olympics however Tommy remembers well that in the warm up area he asked me to take a picture on his new camera, his priorities had shifted, and Coach Tommy knew it!
  • Tom ran poor race tactically -no excuses he did not perform well and Tommy new it was getting near the end of their relationship.

Tommy reflects,  “I knew we were reaching the final stage of the coaching journey with Tom, however I decided to give it one more effort with Tom and go for the world indoors in 1993, Coach Tommy did his usual thorough in depth research and decided to really put the ball in the athletes court, he called Meg Ritchie -Yes discus Olympian now strength and conditioning coach in the US and a good friend of Stuart Hogg .”

What a decision this was for Tommy.  He sent his athletes out to Meg in Tucson Arizona 5000 feet above sea level.

Tommy had done all the spade work, everything was set up Meg was astounded at the level of performance of both athletes.   She called Tommy just before Tom was about to leave for the world indoors and told him that Yvonne wanted a word.  Yvonne announced that she wanted to run the world indoors: this was totally unplanned –  a big WOW moment for Tommy!

Meg explained that the positive environment with massive football guys in the gym giving it the big positive vibes to Yvonne every day had a massive impact.  Yes, it was a tough decision but that this was the reflective stage of the coaching journey.   Tommy knew he had to let the athletes take ownership and they did both now going into the world indoors full of the positive vibes and in excellent condition Tom having just run a pb over 600m of 73.4 sec –

Coach Boyle was now in uncharted territory and he was once more doing what few other coaches are brave enough to do, give the athletes total control and learning to live with the consequences they would require in their future lives.

Tommy remembers that many people thought he smothered the athletes, however as we are seeing now this was a long way from the reality.   He says “my coaching philosophy was all about producing Better Athletes and Better People and preparing them for the next stage in their journey through life – not sure the athletes understood or ever appreciated that and how hard that is to do -when you have to stand back and let them  learn from making  mistakes and learn life lessons from that process .”   

Tommy went on to discusss a great believer in Mastery Coaching which is Developing the Athlete and the Person,   Physiologically -Psychologically – Socially


WORLD INDOORS 1993.   800m Result:  Tom McKean   Gold   1.47.29

At this point it might be said that Tommy had been very shrewd in the way he supported Tom knowing as he did that the end of their very successful partnership was looming.   

Coach Boyle had taken a massive calculated risk in adapting his approach to majors for both athletes Tommy refers to learning from Gestalt – which he had successfully utilised in business, basically you cause a bit of disruption and humans have a fantastic way of reorganising and re-establishing order and these athletes certainly did quotes Tommy.   However he was painfully aware you cannot use very often !

 WORLD INDOORS 1993 Result Yvonne Murray Gold 8.50.55

Tommy saw less of Tom upon his return.  He says of that time “Toms head was in another place.   He was spending more time with pals on the golf course, listening to their advice.   Then one day he came up to me at the track, when I was surrounded by a group of young athletes and announced he was moving on.   I was very disappointed, not by the fact which I knew was inevitable but by the manner in which he did it – yes I was not impressed ,

Unfortunately for Tom, he like many sports people who try to change the successful recipe, find it is not that simple and Tom’s performances were never the same  again and he retired from the sport in my opinion far too early as he was actually a late developer who had never missed a major competition through injury it was also at that time that a chasm appeared in UK Middle distance as the stars gradually retired

Tommy says he was very proud of the fantastic journey they had had together.   “We travelled a long and successful journey a club coach from Bellshill YMCA and a young boy  from a deprived background in Viewpark to the  heady heights of world class competition and inspiring thousands of young Scots on the way.”   Tommy remembers one old worthy from his home village of Newarthill saying ,”Tommy you did a fantastic job, McKean was a magnificent athlete and Scotland loved watching him on telly because you never knew what he would do, but it was always exciting.  Aye well done the wee lad from 15th Motherwell BB

17.  Reality is Tommy and Tom had one of the most successful coach /athlete partnerships ever in Scotland from boy to man and spanning 16 years as we can see from this chart which details selected highlights of the journey.




Year / Date PB Event Psn Time
  200 800
Phase IV   29 ‘93     World Indoor Gold 1st 1:47.29
  28 ‘92     GP Final                    (Bronze) 3rd 1:46.06
        1:44.39 Cologne GP 3rd 1:44.39
  27 ‘91   1:44.20 Malmo GP 2nd 1:44.20
          Stockholm GP 1st 1:44.41
          Europa Cup                    (Gold) 1st 1:45.60
  26 ‘90   1:44.76 European Champs        (Gold) 1st 1:44.76
  Example of a Competition Year 14/9/90     Sheffield 1st 1:46.50
  9/9/90     Rietie 2nd  
  29/8/90   Peak Split 1st 1:44.70
  17/8/05     Gateshead 1st 1:45.50
  7/8/05     Malmo 1st 1:45.30
  4/8/90   1:44.44 AAAs – Trials 2nd 1:44.44
  20/7/90     Crystal Palace 4th 1:45.15
  12/7/90     Lausanne 1st 1:45.67
  6/7/90     Edinburgh 1st 1:44.96
  2/7/90     Stockholm 2nd 1:45.75
  29/6/90     GB v GDR v Canada 1st 1:46.98
  1/90     C Games Auckland    
  2/90     UK    
  2/90     AAAs Birmingham 1st 1:46.90
  3/90     European Indoor Champ                                                (Gold) 1st 1:46.22
  25 ‘89     World Cup (Kiproketch) (Gold) 1st 1:44.95
          Zurich Champs 5th 1:44.20
    Scottish Native   Crown Point                  (Gold) 1st 1:44.79
    Scot. Nat. Record 1:43.88 London GP – “Erang” 1st 1:43.88
          European Cup              (Gold) 1st 1:46.94
Phase III   24 ‘88     Olympic Games H2 Disq. Personal Issues
          GP Final 1st 1:47.60
          1st 800 IAAF Ranking    
  23 ‘87   1:44.45 World Champ Final 8th Media Expectation
          Europa Cup                  (Gold) 1st 1:45.96
          Luagana GP – “Konchela” 1st 1:44.45
  22 ‘86   1:44.61 European Champ       (Silver) 2nd 1:44.61
        1:44.80 Commonwealth         (Silver) 2nd 1:44.80
  21 ‘85 21.60 1:46.05 Budapest GP 2nd 1:46.05
          Europa Cup                  (Gold) 1st 1:49.11
          UK Champs                  (Gold) 1st 1:49.12
Phase II   20 ‘84 22.38 1:48.04 Scot Cat. 1st Scottish International
  19 ‘83 22.40 1:49.80 Scottish Champs 2nd 1:49.18
          Injured – shins    
  18 ‘82 22.80 1:49.30 Scottish Champs 400 1st 1:49.30
          8 Nations 1st Exposure
  17 ‘81 22.90 1:52.60 W. Dist. 800 1st  
          Scottish Junior 400 1st  
Phase I   16 ‘80 23.50 1:54.10 British School 800 1st  
          W. Dist. 200 1st  
  15 ‘79 24.00 1:59.70 British School Cross Country 16th  
  14 ‘78 24.50 2:08.00 Scottish School Cross Country 4th  
  13 ‘77 25.70 School and Club Competition    

Coach Tommy Boyle still had unfinished business in supporting Yvonne Murray, through the rebuilding process into her 1993 season, Tommy was already planning for the next phase, fully aware of the changing landscape in the 3000 metres event, the increasing numbers of athletes being found positive for drugs, and the reality that all training takes its toll on the Physical and Mental wellbeing of an athlete .What was his thinking on this . Tommy reflects I spoke to Dave and Myra ,we agreed it was, see this season through then move towards the 10K for the Commonwealth Games in  Canada 1994,then shift to road running as we knew Yvonne had biomechanical issues which would prevent her from continuing on the track .Tommy was also aware of his responsibility to tackle the issue of de-training with an endurance athlete like Yvonne a conversation he did not look forward to, knowing how emotional Yvonne was about her running career.

Tommy discussed the plan for 1993 and 1994 with Yvonne and she committed 100% to the shift in emphasis with the result her confidence grew every week in training and Coach Tommy guided her through a very successful  season, with the introduction of road racing at Aberdeen, where she finished second.

1993 “Great when a plan comes together”

8:41.59 GP Final 2nd
5.36.03 Sheffield GP 1st


Brussels GP 2nd
8:33.62 London GP 1st
8:30.70 Oslo GP 2nd
4.17.15 Europa Cup (Bronze) 3rd
15.20.01 5K Road Aberdeen 2nd
8:50.55 World Indoor Toronto (Gold) 1st

 Tommy was proven to be right once again in his evaluation that Yvonne should move up ,a fact confirmed by the Grand Prix final .”one of the few clean races Yvonne competed in with three clean athletes taking the podium positions for the first time in many years.   Tommy now reveals he made a concerted effort in the full and certain knowledge that 1994 would be the final track season he was determined to pull out all the stops and try to ensure that it would be one of her best and one she would remember for the rest of her life.   “I know Yvonne never really realised  the depth of thought I put into this apart of her career, however that is the role of a good coach .”

3000 metres  Sonia O’Sullivan (IRL) 8:38.12  Yvonne Murray (GBR) 8:41.99  Alison Wyeth (GBR) 8:47.9

Once again Tommy utilised his still growing knowledge and experience to develop a strategy and detailed planning for season 1994.   Significant changes were made to Yvonne’s training, starting with longer OBLA runs. her husband Tom would take Yvonne out to Kirk of Shotts on the old A8, we had decided to utilise the prevailing westerly wind for her five and six mile efforts, Tom had massive patience and needed it as motorists would peep their horns as he drove behind Yvonne, protecting her from potential hazards, what a fantastic job he did in that season which was all part of Coach Tommy’s strategy of handing over responsibility to the athlete –  the final stage in any coaching journey .

It is a legacy to Tommy’s coaching how well he managed that change in direction and change in ownership resulting in a fantastic competition season where Yvonne ran within .5 sec of her 3k pb and broke the Scottish National Record for the 2k at Meadowbank .   The big objective however was the Commonwealth Games and Tommy remembers in the planning phase I realised that the qualifying criteria would be a major issue given, time and lack of opportunities, so I met with the late George Duncan, Team Manager, and shared my concerns.  He asked me straight “Tommy if I back the decision to pre select Yvonne, can you promise me she will be ready on time to win a medal” .   I replied “George unless she falls into a drainer she will win a medal”   It was not a high risk as I knew how well she was performing in training.   One of the best seasons I had in coaching an athlete to truly be “the very best they could be”  

Example of a Competition Year 11/9/04   8:56.81   Crystal Palace World Cup 3000m (Gold) 1st
4/9/04     5:38.0 Sheffield GP 2000m                                     2nd
24/8/04     31:56.97 Victoria Commonwealth 10k               (Gold) 1st
10/8/04   8:36.48   Helsinki 3000m – Euro. Champs       (Silver) 2nd
22/7/04     4:22.64 Oslo – Bislett 1 mile                                     2nd
20/7/04 4:04.18     Gateshead 1500m (Front Run)                    1st
15/7/04   8:29.6   Crystal Palace 3000m (0.5 off PB) 2nd
8/7/04     5:26.93 Meadowbank Inv. 2000m (Scottish Nat Record) 2nd
12/6/04 4:01.44     AAA 1500m                                       (Silver) 2nd
22/5/04     15:23 Aberdeen S/CD R/Race 2nd

 Tommy reflects,I decided not to go to the games -yes, a big decision, however a key part of the strategy of handing over the responsibility to the athlete and one which I was later to learn Yvonne was not comfortable with, indeed it was to end our successful partnership.   Yvonne ran a fantastic race: she kept the head,  waited and waited until it was her magic moment.”

Commonwealth Gold 1994

Tommy, was now managing all of production at the computer plant Livingston. They had been taken over by Packard Bell and moved into producing workstations for the inland revenue and then building desk top computers. The work force was growing, margins were eroding, pressure was increasing.  Tommy was working longer hours traveling to Livingston along an ever busier M8.  On the athletics front he had fortunately advised Yvonne to move to road which meant she should no longer require all of the intense coaching he had previously provided.  This did not sit well with Yvonne, a reaction that would maybe be expected from any athlete, Tommy says “I knew that, however painful, it was the correct thing to do.”    He gradually re-aligned to this mode of coaching, until 1998 when Yvonne decided to move on to pastures new:  Tommy’s only regret was that, like many sports stars, Yvonne did not appear to be able to move on to the next stage of her life in her mind!!    This was indeed the case with very many international sports stars whose whole life has been focused on the sport and Debbie Brill in Canada was one of the pioneers in a movement aimed at re-educating retired or about to retire international athletes.  When asked Tommy says, “I had a fantastic experience coaching Yvonne, introducing her to a professional approach to coaching and training, watching her mature into a very successful world class athlete who on her day could compete with the best in the world -which is all any coach can really do!”

