Hamish Telfer




Hamish 1 TurinHamish, on right of GB University team,  en route to Turin for World Cross-Country Championship

Scotland has produced many very gifted coaches in recent years and the names of John Anderson, Frank Dick, Tom McNab and Tommy Boyle are exceptionally well known.    Hamish Telfer – Dr Hamish Telfer – is another very good and successful coach from north of the border and is well respected by his peers but is not all that well known in Scotland itself.   Like the others mentioned, he is well educated and is at home discussing the intricacies of coaching theory, like the others he is totally dedicated to sport and has spent countless hours working with athletes of all standards, like them he has worked extensively in the field of sports education and his expertise has helped performers in a wide range of sports.   These are all reasons why we should know a bit more about him.

Hamish Telfer was born on the south side of Glasgow in 1950 and brought up in Glasgow where he was educated first of all at Carolside Primary School, and then at Queens Park Senior Secondary School – another similarity because John Anderson had also been a pupil there.  He lived in the Clarkston, Whitecraigs and Giffnock areas until 1961.  Like all boys in Glasgow he played mainly  football, indeed for a short time he was attached to Queens Park Football Club where was a ball boy for the club and for the SFA.   But he was also interested in and involved in athletics, after a friend invited him to go along to the West of Scotland Harriers club.   He met Cameron McNeish, better known now as a noted outdoors man, hill walker and climber and they were coached by John Anderson.   Hamish says that Cameron was picked up by John who realised that they were a good team and therefore  included Hamish in the group.   They trained hard from  about the ages of 15/17 and he remembers a particular session in a snowstorm with Hugh Baillie, Dunky Middleton, Hugh Barrow and Bob Lawrie among others.   Both boys started ‘serious’ training about 16 with weights sessions at Springburn Sports Centre,  Sunday Grangemouth sessions and training after school.  While he did have a life outside of the sport, it was more about training and competing all over Scotland.  Did the usual Highland Games circuit of youth handicap races in addition to local and national championships and also went around the country with John as his ‘demonstrators’ for coaching courses

Cameron explains the beginnings:

“I first met Hamish when we both joined the West of Scotland Harriers circa 1964/65. The club was looked after by a lovely old gent by the name of Johnny Todd who took Hamish and I under his wing. 

West of Scotland Harriers was predominantly a cross country running club and although Hamish and I considered ourselves sprinters we were encouraged to become involved in everything that was going on at the club, no bad thing for youngsters. That included winter Saturdays at the Stannalane running track near the Rouken Glen where we went cross country running with some fine old timers whose names I’ve forgotten (Hamish will remember). Included in our group was another young athlete who went on to become a Scottish international 400 metre runner by the name of Ian Walker. Ian is now a fairly well known and established folk singer, and we all still keep in touch. 

Hamish and I have very fond memories of dank, wintry Saturday afternoons at Stannalane. We probably ran between 5 and 10 miles, mostly around the Barrhead waterworks, and on our return to the ‘pavilion’ – a basic wooden shack, we all had to share one shower to scrape all the cow shit off us! That was followed by a cup of tea and a tea biscuit for which we all donated, if I remember correctly, tuppence!

It was all very Alf Tupper’ish and we absolutely loved it. At that time Hamish showed some promise as a cross country runner and he and I used to finish reasonably highly in Under-15 cross country events, although the lads of Shettleston and Springburn Harriers usually dominated …. “

We used to go for long runs together as lads. Although I was specifically training as a long jumper Hamish was always happy to do some sprints training with me and I was always willing to go for some long runs with him. We both simply loved athletics and we both loved training, even before we met John Anderson. We did a lot of sprints training on the grass in Queen’s Park, near to Hamish’s parents home in Langside.

As a long jumper Hamish was always happy to do some sprints training with me and I was always willing to go for some long runs with him. We both simply loved athletics and we both loved training, even before we met John Anderson. We did a lot of sprints training on the grass in Queen’s Park, near to Hamish’s parents home in Langside  …. “

“We met John Anderson at a schoolboys Easter training camp at Inverclyde. He took us under his wing and we often travelled out to Hamilton where John lived with his first wife Christine to help him collate training films and such like. On one later occasion, when we were both 17 I had bought a Honda motor bike but Hamish had splashed out on a wee scooter-type thing which barely went about 15-20mph. We both decided to go out to Hamilton to visit the Andersons on a particularly cold winter day. I got to Earnock about an hour before Hamish and when he appeared Christine had to take him into the house, place him in front of the fire, and thaw him out. I reckon he was suffering the first stages of hypothermia! 

Our weekends were entirely taken up with training – usually meeting Anderson somewhere and then going to the new all weather running track at Grangemouth Stadium. Later on that changed to Meadowbank in Edinburgh. We were in an excellent group of athletes that John coached that included Scottish shot put champion Moira Kerr, hurdler Lindy Carruthers (her mother was a coach with Maryhill Ladies, but more of that later) 400m runner David Jenkins (later became infamous as a drug cheat but we always called him Gwendoline – can’t really remember why…) the decathlete Stewart McCallum, middle distance runners Dunky Middleton and Graeme Grant. There were others but I can’t remember them now

Hamish and I were training partners to some noted Maryhill Ladies athletes such as Avril Beattie and we benefitted from the extra training opportunities that training with the girls of Maryhill Ladies brought (eg Friday evening indoor gym sessions). By now my parents had moved and I had left West of Scotland to join Bellahouston Harriers but Hamish remained very faithful to West of Scotland Harriers. But it was Maryhill Ladies where his coaching would eventually start.”

How does Hamish himself remember these early days?   He was  asked to complete the questionnaire.

Hamish the younger

Hamish with Diana Brown and Jeanetta McPherson at Bellahouston in the Maryhill coaching days

Name: Hamish Telfer

Club/s: West of Scotland Harriers (coached with Maryhill Ladies AC)

Date of Birth:    28th April 1950

Occupation:    University Lecturer

How did you get into the sport initially?  “Ran for my Primary School in the relay team; then secondary school then joined West of Scotland Harriers.”

Personal Bests?  “55.9 for 400m indoors at Cosford in 1967; 4m 12 for 1500 aged 18 – all very modest.”

Has any individual or group had a marked effect on either your attitude to the sport or your performances?

“I owe a great deal to the late John Todd of WSH and almost everything to John Anderson former Scottish National Coach who coached me from age 15 to 21.  Must thank the late Jimmy Campbell and also Frank Dick for getting me started in coaching.  Jimmy was a great inspiration.  Later in my career there were a number of individuals from other sports from whom I learned but I have a particular affection and respect for both Bill Walker and Peter Warden in athletics and the late Geoff Gleeson (former GB National Coach for Judo) –  all very wise and intelligent coaches.”

What do you consider your best ever performance as a runner?

 “Not many but being in the WSH team that placed 3rd in the Scottish Youth XC Champs; that 400m indoors at the age of 16 and possibly the struggle to break 3hrs at Marathon in later life.  As a coach – my first athlete Sandra Auld (nee Weider 100/LJ) with whom I made so many mistakes in coaching without realising; watching Lucy Elliott smash the English Schools 400mH record to win the Seniors and get her first England vest; Steve Watson win BUSA 10k track Champs; Rona Elliott(nee Livingston) over 400; Brenda Walker running at the Auckland Comm. Games in 1990; John and Suzanne Rigg over 400/800 and marathon respectively and probably all my athletes who always gave everything and why I had so much fun coaching. My contributions to coach education across the UK.  Oh …. and the 5 World Championship wins with my GB teams in the World University XC Champs. from 1992 to 2004.”

What did you do apart from running to relax?

“Worked; brought up my daughter after my wife died; coach education work both in England and Scotland; hill walking and trekking; music (all sorts); reading – Scottish political history; philosophy and ethics and now cycling and cycle touring and at the age of (almost) 65, triathlon training.”

What goals do you have that are still unachieved?

“Very few.  Probably to destroy all the other old gits in my first Tri and complete the Munros (only 20 odd to do).  Keep cycling all over Europe.”

Can you give details of your training?

More to do with my coaching and principles.  Take care in developing the background for development; share your thoughts with your athletes on training and competition; develop a real ‘I can do anything’ mentality; immerse yourself and show them that you and them are a ‘team’ working to a common goal; have loads of fun; never be afraid to make mistakes and more importantly admit the cock ups; always remember that you will get to a point where the more you know – the more you know what you don’t know! Be reflective.”  

Do you have any thoughts on current training and/or racing theories that you would care to pass on?   

“I have always been a believer in good all round conditioning.  All my endurance athletes for example went through coordination drills and agility work (with varying degrees of gracefulness and competency!); winter background conditioning was a very clear emphasis with me as it laid the foundations; I used a lot of basic exercises using the upper body as well as trunk; on track I guess I was not so different from other coaches other than I spent huge amounts of time getting my athletes into the frame of mind that anything was possible and doing this through high intensity work, modifying volume and duration as I thought necessary.”

What changes would you like to see in the sport?

“More of the coach focused approach which we are ‘told’ about actually happening; more attention paid to supporting clubs; a recognition that our population of children coming in to the sport are qualitatively and certainly ‘quantitatively’ different!  It is now taking longer to get children and young people into a shape where they can even train competently.”

You also did some hill/mountain running.   How did that come about?

“That was entirely the fault of my mate Cameron McNeish.  We once did some local hill running as athletes because he thought it ‘would be a good idea’ (like his good idea to run to his aunty’s in Langbank and back from his house in Glasgow when we were schoolboys – 18 miles in one evening – I had rigor mortis for 2 weeks!).  Later, in our early 30s he phoned me out of the blue and asked me to partner him in the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon.  While I died the death of a thousand dogs we did manage to win a sub category.  Run most of the Scottish hills for fun after that.”   

_____________________________________________Hamish 4 lecturing

Hamish as a young National Coach delivering a session at Crystal Palace in 1976

We should maybe go back to what happened to Hamish after Maryhill Harriers and into employment.   Cameron tells us that Hamish first thought about joining the police force, then decided to stay on at school and become a banker.  Hamish tells the tale.   “School and education eventually kicked in for me just as it was perhaps getting too late!  After a disastrous series of O grades (just 3!) I stayed on at school after getting rejected for the Police Cadets (lack of height) and did my Highers.  Cammie got in to the Police Cadets and I got enough Highers to get in to the Scottish School of PE at Jordanhill after a short spell in a bank as a bank apprentice.”

Hamish kept on competing and usually made the finals in the Scottish championships.   He stepped up to the 800/1500m just as he left school and during the 1968 Olympics while doing his Highers, he changed his body clock to be able to go to school, do his paper round, eat, sleep and do his homework AND be able to watch the Olympics on TV every night.   John had asked him to get the miles in before he came back from Mexico City so Hamish ran 1000 miles in three months because he thought it would be ‘a good thing,’    Unfortunately during his first year at Jordanhill he had a bad knee injury (in 1970 – his knee cap came out of joint), and John encouraged him to start coaching.   He also started hill walking with Cammie and developed a love of the outdoors and canoeing.   He even joined the Lomond Mountaineering Club and became their secretary for a while.   The coaching developed, he graduated from Jordanhill and by that time he had a group of athletes including Sandra Weider, Mary Ingram, Lynn Doran, Jeanetta McPherson and a few others.   He teamed up with Iain (Rab) Robertson and Jimmy Campbell at this point – a better pair of coaches you couldn’t find.    


Hamish T 1

It was hard work at Jordanhill  –  ‘and Hamish worked bloody hard’, says Cameron, to gain the qualification, and left with a Dip. Phys.Ed with a merit in Education.    During his last years at College, Hamish ‘consumed information as if there was no tomorrow’.   He did have time though to represent the College at Volleyball and Hockey: although he is rather dismissive of the standard he reached, he was given half colours.   Graduating in 1973, he decided not to teach in the Glasgow local authority but taught instead in St Columba’s High School in Greenock.   Those were the days when teachers on graduation ‘interviewed the local authorities’ before deciding on which one they would work for.   In my case I attended interviews with Glasgow, Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire.   Hamish chose Renfrewshire – St Columba’s was a school with well over 2000 pupils and Hamish introduced several initiatives with varying degrees of success:

* Tried to start an outdoors club  –  failed;

* started a swimming and life saving club – succeeded;

* helped coach the school volleyball club;

* helped in the school Gilbert and Sullivan productions;  and

* worked as a part-time youth worker after school at the youth club

It is interesting in the twenty first century to note the range of activities being carried on in an ‘ordinary’ state secondary school.   These were not confined to Hamish’s school, many schools followed a broader curriculum than is possible now and it probably helped develop Hamish as a coach.   How so?   Well, he was mixing with the pupils in all sorts of contexts – as an instructor, as a partner and as a friend as well as in a teaching capacity.   There was a breadth of interaction that would have been difficult to replicate elsewhere.   Of course, he also kept the athletics coaching going and (another initiative) changed the school sports day from one where only about 40 kids out of 2,200+ took part, to one where over 160 took part.   This was done by making it ‘self competitive’ using the Thistle Award scheme.

But the one activity which had the biggest effect on his future was his activities in life saving.   He took the school life saving team through to the Scottish National Championships in two consecutive years.   Second time there he was asked if he would be interested in the role of National Development Officer for the BLSS – UK.   Having had an application for promotion within Renfrewshire rejected, he just went for it and became what was in effect the post of National Coach.   At the age of 24 he was the youngest National Coach in any sport in the UK.   The two aspects of the job that could have been improved upon were location (it was in England) and sport (it was not athletics).   Typical of Hamish, it was not to be the first time that he took on something that he knew only a little about and learned about it ‘on the job’. 

 Cameron McNeish again:.

“That got him involved in the whole national, and international, coaching structure and even when he was working as a life saving coach his heart was still in track and field. By this time he had his own squad of athletes and he dedicated a lot of time to them. I think John Anderson was his inspiration. Like Hamish, John wasn’t a gifted athlete but worked very hard as a coach. Hamish did the same. No-one worked harder than Hamish and he never asked his athletes to do anything he had never done. He knew what it was like to be sick by the side of the track, or to be so knackered he could hardly stand.”