Summary of Yvonne’s Achievements

Bronze Medal 1985 European Indoor Championships
Silver Medal 1986 European Indoor Championships
Bronze Medal 1986 Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh
Gold Medal 1987 European Indoor Championships
Bronze Medal 1988 Olympic Games at Seoul
Gold Medal 1989 World Cup at Barcelona
Silver Medal 1990 Commonwealth Games at Auckland
Gold Medal 1990 European Championships at Split
Gold Medal 1993 World Indoor Championships at Toronto
Silver Medal 1994 European Championships at Helsinki
Gold Medal 1994 Commonwealth Games at Victoria
Gold Medal 1994 World Cup at Crystal Palace

– Ranked Number Two in the World in 1994 for the Mile, 2000m and 3000m
– First British Female to win a Gold Medal in the World Indoor Championships
– First British Female to win an individual track Gold Medal in the World Cup
– First British Female athlete in 21 years to win a European Championship Gold Medal in a track event
– The Honour of MBE was bestowed upon Yvonne at Buckingham Palace on 12th March (New Year Honours List 1991)

In an interview with ‘The Scotsman’ what his proudest moments as a coach were, he named four of which “Probably the first one was Yvonne winning a bronze in Seoul (at the 1988 Olympic Games] after only coaching her for a year. That was tremendous.”    When we looked at the development of Tom McKean and the initial work done with Yvonne, the evidence of Tommy’s scientific approach was easy to see.   What we note from the development of Yvonne – already a very good athlete when she asked him to coach her – is the ‘coaching as an art’ side of things.   If you read Yvonne’s own profile    you will see some evidence that she learned more about racing tactics  with him.   

One of Tommy’s lesser known but equally good athletes was Peter Meechan from Newmains, Lanarkshire, who was a Special Olympics athlete who specialised in the pentathlon and the more explosive field events.   Over the period between 1982 and 1993 he competed three times for Great Britain and 17 times for Scotland.   In the course of that period he won 14 gold medals, 5 silver and 1 bronze, including gold at the Special Olympics.   Peter was one of Yvonne Murray’s training partners.   He was at times very direct in his comments and  at one point said to Tom, “you need to toughen up against the Kenyans“, this was during the time when the team were prepping him with 1000 metre runs for the head to head with Paul Ereng at Crystal Palace (see further up this page) which was one of Tom’s greatest performances.

Tommy Boyle was a very busy man now, however, he still had a burning desire to put something back into the local community and especially athletics.  Throughout the 90s he continued to support, indeed coach, young athletes and convinced Motherwell District Council to invest in an athletics development project, involving the appointment of an athletics development officer.  Tommy was quoted in the local press as saying  “we must move into the 21st century. Society cannot expect volunteers to run sport it should be the responsibility of the community to recognise the importance of sport in developing the Health and Wellbeing of all young people”.   The package was valued at over £50 k per annum.  Always a visionary, Tommy also recognised that if athletics were to survive in tomorrow’s society, it would require to address the issue of inactivity back in the communities rather than just at centralised sports facilities.   
Perhaps we get an insight into his thinking in the vision he had about the way society would go in the name of the project he pioneered in an attempt to get political focus on the declining fitness of young people, especially in deprived areas where drugs were becoming an easy alternative to activity. Tommy managed to leverage off the high profile of himself and his athletes and succeeded in securing funding from Team Sport Scotland, Scotland Against Drugs and dozens of local companies to launch COMMUNITY ATHLETICS 2000.   This involved establishing satellite athletics clubs in local schools and community centres and training local people to become self sufficient
He says, “I remember we had a big inter club competition in Kelvin Hall, one of the local bus companies provided free transport for all and John Anderson agreed to compere the event. It was awesome; we set up 16 clubs.  The concept was miles ahead of its time however politics intervened. The politicians were so busy in-fighting regarding the establishment of North Lanarkshire with all its political factions and the project became a victim. One high profile councillor later commented –“Yes Tommy, way ahead of its time – however we would all give an arm and a leg if we could establish these clubs in to combat the decline in fitness in todays communities and the price we will all have to pay for the NHS”.   

Tommy remembers many fine athletes who came through the athletics development project in the 90s, and says:  “We had established a great team of coaches supported by many fine PE teachers we paid to run Saturday morning coaching clinics, where typically three hundred young athletes in loads of events would be coached.   I was extremely fortunate to help hundreds of young athletes on their journey and has detailed one sample of the class of 1997 medallist in Motherwell Athletics Club

Life was quite hectic for Tommy: he now had a young family, he was traveling to Livingston daily where he had been promoted to Director of Operations in Packard Bell with up to 500 staff which was running 24-7 at peak season.  His days became increasingly long, and it was time to pull back from athletics and focus on family and business.   This he did, coaching only a few athletes when he had the time and motivation.   However his priorities, not to say his passion, was now running a business and raising the family!

Fate intervened once more Tommy was asked to take on a young athlete – Susan Scott.

Susan Scott (26th September, 1977)  was a considerably good runner who was originally trained by John Montgomery before she came under Tommy’s wing.   For the bare facts, her Wikipedia entry reads as follows: 

“Susan Scott (born 26 September 1977) is a Scottish track and field athlete who competed for Great Britain at the 2008 Olympic Games in the 1500 metres. She also finished fourth in the 800 metres final at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and 2006.   Scott was born in Irvine, North Ayrshire, Scotland. Representing Scotland, she finished fourth in the 800 metres final at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 2002, and Melbourne 2006.   In both finals, she broke the Scottish record. In running 1:59.30 in the 2002 final, she improved her best by over a second and broke the longest standing Scottish track record to become the first Scots woman to run under two minutes. The previous record of 2:00.15 by Rosemary Stirling, had stood for 30 years. Scott improved on this in the 2006 final with 1:59.02, which stood as the Scottish record until 2014, when Lynsey Sharp ran 1:58.80. As of 2015, Scott ranks 11th on the UK all-time list. Her 1500 metres best of 4:07.00, was set in June 2008. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she was eliminated in the heats of the 1500 metres.”   

Tommy agreed to coach Susan on the clear understanding that it would be within the constraints of his time.   However, Tommy now had perfected a tried and tested methodology Myra agreed to help in her spare time again no stone was left unturned in the pursuit of excellence however by this time we had an institute of sport and that solved a few issues for Tommy.    He says perhaps it is best to read the 2005 lecture on Susan but once again proved just how good a coach he was in taking a 2.08 athlete to such heady performances.   Tommy added: “I was very fortunate to have the support of my old pal, Frank McMahon, who was Susan’s Minder whilst she did weights in Local Authority Gyms.   Frank, pictured below with Susan, called a spade a shovel – just what she needed to bring her out of her very deep shell.   Frank was also great support when he came out to Melbourne with us for the Commonwealth Games in 2006.   

A measure of the preparation Tommy did for Melbourne was contacting the head coach at Bendigo athletics Club, Peter Barratt.   He did not believe Tommy would trust him with his top athlete.   However he arranged everything for Susan including the critical training partners and supported her in a very successful series of three races which she won before the Games.   She is pictured below with the Bendigo training team and some club members .

detailed below the key performances of Scott when Tommy coached her.

Age Year / Date PB 800 Major Event Psn Time
Phase IV 32 2010 C Comm. Games/European Champs
31 2009 World Champs
30 2008 Olympic Games
29 2007 World Champs
28 2006 Comm. Games/European Champs
27 2005
Example of a Competition Year 21/8/05 Norwich Union Super GP 2nd 2:03.77
14/8/05 Scottish Champs (Gold) 1st 2:02.85
7/8/05 2:01.17 IAAF World Champs (Season Best) 8th 2:01.17
22/7/05 Norwich Union Super GP 3rd 2:02.06
10/7/05 AAA Champs & Trials (World & Comm)
(Gold) 1st 2:02.97
27/6/05 Josef Odlozil Memorial GPII (1500m) 2nd 4:14.84
12/6/05 Lille GP (1500m) 6th 4:09.10
Phase III 26 2004
Example of a Competition Year 15/8/04 Scottish Champs (Gold) 1st 2:02.85
14/8/04 Scottish Champs (Gold) 1st 4:17.0
30/7/04 2:00.71 Crystal Palace GP 4th 2:00.71
24/7/04 GB Match 6th 2:03.00
17/7/04 BMC 1st 2:01.70
14/7/04 Lahiti Games 1st 2:01.46
11/7/04 AAAs (Bronze) 3rd 2:02.13
27/6/04 Gateshead GP 6th 2:01.40
19/6/04 Euro. Cup (Bronze) 3rd 2:01.35
12/6/04 BMC 1st 2:00.77
2/6/04 Open Graded 2:01.87 mx
22/5/04 BMC 2nd 4:10.56
25 2003
Example of a Competition Year 1/8/03 North Down Games (Silver) 2nd 2:03.9
26/7/03 AAAs (Silver) 2nd 2:04.13
29/6/03 GB v. USA v. Russia 6th 2:03.16
21/6/03 Euro. Cup 6th 2:04.28
12/6/03 Ostrava GP 5th 2:01.85
1/6/03 2:01.08 Hengelo GP 2nd 2:01.08
GB Int. 5th 2:03
Scottish (Gold) 1st 2:02
24 2002 1:59.30 Commonwealth Games Scot. Nat. Record 4th 1:59.30
AAAs (Gold) 1st 2:03.84
23 2001 Scottish (Gold) 1st 2:06
European U23 Champs (1500m) (heat)
Phase II 22 1999 AAAs U23 (1500m) (Gold) 1st
20 1998 Scottish Champs 800m (Gold) 1st
19 1996 Scottish Champs (1500m) 3rd John Montgomery
Scottish Schools CC 2nd
Scottish CC Champs (Gold) 1st
British Schools Indoors (Gold) 1st
Phase I 15 1992 Scottish 800m Champ U15 (Gold) 1st Graham Greenham
14 1991 British Schools CC West District Champ
13 1990 Scottish CC Champ (Gold) 1st Glen Harrow
11 1988 Scottish CC Champ (Gold) 1st

Domestically Susan won the 800m 5 times and the 1500m twice (one indoors) in Scotland, and at GB level she won the 800m twice and the 1500m once (indoors) for eight GB medals in total including one at 3000m. These were between 1998 and 2009.

In the ‘Scotsman’ interview mentioned above, Tommy mentioned as one of his proudest moments “Susan Scott breaking the Scottish record at two successive Commonwealth Games – first in 2002 in Manchester and then in 2006 in Melbourne.”   His pride is  entirely justified in that the first time she broke the national 800m record, it was one that had been in existence for all of 30 years and had withstood attacks by such big talents as Ann Purvis, Margaret Coomber, Christine and Evelyn McMeekin, Lynne McDougall and others.   The fact that she then retained the record until 2014 is another testament to the value of the time.

Word of Tommy’s coaching and the performances turned in by Tom had got around: this fact was highlighted in a story of an incident that took place in Portugal Tom was doing three .x  a minute intervals 3-3-3 minutes  They noticed a guy watching from the bushes.   The guy was Steve Ovett .   So they spoke to him and subsequently they had a few long chats.   Steve’s perception was that they didn’t do long reps. He was astounded    He also loved the set approach.   He also said Tom should race more ( a common misconception in Britain at the time) When Tommy asked how many T0m had done last year, he said seven, it was 15 – all world class, televised for sponsorship.   Again he is reported to have said, “wow how wrong can you be?” and praised the Scots’ business led approach which allowed us a freedom to do what we wanted not what an agent wanted.

But just as others wanted to pick up information from Tommy, so he was always learning himself.   Tommy was a supporter of the British Milers Club and he has this to say of the club:

“In my early coaching days, I was an observer of the BMC strategy being shaped by Frank  Horwill and his band of knowledgeable fellow coaches around the country.   Over the years as I learned more and observed the massive benefits which it provided to young middle distance athletes and their coaches.   

Clearly a model of delivery which was simple slick and effective ,one where athletes were centre of the focus, just get on with providing graded races providing opportunities for all of the athletes to improve on their personal best – exactly what every young person wants from the sport .

I was often asked why we did not use them with Tom, really quite simple he was a fast twitch fibre man and our strategy was to pursue the sprint 400 to 800 route .   I remember John Anderson as national coach saying this is the way ahead for clubs and competitions, sprint and hurdle competitions,  jumps competitions ,throws competitions and of course multi-event competitions

My belief is that this is even more relevant in today’s world where athletes, officials, volunteers and parents do not want to spend all day at league matches half way across the country .   I was privileged to be invited to share my coaching knowledge and experience at BMC events on several occasions, and one night after the formal stuff spent hours in a room with Peter Coe, Wilf Paish, Norman Pool, Gordon Surtees and  a few other legends of coaching it was amazing .

Finally a measure of how much I admire the BMC Competition structure is that this year 2018, my son Christopher returning to competition after two years out through injury had a competition programme which consisted of six BMC competitions where he gained massive experience racing at his own level and from May to August gradually improving his PBs , winning one race – with resultant massive confidence boost: is that not what coaching is all about providing the opportunity for young people to become the very best they can be?

I will never cease to be amazed about how BMC just make it work !”

This profile has not been about Tom McKean, Yvonne Murray, Susan Scott or any other athletes.   It has been about Tommy Boyle, whose Mastercoach certificate is above, his methods and his progress on the world stage.    What have we found out?   

  •  First that he is prepared to work long and hard away from the training venues to evaluate and calculate.
  • Second, he pays great attention to detail.   
  • Third we have found out that he is very honest with the athletes and, more important, with himself.   
  • Fourth, he is prepared at all times to learn what he can to increase his own knowledge and to develop his athletes’ competitive advantage. 

These are not qualities unique to Tommy but where were these qualities to take him next?   

Tommy, the family man (but who’s looking over his shoulder?

“Retirement is fantastic”, says Tommy, “loving the time to spend with my ever-supporting wife Julie who has supported me on every stage of my coaching and business life and without whom I could never have done a fraction of the things I have achieved in sport and in my life.
I now have the time to learn more about my other passion, gardening indeed an old gardener from a local village is teaching me how to grow begonias, maybe even competition ones!
However both of my two sons are now doing athletics:  Christopher competes for Victoria Park in 800m and Adam is no 1 in Scotland for Javelin at his age group .   His coach is Karen Costello and they are mentored by Mike McNeil, who coached Goldie Sayers to the Olympics; Chris has a training partner called Steven Bryce – a young para athlete, who is coached by his dad, Allan, and I.  He did very well in the recent LA Special Olympics ,winning a gold silver and bronze

We started the page with a picture of Tommy with a quite prestigious award and we can finish with another.   Note this communication from June 2010:

Tommy was invited to lunch with the Queen and Prince Philip in Buckingham Palace in recognition of his service to sport and youth.   He says of this that he has received many an award throughout his career but this is one of the two that mean most to him.   The UK coach of the year and “this invitation and discussion with HRH the Queen.   It was an awesome day.”  

But let’s not forget that Tommy Boyle is a coach and a family man – the photographs below show both sides.

Steven Bryce

Adam Boyle, Scottish Schools Athletics – Nat Champs 2017     (C)Bobby Gavin 

Christopher training at Gullane


Tommy Boyle: Life Coach

Tommy had been a club coach working with all ages and abilities and subsequently a coach working at the very highest international level.   Where did he go next?   We know already that he was not one who let the grass grow under his feet, always looking ahead.   It is sometimes instructive to look at where a person might go and compare it with what they actually did.   Tommy could have done as many others did and just leave the sport on the grounds that he had done his bit and it was time for others to take over.   He could have lived off past successes and spent the next 20 years giving the same lecture/s, telling the same anecdotes as an after dinner speaker in return for the appropriate fee.   He did neither of these, and to understand his decision it must be remembered what he had learned in the beginning back in the Bellshill YMCA where he noted the many ‘life lessons’ he had learned.  He had to put something back into the sport and the approach to any athlete at whatever level had to be a holistic one.   Where did he go next?

It was a natural fit for Tommy to link up with Winning Scotland Foundation and it is typical of the man how he managed to engage with them.   It all started when he was challenging Scottish Athletics and The Scottish Institute of Sport to help him address the gap in financial support for Susan Scott in her quest to win a medal in Melbourne Commonwealth Games and then become world class.   Tommy took a professional business approach to the challenge and compiled a presentation to SAL and to The Scottish Institute of Sport.

To understand the Boyle journey, we must also be aware of his business career.    Tommy rose through the ranks in Honeywell, where he was spotted as having potential by vice presidents Jim Adamson and Tom Frame who mentored him through his journey, they guided  Tommy to apply for every engineering job which came up and supported him to try again when he was unsuccessful, teaching him life lessons about perseverance and tenacity until eventually he succeeded, he started on the staff as a junior engineer then engineer and senior engineer eventually becoming a staff engineer and trouble shooter, experiencing far reaches of Phoenix, San Diego and many European Honeywell sites.    Tommy describes this Journey as critical to his learning about growth mindset, and business efficiency and singles out his research into Japanese methodology as a breakthrough in understanding the importance of doing things right first time.   It’s called the Kaizen Methodology.   In 1989, David Keys his then CEO who had spotted leadership qualities, took him aside and said “Your sabbatical is over (Tommy was aware they allowed him  a lot of slack to pursue coaching ) I need you to take over production engineering”   That triggered his decision to reflect and then change his strategic direction in coaching.

Now time was precious so it was focus on the important few and critically hone his  leadership and management skills which he did over the next thirty years.   Honeywell computers moved to Livingston ,were taken over by NEC, then  Bull Computers, and finally Packard Bell.  Tommy once again rose through the steps of management to eventually, in 2002, take over as Director of Operations with one objective in his mind: that the plant survive against a climate of fierce competition where margins were reducing and eastern European countries were cheaper.  Tommy recognised that his greatest strength was his people management skills combined with a fierce competitive spirit, vitally treating people the way he would like to be treated.   He eliminated timing in shop floor supervision and established a works council.   Tommy says the synergy between coaching skills and management was massive and we developed many fine young people who are now in jobs all over the world.  He says, ” Yes I fell very proud of what we achieved indeed Doug Gillon did a great article on the efficiency of the plant over those few years and drew a parallel with sport and athletics in particular where  at that time the trends were going in the opposite direction .”

Tommy says those years were magical.   “We just did our own thing utilised Kaizen to its max did things our way and produced world class manufacturing results, a measure of the success was that as Chinese pressure grew the parent companies actually shut down NEC semiconductors Livingston retaining the computer division and then Packard Bell closed the French computer site, and retained Livingston a unique event in French industry.”

Tommy and his team knew that eventually the significantly cheaper Chinese would prevail, and he spent this final two years successfully closing the plant and securing jobs for his staff.

Sir Bill Gammell

The story began when he was coaching Susan Scott, having massive experience by this time Tommy knew that to succeed in today’s high-performance world athletes required to be adequately supported financially. In 2004 Tommy with a typical business led approach to the challenge, compiled a presentation to SAL and to the Scottish Institute of Sport.   It was an objective picture of where they were and what they required to be competitive in Melbourne. He challenged Scottish Athletics and The Scottish Institute of Sport to help him address the gap in financial support for Susan Scott in her quest to and win a medal.

Aileen McGillivray was the support manager to Susan at the Institute and she arranged for the CEO Anne Marie Harrison to visit the Livingston plant where Tommy did his presentation.   She was very impressed with the professional approach and subsequently negotiated that we present to a potential funder.   That Funder was Winning Scotland Foundation

The outcome was that  Susan received a two year funding deal, however equally important was that WSF were now aware of Tommy Boyle and his wider vision for sport in society.   To understand their interest, we need to look at a different person altogether, Sir Bill Gammell who has been described as “passionate about developing people and instilling a positive winning attitude in both business and sport.”   The Winning Scotland Foundation says on its website that “Sir Bill Gammell founded Cairn Energy and was Chief Executive from the Company’s initial listing in 1988 until 30 June 2011. Over the last five years Cairn has returned $4.5 billion to its shareholders. Bill stood down as Chairman of Cairn Energy in 2014 and is a Director of Figured Ltd, offering strategic business advice to clients.   He has over 35 years’ experience in the international oil and gas industry and was awarded a knighthood in 2006 for services to industry in Scotland. Sir Bill, who is an ex-Scotland rugby internationalist (1977-1980) is Chairman of the Winning Scotland Foundation and a member of the British Olympic Advisory Board.   In 2006 he founded Winning Scotland Foundation to mobilise efforts to raise aspirations and self-belief amongst young people in Scotland. The Foundation’s vision is ‘to help all young people in Scotland achieve their personal best’ and over £7 million has been invested to date.”

 In an article in the Scotsman  we read  “… Boyle might have ended his active involvement in Scottish sport a couple of years ago, when he retired from his post in the electronics industry.   But he turned down offers to coach abroad in favour of joining the Winning Scotland Foundation, the company founded and partly funded by former rugby international Sir Bill Gammell.   Boyle is now the director of Positive Coaching Scotland (PCS), the programme, run by the Foundation, which works with parents, councils, schools and other organisations.   PCS aims to increase participation in sport by school-age children way beyond its current 20 per cent or so, and to keep them involved by ensuring parents and others offer positive encouragement.  It is a bold, vastly ambitious initiative, one which Boyle thinks could take five to ten years to bear fruit.  Several councils are already on board.

The real target is the parents of the 80 per cent of children who are not doing sport, or who are having bad experiences in sport and drop out,” he explained. “If we believe, like most top business people and top sportspeople believe, that sport is the greatest vehicle there is for teaching life lessons, then we are failing as a nation.   “We need to start recruiting quadruple the number of young people into sport.   And that needs to start now. “Lest anyone thinks Boyle espouses a woolly, optimistic approach in which competition is frowned on and there are prizes for everyone, he made it clear he believes kids love to compete, and that their will to win should be encouraged. What is more, although he insists that enjoyment is paramount, he is also convinced that hard work is the key to success. “We need to teach people at a young age that they need to work harder,” he continued. “Tom McKean and Yvonne Murray basically worked harder than any athletes in Scotland, probably in Britain, and probably in the world at that time.

The Mission at WSF began in March 2007: Tommy was invited to do a bit of consultancy consisting of researching what were the issues in sport in Scotland which affected participation and performance.

He spent four months researching the problems in youth sport.  This involved in depth repeat visits to eleven local authorities, engaged with most major NGBs and Sport Scotland. Critically he also engaged with education at a national and local authority level.   It was a massive research project using his vast coaching knowledge, listening to people in sport, to local authority sports professionals and vitally volunteers in local sports clubs.

The mission was to better understand what the major issues were in sport and society and how WSF could help. Tommy remembers long days and nights on government web sites trawling through stats, analysing trends at times disappearing down blind alleys guided by the experts in sport and local authorities many with very blinkered views.

However, with typical tenacity he worked relentlessly and gradually emerged a clear picture which pointed to societal issues such as less physical activity, overweight and obese children at ever younger ages which resulted in reduction in physical literacy skills He called it a ticking time bomb for the NHS and the health and wellbeing of the nation.

Within sport the major issues were children with poor physical literacy requiring ill equipped coaches to spend increasing time just getting kids fit lowering of performances at every age and stage critically massive drop out from sport at ever younger ages. research in the US quotes over 80% by age 14 Tommy was wise enough to recognise that there was mountains of research in Scotland concluding the facts, however there was little evidence that at Government levels there was recognition of the wide-reaching impact this decline would have on the health of the nation and critically very few ideas practical solutions 

Why was this of interest to Tommy and WSF?   Their mission was “to help young people become the best they could be in sport and life”,  recognising that sport is the greatest vehicle there is to teach young people life lessons like effort, teamwork, respect, lessons, which would them be successful in their working life.

He was very clear that WSF required to focus on their mission and avoid the minefield of trying to solve the nation’s problems, this required some creative thinking and if possible a bespoke solution – don’t reinvent the wheel.    Having travelled and researched extensively in his business life Tommy was very comfortable with the concept of using other peoples solutions at reduced coast.   Graham Watson, his boss, had experienced a cultural change programme in California.   It was called Positive Coaching Alliance, so Tommy did his usual due diligence on PCA and concluded this could work in Scotland.   He was amazed at the close correlation behind his findings and what Jim Thompson had researched in the US .   Could a bespoke cultural change model for sport which had been developed at Stanford University led by another world visionary

Positive Coaching Alliance was a business model with at that time thirty employees.   Together with Project Manager Clair McDonald he headed to California explored every aspect of their business model, what they did, how they did it, would it work in Scotland and critically how much it would cost to licence.   

Tommy’s reputation preceded him, and his first visit was to Stanford University Sports Department.   Jim Thompson was a giant amongst men a quietly spoken man with a massive dream to spread PCA across the USA.   Being a business lecturer at Stanford,  he knew how to run a business and gradually built his foundation into a scale-able model which could expand across the United States: one city, one state at a time, each new chapter as he called them requiring to be self-funding from delivering workshops and resources to sports clubs combined with philanthropic giving which was massive in the US.