He started with the RLSS on 1st January 1975 in England which meant that his athletics coaching had to stop.   It had been going well, he had got his Senior Coach Award at the age of 23 and had a very good squad indeed.   He stayed with the Life Saving until 1978 in the Midlands and North England and helped coach their GB squad for the World Championships held in London in 1976.   He left the job when he got married and took up a post a Liverpool University as a Lecturer in PE and got started back in athletics when Rona Livingston asked him  to coach her for a last try at making the Scottish team for the Commonwealth Games.   She was an ex-pat living in Liverpool and started to do well.   He quickly got a squad together and others joined in, including Donna and Bill Hartley, Ikem Billy and Rob Harrison.   He was himself noticed and picked up and taken into the official system in the North West of England by Carl Johnson and Peter Warden as well as by Frank Dick.   This led to him working in coach education for athletics and he began running the courses in the North West.

In 1981 he moved to Lancaster University and coached the University squads – the road racing team was particularly successful.   He also ‘discovered’ Lucy Elliott who was only 13 at the time and she was to become his first GB athlete.   He also dabbled in coaching hockey to such effect that the University team went up a league and he also coached the full Cumbria County squad.   His athletics squad was now up to 15 athletes at one time across a range of events.   Several of them were doing very well indeed – eg John Rigg, Brenda Walker, Steve Watson, Lucy Elliott and John Blackledge.

Drugs and doping were big issues in athletics at the time and suspicions about foreign athletes – particularly but by no means exclusively the East Europeans – were rife,  Hamish was one of the few British athletics people to get involved.  This was the time when David Jenkins was arrested in America and it became an even hotter topic as a result of that.   Hamish, along with the late Ron Pickering and two journalists from ‘The Times’, Pat Butcher and Peter Nichols, worked on an expose  of the British scene which was printed in ‘The Times’.  There was even a lengthy correspondence in the pages of ‘Athletics Weekly.’    This led to the Coni Inquiry which found that there was indeed an issue that needed to be dealt with.

After reading for a BA at the Open University and then an M Ed at the University of Liverpool, Hamish became really involved in top flight athletics.   I quote from ‘The Leisure Review’:

“Hamish consolidated his career at Lancaster within British track and field athletics, coaching a squad of athletes of which some 14 became British internationalists competing at World, European and Commonwealth Games levels. He was appointed GB Team Coach for the World Universities Cross Country Championships 7 times and the athletes he selected and worked with gained 5 world titles over this period in addition to numerous silvers and bronzes”

In 1991 he stopped coaching his personal squad when his wife died very young of cancer.   His priority immediately became his five year old daughter.   Despite his own unimaginable grief, he managed through his professional work to keep involved in coach education through research and courses which, being one offs were easier to juggle alongside his new family responsibilities.     At this time he kept contributing to Coach Education across all sports.   He worked for the National Coaching Foundation (which is now Sportscoach UK) and with the various Sports Councils.    We have already seen that he had been working at international level with life-saving and athletics, and in 1995/’96 he spread his wings a bit further when he was a Great Britain Team Coach (Coach Support) for Wild Water Canoeing (remember that he started out with football and he has also been involved with hockey).

There were also many published articles and papers on Coaching, more Coach Education materials as well as ‘academic type stuff’ on coaching practice and generally got involved through that avenue.   Academically he had seven main areas of interest and expertise – sport history, olympic studies, coaching practice, practice ethics, safeguarding and children’s values in sport.   There are many of these papers available which indicate the consistent quality of his work.   Even a cursory look over his publications on the internet provides extensive evidence of this.   Five minutes timed with a stopwatch produced this:






….  and there are pages more!

In 1991 he had been seconded to Charlotte Mason College in Cumbria as a lecturer in physical education for two years.   Then in 1993 he moved to be Senior Lecturer in Physical Education at St Martin’s College Lancaster (which later became the University of Cumbria) – he held this post until 2010.   At St Martin’s he was specifically tasked with setting up, with the existing two members of staff, a new Department of Physical Education and Sport, starting with a new degree in Sports Science, followed by degrees in Sports Studies, Coaching and Sport Development, the MA in Sport Coaching and Sport Development,  and a degree in Leisure and Tourism.   At this time he was also secretary and chair of the local branch of the University Lecturers Union and completed his PhD in 2006 at Stirling University.

This period saw more sporting honours for Hamish as his talents and work-rate were recognised.   For 12 years, from 1992 – 2004, he was Great Britain National Team Coach (Cross-Country) for the World Student Championships.  Of this period he says :  “The World Student Cross-Country was a terrific and privileged experience.   There was only one championship out of seven where we did not return with medals of some colour.   We won five World Titles between 1992 and 2004 (including an almost clean sweep of three out of the four in 1994) and a good number of silvers and bronzes.   I was able to really apply some of the coaching concepts I had developed with the athletes involved.   We clearly had the talent coming through as we were able to demonstrate.   What happened after they left us …… !!!!?”

What happened after 2004 for Hamish was that he felt that after twelve years he had done his bit and stepped down. 

Hamish 2 Eyes

Addressing the International Olympic Academy, Olympia, Greece, 2003

Back at home in Scotland he was voted by the Scottish coaches to be vice-chair on the Scottish Coaches Commission and this pleased him greatly.   The Coaches Commission worked hard but was ultimately unsuccessful – almost certainly for political reasons within the sport rather than through any failure on the part of the coaches involved.    For an overview of his coaching career and some reflections on the period maybe a look at the second half of the questionnaire would be useful.

This produced the following comments.

“Were there any significant inspirational figures who influenced your coaching practice?

“No question about John Anderson.   Also Jimmy Campbell and my young coaching mate Iain (Rab) Robertson who started around the same time as me.   Alex Naylor was also a magnificent example of an inspirational and hard working coach who always encouraged in between making sure I never got too big for my boots with that wonderful sense of humour.   Eddie Taylor also helped a lot.”

How far did your own running and competition influence your coaching theory and practice?

“John Anderson taught me about hard work and commitment.   That has shone through all my own coaching.   Never too bothered about whether an athlete was good or bad or had potential, but always hammered home that they had to work hard (at whatever level) or I wasn’t really interested.   Great believer that if you give everything you can then there will be no ‘what ifs’.”

How did you get involved in coaching at national level?

“Partly due to Peter Warden, Frank Dick and Carlton Johnson.    Also I had been a full-time GB National Coach in another sport and ‘returned’ to Track & Field.   Got coaching a group in Liverpol; got involved in Regional Coach Education as a staff member then as the lead co-ordinator.   Was involved with British University Sport where I met Malcolm Brown and we got on well (he asked me on to the Athletics Committee for moral support!); I had been to the Commonwealths in 1990 with an athlete and so in 1991 he asked me to work with him with the British Cross-Country team for the World Championships (I was already working with the English Students Team at Home Nations level).   Thereafter it was Malcolm Brown and myself until about 1998 and then Chris Coleman became my team manager until I left in 2004.”

What Scottish, GB or University teams have you been involved with?

“One Scottish Junior team, numerous English University representative teams, Isle of Man team for a Commonwealth Games, and numerous GB University teams (mainly cross-country but also some track & field teams from 1992 until 1994.”

What Scottish, British or University International teams have you been involved with?

“One Scottish Junior team, numerous English University representative teams, Isle of Man team for a Commonwealth Games and numerous GB University teams (mainly cross-country but also some Track & Field teams from 1992 until 2004).”

Are there any coaches that you particularly admire – either coaching at present or in the recent past?

“John Anderson, Frank Dick for his achievements in trying to make ‘coaching a greater priority within the governing body, Tom McNab for his wide ranging skills, intellect and native cunning, Malcolm Brown for his abilities to transfer his coaching skills into Triathlon so successfully, John Mills for his thoughtful approach to coaching within British cycling, the late but wonderful gentle Geoff Gleeson of British Judo who spent hours talking to me as a young and very inexperienced National Coach, Trevor Clark who helped me think about my coaching via his sport of hockey and Peter Warden with whom I had some fantastic fun coaching our respective squads.   I also had a lot of time for the late Patrick Duffy who tried to lead, develop and improve the structure of British coaching.   Bill Walker has always brought a quiet confidence to his work and there are other coaching colleagues over the years including my colleagues on the late lamented Scottish Coaches Commission (including that wee fireball Eric Simpson).   I will have left some out but all colleagues with whom I coached were part of how I thought and worked.”

Hamish retired in 2010 when he took ‘early retirement’ and has never been tempted back to coaching in athletics.   He has done his bit and like many of us might have problems with the new bureaucracy in the sport:    “I think I might commit homicide with various ‘professionals’ in the governing body at UK level.”   He still does ‘bits and pieces’ and is currently involved with a club based piece of work with athletics clubs in the north west of England re the state of ‘technical events’ where we still have a problem.   He is also still doing research work as what he calls a ‘semi retired’ academic.    (And it seems to me that he has set up another ploy when he asks “What happened after they left us? )

Let him have the final word  about life after coaching:

Cammie McNeish and I have renewed our auld alliance with a vengeance by cycling. Done Lands End to John o’ Groats, France top to bottom, Ireland from bottom to top and this year we are about terrorise Spain.  A bit like Compo and Cleggy in lycra or an old married couple (take your pick). If you see us, then feed us cake – we respond well to that.”

I mean, the second last word – you can read what some of his colleagues and athletes think   at www.anentscottishrunning.com/hamish-telfers-friends/

The picture below of Hamish on his bike is from Cameron.

 Hamish on his bike

Frank Dick

Frank Dick 2

One of the most familiar sights at coaching conferences and conventions has been of Frank Dick’s tall, tanned and silver haired figure talking, listening, encouraging and watching everything that was going on.   Nothing seems to escape his gaze.   There are many now however who do not recognise either the man or his contribution to Scottish Athletics.

Many good, indeed some excellent, coaches have never been athletes themselves but Frank Dick does not come into this category.  He was a talented athlete before he took up coaching but he knew all along it seems that this was what he wanted to do.   As an athlete he ran for no fewer than five teams, two of them University teams  – Edinburgh and Loughborough – as well as Royal High School FP, Edinburgh Southern and Octavians.   Between 1960 and 1964 he set personal best times in events from 100 yards up to 880 yards as follows:

100 yards:  10.2 sec;  220 yards: 22.6;   440 yards:  49.7; 880 yards:  1:54.7;   440 yards hurdles: 55.9.   In terms of competitive success, he did best in the hurdles with a second in the SAAA championships in 1962 and a third in 1963.   He represented the East of Scotland v the West at 880 yards and competed in the International against Ireland  in Belfast where he was second to Ming Campbell in the 440 yards.  More noteworthy still, he ran for Britain in an indoor international against Finland on 18th April, 1964, at Wembley where he was third in the 440 yards in 52.0, the race being won by Nick Overhead in 50.6.   He had been selected for this on the strength of his performance in the AAA’s championships at the end of March where he had finished fifth in the 600 yards in 1:13.9: Overhead was third in this race where the first two were foreign athletes.   There had been no 440 yards or 400 metres in that particular championships.

Frank Programme

Programme Cover from the 1962 International,   and   

the relevant programme extract

Frank Prog Extract

Clearly a talented runner with achievements to be proud of but it is not as a runner that he is best known or will be remembered.   Frank has been a coach to individual athletes, worked at national level as Scottish National Coach and UK Director of coaching.    He is a world recognised authority on coaching theory and physiology and is also known for his work on coach education.   His knowledge of coaching theory, principles and practise has been used with athletes in other sports as diverse as tennis and motor racing.   One of the very best Scottish coaches.

Originally from Berwick, Frank attended Loughborough in early 1960’s.  He had been educated at the Royal High School in Edinburgh before moving to Loughborough where he trained as a teacher of physical education and mathematics between 1962 and 1965. At Loughborough where, as an international athlete himself, he was influenced by lecturer Geoff Gowan, later the Director of Sport Canada, and other members of the Loughborough staff. Their imagination, innovation and meticulously high standards, inspired Frank to achieve equally high standards in his work as a coach.

After graduation he went to the University of Oregon from 1965 to 68.   Bill Bowerman was the coach there and this was another catalyst for Dick’s own coaching career.  When he went to Oregon, sports scholarships were a rarity and Dick said, when asked how he financed the time in America gave four sources:   1.   He applied for and received a Fulbright Scholarship;   2.   A Churchill Scholarship provided medical insurance;   3.   He worked the ‘graveyard shift’ (ie from midnight to 8.)) am) at the Georgia Pacific Sawmills;  4.  He sold everything he could and used all his personal savings.   Despite the graveyard shift he graduated  BSC with highest honours.   What did he learn from Bowerman?   I quote:

“Bill taught me to understand that we could make them too complicated. The fact is coaching is more an art than a science.  Of course you need to be equipped with the sciences.  Bill certainly was and understood them to the level he needed to advantage the athletes he coached.  But you cannot be a slave to science.  No great athlete was so because of science.  You must learn through experience of years how to apply such knowledge to meet the unique needs of each athlete in your charge.   Whereas you are taught the science of coaching, you cannot be taught the art, this you can only learn.  Bill’s approach was simply thoughtful common sense founded on relevant sciences and tempered to an art learned through life experience.  The inspiration he afforded was to believe in the value of experience and your capacity to learn your own art of coaching from that.”

Frank Dick 5

After he returned to Scotland he  became Scottish National Coach from 1970 to 1979 after John Anderson moved on to a post in England.   As National Coach he was very different from John in style but they both had a firm belief in the importance of coach education.   John had started an annual international coaching convention held in Edinburgh, Frank continued it and developed the idea making it much more of an international event with Scottish coaches being exposed to the newest information presented by top level coaches, scientists, physiologists and athletes.     I attended several of these and remember the occasion when a distinguished Swedish sprinter was asked why he had changed his coach so often.   His response was that he had had five coaches in his career and had learned from all of them “but”, he added, “you coaches must remember that it is the athlete that makes the coach famous, and not the other way round.”   It was at one of these that I first heard Frank say that the athlete should never be restricted by the coach’s limitations.  They seem obvious now but they both provoked a lot of discussion at the actual time.   The coaching structure in Scotland was simple and very effective – a national coach who was paid, group coaches for the four main disciplines of sprinting, endurance, the jumps and the throws.   They were responsible to the national coach and appointed their own staff coaches for each event in their group.   They were accessible to coaches at club level who went as far through the education system as they were able or felt they needed to go.   There was the basic Assistant Club Coach which was a broad course with all events covered, followed by the Club Coach which was where event specific work was being tackled for the first time and then the Senior Coach award topped the qualifications available.   It was straightforward and was available at very little cost to the coach.   Frank himself was also in touch with the grass roots of the sport – for example he had monthly meetings alternating between Edinburgh and Glasgow on a monthly available to all coaches who were coaching athletes of District Championship standard or higher.   I attended these and was in the company of such as Alex Naylor, Eddie Taylor, Sandy Robertson, Gordon Cain and many other top quality coaches.   This was Frank speaking and talking to club coaches, maybe 20 at a meeting, where they had the opportunity to speak to him in a small group.    He not only raised the standard of coaching and numbers of qualified coaches in the country, he raised the profile of coaching higher than it had ever been.

Popular with athlete and coach alike, he was coach at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and the mascot was a huge teddy bear, decked out in Scotland kit, called Dunky Dick – Dunky for the team commander Dunky Wright and Dick for Frank as head coach.   They were the most successful Games that Scotland had ever had and it was a wonderful start to his career as National Coach.

He became UK Director of Coaching in 1979, a post he held for an incredible 15 years, to 1994.   It was during this period that the Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletics team rose to become a real power in world athletics, led in particular by male track stars such as Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, and Dave Moorcroft, in addition to the double-Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson. Frank was always a ‘hands-on’ coach and Daley was ne of his top athletes –  coached by Frank he rose to become one of the world’s greatest ever athletes.   Like Tom Macnab, Frank wrote a lot during this period and his influence as a coach was increased and enhanced by it.   In 1980, his book Sports Training Principles was first published and this has become a classic multidisciplinary text and was considered ahead of its time in applying science to sport. In addition,Frank has been Chair of the British Association of National Coaches, Chair of the British Institute of Sports Coaches, and was appointed President of the European Athletics Coaches Association.

 In 1989 he was awarded the BE for services to sport.    In 1998, he was inducted into the UK Coaches Hall of Fame and was presented with the prestigious Geoffrey Dyson award.

Frank Dick 3

 Given that the British team was more successful than it had ever been why did Frank Dick leave in 1994?   In essence he quit in protest after his coaching budged was halved. He has gone on record to say that the decline in performance had begun before he left, but there are few who would now dispute that his departure was a serious blow to the sport.   Success always produces a variety of reactions in its beholders.   At the time there were those who said it was his loss, not athletics’. That, having cut himself off from track and field, he had lost his purpose. That the charge had no substance was seen as he went on to be one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in the world, inspiring audiences far outside athletics with his insistence that, given the right conditions, we are all capable of success.   Many of his phrases have come into the lexicon – phrases such as the ‘Valley People’ and the ‘Mountain People.’

He is still working in that capacity – he’d be silly not to – also made a partial return to athletics when he agreed to become chair of Scottish Athletics. It was an honorary post, officially requiring a commitment of no more than a day a month. To be done properly, however, he thought it needed work for several hours a day.  Although born and raised in North Berwick, he had been living for decades just outside London and had to travel up to Scotland to carry out his duties in connection with this post.   His resignation caused more than a slight fluttering in the dovecotes of Scottish athletics.   Doug Gillon picked the issue up and as usual covered the whole thing fairly and in a bit of detail in his article of 22nd February 2012.

“FRANK DICK stepped down yesterday as chair of scottishathletics, with the ink barely dry on a strategy document which was his brainchild and several posts linked to it still waiting to be filled.   The precipitate departure of this perceived white knight – former Scotland and UK national coach from the sport’s golden era – makes it hard to avoid the conclusion that this is now a sport in crisis.

A perception that if Dick could not improve the sport’s performance profile then nobody could is calculated to haunt successors. The departure coincided with the unveiling of a 39-strong GB team for the World Indoor Championships without a single Scot. That’s not calculated to boost optimism.

Dick’s public valedictory comments struck predictable chords: “It’s been an honour . . . I firmly believe we’ve achieved a great deal . . . Our sport is stronger than it has been for some years … The challenge is to continue that progression as we approach the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow . . . As I pass the baton, I wish our athletes at all levels every success.”

Privately, there was a discordant note. We have frequently discussed his frustration with lack of progress. The reason for his resignation was, he said: “Sheer geographic distance [between his London home and Scotland]. It was a headache for me to be as effective as I should be. Modern technology was not able to counter the geographic distance in terms of day-to-day leadership.”   He was told this honorary unpaid job would take “about one day per month. In fact it has averaged three hours a day”.

In the professional structure of Scottish sport – within and outwith the governing body – some will be glad he has gone, however. They have told me so privately on pain of confidentiality. They cite Dick’s alleged over-close scrutiny contributing to the departure, after barely a year, of national coach Laurier Primeau, and of friction between Dick and Primeau’s interim successor, Steve Rippon, now also departed. A third head coach is now sought in little over a year, with Dick, most experienced in such appointments, now also gone.   These staff departures prompted a major scottishathletics strategy review in which Dick proposed appointing a full-time director of coaching, athlete pathway and talent manager, and performance programmes manager. All remain pending.

There seemed sorrow in Dick’s voice as he spoke of resignation: “Probably I belong to another era, and it’s important the sport is given something positive to move on.   “I don’t want the sport to bruise more than it has. It’s the right decision for everybody. There are all sorts of pressures in my life and for scottishathletics. They need somebody there in a greater presence. I like to be involved, but could not be involved at that distance.

“Some great kids at the moment around Scotland will be in with more of a shout than people thought come 2014, and some really good news coming on performance. These are stories for the future. I am a story of the past. Appointments will be made in the near future, which is great. And every good wish to my successor.”

Despite his protestations, I can’t help feeling Dick leaves almost exactly 42 years after his appointment as Scottish national coach, with unfinished business –and several records set in 1970 still standing. “Some quite rightly stand the test of time because they were good records,” he said, “but others really should have gone by now. We did drop back, but we do have people who will challenege, I think, for medals – plural – in 2014. It’s unfortunate that I can’t take the next step with them.”

The abrupt nature of his departure, and recent criticism and innuendo prompts me to explore whether Dick was levered out. “Not at all,” said the scottishathletics chief executive, Nigel Holl. “We are making very good progress with the appointment of the performance team and Frank has been central in both the design of the new structure and the interviews we have held. His input has been pivotal. There is no crisis. I think he has helped get us into a much stronger position. We are very grateful and are sorry he has stepped down.”

Born in 1942, Frank is now 72 and it is unfortunate that he has apparently ended his career with Scottish athletics on a controversial note.   He did so much for us as a country in the 1970’s while National Coach, continued to help Scots coaches and athletes while British Director of Coaching, brought and contributed to conferences and conventions to Glasgow and has generally been an influential figure in Scottish athletics for half a century and we owe him.

We have mentioned his motivational speaking and his involvement in coach education – have a look at him in action in these youtube clips:


However you don’t have a successful career like Frank’s without attracting some criticism.   I quote from another very successful British coach:

“I would have to discriminate carefully between his value as a lecturer and conference speaker – which constitutes his real talent and his contribution to the sport, and any contribution he made to producing and developing athletes.   Plagiarism is the biggest contribution he offered athlete coaches – at least that was the word in academic circles where these overlapped with those of athletics itself.   He provided us all with some of the “secrets” of our East German friends in that way.

For all his experience and knowledge, I did not see Frank as the kind of coach who developed an athlete over time to his full potential.   His generation of coaches at national level were appropriate for a period in which development came from the athletes and club practices themselves from a strong physical development and hunger.   As a Coach he was no doubt talented in providing the psychological advice and preparation for competition.   I don’t want to denigrate him or the value of this aspect of coaching but it was not something that had a primary significance in the nineties and later.   Nevertheless, as we all have experienced, he was a charismatic figure and one who galvanised conference audiences within the sport and no doubt a lucrative career outwith it.”


Derek Parker

Derek P 2

I had been a member of the British Milers Club for about a year when I first met Derek.    He had taken over as Scottish Secretary but resigned after a couple of races that he had organised did not take off.   I was his successor but it was several years before I managed to get the club working as it should.   Derek was a member of the British Milers club until his death on 27th May 2014 and wore the club badge on his tracksuit alongside his BAAB Senior Coach badge.   He wrote many, many articles on the subject of coaching: I read them in Athletics Weekly, Scotland’s Runner (pretty well for the duration  of its existence – from 1986 to 1993), Athletics Coach (published for many years by the AAA’s as the oifficial coaching magazine with a large circulation), the BMC News in its various forms, and many others.   The articles could be academic when dealing with the physiologyof the events he was discussing or intensely practical, such as when he spoke of working with very young athletes and using various kinds of ‘tig’.   There were some aspects of his coaching that he kept private and I was surprised several years ago when he wrote a letter to Athletics Weekly complaining that other coaches had stolen some of his sessions.   Surprised because he was always forthcoming when we spoke and because coaches share information readily.

Derek was always easy to get on with – he was always the same as far as I was concerned.   Of his range of coaching knowledge there could be no doubt.   He was a good coach and he knew he was a good coach.   But the difference with him was that his knowledge came from reading and experience.   I never, ever, saw him at a coaching conference or gathering.  When I asked him – not once but several times – to come and speak to BMC coaches at annual meetings in the 1980’s he always gave the same reply, that he preferred to stay in Kilbarchan or Linwood working with his own athletes.    He was devoted to them and spent a lot of time with them individually.   But maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.

Like almost all coaches, Derek was not a full-time coach – he had to earn a living as well.   he had a degree in Divinity and he wrote the occasional letter to the ‘Glasgow Herald’ on topics connected with religion.   He wrote for the local newspaper, the Gazette, and was interested in and an authority on local history.   Indeed he was also a member of the Johnstone History Society.   Latterly he was a park ranger and this fitted in well with his love of nature on which subject he also had an encyclopaedic knowledge.   Nor did he compartmentalise his various areas of interest – for instance he often wrote about the need for runners to get away from the artificial restrictions of track running and had a wonderful article in”Scotland’s Runner” about the Australian coach Percy Cerutty: possibly one of the best I’ve read on the man.

 Derek P 3

He spoke of his coaching on the Kilbarchan AAC website and I reproduce much of it below since it is a good, fairly detailed account of his career and practices.

Coaching Background:- I began coaching in my early 30s and was at one time the youngest senior sprints coach in Scotland and also the youngest coach to hold the senior awards in sprints and middle-distance simultaneously. Since then, I have coached on a regular basis i.e. several days per week on an uninterrupted basis for nearly 40 years. I have extensive experience of coaching male and female athletes of all ages and abilities from nine to 70. Up until recently, I coached senior athletes at international level in sprints, hurdles, steeplechase, middle-and long-distance, cross-country, half-marathon and marathon. From now onwards (in the meantime, at least), I plan to concentrate my coaching efforts on the long distance seniors group (men and women), including 2014 Commonwealth Games aspirants Hayley Haining and Gemma Rankin. I pride myself on the fact that my group includes club and elite standard athletes, all of whom get MY close personal attention.

Further Information:-  I have coached athletes to Olympic, World, European, Commonwealth Games and UK elite standard level. The Olympic level athlete was Hayley Haining who achieved the Olympic standard marathon qualifying time TWICE in 2007-2008 but was controversially not selelcted for the Beijing Olympics. However, representing GB & NI, Hayley won a bronze medal in the team event (along with Paula Radcliffe and Liz Yelling) at the World marathon championships in Helsinki, Finland, in 2006. She also represented GB & NI at the World half-marathon championships in Edmonton, Canada, in 2006.I have coached two Commonwealth Games athletes (Hayley Haining in the 2006 marathon at Melbourne, Australia, and Claire Gibson in the 800  metres at Delhi, India, in 2010).I was also triathlete Kerry Lang’s 10K coach for the Commonwealth Games triathlon in Melbourne, 2006. I have coached three senior Great Britian and Northern Ireland full internationals (Hayley Haining – marathon/half-marathon; Robert Quinn – track, cross-country, roads and hills).

I have also coached three UK age group champions (Ross Toole – indoor 3000 metres; Andrew Gibson – indoor 1500 metres; and William Docherty – 1500 metres steeplechase. Coaching experience outwith Kilbarchan AAC includes advising England international marathon runner Kim Fawke and Joe Gough (Kilkenny, Ireland) who won several European 800 and 1500 indoor and outdoor titles at veterans championships and a silver medal at one world championship.

On the basis of my work with Hayley Haining and Claire Gibson, I won the prestigious Scottish Athletics Performance Coach of the Year Award in 2005 and 2009.

I have also written hundreds (literally!!) of coaching articles in leading athletics journals for many years, including Athletics Weekly, Athletics in Scotland, Running Fitness, The Coach, Scotland’s Runner and other publications.

And that is his own account of his career as a coach.    Like all really good coaches he was approachable and any athlete, whether in his own club or not, could go to him for advice and get individual, tailored advice based on what he had told Derek and what Derek had seen when the athlete was running.     

Derek was totally unique.   Only 71 when he died, I feel every sympathy for his family and for his athletes and friends at the club.   The ‘Herald’ obituary appeared on 31st July, 2014, and can be found at http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/obituaries/derek-parker.24904241

Derek P

Jimmy Campbell

Jimmy CampbellJimmy, centre with clipboard

Jimmy Campbell was a great character who had led a wonderfully varied life – even within athletics he was a grade 1 official, a mastercoach and a top-notch administrator.    Always busy, always organised and always willing to help: on one occasion I decided that my middle distance squad needed some specialist speed input from specialist sprint coaches and Jimmy was one that I spoke to.  He was very helpful, willing to take a session with a small group and during the session he was only interested in them and the session.   On another occasion I mentioned speedball training and his enthusiasm was such that I received a full lecture – almost a master-class on the topic in the cafeteria at Crown Point!    When coaches travel with athletes to championships all over the United Kingdom, they invariably become friends and I remember there were four of us having dinner in a Chinese restaurant in Bedford and Jimmy started talking about his footballing before and during the war – one of the company was all for getting his wife, a professional writer, to do his biography.   Jimmy was having none of it.   We could all learn something from watching him work with children at coaching sessions he was in his element.   I , and I suspect that I am not alone in this, often used phrases that we had heard for the first time from Jimmy – “The baton lives in the midle of the lane” is one that GB Men’s 4 x 100 teams could well take to heart!   At the other end of the scale, he could talk to international athletes and they would listen and take on board what he had to say: unlike many he would actually listen carefully to what they were saying, and address his reply to their remarks and concerns.

He was always active in the field of coach education: he had an article in the excellent but unfortunately short-lived magazine “Athletics in Scotland” explaining the coaching of sprinters with drills described, sessions given with their purposes clear which was a model of its kind.   I had it re-printed and gave many copies to athletes and other coaches.   Thre was apparently an introductory lecture to beginner athletics coaches at which he took the chalk broad-sided and wrote on the board DIVORCE and said that if they did their job properly, that was where it could lead!   Coaching is very rewarding but not an easy option and he made that clear.