Jim recognised the potential in having a satellite in Scotland.  He was amazed that WSF had managed to secure Tommy Boyle, Master Coach, to lead the programme and agreed to a licence deal with Sir Bill Gemmell.   Tommy says it was a wonderful experience seeing what they had created and experiencing dedicated staff delivering lectures (workshops) to club leaders parents’ coaches and athletes all over California. Everyone was on the same page enthusiastic passionate and driven in their quest to help sport create a better culture in which young people would enjoy the experience stay for longer and critically learn those valuable life lessons through their sport

Tommy remembers the day Tina Seyer took him to Stanford University Sports Department.,  He still says, ” WOW it was heaven for a coach and athlete”.  

13/11/12 – SFA HAMPDEN – GLASGOW – Success Through Effort seminar with Tina Seyer and Alex McLeish

Back in Scotland it was back to the mission select local authorities and one National Governing Body (the biggest football) to pilot the project. Develop a project plan and budget get Board approval and find major sponsors

To say Tommy Boyle was in his element at WSF is a gross understatement, he was now doing what he had always wanted to do using his experience and expertise to help young people in Scotland.   Tommy says it was a wonderful journey, working with a fantastic team with total commitment and support from Sir Bill Gemmell.   Bill and his wife Janice were awesome people, quite unique in their giving to society.   

Bill identified the vision Tommy had and gradually used this to reshape the direction of WSF away from the initial high-performance ideas to the niche of Cultural Change in Scotland.   Tommy says “Bill is a fantastic guy to work with, always amazed me when he would turn up at grass roots workshops and join the audience and just soak it in. We had a very special relationship and I will forever be grateful to him for allowing me to pursue my dream over nine great years at WSF.

My boss for most of the journey was Susan Jackson, a wonderful lady, a rifle shooter, mum and now joint mnaging director at Campion Homes.   See”

Tommy realised that with this support he had to produce results and for the first two year of the pilot he threw himself at the challenge, working long hours, six day a week.   Tommy and Claire recruited Grant Small to manage the Football Pilot in Fife (the SFA regional manager was Mark Munro who is now CEO of Scottish Athletics).

Tommy said “I had a wonderful experience it was tough making headway and tying to help others see what I could see and how it would help them, but that is what I was good at – working with people (coaching)”

The Clackmannanshire Provost and Team

He says, “The pilot local authorities were phased, and I met fantastic people in each, People who made a real difference in their local authority or sport.  

  • Ian Pye from East Renfreshire got it, and he and his team were awesome
  • Jim Fleeting and Andy Gould at the SFA saw the need in football and gave it 100%.   They were tough but wonderful people to work with and together we made a real difference to the culture in football indeed they are still implementing the next generation PCS 2
  • David Maiden was the driver in Fife he was an experienced operator from education and sport and guided us through many difficult situations together with Jen he made it happen wow!
  • Stirling it was Jackie Lynne (once a wee girl at Bellshill YMCA) now Head of School and Community Sport at Sport Scotland.    Together with Gordon Crawford (ex Staff Coach for steeple chase in Scottish athletics, now Swiss National Coach for triathlon, at Elite and U23 levels, Jackie gave a load of advice on how to implement the pilot and Gordon got the coaching bit together they made it happen in Stirling area, also Bob Wylie now sportscotland was appointed as full time PCS Coordinator
  • Glasgow was a tough gig politically however we got there: the first workshops were in Drumchapel and the whole WSF team helped.  It was great.

Tommy worked hard using his own credibility to get the maximum press coverage and his friend, journalist Doug Gillon did several articles, one on a parents Workshop in  East Renfrewshire, which was also covered at length in The Scotsman.

Tommy even got the Minister of Sport aware of PCS.   Tommy, in his capacity as Director of Positive Coaching Scotland, at the Semi-Final Draw for The Scottish Communities League Cup where details of a new partnership between the Scottish Government, the Scottish Football League and the Winning Scotland Foundation to promote the competition’s values of Respect, Responsibility and Tolerance were launched.

                                                                   Launch of Positive Coaching in Stirling with Jim Thomson

After all that work – long hours, travelling not just the length and breadth of Scotland but across the Atlantic, what does Tommy Think now as he reflects on his involvement on other projects at the Winning Sports Foundation?

It was a massive achievement to bring Professor Carol Dweck to Scotland and WSF added mindset to its mission and continues to develop along those lines   ( see   )

Another idea was to work in early years and Tommy spent around six months touring Scotland trying to establish how or if WSF could help in this critical area.   In effect the Scottish government have now increased the provision for early years support, so our gut feel that it did not fit our mission was correct

He says of his time with WSF: “I had a fantastic journey, working with wonderful people, meeting thousands of great people in communities across the country.   However after three attempts I eventually decided to retire and spend more time with my family.   I now love every minute, especially as our two sons are involved in athletics.

You can see some of the many people that he met on this journey if you follow the links below the photograph with Chris Hoy.

The question still hangs in the air though – IS THERE MORE TO COME FROM COACH BOYLE?   

People that Tommy worked with       PCS colleagues     More PCS colleague – mainly football


Tommy Boyle: The Background


Tommy Boyle is a quite remarkable athletics coach with a rather different background to most international coaches.   It is a much richer background in the range of experiences that have contributed to his outlook on life in general and sport in particular: it was certainly not the straightforward progression of many of his peers.    For that reason his early background has to be looked at perhaps more closely than usual.

Family history of running is limited to his grandfather running for Motherwell YMCA as a boy, but there was no athletic role model in his immediate family.   Tommy’s family home was on the edge of village, of Newarthill in Lanarkshire.  Living in the country he, like all the other youngsters around,  did loads of exercise –  bird watching, ferreting rabbits , and so on – and spent most of his time in the open air active in one way or another.   It was all fun to him!  Newarthill is about three miles from Motherwell, and it’s a bit ironic that Wikipedia comments that Newarthill does not have any leisure facility of note.   Tommy as the eldest son in a family of eleven. ran and/or  cycled around 10 miles a day doing a paper round to bring in some added money. This was not unique to him, as he points out, many good endurance athletes in that era did paper or milk rounds.   His early athletics career involved winning some money each year at local gala day sports – a big event in the community! 

Master Thomas Boyle

 There is often some key figure or figures in the development of a sportsman and Tommy encountered several people who helped him on his way.   Encouraged by his Boys Brigade  Captain, Jim Sherwood, to start a Cross Country team, Tommy says of the resulting team, “we developed a great team spirit and they all worked very hard, we did a session on Sunday after bible class and morning service , the caretaker allowed us into the church hall free and I introduced them to a five mile run, we ran 2.5 miles out into country on ash path and ran back  It was a handicapped run and the winner got into bath tub first ,it was tough and I learned the physical and mental advantages of handicapping.”   It would be interesting to know why Jim Sherwood encouraged Tommy in particular to form the team and not any of the other boys.   How did his career develop from there?

Well, he won the series of three races as an individual, and the team won the battalion Cross Country Trophy.    The winner of the races before Tommy was John Graham who went on to great things as a marathon runner.   As a result he was invited to go along to Motherwell YMCA by  Bobby Craigen,  which was full of very good athletes many of whom ran for Scotland: in included runners like the Brown brothers, Bert McKay, Ian McCafferty and a many famous names.   That first training night was very intimidating so he did not go back.   However, he was also invited to join Bellshill YMCA Harriers, the club with which he was always associated, by Johnny Waddell who was the captain in Bellshill Battalion and  secretary of the Bellshill YMCA Harriers,which he had resurrected after many years .

Always one to go that wee bit further, he spoke to his Dad, whom he calls  “my greatest inspiration in life” and he told him to go and speak to Bob Henshaw a train driver from Newarthill ,who was steeped in the Pro Athletics Culture.   Tommy says “as it transpired, he held a youth sport class at the Bellshill Academy, where Bellshill YMCA harriers and football teams trained, so I went along and joined up and really learned so much from Bob.   He was a gentleman and although his expertise was in sprints, he introduced me to the concept of Circuit training he had a holistic approach to  developing young athletes, Physically, Psychologically and Socially – (later to learn these were the pillars of MASTERY Coaching )”

He was a pupil at Dalziel High School (above), class of ’61 his Facebook page tells us, which he says “was a fantastic School and way ahead of its time.  High academic achieving but more important led by a visionary head teacher in Jimmy Scobbie – who developed a fantastic School Culture which encouraged every pupil to participate in school activities even if they were not good at that activity.”   The school was founded in 1902,  James Scobbie was head from 1952 to 1974 and is reported to have greatly enhanced the school’s performances and reputation.   This progress continues to this day – in 2008 it was voted the best school in Scotland.   Tommy describes the head of PE as a legend of his time.   Jimmy Hogg was an ex professional footballer who also had a holistic approach to sport.   The school has its own playing fields at Cleland which are used by several local sports clubs and in the 1960’s they were used for District and Inter-District cross-country races.   Every year a group of pupils went up to there to participate in sport for one afternoon a week, for 12 weeks of the academic year.  Everybody did everything, there were no superstars.   The pupils learned so much doing orienteering, rugby, football, hockey, athletics.   Tommy again: “However, what he was really developing was  character; reinforcing that “winning was success through sustained effort” and that you get out of life what you put in .   The Lanarkshire Schools cross country was held at Cleland estate each year and Jimmy would get the farmer to plough one of the fields at 90 degrees to the direction of running to make it tougher but safe .   He was the guy who ignited the spark which lit the flame of athletics in me,he truly inspired many generations of pupils to “become the very best they could be in sport and life” and many thousands of pupils did including one Tommy Boyle.” 

Tommy frequently talks of learning Life Lessons  and says “One of my great Life Lessons was after winning the school mile, a handicap where girls went off first, then at intervals each year group of boys followed.   I was in second year and to the surprise of everyone this wee guy from nowhere won the big competition  at the school sports.  Next morning I was asked to go along to the head’s office.  I thought for a big well done, however Jimmy Scobbie said  “Well-done Mr Boyle.   However, you did not wear the school uniform.”  I was taught yet another big lesson which I remembered for the rest of my life .

He left School at age 15 as the family needed the money.   This was when he moved from the family home to live in a caravan which was to the rear of his Dad’s house.   Tommy says “My grandfather Alex was a retired miner who had raced pigeons and greyhounds and at night he did a bit of poaching which filled the family pot.   The years spent living with him were massive in my learning: indeed he had a quiet way of educating me on what he had learned from life and, I guess, knocked me into shape through these restless teenage years.   Indeed, he was a giant among men”

Tommy went on to serve his apprenticeship at Colville’s training centre at Mossend  which he regards as a wonderful foundation for the rest of his life in manufacturing.   Little did Tommy know that these years were to inform and shape his career to such a degree that he would eventually become Manufacturing Director in Packard Bell, employing over 500 staff producing 5000 pcs a day.   Tommy says that it was these wise inspirational training instructors who taught a bunch of rebellious teenagers loads of life lessons as well as the technical information.  We began to learn about business processes, the seeds of which grew in my head to shape my coaching and business careers.

He was a member of Bellshill YMCA Harriers from age 14 through until age 20.   He says that he had a wee bit of potential,  “however I only trained three times a week, doing a run and circuits Tuesday and Thursday with either a run or competition on the Saturdays.   It should be pointed out that this was the normal pattern for almost all young runners in the country: two club nights plus Saturday at the club whether racing or not. They were great times, load s of fun – great banter with the YMCA football guys and learning from Bob as he groomed his pro sprinters for Powderhall

“I really enjoyed those years at Bellshill YMCA and was constantly encouraged by the then president Jimmy Love yet another visionary who was also the world YMCA president, we grew the harriers club and had a great deal of success in the younger age groups.

“I remember a few highlights of competition,

  •  Winning the Lanarkshire Track 800  and being selected to compete in the inter-counties; Tom Paterson Shettleston was also in that team
  •  Finishing third in the Scottish YMCA Cross Country and being  selected to run for the Scottish YMCA in Belfast ,I remember the team playing cards to the wee small hours on the ferry over;
  • Getting advice from Andy Brown about how to pace myself , did not run well that day , I think it was all too much for me and only training three times a week was catching up .Jim McKechnie was in the team ;
  • Good memories of medals at Lanarkshire and Scottish YMCA Comps at youth age groups ,
  • I remember running the National CC at Hamilton race course, hundreds of runners – grass was long we turned at the bottom of the hill and I looked up to the finish about one  mile up the hill looked like goal posts.    Tom Paterson and Martin  McMahon passed me like whippets , I think Eddie Knox won that one, but I realised then training three times a week would not cut it !”

When he was 18 he had to work shifts, training became even more difficult and he only did the circuit sessions and road runs to keep fit.

Away from athletics for a moment, reaching the final year of his apprenticeship he was advised by one of the great tradesmen that heavy engineering was dying and it would be best to change my career pathway to Electronics.   He advised that the best way was to join the navy, earn some money  see the world and they would teach him electrical side of engineering.   So he left athletics, joined Shell and went out to the gulf on his first ship.    It was a massive experience.   Tommy lost a stone in weight, saw bit of the world and returned at age 21.   He joined Honeywell Computers starting on the shop floor as an inspector – the first stepping stone on a journey to the top in a very successful career in computing.