Jimmy became a Master Coach – a title awarded rather than studied and examined for – and I can think of no one better qualified.   What follows is his obituary from the ‘Glasgow Herald’ on 24th November, 2011.

Jimmy Campbell who has died aged 92 was a dentist and sportsman for whom life was a continual process of betterment and a series of fresh challenges to be relished.   Torn between dentistry and football, he successfully combined both, signing for Celtic on the eve of the Second World War, the advent of which saw him train the guerillas of the French Resistance for action behind enemy lines and act as bodyguard to Lt Colonel Hardy Amies, later to become the Queen’s couturier.

He went on to play for Leicester City, establish his own dental practice back home in Bothwell Street, join Glasgow Dental Hospital and take up marathon running as he retired while continuing to coach ghenerations of schoolchildren, runners and footballers.   Throughout it all he was supported by his wife Maryin a partnership that endured for 70 years.

He was born in Bridgeton, in the East End of Glasgow, to Annie and James Campbell, a turner in an engineering works and a former professional footballer with Reading.    Educated at Bernard Street School and Whitehill Academy – where his stammer was cured by an astute teacher who cast him as Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – his schooldays came to halt when his father arranged for him to become an apprentice dental mechanic.   Apparently he was given no choice in the matter: his family needed the income, 5/- a week initially, rising to 7/6d.   His employer was his father’s friend, George Boreland, also a professional football player who had played for Hibernian and who understood his passion for the game.

The young Campbell played for St Mungo Juniors and pined to get out on the pitch on Saturdays, which was a working day at the dentist’s.   His boss eventually relented and as his apprentice moved through the amateur ranks he was spotted by Celtic.   He also had offers from Aberdeen and Hearts but opted for Celtic with a signing on fee of £20 and a weekly wage of £5.

He had been encouraged by Boreland to go to nightschool and gain the qualifications required to study for the Licentiate in Dental Surgery.   The studies deferred his army call-up but only until after Dunkirk in 1940 when he was enlisted into the Royal Army Dental Corps training school at Aldershot.   He immediately won a place in the RADC football team and later made guest appearances with Aldershot, Folkeston Town, Leyton Orient and Chelsea.    Within six months of joining the Corps he took a PE course and was promoted to Corporal.   He tried to flunk his Laboratory Aptitude Test in a bid to be transferred to the Army Physical Training Corps but the move was resisted because there was a pressing need for dental technicians as many of the recruits had such appalling dental health that they needed dentures before being passed as fit for combat.   He was eventually moved to the APTC in 1942 and became a Sergeant Instructor, posted to an artiullery regiment manning the South Coast defences where he organised morale-boosting inter-battery athletic and boxing competitions and met famous footballers including Denis Compton and Stan Cullis.

Ordered, unexpectedly, to report for an interview in Montague Mansions, Baker Street, London, one of the bases of the Special Operations Executive, he was recruited and sent to its training school in Berkshire.   Having a knowledge of French he was attached to its Belgian group, under the command of Hardy Amies, and instructed members of the Maquis in  parachuting and one-to-one combat.   His final posting was to the Infantry Training Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, an experience he described as the best year of his Army career.

He had married his wife Mary whom he had met at a party in Dennistoun in 1943, and by the end of the War he was a father with responsibilities.   He had set up terms to play for Leicester City, which had provided a means of earning, but he also wanted to pursue his studies and was accepted by Birmingham University on the strength of an interview.   He graduated as a Bachelor of Dental Surgery in 1952 and returned to Glasgow, working initially as an assistant in Greenock before moving to Paisley.   In 1954 he bought the practice in Bothwell Street and was supported by Mary as his receptionist, surgery assistant and book keeper.   The practice moved to Douglas Street in 1965.   He was appointed Assistant Dental Surgeon in the Glasgow Dental Hospital’s oral surgery department in 1970, initially on a part-time basis but became a full-time associate specialist in 1975.    

Meanwhile he was coaching Bellahouston Harriers and was a key figure in the Maryhill Ladies Athletic Club, coaching runners to British and Olympic standard.   He took up marathon running when he was 64 and in retirement coached footballers at Motherwell and St Johnstone, who allegedly had trouble keeping up with him on training runs.  

His contribution to sports was  marked with a special recognition award from the then Scottish Sports Council and even into his 90’s he still remained active.   “He was never content to sit back,” said his elder daughter Mary.   “He was always striving to move on to something bigger and better.”   Campbell is survived by his wife Mary, daughters Mary and Anne, grandchildren Tracey, her brother, the US based actor Scott Speedman, Kate and Campbell and two great-grandchildren.

That’s the end of the obituary and it gives a full account of his life in every sense.   The note about his active life style is well taken – someof us were talking at a West District Cross-Country Championhip at Rouken Glen in Glasgow and Jimmy had already told us that he was 77 years old at the time.   Further through the conversation he spoke about the mini circuit that he was doing every day: he emphasised that the press-ups he did were not from the floor but from the side of the bath and on occasion from the wash basin “because you can make it more dynamic from the higher position!”

Jimmy was one of the very best coaches I have ever known.   The very first issue of  ‘PB’, the very glossy quarterly put out by Scottishathletics, in 2011 had some tributes from John Anderson, Frank Dick and Sandy Sutherland and they are reproduced below.   The article was written by Sandy who incorporates John’s and Frank’s remarks into it.

“Jimmy Campbell was one of those people I am glad to have known because he made me feel better about life every time Imet him; always cheery, witty, full of stories; yet such was his modesty that I never knew about his multitude of achievements, including courageous wartime service, which have been covered elsewhere far better than I could.   Who knows where his football career might have taken him had not |World War II not intervened in 1939 just after he had signed for Celtic – he went on to play for Leicester City at the end of the War – but his war-time experience as a PTI during which time he organised athletics and boxing competitions must have contributed to his later heavy involvement with our sport.   Much later, after he had moved back to Glasgow Jimmy began coaching at Bellahouston Harriers and even as late as 1994 he was assisting the Scottish men’s sprint relay squad, but it was through his involvement with Maryhill Ladies AC that he really made his mark.   Two former Scottish National coaches who worked closely with him have paid these tributes:

John Anderson said: “I brought Jimmy into coaching at Maryhill Harriers when he took his daughter Mary (Speedman – a noted 800m runner who represented Scotland at the 1970 Commonwealth Games) to the club and he took over the running of the club when I moved south.   I thought I knew him well but had no idea what a rich life he had enjoyed – he was a remarkable man.”

Frank Dick, who succeeded Anderson, said:  “Jimmy Campbell may not have been a physical giant but my goodness he was a thinking colossus as a coach and an inspiration and role model for many other coaches.   Countless young women achieved athletics success through his guidance at Maryhill AC head coach and there was not one sprints or middle distance coach in Scotland who did not benefit from his advice.      My personal debt to him is giving me the chance o grow as a young national coach and keep me on track when I could often have got things wrong.”


Tom McNab

Tom McNab

Many coaches, but by no means all,  have been competing athletes in their day but even fewer have been national champions or set national records.   Tom McNab has been national champion for triple jump five times and also set a national record for the event.   He has worked with many top class international athletes and his career has expanded far beyond the usual.   A lot of the information has come from his own website, from athletics publications or from people who have worked with him.

Born on 16th December 1933, he was educated at Whitehill Secondary School and then trained as a PE teacher at Jordanhill College in Glasgow.   After National Service in the RAF where he reached the rank of Flying Officer he became a Physical Education teacher.   He taught from 1958 to 1962 before becoming National Athletics Coach in England.   By the age of 18 he had represented Glasgow at football and led the Scottish Senior triple jump rankings and it is as a triple jumper that he was first known in Scotland.   He won the SAAA Junior (Under 20) title in 1952, the first year in which it was held, with a distance of 14.01 metres.   By SAAA Centenary year of 1982 it had only been surpassed twice – in 1957 when JR Waters cleared 14.07m and in 1976 when I Tomlinson leapt 14.67m.  The story behind that success was told by John Keddie in “Scottish Athletics” – the official centenary history of the SAAA.   “So slow was British officialdom to promote this event that there was no triple jump in the programme of events of the AAA Junior Championship (instituted in 1931) until 1950, nor in the SAAA Junior championships until two years later.   In fact the inaugural SAAA triple jump saw the emergence of an excellent jumper in Thomas McNab.   A member of Shettleston Harriers, McNab won the event with forty five feet eleven and three quarters inches, then considered an outstanding performance for a junior athlete.   This distance proved to be a foot further than that achieved by the winner of the senior championships held five weeks earlier”. 

After that victory, he was awarded the FJ Glegg Memorial Trophy which is awarded annually  ‘to the competitor who is adjudged by the General Committee to have accomplished the best performance or performances in the Scottish Junior Championships’  jointly with CM Campbell.   In the AAA’s Junior championship at the end of July, he was unlucky to foul his last three jumps and  finish fourth – only to see the victor jump the same distance as he himself had cleared at Meadowbank.

Keddie described the triple jump battle between McNab and his clubmate R McG Stephen at the SAAA Championships:

“At the Senior Championships the young Shettleston Harrier had placed third behind a team-mate, Robert  McGhie Stephen who had himself been a good Junior having placed second in the AAA Junior triple jump in 1951.   He and McNab had a bit of a ding-dong running battle in the SAAA event, Stephen winning in 1953 and 1955, and McNab in 1954 and 1956 (and also winning in 1958 and 1962).   Both were in superb form at the 1954 meeting with McNab just out-distancing his colleague 47’7 1/2″ to 47′ 4″.   A too strong following wind nullified these performances for record purposes.”  

His winning performances were 14.51m in 1954, albeit with the following wind mentioned above, 13.90m in 1956,  14.30m in 1958 and 14.48 metres in 1962.

McNab also had a decathlon points total of 4156 in 1960 which placed him eighth in Scotland, a long jump best of 6.56m and a best discus throw of 36.45 in 1962.   He also set a Scottish record in the triple jump of 47’10” (14.58m) in Glasgow in 1958 which was reported in the ‘Glasgow Herald’.


Hop, Step and Jump

A new Scottish Hop, Step and Jump record was made in the Victoria Park AAC v Glasgow University athletics match at Scotstoun.    Tom McNab (Victoria Park) with a hop, step and jump of 47 feet 10 inches beat by eight inches the record made nine years ago by AS  Lindsay.

There was one wee hiccup for him on the way – he was photographed at an unpermitted meeting at Nethybridge in 1956 (he won £5) and barred until late 1957 but it was only a hiccup and nothing more serious.   It says more about the SAAA at that time than it says about Tom.

He was probably unlucky not to be selected for any Empire Games – Scotland only sent one triple jumper to the Games in 1954 and in 1958 and none at all in 1950.   He would not have been outclassed and his 47’10” in ’58 would have seen him in the top half of the field.   He did make the Commonwealth Games in a great year for Scottish Athletics – 1970 – but as a team coach for England.

Tom competed regularly in championships and open meetings and his record in the West District Championships was just as good as in the Nationals with three in four years in 1959, 1960 and 1962 with the one in 1961 being won by John Addo who was Ghanaian.   When he won in 1959, the ‘Glasgow Herald report read: “T McNab (Shettleston Harriers) cleared the splendid distance of 48′ 11″ in the hop, step and jump – 1 ft 1 in further than the record he set up at the same meeting a year ago.”   But there was no mention of Tom in the 1958 event result as published!   At this period too, he was assisting Simon Pearson with the publishing of the Annual Ranking lists – it’s one way of ensuring that your best marks are included, I suppose – but it’s a lot of work and it was pioneering work in the country at the time.

Tom 2

Good as he was as a competitor, McNab is better known as an outstanding coach and writer of technical books.    Eric Simpson who came under his spell as a coach says,

“Tom Mc Nab is one of the forgotten heroes of Scottish and British athletics.   Like his partner in crime John Anderson he built up an education and coaching expertise that was the envy of the world.    Then  the professionalism of the sport began and people like Tom were sidelined basically because they were too knowledgeable and they did not suffer fools gladly.  

I have great pleasure in seeing Tom every year at the A.A.A.s U20/ u23 Championships and it is always a worthwhile experience.  A man of principles and immense knowledge he always gives of his time and expertise and we always have “fun”.    A great sense of humour and a biting satire if he needs to.    He is one of the dying breed of “great” coaches  who inspire and give so much of their time and knowledge to the sport.    So much so that the phrase of ” a prophet in his own land is not honoured”    jumps to mind –  probably  the same for John. ” 

Maybe Eric’s  ‘forgotten’ is exaggerating things a bit but his name is less well known in athletic circles north of the border than it should be.    There are some more comments about Tom at the end of this profile by another friend and colleague, Hamish Telfer, another top class coach working south of the border.

He began coaching with Norrie Foster at Shettleston while he was still competing in 1956.  Tom had become a PE teacher and says “Even when I was an athlete, I always wanted to find out how I could help other athletes.   I remember convincing my club to have pole vault equipment.   Once the pole vault equipment was installed the athletics club wanted to know where the pole vaulters were.   I tried to explain that just because they had the equipment didn’t mean that they would automatically have pole vaulters.    There was a tall skinny child at the club called Norman Foster (below)  and I got him to vault.   He was a friend and just an ordinary guy who I got into pole vaulting.   I coached and trained him.   I didn’t know what I was doing it was a bit like the blind leading the blind, however he ended up representing Scotland in the Commonwealth games in Jamaica in 1966.”

Norman was indeed a really topclass talent.   His pole vault career is summed up in Keddie’s book.   “Norman Foster (23rd July, 1944) eventually developed into one of Britain’s best decathletes, but in 1963 had won the AAA Junior poole vault title with 13’0″  (3.96m).   Foster joined the select band of Scottish vaulters to clear 14’6″ (4.42m) when he cleared exactly that height in 1967.”     Foster was seventh in the Jamaica Commonwealth Games in 1966 with 13’6″.      Keddie  also covers Norman’s decathlon career, saying Among the first of a new generation to take up the event was Norman Foster who as a schoolboy at Uddingston Grammar School had his first taste of decathlon in 1961.   As an outstanding pole vaulter, he had the physique and mobility to tackle the decathlon.   In 1963 he placed third in the SAAA event but the following year won the title with a total (5633) which was recognised as a national record.   The same season he was an excellent fourth in the AAA Championship (5752) but it was in 1965 that Foster made a real breakthrough. “

A real class act, Foster totalled 6763 in the SAAA Decathlon (new points table) and in a nail biting AAA’s championship he won with 6840 – a UK record.   Injury seriously affected his competition although he was third in the AAA’s twice and won the SAAA event three times.