At that point he visited Bellshill YMCA to see the guys and when leaving was trapped by Jimmy Love  “who proceeded to lecture me on how the YMCA had taught me so many life lessons and set me on a solid pathway, he also highlighted that I had a great deal to offer if I took up coaching ,he immediately said the YMCA would pay all my coach education expenses if I volunteered one night a week (that was a wee bit stretching what he really had in mind )and he proceeded to get me enrolled at Largs in assistant club course the next month and so the next stage of my journey in athletics started .”   

It was, then, no coincidence that Bellshill YMCA suddenly appeared on cross-country fixture lists in the 1960’s – no doubt due to the efforts of the gentlemen that Tommy has mentioned above.  The SCCU District Relays were held there for four successive years between 1968 and 1971 inclusive, although the actual championships were never held at Bellshill .  District relays and championships were also held at Cleland, as were the inter-counties championships.   The venue was a new one to most runners but they soon discovered that the mud was real mud, and that there were real fences on what were politely referred to as traditional trails.  

Tommy is quite clear about the debt he owes to all the people who helped develop his character and shape his attitudes:  Jim Sherwood, Bob Henshaw, James Scobbie, Jimmy Hogg, John Waddell, Jimmy Love – his grandfather Alex a font of wisdom and his greatest inspiration in life, his Dad.   But they probably all spotted something in as well: why did Jim Sherwood pick  Tommy to organise the cross-country squad?   Why did Jimmy Love home in on Tommy to get into coaching in the first place?   Did they see leadership potential?   Did they see organisational ability?   Regardless, he was now on the coaching ladder while holding down a day job.    

Part Two:  Tommy Boyle as a Coach in Bellshill   Part Three: Tommy Boyle: Master Coach   Part Four:  Tommy Boyle:  Lifecoach     

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Tommy Boyle: Coach

Tommy, having been encouraged by Jimmy Love at Bellshill YMCA to get involved in coaching, did just that.   The first step on the road to becoming a coach at that time was to go to the SAAA Assistant Club Coaching Course which was over two weekends at Inverclyde Sports Centre on the Clyde Coast at Largs.   Coaching qualifications at that time were on three levels: Assistant Club Coach, Club Coach and Senior Coach.      The first of these covered all events and like every coaching course was conducted by a range of coaches,  It was partly theory and partly practical in nature.   Among those attending the course were Ian Robertson and Eddie Taylor   who would also become excellent coaches in their own right, coach British as well as Scottish international athletes and become part of the structure of the sport nationally.   On the staff side, dispensing the knowledge, were ex-National Coach Tony Chapman with Frank Dick, Sandy Robertson and Sean Kyle from Ireland.    Sandy Robertson was a top class coach who would become a major influence on Tommy and he encouraged Tommy to come back and go through the Assistant Club Coach Course for a second time because the information gained was so valuable and could not be totally assimilated in one go-through.   To this day Tommy believes that he learned a lot all the way through his coaching career “listening carefully to knowledgeable people.”   

Back in Bellshill he was coaching at the YMCA – Tuesdays at the YMCA and Thursdays at Bellshill Academy.   There was a team of excellent coaches, not all SAAA qualified, but all very good at what they did.   Men like Willie McWhinnie who worked with 9-11 and 11-13 year olds, Jim McDaid, ex pro footballer who gave the boys a wee game after every session.   Gradually a network of local schools was established to feed children into the club.   Jimmy Graham who was a Primary School teacher and a cross-country enthusiast from Lawmuir Primary School. guided many fine youngsters from a deprived area into the club.   Tommy noted that “Jimmy was fiercely competitive and his team wore T shirts – “You’re running behind a Lawmuir runner.”   Brilliant psychology.  ”   Christine McAllister who had brought her daughter to the club and stayed and became the club treasurer and with her local knowledge ensured that the focus at the club was always on the children.   Tommy himself worked with all age groups and remembers two young runners in particular: Michael Hendry and David Watson.     They finished second and third in the 1972 Senior Boys National Cross-country championship at Edinburgh three and four second respectively behind the winner Mark Watt.   He said there was a procession of talent emerging: athletes like Billy Thomas, gold ar 13-15 499m, Pat Mooty, SAAA silver in 2000m steeplechase abd, like many more, became the best that they could be.   Tommy describes the YMCA at that time as a holistic club, a club that looks after all aspects of the athlete’s life, not concentrating only on the sporting activities.

Among the other athletes that Tommy worked with at this time, top middle distance runner Roy Baillie was one who came to the club at the age of 17 from BB Cross-Country running.   In his first season with the club he ran 800m in 2:08.   Roy ran for Bellshill YMCA and later for Clyde Valley AC.   Born in December 1953, by the age of 19 he was running 400m in 51.2 to be ranked 26th in Scotland.   In the course of his running career he had personal best times of 50.0 (400m), 1:1:51.1 (800m) and 3:56.2 for 1500m.   He also won 4 medals in the SAAA championships.   Tommy learned a lot from working with Roy – he had the theory but he honed his understanding of what produced results at 800m working with an honest athlete  who also helped the club out on all fronts including fund raising, taking the younger runners on the pretraining warm up run.  

The club at this time trained from the YMCA Centre over three basic trails of 1.5, 2.5 and 4 miles and the 4 miles circuit was still being used by Tom McKean and Yvonne Murray when they were among the very best in the world.   They also trained on the Newarthill (ash) track of 325 yards, ie 5 laps to the mile.   There were also two ash football fields which were end to end rather than the usual layout of pitches side by side.   This meant that longer repetitions could be done with long straights available to the coaches for activities such as fartlek sessions and other training practices.   Of course they also ran cross-country in winter and this was where Hendry and Watson trained.   Not having a standard 400 metres track did not stop their progress – their use of the environment and its possibilities was key to the development of the club.   

Roy Baillie, 14, at the start of the Lanarkshire Cross-Country Championship

Another of Tommy’s proteges at this time was Ian Callander – another who would be a medallist in SAAA championships.   A very good 100m/200m runner.   Three years younger than Baillie,  10.9 (100m), 22..3 (200m) and 49.9 (400m).   His father was the local Police Chief Inspector who helped get the YMCA club the use of the police recreation hut.   This became the weight training and speedball facility.   Having got it, Tommy and his teamhad to beg or make weights equipment and was now forced into learning about strength and conditioning.   His weight training Bible was Ron Pickering’s AAA’s booklet on Weight Training.   He still recommends this publication as probably the best single source of information on the topic.   

The Bellshill YMCA people enjoyed developing their club – not having a long tradition as so many other clubs did, they did not have the historical inspiration – but nor did they have the historical baggage that so often goes with it.   They could develop the club as the needs arose and as the athletes required.   The community helped the athletes because there was no pressure and no demands placed on them.   The development of the athlete as a person was the key.   Tommy’s coaching focus at this point was on the sprints as he recognised that to produce top level performers, he had to learn more about sprinting and the development of speed in endurance runners.   He started to produce a series of age group champions in the sprints, athletes like Ian Callander, who later went to Edinburgh University where he trained with Bill Walker and added the 400m to his range of events, there was Mark Sherry who went to Loughborough and trained there with John Anderson.   Sherry, like Callander, was a product of Bellshill Academy.    

As the club developed so did his own coaching.   Greedy for knowledge and any information that would help.   The Track and Sports Centre at Coatbridge had opened by now and in addition to being another training facility it was where Tommy could watch other coaches in action, analyisng what they were doing and incorporating what he felt was appropriate into his own work.   Sprint Coach Jimmy Campbell was one of these working with the McMeekin twins doing high intensity track work and circuit training he became a lifelong mentor for Tommy.   He remembers learning about long intervals by watching Brian McAusland and his group over a complete winter – stop watch in pocket of course.   He was greatly influenced by Bill Walker who thought very similarly to Tommy and had speed at the heart of his training regime, and of course Frank Dick who had a massive influence on the young coach Boyle throughout his career.   Tommy was interested at that time in Speed and Short Endurance and he learned some of the practicalities from Bill and from Frank Dick.   Then there was the whole area of Training Theory.   Frank had just translated the German stuff into Training Theory papers which coaches could understand.   “Gold dust,” says Tommy.   From Sandy Robertson he learned more about holistic training: the belief that all the parts of the athlete’s life are inter connected and can only really be developed as parts of the whole lifestyle.   These beliefs were what Bellshill YMCA and its coaches were trying to do and the information fed in from the community – eg by Christine McAllister and other members of the team – were important factors in this.   The holistic approach to training can be studied in any of the books on Mastery Coaching which are easily available for those interested.   

In 1976, while all this was going on at one level, he was still involved with the intensely practical work at Bellshill where one of the talents was Morag Todd.   Morag was a very good sprinter indeed who had career bests of 7.6 (60m),  12.1 (100m), 24.8 (200m), and as a competitor she won five medals at SAAA Championships both indoors and out.   Frank Rafferty (bests of 10.8 and 22.0) who was later to be head of the Glasgow School of Sport coaching team, was another running for the club at that time.   It was at this point in his coaching career that Tommy’s life was about to change.   The club organised races for the local schools and some good athletes were recruited from them.   A group of six or eight came along together and one of the group was Tom McKean.   

By now Tommy was working in such a way that his charges tended to progress year on year, a steady incremental progress that is always better than a progression that goes in fits and starts – a big jump one year, then no improvement for a couple of years, then (maybe) another jump.  Look at Baillie’s progress over three years in Clyde Valley AAC as an example:

Year 400m 800m
1973 51.2
1974 51.1 1:53.4
1975 50.7 1:52.4
1976 50.0 1:51.1

Tommy talks of his start in coaching and says, “The first 10 years of my coaching career were spent working in the club situation doing all of the tasks which virtually every other coach does at some stage   i.e.  organising, training, raising funds, creating school feeder structures, administration, attending coaching courses.   My involvement in coach education gradually increased until eventually as Group Organiser for Sprints attending National Event Squads and Council of Coaches I found myself well and truly hooked on the athletics treadmill.   The knowledge gained during that period has proved to be a valuable asset which I could not have gained in any other way.”

The Scottish coaching pyramid at the point consisted of a national coach, group coaches for sprints, endurance events, jumps and throws, and event coaches responsible to the group coaches.   eg endurance events had event coaches for 800 & 1500m, 5000 & 10000m, steeplechase, marathon.   Each group – sprints, endurance, etc – had an group organiser who dealt with whatever he and the group coach agreed on.   It was not at the level of event or group coach but it gave the coach access to information, other coaches and activities at national level.   

The connection with Bellshill Academy has been mentioned already.   The club also had links with Cardinal Newman High School where the head of PE, Phil McMahon, was a real enthusiast, a friend of the club and one who sent many young boys along to the club.   One of these was Tom McKean who was one of six or eight who came to train with the club at their Tuesday and Thursday sessions.   He was not the fastest of the group at the time and ran cross-country for the school.   As a 17 year old he just made it into the Scottish Schools training squad where he was told by the coach in charge that he was not fast enough.   This of course had the effect of incentivising the athlete and his coach to prove him wrong.   At this point Tommy was asked by Frank Dick to be the administrative officer for national event coach Bill Walker which gave him contact and a chance to observe such as Allan Wells, Drew McMaster and Cameron Sharp in action.  He was then asked to do some lecturing and this forced him into researching and writing some short papers.   He was also involved in a Scottish Schools residential course at Cramond where he was able to conduct a statistical evaluation of the physical and functional measure of the group.   

Tommy says of young Tom:  “He, like many endurance athletes, was recruited to the club via the feeder cross-country races which we organise for the schools.   One of a group who were motivated enough by the team competitions and varied training to come back, the first hurdle had been crossed.   Although not the best, Tommy was in the cross-country team and managed to win a few medals thus retaining his interest.   I remember he finished 3rd in the Scottish Cross-Country Championships at Glenrothes on six inches of snow, moving from 60th to 3rd in the last 800 metres, and I had to carry him back to the changing rooms.    Yes, he was different – but he was growing like a weed and must not be forced – only to wilt at a later date.”

The run at Glenrothes over a tough, rolling, golf course trail covered with snow was quite remarkable – Tom was in the Junior Boys race and his time was 12:15 – only three seconds behind’s Kilbarchan’s Robert Hawkins and six behind Springburn runner Stuart McPherson.   Just as athletes need to progress towards fulfilling their abilities and ambitions, so must coaches.   Given what we already know about him, Tommy Boyle was always going to progress as a coach: Tom McKean probably accelerated that progress.    The next step in his development as a coach was the narrowing of his focus to coaching at the expense of administration and other activities within the club.    