Coaching was difficult after Tom moved south but the link was maintained for a period although the friendship has lasted for over half a century – Norrie and his wife went to the Pitlochry Theatre to see him when his wife, Jenny Lee, was acting in ‘The Steamie’ at the end of 2013.

Foster, Norrie 1966

Coaching progress thereafter was rapid.   Hugh Barrow won the AAA Junior Mile title in 1963 and was also awarded the trophy for the best athlete in the meeting.    The trophy was presented to him by Tom McNab who had been invited up from England to lecture to coaches at Strathclyde University.   Tom had by this time in 1963 become National Athletics Coach for England: a post he was to hold for almost 15 years.    Almost immediately he had a high degree of success with the English Triple Jumper Fred Alsop who was fourth in the 1964 Olympic Games.   Alsop cleared 16.46 metres and his fourth place was eight higher than his performance in the 1960 Games.   Alsop was of course only the first of many.   Another who had great success in an event that Tom himself had taken part in was Peter Gabbet.   A good athlete from the start,  the notable decathlete worked with Tom after he took up the event and the entry in Wikipedia says

In a 1971 interview with Dave Cocksedge, asked when he first got hooked on the decathlon, Gabbet said, “It was training under Tom McNab and getting inspired by him that helped the most. I began to see the possibilities for myself; realised I had a good top class decathlon in me if I worked hard enough for it.” Four decathlons in 1967 confirmed Gabbett’s work ethic and enthusiasm. In May he competed twice in two weeks showing some improvement in the technical events if not the total score. In July he won the AAA Championship at Hurlingham (11.1 6.63 11.75 1.80 50.2 16.3 36.64 3.00 44.92 4:40.4) with a new personal best score of 6,533 points,  and in September he went to Liege in Belgium for his first international meet where he further improved his best in finishing fourth (11.0 7.10 9.27 1.83 49.7 16.2 34.14 3.00 48.62 4:36.2) with 6,562 points.

1968 was an Olympic year, so the target for Gabbett and McNab as they headed into winter training is the Olympic qualifying mark of 7,200 points, the race for which turned into something of an adventure. Indoor marks of 7.1s for 60 metres and 8.6s for 60 metre hurdles are hardly sparkling by the standard of specialist sprinters, but were a new direction for UK decathletes. The outdoor season kicked off with an encouraging 7.20m long jump at Oxford in March, after which Gabbett suffered a stress-fracture in his foot. Then in July he went to Crystal Palace for his first decathlon of the season. A 10.8s 100m and a fine 7.35m long jump set up the first day nicely, and after a “fiery” 48.7s   400m in which he “demolished” 400 metre specialist John Hemery, Gabbett ended day one on 3,901 points, easily the best by a British athlete. Below par for the first two events on the next day, both Jim Smith and Dave Travis the javelin specialist closed in on Gabbett, but a determined personal best 3.40m in the pole vault put him not just back in the lead but back on schedule. A “pathetic” javelin throw of 42.91m ended hopes of achieving the Olympic qualifying mark, but all three leaders had hopes of achieving 7,000 points as they lined up for the final event. Travis tried gallantly but could not stay with the nimbler athlete and Gabbett’s 5.7s lead at the tape was sufficient for his first National Record (10.8 7.35 11.78 1.83 48.7 15.7 35.91 3.40 42.91 4:25.2) of 7,082 points. Travis also passed 7,000 points and third placed Jim Smith was only 22 points shy of the mark. With two decathletes over 7,000 points, respected athletics journalist Mel Watman said that British decathlon had, “come of age”.

For the rest of the article go to the Wiki entry for Peter Gabbet at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Gabbett .

Fred A

Like all good men in any walk of life, Tom was never still.   While working as hard as any National Coach he still found time to write and organise.      His fertile imagination came up with two schemes almost immediately after he went south.   In 1966 he created a National Junior Decathlon Programme, one of the products of which was Daley Thomson.    He also created the Five Star Awards as an incentive scheme for children in schools and clubs.   It was a wonderful scheme – Frank Dick subsequently created a similar scheme in Scotland known as the Thistle Awards.   Those taking part were required to do both track and field events with certificates and badges in various colours to indicate the level of achievement.   Participants could win multiple awards and it was usual to see track suits smothered with the badges at championship meetings.   It was a pity when the scheme was discontinued some decades later – but it was so highly thought of that several clubs continue to use the scoring tables with only slight modification for club awards.    Later in his career he devised the Ten Step Award, sponsored in Scotland by IBM, for Under 12’s.

Munich 1972

He also did a lot of writing in 1966 – his excellent book ‘Modern Schools Athletics’ became a standard text for coaches at school and at club level.   It was very good and I had just bought a copy when I travelled to Gourock Highland Games and it was nicked from the dressing-room while I was competing!   He also had two coaching manuals for the AAA series of instructional booklets on Triple Jump and Decathlon.  He went on to write many, many books on training technique such as ‘Roots of Training Technique’.  By 1968 he had written with his friend Peter Lovesey the first ever British athletics bibliography with over 1000 books included therein.   One year later he won a Churchill Scholarship to go to the USA to study American athletics literature.   It was in 1968 too that he and Tony Ward travelled to Poland to see how their athletic league worked before the British National Athletic League was formed.

There were many, many articles for Athletics Weekly and other athletics and coaching magazines over the years as well as lecturing, talking to groups large and small and he was one of the best ever, hands-on, British coaches.   This was recognised in 2001 when he received the Dyson Award.   This is awarded to “individuals who have made a sustained and significant contribution to the development and management of coaching and individual coaches in the UK”.    This award was named after Geoff Dyson, the first chief national athletics coach, who died in 1981.   He is one of only three GB coaches to have gained this award, the others being Maeve Kyle and Frank Dick.   This sat nicely with the Winston Churchill Fellowship award that he had received in 1967.   

A prolific writer, the www.goodreads.com website lists many of his books – Field Events by Tom McNab; Modern Schools Athletics by Tom McNab; Speed by Tom McNab; The Complete Book of Track & Field by Tom McNab; Blooms of Dublin by Tom McNab; The Complete Book of Athletics by Tom McNab; An Athletics Compendium by Tom McNab; Combined Events by David Lease and Tom McNab; The Guide to British Track and Field Literature by Peter Lovesey and Tom McNab   +   the fiction noted below.

Although listed on the Dyson Awards as ‘Tom McNab, Athletics’ he is not a one sport man.  If we just look at his career this is clearly the case.   The  National Athletics Coach post lasted from 1963 to 1977.   He was of course an Olympic Coach between 1972 and 1976.   As early as 1970, he was working with the Chelsea FC team that won the FA Cup.   There was a year in Dubai in 1977 before being approached by the British Bobsleigh Association to prepare the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic team. The aim was to improve the team’s starting-times and Tom transformed training-methods and brought athletes into the squad. This resulted in Great Britain becoming 5th fastest starters in Lake Placid, a massive improvement.   What was next?    Director of Sport at TV-AM is what was next.   In 1983-4 he worked with Peter Jay, Michael Parkinson and David Frost to bring into being ‘TV-am’, Britain’s first commercial breakfast television station.     He then became Fitness Advisor to the Rugby Football Union between 1987 and 1992 which included working with the English rugby team that was second in the 1992 Rugby World Cup.  He was co-author with Rex Hazeldine of ‘The RFU Guide to Fitness for Rugby’ in 1998.   In 1997, he was appointed Performance Director to the  British Bobsleigh Association.      

This all suggests that he was finished with athletics – far from it.   In 1990 he moved back into athletics and formed a three hundred member athletics club in his home town, St. Albans. For more information on this one have a look at  http://www.stalbans-athletics.org.uk/history.html     In 1992, and 1994, he was a British Coach of the Year. In 1993 he returned to competitive athletics in hammer at the age of sixty, winning medals at national level.   Came the millennium and Tom was back into athletics coaching with a vengeance, and from 2005 working for a while with  Greg Rutherford whom he helped become the best Junior Long Jumper in the world.   He was at the same time  a World Class adviser for UK Sport and in 2004 wrote the McNab Report on English amateur boxing.   This was implemented and helped lead to British boxing’s most successful Olympics ever in 2008.   In 2011, together with Alan Launder and John Anderson, he took part in a ‘Coaching Legends’ weekend in Cornwall which was a great success.   He is currently listed on the Power of 10 website as coaching a group of six young London athletes – John Otugade of Shaftesbury Barnet (U20 sprinter), Teepee Princewill  of Harrow (U15 TJ), and four from Enfield & Haringey – Lawrence Davis (U20 TJ), Ibitoye Ibikunle (U20 TJ), Bradley Pike (U23) and Efe Uwaifo (U20 TJ).    All are highly ranked but you can look them up on www.powerof10.info .

Hamish Telfer, yet another Scot who worked as a national coach in England, met and worked with Tom.   Like Eric, Norrie and others the friendship still maintains.  He has this to say.

“Although I knew about Tom I didn’t meet him until I became a National Coach in 1976 (I worked as the National Officer for the Royal Life Saving Society for 3 years).  He introduced himself to me at a the annual conference of BANC (British Association of National Coaches) of which I was a member.  He discovered I had been coached by John and as a very young National Coach he took me under his wing a bit (I was the youngest National Coach in any sport at that time).  We chatted on and off, but lost touch a bit until UK Sport through its ‘education’ arm Sportscoach UK decided in the wake of BANC opening its doors to all coaches and then merging its interests with Sportscoach UK (SCUK), to open its doors more widely to be a voice of all coaches.  Tom and myself were voted on to the main committee by our peers to speak on ‘things coaching’ and in effect to get a professional association for coaches off the ground.  Anderson was voted in as chair.  This was a pretty high level group involving many good quality coaches from across a range of sports (eg. John Shedden from skiing, Hugh Mantle for canoe slalom, John Lyle etc etc.); a broad church but all with mutual respect for each other.

It was a disaster from the start.  It was clear that SCUK had an agenda.  To cut a long story short, the coaches association crashed and burned and although Tom like the rest of us did his best, there is now no organisation in the UK that speaks for coaches.  I can’t recall when Tom left British Athletics, but he went on to advise the British Bobsled team for a winter Olympics (or two) and also had a hand in conditioning some of the better rugby union teams of the day.
Parallel to all this was Tom’s then embryonic interest in writing.  He published a series of novels as I’m sure you know including ‘Flanigan’s Run’ (for which he sold the film rights).   He was probably better known for his work on the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ based on his (almost) encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of track and field athletics especially the old Peds., their trainers and training methods.  Some of this was filmed at Bebbington Oval on the Wirral and some of my athletes were extras, including one poor sod who had to fall in a race (cinder track) so was greased up so the cinders didn’t graze him too much.  Sadly, there was more than one take of the scene and he came out of it with yards of skin missing from his arms and legs.  Not a good look!
Latterly Tom has taken to writing for radio and for theatre both of which he has enjoyed some success.  Not all of his work in these mediums have been to do with sport, but I went down to see his theatre production of Jesse Owens and the Berlin Games in London in 2012 and we met up over a coffee.  It was a bit disconcerting sitting next to Goebels however.
Apart from that we phone each other intermittently when we don’t bump into each other in Sauchiehall Street (when he roundly abused me for cycling Lands End to John o’ Groats). “


Tom is also very well known for his career away from the sports arena – as technical director for the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ and for the three top class books – ‘Flanagan’s Run’, 1982,about the trans-continental footrace, ‘Rings of Sand’, 1984,  ‘The Fast Men’, 1986, described as the first sports-western novel.   The film was excellent and as technical director he was responsible for making the visual aspects of the athletics training and racing as realistic as possible – teaching actors to look  like runners, showing sprint drills and races to best effect and generally add to the film rather than these sections being the boring bits of the movie as could so easily have been the case.       ‘Flanagan’s Run’ was my own favourite, probably because I had been given a couple of Arthur Newton’s books and had read about the races across America beforehand.    I don’t think I was alone because it was translated into at least 16 languages and Tom won the Scottish Novelist of the Year Award.   There were also several radio plays including ‘The Great Bunion Derby’ and ‘Winning’ which featured Brian Cox.

He was still involved in athletics of course – in 1976 he had become an official IOC historian and contributed to Lord Killanin’s book called ‘The Olympic Games’ and in 2002, in collaboration with Andrew Huxtable and Peter Lovesey, he produced for the British Library The Compendium Of Athletics Literature, a scholarly work covering over 1300 books on athletics.   As a freelance journalist his work has appeared in The Independent, the Times, the Observer and the Telegraph.

 Tom takes a full part in activities in St Alban’s where he now lives  – an article in his local paper said:

“Impressively active at 77, Tom limits his coaching to young players nowadays.    But he won national hammer titles at 60 and was still playing rugby for Old Albanians veterans at 66.   Today hes a regular visitor to the Nuffield Health gym in Highfield Park Drive and plays twice a week at Townsend Tennis Club in the Oldies section run by Alison Asplin, another of those dedicated volunteers.”   (Tom had only taken up tennis at the age of 46, and says “It’s not about the age, it’s about levels of energy.   I was a late developer in most ways – when you are older you have a background of effective thought.   There is no point in having past experiences whilst you are here if they don’t have an impact on the way you act.   You stop growing when you stop thinking.” )

Having seen his last play – “1936″ – about the Berlin Olympics fill theatres in the West End in 2012 Tom is already working on his next project.

After a competitive career that would have filled any reasonable athlete with some pride, Tom went on to become an award winning coach in several sports, had a successful career as coach and writer of technical manuals, as a novelist and playwright and currently working on a novel of his play  ‘1936′  and on a campaign to bring back Village Sports to the nation.

I would suggest looking up some of his articles online – maybe start with the one quoted above about his start in coaching at http://phenomenalhealthstyle.tv/2012/09/30/conscious-coaching-olympic-coach-and-playwright-tom-mcnab-share-his-olympic-life-lessons-from-sports/#.UvOXqvl_vxQ

Or one on stretching from AW republished by the West of Scotland Sprint Squad at


or maybe the thought provoking one which he wrote for Peak Performance which can be found at


or better still look at this one from 2012


There are lots of examples of his writing on the internet including some remarks on bee pollen from the 1970’s, comments on the training of Captain Barclay as well as many technical and non-technical ones on all aspects of the sport.   Look them up, read what the man has to say!