“I was forced in 1980 to take a very serious look at my commitment to athletics as we were expecting a family.   I asked myself a question which we repeatedly ask our athletes – “What do you want from athletics?”    Answer – “to coach athletes.”   Solution simple – remove everything which was not directly related to coaching.”   The result was that, after a transitional period, I ended up coaching a small group of athletes three times a week, thus allowing for a more balanced lifestyle and one where I was once more able to enjoy the challenge of athletes.

“The next stage was to critically assess the efficiency and effectiveness of my coaching and to ensure that what little time I had was managed in a professional manner.”

Tommy had now  been coaching for some time and was in the position that he had a top class, really top class athlete and had shed all activities extraneous to the actual coaching.   He also, via his appointment as coaching administrator, had access to information and people who could be useful. However, you couldn’t divorce what Tommy from his upbringing and the vision he had of how “Sport was the greatest vehicle there is to develop Character Building Life Lessons” which when delivered over a prolonged period “would help every child to become the very best they could be in sport and life” : this is the golden thread underpinning Tommy’s philosophy towards coaching, and therefore we need to ensure that the thread runs through each part, but manifests itself in different ways .  To get more schools more parent more business aware of the power of sport -however this meant that Tommy had then to be ruthless in the pursuit of excellence with his athletes ,with the big prize in mind .  

It is interesting to note that he tells us that he had no desire to pursue performance coaching in the longer term as so many do and are hooked on the treadmill .   Although Tommy stepped back from the admin stuff in the club in the short term, he always had one eye on how to use the success which would come in the best way possible to help young people in his community and then as we will see in Scotland !

This was Part Two of Tommy’s Profile.   Part One can be seen at  Tommy Boyle: The Background

Tommy presents Bellshill YMCA’s John Waddell with Lifetime Achievement Award





Iain Robertson

Iain with his wife, Linda, in March 1996

Iain Robertson was possibly the best athletics coach that I ever worked with – and I’ve worked with a few.   He helped me make some good athletes better: Sam Wallace, twice British junior indoor 1500m champion twice and also indoor 800m silver medallist in the mid 80’s, and a group of good 800m runners in the early 90’s.   He lectured on SAAA coaching courses at Inverclyde and we met up there as well.  Of this aspect of his work in the sport, Frank Dick, Scottish National Coach at the time, described him as a top-end lecturer on coach education courses, helping shape what was to become the GB programme.   A coach with Scottish teams, including the the Scottish schoolgirls courses.   He worked with and developed some top class athletes: Val Smith in the 1970’s, Angela Bridgeman and Sandra Whittaker in the 1980’s and Mel Neef in the 1990’s, had to be a class act.   Although his full name was Iain Duthie Robertson, he was known to everyone as ‘Rab’.    And of course mention should also be made of Iain’s coaching attire.  
Although always dressed smartly at meetings and matches:  his trademark 1970’s coaching gear of tartan bunnet, anorak (with pockets full of pens, papers, reminders, string and a stopwatch), together with his green Datsun which could most probably have driven to training and conducted the sessions themselves, so frequently were they in attendance.    But unlike most people that I met in the sport, Iain knew when to stop – his priorities altered to demands of personal life and he was able to leave the sport.   He now has a full life away from the sport, even has his own facebook page,  has a sports consultancy company and I am told, does a lot of travelling with his wife Linda.   His athletes still talk about the times they had with Iain as coach and/or team manager and some of their comments are  here .    So while he gets on with life after athletics, we can have a look at his career as a top quality coach.
 Iain back right with (back row):  -Catriona Gardiner  , Malcolm McDougall, and Sandra Whittaker; (front row) Lynne MacDougall, Yvonne Anderson, Debbie Currie ,  Gillian Provan   , Angela Bridgeman.   (Taken at WAAA’s at Crystal Palace after a successful weekend.   Medals all round.)
Hamish Telfer started coaching at the same time as Iain and he says:   “Rab arrived in the late 60s/early 70s at the then Maryhill Ladies Athletics Club.   Both of of us were taken in hand by Jimmy Campbell and we both quickly developed our own squads.  We also worked closely together and quite quickly got some respectable results with some of our athletes (eg. me with Sandra Weider and he with eg. Val Smith) at Junior and Intermediate level.    I departed for England in 1975 so lost a touch a bit, but he went on to coach some very good athletes such as Angela Bridgeman. “
At Maryhill Ladies AC Iain was  encouraged/mentored by Jimmy Campbell  and  a better mentor you could not get.    By the time Alastair Shaw went along to the club in 1975 to help Jimmy with some of his athletes, it had changed its name to Glasgow AC and Iain was chief coach at the club.   Alastair tells us:   “At that time Iain was Chief Coach and, along with a few others, was intent on establishing a businesslike professional approach to coaching and administering within the sport.   I guess this followed in the footsteps of Frank Dick.   However whereas Frank’s expertise was in the academic, Iain’s was in the workplace and he was able to marry the two to great success in the club environment.   When I switched to coaching I immediately received his full support. He also engendered a sense of trust and loyalty in his athletes through his unswerving dedication to their individual improvement, pretty much irrespective of their underlying talent.   This in turn led them to an often punishing physical commitment to improvements that led to the success of so many.    I well remember the dark rainy winter Friday nights spent in the school gym at Westbourne school circuit training with a dedicated squad of 20 or so athletes including Angie, Sandra, Yvonne Anderson, Wilma Addison, to name but a few.    It is these tough sessions, undertaken well out of competition, that pay the real dividends during the summer season.”
 Val Smith winning the WAAA 100m in 1973
Possibly the best measure of success for any coach is the quality of athletes that he developed.
*    Val Smith was mentioned by Hamish.   For an impartial look at her athletics, the July 1975 issue of the now sadly defunct magazine ‘Athletics in Scotland’  wrote: Valerie Smith first appeared in Scottish athletics rankings as a 13-year-old in 1972 with a 13.1w 100 metres clocking.   Since then she has progressed dramatically, leaving behind her an impressive trail of victories and titles till now she stands at the threshold of what is likely to be a highly successful career.   Just turned 16, Valerie (with the possible exception of internationalist clubmate Myra Nimmo – who has her mind on other events) is the leading sprinter in the West District.   Born on 4th April 1959 in Glasgow, Valerie attends Laurel Bank School, Glasgow, and is a member of Maryhill Ladies AC.    Valerie is coached by Uan Robertson, the Maryhill Ladies’ coach.   
Valerie’s stylish running quickly enabled her to make her mark on the Scottish scene.  In 1973 she swept the boards in her age group with wins in Junior West, East v West, Scottish Schools, SWAAA Junior 100 and 200m.   In that year she achieved her most outstanding victory so far (and her most satisfying) when at Kirby she beat the best in Britain to take the UK Junior 100 metres title.   Despite an interrupted 1974 season due to injury Valerie managed to get into the intermediate rankings with times of 12.0 and 24.9.    Back to full fitness this season, she has already taken the West District intermediate 100 and 200m titles (12.5 and 25.5) and the SWAAA National Intermediate sprint double (12.2 and 25.0).   At the time of writing she hopes to do well in the Scottish Schools championships.   Her best times of 1975 are the above mentioned 12.2 and an excellent 24.8 timing in the UK Women’s League in Bristol.   In addition 1975 brought her the Scottish indoor 300 metres title, second place in the British Indoor 60 metres and a first place medal in the SWAAA Senior Medley Relay for Maryhill Ladies.”
*   Wilma Addison who was a Scottish ranked sprinter every year from 1974 to 1978 inclusive and Scottish Schools 100m champion in 1980;
*   Yvonne Anderson who was first ranked nationally at the age of 13 in 1978 and then every year until 1983 at 100m, 200m, 400m and Long Jump; she was Scottish Schools 200m champion in 1980 and second in the Scottish women’s 200m in 1980;
*   Jane Etchells who was a good club standard 100m/200m/long jumper nationally ranked in 1977, 1978 and 1979 with personal bests of 12.2/25.2/ 5.34m
He also coached Leslie Roy, who is now, and has been for some time, one of Scotland’s best, best known and most popular officials.


Sandra Whittaker

Iain’s best ever squad was probably that of the early/mid 1980’s where the remembered names are Sandra Whittaker and Angela Bridgeman.

*   Sandra‘s  career is summed up by statistician Arnold Black who says:  “she ran sub-23.65 seconds (legally) for 200 metres on 21 occasions.    So far (up to October 2016), 12 Scots in total (including Sandra) have run legal sub-23.65 on 58 occasions.   Or to put another way, Sandra bettered 23.65 on 21 occasions – in the 29 years since, sub-23.65 second runs have been achieved by Scottish athletes on 22 occasions.”

Statistically her progress over 200m between 1979 at the age of 16 to Olympic year in 1984 was relentless.   She went from 25.7 seconds in 1979,  to 25.02 in 1980,  to 23.7 in 1981,  to 23.24 in 1982,   to 23.13 in 1983,  and  22.98 in 1984.   No sudden jumps followed by stasis:  regular annual incremental improvement.   Over 100m the record was similar: 12.5 in 1979,  to 12.2 in 1980,  to 12.05 in 1981,  11.81 in  1982, 11.63 in 1983  and 11.6 in Olympic year.     Again we have year-on-year improvement.

Competitively, she won the SWAAA 100m in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1987; the 200 in 1982, 1984 and 1987.    Although there were no GB titles there were medals – second in the UK 200m in 1986 and 1987, third in the UK 100m in 1986.    In the Commonwealth Games in 1986  she was fifth in the 100m, third in the 200m and a member of the 4 x 400m relay team that was fourth; in 1982 where she reached the semi-final of the 200m and was in the relay team that finished third.   She also represented GB in the European Games in 1986 where she reached the final of the 100m and also 200m.

The really big one was the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 where she reached round two of the 200m and the world championships in 1983 where she reached the quarter-finals of the same event.    In the quarter finals she was faced with the eventual winner, Valerie Briscoe-Hooks.   By the end of the race she was one hundredth of a second behind third and fourth who were both clocked at 22.97 and she was eliminated.   There were no places for fastest losers at these Games – the other two British women were slower than Sandra but qualified for the semis.    In Edinburgh in 1986 she was third behind Angela Issajenko of Canada and Kathy Cook of GB.   Issajenko subsequently admitted to using drugs and testified to the Dubin Inquiry where she gave detailed evidence of her drug regime.   Two very hard decisions for coach and athlete to take.    Many coaches might have walked away from the sport at that point but Iain stayed.

*   Angela‘s progress over the same period also showed regular annual improvement.  At 400m, her specialist event, it was 56.5 in ’79, then 54.01, 53.83, 53.03 then a jump up in ’84 to 54.35.    Her progress at 100 (12.5/12.2/11.8/11.7/11.7) and 200m (25.2/23.9/23.7/23.5/23.58) follow the same pattern.

Angela  is a very interesting athlete who was first ranked as a Junior (Under 15) in 1978 for the 100m (15th with 12.9w) and 200m (15th, 27.0w), by 1981 she was number five in the senior 100 rankings, number two in the 200m lists with two of the top six times, and number three in the 400m with eight of the top 20 performances.   The standard was high – the top two in the 400m were Linsey McDonald and Anne Clarkson, and only Sandra was higher in the 200m.    She also had a share of the second fastest 4 x 100m relay and had an eighth place in the long jump.   Quite remarkable for a first year senior.

Glasgow’s Sportsperson of the Year in 1981 when studying bio-chemistry at the University,  in 1982 she won the 100m and 200m at the British Universities Championships.   Approached by David Hemery at her home in Drumchapel with an offer of a sports scholarship to Boston University, she turned it down since she felt that she was too young.   In 1984 she accepted a scholarship to Brigham Young University where she had a successful sports career between 1984 and 1986.   She was an All American indoors in 1986 and set a College record of 23.47 seconds for 200m on 10th May, 1986′ which stood until 2010.

All-Time Rankings (as at November 2016):   Both women are highly ranked in the latest (November 2016) all time ranking lists for Scotland 30 years after they ran the times specified.   At 100m, Sandra is ranked second 10th with 11.5, one tenth behind Helen Golden, and Angela is 18th with 11.77 seconds; at 200m, Sandra is top with 22.98 with Helen second on 23.14, and Angela is eighth with 23.47 seconds; Angela is fourth in the 300m with 37.33 and in the 400 Angela is twelfth with 52.99 seconds.   These are all legal times, wind assisted, downhill, etc are listed separately.

A coincidence that two girls from the same training group are ranked so highly with times so close?   I don’t think so.


Angela Bridgeman (right) in an international at Meadowbank

*   Melanie Neef, one of Scotland’s best ever 400m runners, trained with Iain for several successful years at the start of her career in the early 90’s as a short sprinter (eg British Universities 200m champion in 1991).