John Anderson


JA PortraitEverybody in Scotland knows John Anderson, everybody in Britain and many further afield know John Anderson – or knows something about him.   John Anderson,  along with such as Wilf Paish, Frank Dick and Harry Wilson,  is one of the really great British coaches of the twentieth century and probably of all time.   Everyone knows about him – coach of athletes who have competed in Commonwealth, European and Olympic Games as well as World championships indoor and out, coach on several GB Olympic teams, fitness trainer and referee on the Gladiators TV programme, coach to famous athletes such as Dave Moorcroft, Judy Livermore, Sheila Carey, John Graham, Liz McColgan, Lynne McDougall and so on.    Impossible not to know he is a Scot and a Glaswegian,  he is immensely practical, down to earth, immensely knowledgeable and always prepared to share the knowledge with those willing to listen.   It was interesting talking to him, reading what I could find and listening to interviews about his career.   A brief summary of his career appears in Wikipedia and reads:

“John Anderson (born 28 November 1932 or 1933) is a former British television personality best known as referee and official trainer on the UK TV show, Gladiators. He has previously worked as a teacher and as a coach for Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games athletes, including Commonwealth Games champion and former World Record Holder David Moorcroft. John was National Coach for the Amateur Athletics Association of England and subsequently the first full time National Coach in Scotland. He was coach to an Olympian at every Olympics from 1964 to 2000 and has coached 5 world record holders and 170 GB Internationals in every event.

In 2008, John briefly resumed his role as referee on the newly revived Gladiators before being replaced by John Coyle after just one series.   Anderson went on to become mentor and coach for a number of recent international athletes, including Great British athlete William Sharman, who he helped transform from a decathlete to a world class sprint hurdler, and continues to coach at a local and regional level.”    

A very brief entry and, important as Gladiators was, in the context of his athletics coaching, it is not the high point.   He tells me he was born in 1931.  His fascinating career deserves to be looked at in some detail, from his start in athletics to date.   (NB: John only did one series after 2008 because he turned down the renewal because he felt it was changing in a way that he did not approve of.)


As a young man, John wanted to teach and was passionate about all kinds of sport.  He represented Scotland as a schoolboy footballer.   This was in the 1950’s when there was no formal coach education structure available in the country.    The only way in to sport as a career was to train as a physical education teacher and there were only two options available to him on that front – Jordanhill College in Scotland or Loughborough in England.    Jordanhill College is now of course part of Strathclyde University in Glasgow.   John went to Jordanhill and subsequently did a degree at the Open University and went into teaching in  Junior Secondary School the east end of Glasgow.   Progress as a coach was then down to self study and self motivation – he read voraciously, mainly in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.   He was interested in all sports and went on the FA football coaching course at Loughborough.   He did so well that he became the first home Scot to gain the prestigious Full FA Coaching Certificate.  It should be noted that at that time only 4 were awarded every year and none had ever been awarded to a ‘home Scot.’   When he came back home with the qualification, football clubs didn’t want to know.   There was no desire to use his qualification from those in the sport in Scotland where the clubs all seemed content to do what they had always been doing.   He went on teaching and covered such sports as gymnastics and swimming as well as football.    He reckons that these helped his future coaching of athletes – all experiences are useful and teach the interested coach, it raised his awareness of the coaching process and taught him how to motivate all kinds of people in different sports, and much more.

He had been a pupil at Queen’s Park Secondary School at the same time as Ally MacLeod.    They became firm friends and played together for the Scotland Schools team then when John was  National Coach, Ally was manager of the Scottish football team.   At a personal level, John was best man when Ally was married.

John only came into athletics by purest chance.   He was a member of Victoria Park in the West of Glasgow where he trained for the sprints, but says he really wasn’t much of a runner.   Nor was there very much coaching going on at the club – like other clubs at the time there was no proper coach but older and senior members advised the others on what they knew about.   Then at school one afternoon the principal PE teacher asked him to take the senior girls for relay practice.   There were annual sports for the Junior Secondaries in the area (he taught in Calder Street, St Mark’s JS and Dennistoun JS) and their school was always invited into the meeting.  (At that time secondary education in Scotland was divided into Junior and Senior Secondary Schools, with the pupils being segregated at the age of 12)    To teach relays, he needed a track and he made a rough track on the ash football field for this team of 14/15 year olds.   Came the sports, they won the relay and several other medals: they enjoyed it and he did too but he still thought of himself as a football coach.   The girls then asked him if they could carry on with athletics when they left school.   He looked around and the only option was Maryhill Harriers Athletic Club and he took them there – the only transport being his own small car.  After a few weeks, Tom Williamson at the club asked him to help – after all he was a PE teacher!    Then Tom and May Williamson set up their own club, Glasgow Western LAC and John was left with the rump of a club, only half a dozen girls who wanted to keep going.   And so Maryhill Ladies AC was set up – you can read about the club and its progress at


Many in Scottish athletics have stories about John at this time – for instance Helen Donald tells of the time she was running in the WAAA’s championships at Crystal Palace and, coming off the last bend in third place was encouraged by John, who was there with his Maryhill athletes, roaring her on and wearing his kilt!   Anyway, Maryhill Ladies AC took off and his initial goal of ‘best club in Scotland in three years’ was achieved – use the link and see how well they did.

Never a man to stand still and let inertia govern his conduct as so many do, he contacted his colleagues in other schools and asked them to send along any talented girls that they had and, while they were at it, to send along their parents as well!    They were all used and the parents who were helping with the coaching and training of the girls, used to attend classes that he held at his Mum’s house on Sundays   He always wanted to know more, and attended a summer school at Loughborough College.    In an attempt to test himself, he decided to take all the Senior Coach awards that were available.   This was a mammoth undertaking and I cannot imagine any coach doing it today: in fact I have only ever heard of John and Wilf attempting it.   He did this – as did Wilf Paish – and then when he heard that new post had been created, that of a peripatetic national coach in England and Wales, he applied.   He was given the job and travelled the length and breadth of England and Wales coaching and working with coaches.   He even collected some athletes who had no access to coaching or who needed help.   This was when there was no national TV, no emails, no mobile phones and communication sometimes took a long time.   There was in many clubs no scientific basis for what they were doing – they were doing what their predecessors had done for donkey’s years.   He didn’t like that idea.  So he started reading again – back to the Mitchell Library, and he wrote to people and sometimes there was a long time for a reply because he was dependent on the postal service.

Then he discovered Geoff Dyson’s book, “The Mechanics Of Athletics” with its scientific approach to the body, information that wouldn’t change , that was scientifically and mathematically based.   As he says, his coaching went from being hopeful to being scientific.   Later he found Tim Noakes and his work was also assimilated into the training process.   Already a voracious reader, he continued to be so despite the increasing levels of success that his athletes had.   If he was going to coach somebody then he had to have a scientific basis for what he was going to do or he would not do it.   That has not changed – all training has to have a scientific underpinning.

It was at this point that he was asked to do some coaching with the Glasgow High Kelvinside RFC by a rugby friend who was also into athletics.   John did some work with them but it was mainly sprints and speed development.   The sessions are still remembered by some of those who took part – one chap recalls doing pre-season training on the big pitch at Old Anniesland.  Rumour hath it that they disagreed over what constituted a warm-up!   The sessions were hard work as Kenny Hamilton, now director of rugby at Glasgow Hawks recalls “3!… 2!…. 1! – I remember him well. A fair amount of resistance-running – possibly the first I experienced which used tyres. I seem to remember a conversation about stretching He was very enthusiastic about stretching muscles – a comparatively foreign concept in rugby circles in those days. He was delivering a talk some place and was asked about how long each stretch should be held for ……. “8 seconds he replied” This then became a bit of a standard but he quietly admitted that there was absolutely no science behind it!    However, I can confirm that we were all bloody fit that year, except Cammy!”   Cammy Little who was a very good rugby player (he was one of Glasgow’s first contracted players and also played for the Barbarians) says he missed the sessions as it was summer and he played cricket: an old tactic that worked a treat!!   John says he was not really a rugby man but it’s funny how these things go around: he is now living near Leicester and since the Chief Exec is a friend he goes along to see the Tigers play and in 2012 even went to Twickenhan to see the Scottish match.   He also admits that he has done some work with the Leicester Academy boys and focused on sprinting.

Hugh, Duncan, Hamish

Hugh Barrow and Duncan Middleton training with Cameron McNeish in the foreground

The only thing that he reckons might be queried is whether his interpretation of what their (Dyson and company’s) work had been, was fair.   In response to that he can only look at the results of his work with various athletes.   With 5 world record holders and 170 GB internationals then there can be a fair assumption that his interpretations have been appropriate.  He always measures every coach on the basis of their output.   Not if they have only ever had one outstanding athlete – anybody might have an outstanding talent simply by chance – but have there been improvements in all of the athletes that they have coached.   John always had talented athletes who came to him who were improved further by his insights and methods.    Among those in Scotland to benefit from his coaching were Leslie Watson, Moira Kerr, Duncan Middleton, Graeme Grant, Hugh Barrow, Hamish Telfer (a notable coach in his own right), Craig Douglas, Lindy Carruthers, and the sisters Alix and Jinty Jamieson.   The set-up in Glasgow at the time was interesting in that coaches co-operated with each other and Tom Williamson and John worked together on some of the same athletes.

Of the five commonly agreed parameters used to measure an athlete, he feels that Speed is the key.   Not who is fastest over 100 metres or whatever, but who has most speed in their event.    A marathon runner needs stamina but once he has that then he needs speed for his race distance.   This informed everything that he did with his athletes thereafter – if you are in doubt, have a look at some of the sessions noted here and found at the links.   If you want to see an example of what John did with John Graham, sub 2:10 marathon man, then look at the profile at http://scottishdistancerunninghistory.co.uk/John%20Graham.htm .    Here was a man, John Graham,  who had all the stamina required, the move was then to develop the speed necessary to be at the very top of his chosen event.    There are also comments on his training methods in the Lynne MacDougall profile at


Graeme Grant

Graeme Grant

John’s first big national post was as noted above the National Coach in England and then came the post of National Coach in Scotland which he held from 1965 until 1970.   Very active, he covered every aspect of the sport in every part of the country.    He was the only National Coach that I knew of who even worked with Scottish Schools squad days (the Scottish Schools tend to have their own event coaches for squad days) and was also the man responsible for organising the Annual National Coaching Convention.    This was a superb innovation and brought world class coaches from all over the athletics world to speak and talk with Scottish, and indeed British, coaches on their own turf.   Every aspect of the sport was covered – technical aspects, fitness and conditioning, physiological testing – and star athletes were often present too.   At the end of the conference, all the papers presented were issued to those in attendance in spiral bound booklet form for further study and for dissemination within the clubs across the land.   Wherever he was, he was approachable.    The coaches were all on side.   He also spoke to other conferences and at one he met the Rangers FC manager Jock Wallace.    Many years later when Jock was manager at Leicester City FC and John was in Nuneaton, he asked John to come and work with him as a fitness coach.   He was also approached for advice by a young player called Gary Lineker.   He turned the job offer down but it is one of these intriguing questions – “But what if he hadn’t/”

Then he had the sessions with athletes.   For instance the lunchtime sessions at Glasgow University’s ground at Westerlands were legendary with many of the very best in the country training there.   The half milers Mike McLean, Graeme Grant and Dick Hodelet were there as was Hugh Barrow from Victoria Park; distance men such as Lachie Stewart were also attendees at the lunchtime training.   Runners really went out of their way to attend.    The routine, as described by Hugh Barrow, was:

Blue train from town; Warm-up jog out pavilion across grass; about 40 minutes max eyeballs out reps [8 300s or (6 600s) or …] ;
No warm down shower; Back on blue train to office.    It was there that I first spoke to John – I had gone along to see what this session that was spoken of was about and like everybody else was very impressed.   
Hugh, who had been coached for the previous eight years by Johnny Stirling at Victoria Park, switched coaches and began to train with John from 1966.    He had been AAA’s Junior One Mile champion, and was the world 16 year old mile record holder which was only broken by Jim Ryun and trained as noted with some of the best half-milers the country has produced under John’s guidance at Westerlands at lunchtime, as well as at the club.   John travelled a lot – unlike some National coaches.   I once formulated the theory that one particular national coach’s car always broke down at Ingliston – and a lot of his communication was done by letter.    An example of this is a letter sent to Hugh in 1970, reproduced below.
Hugh John A
The second half with the more personal correspondence is omitted but this does show the detail that he sent the runners, even at that relatively early stage in his career.   His first ever GB runner came from this period: it was Hugh Baillie of Bellahouston Harriers who had that distinction when he ran in the 4 x 440 yards relay.
I mentioned earlier that he worked with the Scottish Schools on their squad training days and he brought the very best of coaches with him.   For instance to one such day that he was organising at Scotstoun, he had Alex Naylor, Eddie Taylor, Sandy Ewen and professional runner Michael Glen,   plus from England and from the ranks of the best athletes, there were Vic Mitchell, Mike Lindsay, Peter Warden and Menzies Campbell with athletes such as Graeme Grant, Hugh Barrow, Sandy Robertson and Don Halliday as ‘coaching assistants.’    That is by any standards a remarkable line-up.   To have it for Schools athletes shows the priority given to appropriate development of young athletes.
John left the post of National Coach in 1970 to become Direction of Physical Education at Heriot-Watt University.   The job came up and it was a case of ‘take it or leave it.’    Always up for a new challenge, John took it on and his successor as National Coach was Frank Dick.   The year of course was Commonwealth Games year and Willie Robertson (a well-known Highland Games ‘heavy’ athlete) has this tale:   He had entered the Kinlochleven Highland Games in 1970.   After deciding to go and throw at these Games he came to the conclusion that it would be good to do some walking in the Highlands at the same time.   So he set off up the West Highland Way and recalls what happened as follows:  Great weather, made good progress.   I camped at the top of Glencoe and I was flooded out during the night.   It rained non-stop for three days.   I was forced to take bed and breakfast in Kinlochleven and abandon the tent.   Day of the Games, it was still raining.   Realised the whole trip was a mistake.   Then along came a coach with a large part of the Australian track and field team in it.   They were a great set of lads.    A couple took part in the heavy events.    Their chaperon was John Anderson.   Had a great time and cadged a lift home.   The coach passed my home village of Kirkliston.”
John’s coaching career was really taking off and when I checked some figures with John he confirmed that he had indeed coached over 170 GB athletes as Wiki had said.    A look at some of them would be very informative.
 John with David and Linda Moorcroft, 1982
The athlete with which he is most associated in the minds of many is David Moorcroft.   On a visit to see Sheila Carey at Coventry he had been asked to have a look at the young boys training and one of them was David Moorcroft.   The coach and physiotherapist at Coventry Godiva was Mick Crosfield who had to leave to concentrate on his business.   John had a phone call from Bob Moorcroft, David’s Dad, who asked if he would provide schedules for David to work to but John thought that he would have to know the athlete better.   He was then invited to stay with the Moorcroft family when he next went to see Sheila.  His involvement with David started in 1966.   It was a partnership which would lead to a world record for 5000m in 1982 and even a vets world record for the Mile of 4:02 in 1993.    David was a wonderful athlete and great role model for any athlete.   I heard him saying at a small seminar at Meadowbank in the mid 1990’s lthat they worked together so well and for so long that you could sit them in different dressing rooms, ask them to write a schedule for the next year and they would come up with almost identical programmes.      You can read of David’s association with John and his progress in the British Milers Club magazine for Spring 1999 at
When David started to work on his running with John as coach,  John was already coaching another Coventry runner who was very good indeed but whose name seems to have fallen from view.   She was Sheila Carey – a top class 800/1500/3000m runner who competed in two Olympics (1968 and 1972 in Munich where she set a new GB record for the 1500m), helped set a world 4 x 400m relay record at the Edinburgh Games in 1970.  John had met her at a training camp in Font Romeu when he was there with a GB team.   One afternoon he decided to take the men, for whom he was mainly responsible, up higher to a plateau where they could do some training.   He saw a woman climbing up with them – she was Sheila Taylor and then, on the way home, she asked John if he would coach her.    He was living in Hamilton at the time, she was in Coventry.   She was quite clear and determined and so the partnership was formed.   She ran in the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1970 where she was one of the fallers at the end  of the women’s 800m and was unplaced.
The story of the selection for Mexico in 1972 is interesting.   The selection for the Olympics was the AAA’s Championship.   Sheila wasn’t well on the day and failed to qualify.   The first two were selected and John had a phone call the following week.   he was told that there was to be a run-off for the third 800m place between Ann Smith, trained by Gordon Pirie in New Zealand and the third placer in the AAA’s.    Sheila would be part of rest of the field.   John had other plans and on the day of the race he told her that she was going to win and go to the Olympics.   Tactics were simple – John would wait at a particular spot on the trackside and when he shouted to her to go, she was to really go for it all the way to the finish.   She responded really well, left the other two in her wake and won.   She went to Mexico.    It is a little known fact that John spent some time coaching blind athletes, and Sheila went on to teach in a school for the blind where she also became involved in coaching blind athletes.   Still running as a V65, see her recent profile at http://www.thepowerof10.info/athletes/profile.aspx?athleteid=1967  , Sheila was one of the Olympic torch-bearers in Warwick in 2012.
All the way through the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, John was coaching some of the best athletes in the country – and by the country, I mean Britain.   The decade started with Sheila Carey doing very well and David Moorcroft was outstanding.    David competed in three Olympic Games (1976, 1980 and 1984); in 1978 he won Gold in the Commonwealth 1500m and four weeks later, was third in the Europeans.   You can get the whole story of his career and training at the BMC link above.   In 1982, however, came his finest moment.   He broke the existing world record for the 5000m with 13:01.44 and he did so without the use of pace makers: at the Bislett Games in Oslo he simply ran away from the field.  There’s a nice video clip of the last 1000m at
It was the last time that world record was broken by someone other and African.   He also won gold in Brisbane at the Commonwealth Games and set a British and European 3000m record of 7:32.39.
David Jenkins
*    Liz McColgan won silver at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul
John Graham trained with him from 1982 to 1987 which included a second in Rotterdam in 1985 in 2:09:58, 2:10:57 when finishing fifth in New York in 1983 and two Commonwealth Games fourth places.
*   Judy Simpson won bronze in the 1986 European Games pentathlon and competed in three Olympic Games in 1982, 1986 and 1990, although her top achievement was winning gold in the Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh in 1986..
*   Glasgow’s Lynne MacDougall ran in the Olympic 1500m Final in Los Angeles 1984 the high spot of a career of top class running including European Indoor Championships in 1984 and 1990, Commonwealth Games in 1986 and 1990, and with a range of personal bests ranging from 2:01.1 for 800m in 1984 right up to 2:36:29 for the marathon in 2002.
David Jenkins 4 x 400 silver in Olympics in 1972,silver in Europeans in 1974,  USA 400m champion in 1975, Commonwealth gold in 1978.   His 1971 victory in the European Championships at the age of 19 was quite superb.
David Wilson:  Hurdler and High Jumper who took part in the 1972 Olympics as a sprint hurdler, in the 1970 Commonewealth Games as a high jumper and in the European indoors as a high jumper.   He had personal bests of HJ 2:05, LJ 6.90, TJ 13.15, PV 3.30, Discus 36.64, 60mH 7.9, 110H 14.0 but never competed in a decathlon as far as I can discover.
*   He coached John Robson for a time and there were so many more, one of the most interesting being
*   David Bedford who asked John to coach him.   David had just run in the European Championships in Helsinki where, after leading right up to the last lap, he was destroyed by a 54 second last lap by Juha Vaatainen and then finished sixth.   Video of the last two laps can be found on youtube at this link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sfm_lTSOjhI  .   John had been there with David Jenkins and they met there.   The following week  John came along to Meadowbank to do his coaching when he saw this tall, thin chap in red socks jogging round the track.   Recognising him, he asked what he was doing there and Bedford replied that he was what had brought him – he wanted John to coach him.   They reached an agreement and worked together for many years.   When he came up to Edinburgh David stayed with one of John’s runners, Dave Hislop and the partnership worked both athletically and socially.
With over 170 GB athletes, there were obviously many, many more but you get the quality of the coaching from that sample. Women’s heptathlon to men’s marathon via sprints, hurdles and high jump.      And with hurdler William Sharman he is still in 2013 producing champions!   From Maryhill in 1960 to London in 2013 the span is heading to 55 years.If the figure in Wikipedia of 170 GB internationals is correct, it must be more than any other coach ever.

John Liz 88 Seoul

John with Liz McColgan after the Seoul 10000m in which she was second
John’s credentials as a coach are undeniable – but how well were they recognised by the administrators of the sport?    Well, at the start of his career, coaches were regarded as ‘add-ons’ to the team as opposed to administrators who were essential.   Coaches were taken to Games but as extras who had to be taken rather than as essential parts of the competitive team.   The result was that he went to the 1968 and 1972 Games as an official consultant; he was attached to the team as a coach in 1976 and again in 1980 he was ‘attached’ to the UK team, and he was an official attachment to the team in 1984 and 1988, and again in 1992.   So – seven Games as part of the team, regardless of the title bestowed by the powers that were.   But he was properly recognised when in 1988 he was inducted into the UK Coaching Hall of Fame and he also received the Mussabini Medal.    The Hall of Fame is almost self-explanatory but the Mussabini Medal (named of course after Sam Mussabini who coached Harold Abrahams to Olympic gold.   I quote from Wikipedia:

The Mussabini Medal celebrated “the contribution of coaches of UK performers who have achieved outstanding success on the world stage.” Along with the Mussabini Medal, there also existed The Dyson Award, for “individuals who have made a sustained and significant contribution to the development and management of coaching and individual coaches in the UK”.   This award was named after Geoff Dyson, the first chief national athletics coach, who died in 1981.

The Mussabini Medal was introduced in conjunction with the launch of the Coaching Hall of Fame. The medal and associated awards were launched to raise the profile of coaches, and increase the financial backing to enhance the profession, still seen at the time as a largely amateur vocation in spite of Mussabini’s pioneering example.   Speaking at the inaugural presentation the patron of the Foundation the Princess Royal  stated that “Coaching and the work of individual coaches lies at the heart of sport, Yet all too often the role and contribution of the coach remains unrecognised and unacknowledged.”

Quite an honour.


David Bed2
That would be more than enough for any man, but there was so much more to John than that.    For instance, he was an agent with connections all over the athletics world and used these connections to the benefit of his, and other, athletes.    He was also influential in the promotion of events.    The Princes Street Mile races in Edinburgh for instance –
in the early 1990’s utilised John’s expertise in persuading world class competitors to take part for the first race of the series.    Runners that he persuaded to come along included Fermin Cacho, Steve Cram, Jens Peter Herold, William Tanui, David Kibet, Jim Spivey for the Men’s Mile and Hasib Boulmerka, Ellie van Langen,  Kirsty Wade, Doina Melinte, Yvonne Murray and Sonia O’Sullivan for the women’s race.   A quality not really equalled in any of the following years.  Then there were the training days, squad training sessions and many other occasions when his help was requested.    And then of course there was ‘The Gladiators.’
He was even at one point an agent getting the appropriate races for his athletes.   This was at the time when he was coaching Liz McColgan.   It was difficult at times getting the appropriate races to fit into their carefully planned programmes, and some of the agents were out for themselves rather than for the athletes,  so he offered to act as their agent, free of charge, and find them the appropriate competition.   It did work rather well for his charges.
Then there was ‘the day job’.    After the Heriot Watt Director of Physical Education, he moved to Nuneaton as Deputy Chief Liaison and Recreation Officer where he soon moved up to be Chief Leisure and Recreation Officer before finally ending up as Director of Leisure Services in London with a staff of 600 to supervise.
He was never still.    And he thrived on it.   Many coaches only ever have one national standard athlete or one Olympian in their charge, many very good coaches never have either but John held down a series of demanding jobs while coaching athletes to the highest honours and performing the many other associated functions noted above.
Wolf 2
He was at that time working in the South of England and he received a phone call from a TV company who were going to do a Game Show programme involving big, strong muscle men and they needed somebody who was an expert in tests and measurements.   He was invited to come to Woolwich Barracks in London to help sort them out.   If they passed the tests then they were to report to the producer.   When he reported there were lots of muscles on display.   All the men were body builders but none of the women were – they were all dancers, gymnasts and so on.    He sorted them out and the word ‘Gladiators’ never came up and he didn’t know what he was sorting them out for.   The producer was Nigel Lithgoe, treated with all due deference by everybody but John was curious to see how they were going to be selected for the actual show.   He then encouraged Nigel to include one big guy in particular.  Originally doubtful, he did include the ‘big guy’ as a reserve.    The big guy turned out to be Wolf (pictured above)who became the most popular of them all.   John was then invited to come down as Director of Training.   He went down knowing nothing about the show and then Nigel asked him to be referee as well.   John accepted the job and that was the start of it.   The show was an instant and mammoth hit.   John had no small part to play in it: his “Gladiators ready” and famous countdown 3-2-1 were so successful that they were copied by the American version which was the original and biggest Gladiator show.    Another favourite member of the team was Nightshade – one of his own athletes, heptathlete  Judy Simpson – mentioned above.   There is a profile of him in his role as Gladiators referee at
The two comments below the article read as follows: “Back in the 90′s hey day of Gladiators, I was a working at the Pizza Express in Brindley Place, Birmingham, next door to the NIA where Gladiators was filmed.   For several weeks every year, the paths outside were thronged with foam handed punters, and we often saw the Gladiators themselves walking past. Wolf even belied his image and would wave and smile at the kids.   But the man himself, John Anderson was a regular customer. He would always come in by himself, and sit at table 13 and order two garlic breads for starters, and then a pizza. He was a really nice guy, and would happily sign autographs for the kids. Probably the nicest minor celebrity I met while working there, although it could be a tie between him and Bob Holness.” was the first and the second contrasts this with his on-screen appearance and reputation.   It reads “The wimp ref Sky employed was awful. We nicknamed him ‘dad ref’ because ‘Gladiators Ready!?’ sounded more like ‘dinners ready.’ ”   which clearly indicates that John was just a bit tougher than the US original!
There was even a set of toy gladiators produced with a six inch John Anderson figure: a toy firm called Character Options made and sold sets of the Gladiator characters – and of course there had to be one of John as well.  

And the script read: ‘One of the Gladiators 6″ Action Figures to collect from the hit show on Sky1.   This pack contains John Anderson 6″ action figure with Whistle and Stopwatch.   “Contender READY”, “Gladiator READY” are words that can only be uttered by one man. John Anderson is the man behind the whistle, in charge of keeping the Gladiators and contenders in check as well as preparing them for the challenges they face!’

Manufactured by Character Options

Judy Night
Into the twenty first century and John was still operating at a very high level indeed: a couple of examples.    As part of the ‘Flying Coaches’ with other coaches and athletes such as Paul Evans for instance.   What were the Flying Coaches?   They explain their set up like this –
Who are the Flying Coaches?
A range of coaches have been identified on the basis of their experience and expertise in technical events. The Flying Coach Programme has seen the likes of former Chicago Marathon winner Paul Evans and World Champion coach John Anderson visiting clubs. Coaches interested in becoming ‘Flying Coaches’ should contact their area Club and Coach Support Officer to register interest.

What might a Flying Coach visit involve?While it is expected that the focus of the majority of Flying Coach visits will be the technical development of coaches, clubs are encouraged to address other areas of coach development using the Flying Coach scheme, such as:

  • Strength & Conditioning
  • Fundamental Movement Skills
  • Planning and Periodisation
  • Communication Skills
  • Sport Psychology

Flying Coach Programme: Disability

Wheelchair Racing: An introduction to basic push technique, chair set up and training programmes.
Seated throws: Advice and guidance on seated throws, including throwing frames, tie downs and fixings.
Coaching blind or visually impaired athletes: Advice and guidance on supporting blind or visually impaired athletes, to include guide running and competition pathways.
Coaching deaf or hearing impaired athletes: Advice and guidance on coaching deaf and hearing impaired athletes. To include information on effective communication, technology, Deaf UK Athletics and competition pathways.
Coaching athletes with a learning disability: Advice and guidance on coaching athletes with a learning disability. To include information on Mencap, Special Olympics and competition pathways.
Other impairment specific visits: Advice and guidance on coaching athletes with a specific impairment (Cerebral Palsy, amputees etc). To include information on National Disability Sports Organisations and competition pathways.

So it is not an easy option to follow for the coach – the last section is interesting with our prior knowledge of his work with blind athletes.