The figures have been laboured a bit but any one athlete’s progress is just that – one athlete’s progress.   There are many ‘one-athlete’ coaches, and often enough one top class athlete makes a coach’s reputation.   When you get it happening with several athletes working with the same coach over 20 years or so, you know that the coach is at the very least in touch with both the event and his charges.   Rab was that and more.   Further, many athletes have a sudden big jump in their performance level in one year and then progress no further.   Iain’s athletes tended to improve incrementally year on year with seldom a step back unless  by injury.

Another measure of success is the esteem of his peers and the level of athletics that the coach reaches.   Frank Dick tells us that Iain worked with British squads at least twice:   indoors v Russia/USSR and also at European Indoors in Madrid.    He was also a key staff member at Point Lima College, San Diego when GB Athletics held its first pre-Olympic Holding Camp in 1984  which was actually a first for any GB Sport!

Whatever your measure of a coach’s calibre and the quality of his work you choose, Iain met the standard and even exceeded it.

Iain’s coaching helped these athletes realise their talent and there were others of all standards.   It is interesting and informative to look at how he went about it.

*  Meticulous and detailed in his planning, he has been described as a perfectionist who  paid attention to the planning of the season, to the detail of individual sessions and to the entirety of competitive demands that the athletes could expect to meet.  Everything was planned out to the smallest detail.   Val Smith says that he worked in four year cycles, not just yearly ones.

* Time spent trackside was important to Iain: at one time when he was working in Edinburgh, he made the 90 miles round trip to Glasgow three times a week to work with his girls at Scotstoun or Bellahouston tracks.   An hour each way in the car for each session.    As a contrast, one international coach is quoted as saying “If you see your athlete once a week, that’s good; if you see them twice a week, that’s better; if you see them three times a week you’re not coaching them, you’re nursing them.”   I don’t think it’s a philosophy Iain would have accepted.

*   Sessions and content:   The girls usually trained at Scotstoun on Mondays and Wednesdays; at Westbourne School gym on Fridays in winter and at Bellahouston Park on Sundays.  Angela tells us that he would come to training with a sheet of paper in his hand and the session written on it.  The Sunday sessions could, and usually did, involve weight training then running on the track (then the only all-weather running track in Scotland)  and/or hill running and/or hopping on the steps up to the monument.

*   His attention to detail was legendary: before the Brisbane Games in 1982 he obtained a tape of the Australian starter.    Then   he arranged a race for the women at half time in a big match with the starter’s commands.   Not just a big match but a European Cup game: the Celtic v Ajax tie on 15 September 1982 which had a reported crowd of 57,000 (European Cup, First Round, First Leg which finished 2-2).    There had been such events for men in the 1950’s and 1960’s with races held at half time at Rangers v Celtic at New Year and at Scottish Cup Finals in April.   It was maybe no coincidence that David Hay’s daughter was a member of the club at the time.  The Press  said that Iain had persuaded Jock Stein to put the race on, but whatever the mechanics, the race went on only because the coach decided that the girls needed to the experience of running before big crowds.

*   Nor was he afraid to try new ideas.   For instance, when Val Smith ran at Cosford in 1975, the big name in sprinting was her near-namesake Valeriy Borzov who was experimenting with three point starts.   He encouraged her to experiment with the method and she finished second in the event.

* He travelled all over the country with  his athletes including to all the UK League venues as well as to the championship meetings at London and Cosford.    The gym at Westbourne School was very useful but more was needed for winter training, and Iain tried hard to get an indoor running track in Glasgow with the assistance of Councillor Connie Methven.

Of course this level of input and support does not come without a cost.   Like all coaches at the time, he had to cover almost all of his own costs.  This was pointed up in a paragraph by Doug Gillon when Sandra qualified for the Olympics.   He wrote in June 1984:  “Ian Robertson, the UK 400 metres staff coach from Bearsden who is Sandra’s mentor, is now looking for a sponsor to help him get to Los Angeles as well.   Robertson calculates that he will have spent £8000 in the past two years helping Sandra and his other proteges in Portugal, Holland, Finland, Australia and the USA.”     And we are talking here about a British Staff Coach, not a Scottish one, accompanying an athlete that he was coaching to a major Games where his assistance to other members of the team would have been invaluable.

Great as his contribution to coaching  was, there was more to Iain than that.  A member of the Glasgow AC Committee he was chief coach for a number of years and worked as team manager too, travelling to all the UK League venues with the girls.

Alastair Shaw comments:

“Like me he got easily bored actually attending athletics meetings and took on tasks rather than sit about watching. Not only that but once he had the measure of a task he often took on extra duties at many meetings, mostly to satisfy his desire to be stretched. This I remember occasions when he was both stadium manager and announcer at fairly big events where two incumbents would have been the norm.”

 He was also well known for having a ‘fantastic sense of humour’ and made sure that in amongst all the serious stuff everyone enjoyed what they were doing.   He also played the clarinet: often on bus trips south he would take it with him and play it with a couple of others who took their instruments as well.    Described as “a very good team manager – he would have made a good football team manager for the quality of the team talks he gave before events.   Very inspirational”    

Evelyn Smith, Val’s mother, became a top ranked administrator and also became club president and vice-president of the UK women’s league.   Iain accompanied her to most league committee meetings and she even hosted the monthly club coaching committee meetings.   She puts this all down to Iain’s influence.

He worked as an accountant at Tarmac in Pollokshields in Glasgow and then at Cobban & Lironi, a Glasgow firm of architects. He left them to work for sportscotland and, being married with family responsibilities, he just did not have the time to continue.   Given the time he spent on coaching and on his athletes that is understandable.


Leslie Roy discovered an article in the Glasgow ‘Evening Times dated 22nd February, 1983 which, under a headline of “ROBERTSON’S RHYTHM OF LIFE: I’m devoted to athletics says Britain’s unsung hero”, reads:

“Iain Robertson is a member of the Syd Lawrence Appreciation Society.   So, if anyone is in the mood to maintain the exhilarating momentum in British athletics, it has to be the Glasgow computer operations manager.   Football was the main young enjoyment for Iain who now confesses, “all my time outside business interests is devoted to athletics.”   

He broke his leg and elbow playing for Killermont Amateurs, and although he started coaching with the club, ” I had an urge for athletics.”   The former Bearsden Academy student went back to the sport “where I’d been a sprinter of sorts” and joined the coaching staff of Maryhill Ladies AC in 1979.   It was the year of the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games and now Iain prepares for the greatest festival of all – the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

As the British Board events coach for the 400 metres, he is one of those men who take the fanfare-seekers through their all important rehearsals.   “I try to do a professional job in an amateur sport,” says the man who gathered most of his knowledge from working with Frank Dick (now Britain’s director of coaching) and Glasgow’s able Jimmy Campbell – “my motivating forces.”   

Iain became Maryhill’s chief coach nine years ago and continued his role after the club became Glasgow AC.   At last season’s Scottish Championships he pulled off a memorable hat trick of successes when Sandra Whittaker (100m and 2oom) and Angela Bridgman (400m) collected national titles.   And his expertise came in useful for Scotland at Brisbane’s Commonwealth Games.   It was two years ago when Iain realised that athletics had taken over the rhythm and the swing of his life.   He missed a Syd Lawrence concert in Lochgelly to lead a coaching session.   Now he’s entitled to blow his own trumpet.”

Coach, committee man, team manager, official and administrator, Iain Robertson contributed mightily to Scottish athletics.   But the last word should go to his athletes.

Val: His commitment and contribution to his athletes was second to none.   He encouraged the best from his athletes, and was an extremely dynamic and motivational coach.   It was an absolute privilege to be coached by him.”

Angela:   “He was more than a “just a coach” he was a mentor and good friend. I basically grew up under his influence. I learned many lessons from him that have helped me be successful in my life.”


Natural ability is a factor, but Rab’s training.   I was so fortunate to be in his group.   He was into all the intricacies, and I was so lucky to be in his group.   His expertise took me to the top” 

For the complete comments, go  here

When we caught up with Iain and spoke to him he was very direct and honest about his approach to coaching and training and to read what he had to say just go to The Iain Robertson Interview and for an overview of all the other athletics (and sporting) involvement have a wee look at The Iain Robertson File  .

After Club Championships at Scotstoun:

L to R: Yvonne Anderson, Sandra Whittaker, Iain, Catriona Gardiner (intermediate champion) and Angela Bridgeman (Senior Champion) 

George Sinclair

Octavians Balmoral

Ian Grant, John Jones, Rab Foreman, George Sinclair, Ken Hutcheson, Tom Tait and John Turnbull

George Sinclair is one of the best – and at the same time one of the least known – coaches in the country.   He has worked with several of the very best athletes the country has produced.   As an announcer, his voice  has been heard and listened closely to by almost everyone in Scottish athletics: he was employed in that capacity at the Commonwealth Games.  He is however almost unknown outside Edinburgh

A pupil at George Heriot’s School all the way up from primary  to secondary level George competed for them as a sprinter and high jumper.    In 1971, his enthusiasm for the sport, led to him being one of the founders of the very successful Octavians Athletic Club.


George is on the extreme right of the middle row

Octavians was formed in 1962 and was an amalgamation of eight of the Edinburgh fee paying’ schools, former pupils athletic clubs.    Due to falling numbers and a consequent drop in standards, representatives of George Heriot’s School , Royal High School , Daniel Stewart’s College, Trinity Academy , George Watson’s College, Edinburgh Academy, Boroughmuir High Schoo and Melville College met and the club was formed.   George was the club president.  Members were to include two Olympians (David Stevenson and David Jenkins), Commonwealth Games athletes (add John Jones and Ian Grant), GB internationalists (add Bob Hay, Adrian Weatherhead, Gordon Rule and Frank Dick) and many Scottish internationalists.   There is a comprehensive list of members at their website (address below).

Octavians produced, or developed, many quite outstanding athletes.   Robin Morris, a pupil at George Watson’s,  was one of the early members of the club, running for Octavians before he left school in 1967 in the Scottish National League at the new track at Grangemouth as well as turning out in Trophy Meetings for the club.   George ran the Post Office at Goldenacre and coached many internationalists from the Edinburgh Southern Harriers club at Saughton and Fernieside as well as advising many young members.     Robin also tells us that the club moved to start training at New Meadowbank before the stadium was officially opened in 1970 but two of his biggest memories of Octavians were  winning the Land of Burns Trophy at Dam Park in 1969 and the formal winding up dinner at the Balmoral Hotel !

Octavians LoB

The ‘Land O’Burns Trophy winning team:

Back row: Donald Burr (team manager), John Turnbull, A.N.Other, Peter Burgess, Tony Hogarth, Mike Bathgate. Front row: Tommy Tait, Stewart Seale, Adrian Weatherhead, Robin Morris.

Distinguished international middle and long distance runner Adrian Weatherhead says that George was the first coach to give him advice when he joined Octavians in 1963.   Adrian goes on to say that George also coached Tony Hogarth and Tommy Tait:

*  Adrian was a sub four miler, GB and Scotland international runner indoors and out, on the track and over the country;

*   Tony won 5 SAAA hurdles titles over 110m, 120 yards and 440 yards between 1964 and 1969;

*   Tommy was a top class sprinter, hurdler and long jumper with a long career going from 1960 to 1975.

and of course there were others.

The success of the club can be easily seen by checking out the ranking lists and international team personnel of the period.    There was an emphasis on the explosive and technical events – other than Adrian, their representation in the distance events was scanty.   If we take, as an example, the lists of 1969 we see that George’s athlete Tony Hogarth had six of the top eight times for 110m hurdles and seven of the top 21 as well as winning the Scottish and East District championships; in the pole vault, David Stevenson and Stewart Seale had the top ten times between them, Peter Burgess had first, fourth, sixth and seventh decathlon performances, Adrian Weatherhead was ranked in 800m/1500m/Mile, 3000m and 5000m, and the list indicates Octavians ranked in the 100m (3), 200m (1), 400m (4), 800m (1), 1500m (1), 5000m (1), 110m H (4), 400m H (3), HJ (1), PV (5), LJ (2), TJ (-), Discus (2), Hammer (-), Javelin (1), and Decathlon (3).

George’s athletes contributed strongly to these performances – Hogarth was the stand out of course topping the all-time lists, winning the SAAA Championships, almost monopolising the ranking lists, Tommy Tait was ranked in 100m, 200m, 400m, and ran in both relays.

With the standard within the club so high, why did the club fold up only two years later?   The Octavians AC website is at and it tells us that –

The Club became a victim of its own success, as the team was principally made up of District and National Champions and both Scottish and G.B. Internationals, as a result youngsters found that they could not get into the team; so they went elsewhere.   The Club folded in 1971 then, after providing two trophies – one in the form of a baton for the Octavian Relays  at Grangemouth, the other a Sword to be awarded annually at the Carnethy Hill Race meeting ( won by club member Robin Morris)”   

The photograph at the top of the page was taken at  the wind-up Dinner on 16th December 1971 at the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh.   Members of the club then went in the main to one or other of the two big clubs in the capital, with George joining up with Edinburgh Southern Harriers.

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Helen Golden

Edinburgh had many athletic clubs at this point but two big ones: the newer Edinburgh AC (established in 1962) challenging the dominant Edinburgh Southern Harriers which was one of the very best Scottish clubs.  When Octavians went out of business their funds went to Edinburgh AC and their name was perpetuated in the very successful but now defunct Octavian Relays Meeting run by EAC.

George continued to coach athletes very successfully and one of the very best was Helen Golden, British and Scottish sprinter of very high quality indeed right from the very start as a girl running for ESH in 1965 until she retired from sprinting  in 1980.   The range of George’s coaching talents has already been indicated – sprints, hurdles, middle distance, long and triple jumps have all been mentioned already and another top class athlete who came under his influence was Anne Purvis.

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Scottish 4 x 400 relay team, 1982: Lynsey McDonald, Angela Bridgman, Anne Clarkson (Purvis), Sandra Whittaker.

She says, “I started training with George when I was 14 in 1973.  He was then Head Coach of Edinburgh Southern Harriers.   He coached a number of athletes from sprints to Middle Distance.   The athletes I trained with then were Helen Golden, Mary Munroe, Annie Littlejohn, Elaine Douglas and Fiona Macaulay.

George did not believe in over-training young athletes, so I only trained at a maximum of 3 times a week which gradually increased over the years eventually 6 days a week often twice a day. His training was always specifically targeted for competition either club, championships or international.   George was always keen to learn as a coach and apply new ideas to your training.   He always attended the Coaches Conventions organised by Frank Dick and would listen to other coaches.    

He was also happy for you to train with other coaches as he arranged training sessions for me with Donny McLeod’s squad for elastic strength work in the winter and Bill Walker’s squad for quality sessions in the summer.    Over the years a number of other athletes came to him for coaching including  Katherine Shepperd  and Fiona Hargreaves.    All the athletes I have mentioned became Scottish Internationalists, some also competing for Great Britain.

As a coach he was always very fair giving advice equally when he had two athletes in the same event. In the winter we did gym and weight sessions, stair sessions, hopping and bounding as well as the cardio vascular work required for the summer season. In the summer his training sessions were planned and tailored to fit the competition you were peaking for and to deal with the requirements of an eight hundred metres. He always expected you to compete for the Club as it was extremely important to him. If things were not going well he looked for ways to encourage you and keep you interested in the sport. Finally I remember he always said that sport was only a part of your life and that first and foremost you should enjoy it.”

That contribution tells us a lot about George and what made him such a good coach:

*an openness to new ideas and also a desire to seek out information to help;

* sharing his athletes with other coaches when he thought it would benefit them.   The expression about ‘the athlete should never be restricted by the coach’s limitations’ seemed to have been heartily endorsed by George.

* treating his athletes as individuals, even when they were competing against each other in the same events;

* a sense of proportion.

How did that philosophy show up in practice?   In athletics the yardstick must be quality of performance.   Taking the 1975 athletics yearbook as an example we can look at the 1974 season.   The women mentioned by Anne above all performed superbly well.

*   Helen Golden had to be the stand out performer – the top 21 performances over 100m by a Scot, the top 21 performances by a Scot over 200m plus competition success for her club, for Scotland and for Britain winning races in all these colours.   First year intermediate that season

*   Elaine Douglas was third ranked in 100m and second in 200m.

*   Anne Littlejohn had the top six 400m times and seven of the first eight.

*   Anne Clarkson was also an Intermediate and had 5 of the top 20 400m performances, and was also ranked at 100m and 200m but made a major breakthrough at 800m when she ran 2:08.8 at the age of 15.

*   Fiona McAulay was fourth fastest Scottish woman – and she was also an Intermediate that year.

*  Fiona Hargreaves had pb’s of 23.8 for 200m, 53.34 for 400m,  2>11.1 for 800m.   She ran in the ’86 bCommonwealth Games in the 400m and 4 x 400m relay.

*   Kathryn Shepherd was a top talent at events from 800m upwards and won the SWAAA 3000m in 1982 and was third in 1984.

The Inters all went on to excellent careers in the sport – Anne Clarkson’s was maybe particularly noteworthy.   George was also known to be a top class coach for relay teams.    His work with the sprinters and relays – the ESH time of 45.2 secs when they won the WAAA title at Crystal Palace in 1970 is the standout: it was faster than the Scottish team managed in the Commonwealth Games later that year (although the order was changed and one of them which wasn’t selected).


His credentials as a coach were well established but like all talented individuals he worked well on club committees and also represented the club on other bodies.   Like most coaches and officials with an interest in the good of the sport, he is a man of strong opinions and among the topics easily found to indicate this on the internet was the following.   In 1987 there was a move to create a ‘pyramid of provision’  for athletics in Edinburgh but it was seriously opposed by the athletic community for whom George was one of the strongest voices.   There is an article by Brian Meek in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ of 18th March that year outlining his views, and it can be seen at :,4300821&hl=en

George was also a member of Edinburgh Sports Forum.2007, a body involved in athletics provision and government not only in Edinburgh but at a national level as well.   After much re-organisation and various club combinations, there was at last a single club for Edinburgh which is currently Edinburgh AC and it encompasses both the former Edinburgh AC and Southern Harriers.   In recognition of his contribution to the club George was made an honorary life member in 2002.

The profile indicates what an excellent coach George was, how highly respected by his athletes and fellow coaches he is and his total involvement in the sport.   He really should be better known.


Some Summit Results: Summer 2016

Jim McL

Jim McLatchie with some of the girls who did so well: 

Next to him is Sarah Reeves – won the 800m and anchored the 4 x 400m, in front row right is Kelsey (7th 800m), Taylor (4th 800), Hannah (in black, 2nd 1500, 2nd 3000), Emma (beside Hannah, 3rd 800, lead-off 4 x 400), Olivia (1st 1500 & 3000).

1st  3rd &7th – 800

1st, 2nd & 4th – 1500

1st and 2nd 3000


800 Meters  5A – Finals x
1. 12 Caleb Hoffmann 1:53.64a Bend
2. 12 Nolan Bylenga 1:56.78a Pendleton
3. 10 Jerik Embleton 1:57.06a Marist
4. 11 Isaac Wilson 1:57.55a Crescent Valley
5. 12 Hayden Earl 1:58.40a Hermiston
6. 10 Ian Rinefort 1:59.11a Ashland
7. 11 Ryan Hugie 1:59.77a Lebanon
8. 11 Scott Kinkade 2:00.45a Summit
9. 10 Derek Tripp 2:01.13a Crater
10. 11 Griff Hokanson 2:02.31a Crater
11. 12 Raleigh Slyman 2:04.11a La Salle Prep
12. 12 Cameron Quenzer 2:10.22a Wilsonville
1500 Meters  5A – Finals x
1. 10 Andy Monroe 3:57.86a Crater
2. 12 Walter Vail 3:58.05a Crater
3. 10 Jerik Embleton 4:00.32a Marist
4. 12 Alex Martin 4:01.57a Summit
5. 10 Derek Tripp 4:02.68a Crater
6. 11 Michael Callaway 4:04.96a Sandy
7. 12 Justin Crosswhite 4:06.06a Hood River Valley
8. 12 Merle Nye 4:09.10a Bend
9. 12 Sam Roth 4:09.36a Silverton
10. 10 Nicholas Whitaker 4:10.66a Wilsonville
11. 10 Isaac Sanchez 4:18.49a Hermiston
12. 11 Doug Burris 4:19.70a Corvallis
3000 Meters  5A – Finals x
1. 10 Andy Monroe 8:55.05a Crater
2. 12 Walter Vail 8:55.34a Crater
3. 12 Alex Martin 8:56.68a Summit
4. 12 Justin Crosswhite 9:01.79a Hood River Valley
5. 9 Jantz Tostenson 9:03.13a Crater
6. 11 Michael Callaway 9:03.84a Sandy
7. 10 Albert Hesse 9:08.13a Ridgeview
8. 10 Nicholas Whitaker 9:11.11a Wilsonville
9. 12 Quinn Fetkenhour 9:17.64a Hood River Valley
10. 12 Ryan Helbling 9:22.83a Marist
11. 10 Ian Vickstrom 9:23.27a Corvallis
12. 9 Trevor Cross 9:37.70a Dallas

Meters  5A – Finals x

1. 11 Sarah Reeves 2:14.90a Summit
2. 12 Talya Holenstein 2:14.98a La Salle Prep
3. 11 Emma Stevenson 2:15.21a Summit
4. 12 Maddie Fuhrman 2:16.98a Silverton
5. 12 Emily Bechen 2:17.00a Churchill
6. 11 Josie Hanna 2:18.85a St Helens
7. 10 Kelsey Washenberger 2:20.99a Summit
8. 9 Jori Paradis 2:21.28a Silverton
9. 12 Macey Foley 2:21.93a Hermiston
10. 11 Grace Perkins 2:22.16a Bend
11. 10 Ariana Marks 2:22.16a Eagle Point
12. 12 Taryn Sokoloski 2:22.40a Pendleton
1500 Meters  5A – Finals x
1. 11 Olivia Brooks 4:38.23a Summit
2. 10 Hannah Tobiason 4:38.24a Summit
3. 12 Jordan Monroe 4:39.25a Crater
4. 10 Taylor Vandenborn 4:39.67a Summit
5. 12 Rachel Khaw 4:41.87a Liberty
6. 12 Maddie Fuhrman 4:41.94a Silverton
7. 10 McKenna Henke 4:51.55a Crescent Valley
8. 10 Ariana Marks 4:52.30a Eagle Point
9. 9 Geneva Wolfe 4:59.02a Corvallis
10. 12 Delaney Clem 4:59.19a Pendleton
11. 10 Brooklyn Stenstrom 5:09.43a Wilsonville
12. 10 Melany Solorio 5:12.86a Hermiston
3000 Meters  5A – Finals x
1. 11 Olivia Brooks 10:10.17a Summit
2. 10 Hannah Tobiason 10:12.96a Summit
3. 12 Jordan Monroe 10:15.57a Crater
4. 12 Rachel Khaw 10:29.89a Liberty
5. 9 Kelsey Swenson 10:31.60a Mountain View (OR)
6. 11 Grace Perkins 10:33.61a Bend
7. 12 Delaney Clem 10:35.57a Pendleton
8. 10 Brooklyn Stenstrom 10:39.93a Wilsonville
9. 10 McKenna Henke 10:44.62a Crescent Valley
10. 10 Hannah Mason 10:45.29a Lebanon
11. 9 Hazel Richards 11:12.13a Ashland
12. 12 Lauren Robinson 11:15.46a Hood River Valley
13. 10 Melany Solorio


The results are as usual very interesting – clearly some very talented young men and women but it is also very clear that they have been well organised and trained leading in to the events in which they all do well.   Coach McLatchie has been good enough to send on some of the sessions that they did before the State championships and we have then below.

MO 4X400 REST-3/2/1 MIN/ JOG 5M/ 4X200 – REST 3/2/1 MIN
MP 1600/ 8MR/1200/1MR/ 400
M6 2X(4X200 3MR) 10 MIN SETS


5/14/2016 MO ALEX M 65 66 66 66/ 30 30 30 30
5/14/2016 MO SCOTTY 65 66 66 66/ 30 30 30 30
5/14/2016 MO OLIVIA 71 70 71 71/ 33 32 32 32
5/14/2016 MO SARAH 72 75 77 83/ 34 32 34 34
5/14/2016 MO EMMA 72 70 71 71/ 33 32 32 32
5/14/2016 MO HANNAH 72 72 74 71/ 34 32 34 34
5/14/2016 MO KELSEY 73 72 74 71/ 34 32 32 34
5/14/2016 MO TAYLOR 73 72 74 71/ 34 32 32 34
5/16/2016 MP ALEX M 4.46 2.26(DNF) 62
5/16/2016 MP OLIVIA 5.19 3.57 71
5/16/2016 MP HANNAH 5.24 4.04 76
5/16/2016 M6 SCOTTY 26 28 28 29/ 28 28 28 27
5/16/2016 M6 SARAH 31 30 30 29/ 29 29 29 29
5/16/2016 M6 EMMA 31 30 30 29/ 29 29 29 29
5/16/2016 M6 KELSEY 31 32 32 32/ 30 31 31 30
5/16/2016 M6 TAYLOR 31 32 32 32/ 30 31 31 30