John in Cornwall, 2011

In August 2011 for instance he travelled to Cornwall with Tom McNab and Alan Launder to work with the local Cornwall AC for what seems to have been really successful event.   There are links at the Cornwall site to two of John’s PowerPoint presentations.   The first is called “Most can run, many can race, few win!”  and the second is entitled “Preparation/Rehearsal for Sprints”.   While they are incomplete without John’s presentation, the headings are enough to make most people think a bit.   You can get them at


–  the links are just below the first picture of the three coaches!

As we said above he is still coaching a small number of top class athletes but he is not yet easing himself into retirement as a coach.

Success at the level he has enjoyed didn’t alter the fact that he was a coach who worked with athletes of all abilities.   With his personality and ability he would have been a success in any walk of life: we are fortunate that he chose athletics.

Tributes to John are many but I have some on a separate page which you can reach from this link.    Below is the latest photograph we have of John – received in May 2018

There is an excellent article on John on the Playing Pasts website at

Where Are They Now – John Anderson


Eddie Taylor

Eddie in 1949

Eddie Pictured in 1949

Eddie Taylor was one of a generation of great club men, one-club men, that spanned the war years.   He was the first to enunciate for me what many others of that generation lived by and that was the belief that “You do what your club needs you to do.”   In Shettleston there were David Morrison,  Wilie Laing and the Scally family for a start, in my own club of Clydesdale Harriers there were  David Bowman, George White, James P Shields.   Bill Elder at Glenpark was another.

Starting as an endurance runner, Eddie had some good runs for the club in the 1930’s.   In season 1935/36 he ran for the club in the Midland District Championships where the team finished fifth.   The following winter he ran in the National Novice Championship where he was a non counter in the wining Shettleston team.   He was also in the four man B team in the Midland Relays that finished a creditable seventh.   In 1937/38 he was a member of the winning team in the McAndrew Relay at Scotstoun along with Jim Flockhart, Willie Sutherland and Willie Donaldson.   In 1938/39 he ran in his only Edinburgh to Glasgow relay on the fifth stage where he pulled the team up from ninth to seventh before handing over to Jim Flockhart who picked up one more on the star studded sixth stage of seven miles.   He also ran in the National that season.

Eddie was running well in the years immediately before the War and won several club championships: in 1936/37 he won the club novice championship and also won the Shaw Cup which was held over eight handicap events varying in distance from 75 yards to two miles.

When the War intervened, the club members who were not, for several different reasons, in the Forces, kept the club going and Eddie was one of those men.    He had been secretary in the 1938/39 season, and then acted as treasurer from 1940/41 to 1942/43 before taking the President’s chair in 1944/45 and 1945/46.   There were further stints as club president in 1953/54, 1965/66 and 1966/67.

As can be seen, he was a good committee man in the club, filling many more posts than those mentioned above.   This was not a situation that changed over the years either.   In 1960, the club sent two buses to the Rome Olympics and Eddie had been one of the organisers of that expedition.   It goes on to add that one of the highlights for Eddie and his wife Meta had nothing to do with the athletics.   “Strolling through the Olympic Village they came across a group of bambini in a very agitated cluster.   Closer examination revealed that they were being entertained by a handsome young black American, the new Olympic light heavyweight boxing champion, Cassius Clay, later Muhammed Ali.   Not content with bagging one international personality, they turned a corner and almost bumped into Bing Crosby.”

As a coach he coached high jumps, long jump, triple jump and javelin to Senior Coach level as well as sprints, middle distance, shot and discus at club coach level.   This is an incredible list – nowadays they would be level four for the first four and level three for the second four!   Little wonder he was one of the first to be recognised as a Master Coach when the award was first instituted.   He was also Scottish coach for various disciplines as well as for what was at that time called multi-events.   He was very far sighted as a coach: in a letter to the ‘Athletics Weekly’ a number of years ago, one coach was complaining about his sessions being stolen by other coaches.

Eddie was the very reverse of that.   Two examples.   First from the official Shettleston Harriers history quoting the  minutes of a club meeting.   “Going into the track and field season the club had amassed a greater number of coaches than ever before ‘for all events’ and was now offering specialist coaching on an individual basis and not only to club members.   Coaching convener Eddie Taylor urged the Committee to encourage others outside the club “to place themselves in the hands of the many coaches”, an approach that was to become a feature of the club’s policy during the 60’s”   Eddie was never narrow of outlook.   Second, when we at Clydesdale Harriers were holding throws coaching sessions for local schools, we invited several coaches from outside the club to help.   Eddie was the national coach for javelin at the time and he came along willingly  nd when another coach from another local club refused saying that “Clydesdale only wanted to recruit for themselves,” he rebuked him saying it was good for the sport.   The Shettleston AGM in 1964 was magnanimous in its praise of the coaching of young athletes done by Eddie and by Alex Naylor – another who coached “the body of the Kirk”.   Both believed in the “all who will may enter” school of coaches.   He was a very good and popular National Coach for the Multi-events, now known as Combined Events.   We were both on the West District of the SAAA Coaching Committee in 1979 and 1980 and he passed on a lot of very useful information informally at these events.

Even though by then he was known as a very good coach indeed, he never failed to take any opportunity to add to his store of knowledge and was a regular attender at coaching courses wherever they were being held.

As an administrator he served on club, county, district and national committees rising to senior positions in them all.   The highest position in Scottish athletics, President of the SAAA, was held by Eddie in 1974, after he  had worked his way through all the committees and subcommittees over the years.   He was also accorded the honour of life membership of the SAAA.

Shettleston Harriers history reported that the club had 4 possibles and one certainty for the team going to the 1974 Commonwealth Games.   The one certainty was Eddie Taylor who had already been selected as team manager.   When it came to the Games, Lachie Stewart had this to say about him: “Eddie is the best team manager we ever had, because he had such an easy-going attitude but was still effective.”

Having been admin officer, coach and team manager for Scottish international teams and representative squads literally for decades, Eddie was certainly effective.   For example when I was admin officer for the men’s team in the Bell’s Junior International in 1980, Eddie was team manager and he gave the appearance of being ‘easy-going’ but he was very sharp indeed.   He knew all of the athletes in the team and knew how they all had to be dealt with and which ones to watch late at night as well!

As far as awards were concerned, he was rightly recognised by the authorities.   In 1990 he won the Betty Claperton Trophy which is awarded annually to the person considered by the Coaching Committee to have given outstanding service to coaching and in the same year was awarded the Tom Stillie Memorial Trophy which is awarded annually to the person considered by Council to have contributed most to Scottish Athletics.   To be awarded either is an honour but to be awarded both in the same year is unique.

Athlete, coach, committee man nationally and locally, and administrator, Eddie was also a reporter for the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine which was the Bible of the sport in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Eddie was never unprepared – he was always up-to-date with his knowledge of coaching of Scottish athletics generally.   He was genuinely ‘easy-going’ as Lachie said, but behind that was a thorough going professional attitude to everything that he did.



Alex Naylor

Alex was for most of my time as a coach the Big Daddy of Scottish endurance coaching.    We first crossed swords as runners in the late 50’s in the Clydebank to Helensburgh 16 mile road race  for which I was not well prepared.   A pal of mine said why not do the Balloch to Clydebank this year and then the Helensburgh?     I agreed, we both ran the Balloch and then when I turned up for the Helensburgh, he was nowhere to be seen.  I ran anyway.    On the run in to Helensburgh from Cardross everyone I passed dropped out and eventually within finishing distance I dropped out as well.   When I looked back at the results a few years later, who had been last in the race?   A gent called Alex Naylor.    Our paths crossed a lot – and I mean A LOT – over the next thirty or forty years.   He was i/c Scottish squad sessions when I took runners along, we met at BMC weekends, when I organised training days at Huntershill he was an ever present and then in 1986 he invited me to become Scottish Staff Coach for 5000/10000 metres and the friendship has continued in various other guises right up to date.   This is not a biography, it is not even in chronological order, it is quite simply (as Alex often says) about a man who has done a lot for his club and for the sport.   The best overview of his career was the tribute paid after he died by Graham Smith of Victoria Park which is reproduced here in full.

Born in the East End in   Bridgeton he qualified to be an optician, initially as   a manager of Lizars and finally as a shop owner in   Tollcross Road, Glasgow & Church Walk in Denny ,   Naylor’s Opticians.

Alex Naylor was a revered name   in coaching circles throughout the UK, being held in   great esteem by all his peers. His first involvement   with athletics began in 1953 when he joined Glasgow   YMCA as an athlete, before joining Shettleston   Harriers in 1957. Never likely to be an athlete of   International standing, Alex’s love and dedication for   the sport over a period of 58 years was never   diminished. He strived to be the best at whatever he   did, and on a coaching aspect, he certainly achieved   that receiving an MBE in the 2007 New Year’s Honours   list for services to athletics.

Alex’s accolades were many,   being awarded the Honorary title Master Coach for   Middle distance, from UK Athletics, and from Scottish   athletics just some of his awards and titles are   listed below:   Scottish Amateur Athletics   Association Coaching administrator for 20 years   Coaching lecturer receiving an award for 30 years of   service Chairman of Scottish Joint Coaching   Committee Interim National Coach Honorary Life   Member of SAAA Senior coach for Scottish Schools   residential camps for 10 years.  Invited Coach to   Irish Schools Summer camps for 2 years Team coach   to many British and Scottish Teams Won Betty   Clapperton Trophy for services to coaching on two   occasions Was given a Life Time award by Scottish   Athletics in 2002 Secretary of West District   Committee for 4 years Won Tom Stillie Trophy for   services to athletics in 1985 Founder member of   first Scottish Young Athletes League in the 1960s   Scottish Secretary of British Milers Club for 3   years. 

Alex was one the few early   coaches who were inclusive and he coached various   athletes outwith Shettleston Harriers in his training   groups, including several international athletes and   club athletes from Victoria Park City of Glasgow.   Including one of our Life Members Los Angeles   Olympian, Lynne MacDougall who ran (4.05.96)1500m &   (2:01.1) 800m in 1984 at the age of 19,  Dave   McMeekin (1:46.8) and Susan Scott, for a short period   as a youngster when she moved to Glasgow from Ayr   Seaforth.  She went on to become an Olympian in   Beijing and Scottish record holder (1:59.02) 800m.

Possibly his major individual   coaching success. amongst his many achievements, was   coaching Nat Muir who set a Scottish record at 5000m   13:17.9 in Oslo in 1980, which still stands today. Nat   also won 8 Scottish Senior Cross Country Titles under   Alex’s guidance, he could only manage 3rd place in   1982 after being hit by a trolley bus during a New   Year’s Eve race in Madrid and had hardly any training   prior to the National XC. In 2003 Alex also coached   Allan Stuart to a World Record at 400m for athletes   with learning difficulties and Olympic silver medal at   the Sydney 2000, LD Paralympic Games.

In his capacity as a coaching   lecturer he must have influenced the lives of   thousands of athletes and coaches both directly and   indirectly, through Schools residential camps, and the   coaching weekends at Largs. He once told me that “If   you want to become a good coach, you have to remember   it’s a commitment for life”, it certainly was for him.      On a personal note, I had known Alex for more   than 30 years initially as a member of one of his   coaching groups, and then as a coach tutor when I came   into coaching in the mid 80’s. He became my mentor and   friend travelling with him to many B.M.C. conferences,   seminars and training camps, introducing me to his   peer group of Peter Coe, Harry Wilson, Frank Horwill    et al. some of the greatest endurance coaches of   Britain’s “Golden Era”, they all thought of Alex as a   friend, such was his standing in the coaching   community.

Everyone will remember his    “Naylorisms”, there are hundreds of examples that   everyone here can recall like “I have seen milk turn   faster” “Don`t lie there on the track, my athletes   will get blood on their spikes” and “I don’t know what   you are whinging about, I can’t feel any pain”, but   they were delivered with comedic timing, so the   acerbic wit was never deemed offensive.  In   later years, Alex’s health declined, but he still   managed down to coach at Crownpoint Track on a Tuesday   and Thursday night. I used to pick him up from his   flat in Cumbernauld, and woe betide me if I was more   than 5 minutes late arriving, though he could stroll   down 15 minutes late and ask if I had been waiting   long. I remember one journey, I had just collected my   car from the garage after a service, and as we were   driving I heard this “loud ticking “noise in the car,   I proceeded switching off the radio, the heaters, air   con etc. to no avail. I started off by saying to Alex,   what I was going to tell that garage the next morning,   that they hadn’t checked the car thoroughly and hadn’t   completed the job. When we arrived at the track, I   lifted the bonnet, checked all around the car, but   every time I went inside I still heard the ticking   even with the car stopped. I helped Alex out of the   car, and then he produced an old clockwork stopwatch   from his pocket, and said “Is this the ticking sound   you mean” both of us burst out laughing, he had me   going for the full journey from Cumbernauld to   Crownpoint track.

When my wife and I used to   visit him in the care home he could still have us   laughing and reflective on our journey home after his   tales and one liners, “There you are you see”.   Everyone who knew, or met Alex could tell a story, he   was a true legend in his life time, a great man, a   great coach and a good friend.  He will be sadly   missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.    

From Alex’s Order of Service – a philosophy he   lived by. If you think you are beaten –   you are , If you think you dare not – you don’t If   you like to win but you think you can’t, It’s   almost certainly you won’t. If you think you’ll   lose – you’ve lost; For out of the world we find – Success begins with a fellows will,  It’s all in the   state of mind. If you think you’re outclassed – you   are; You’ve got to think high to rise; You’ve   got to be sure of yourself Before you can win a   prize. Life’s battles don’t always go To the   strongest or fastest man; But soon or late the man   who wins Is the man who thinks he can.

And that’s where Graham’s tribute ends – a wonderful tribute written with affection and respect which also summarises Alex’s career beautifully.    My own involvement with him follows.

He started serious coaching before I did – I became a coach in 1961 and combined it with running on the track, over the country and on the road while Alex concentrated on the coaching side of athletics.   It wasn’t too long before the results of his athletes and his interest in furthering his knowledge had him  one of the Scottish Staff Coaches and he went on to become Group for Endurance events and to hold various posts in British athletics – the one where I learned a bit from him was when he was GB Coach to Junior Steeplechase.    The number of top internationals that he had was legion with Nat Muir and Alistair Currie probably the top two.   Everyone in Scottish Athletics has an Alex story or two in their locker.   For example, watching a slow middle distance race, it was “I could stand faster!”   (Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number One) On one occasion I went in to a sports meeting at Crown Point on the way to visit some relatives in Barrhead and was wearing a natty navy blue sports jacket.   “Where are you going, senilis?” He asked, “To a funeral for someone you don’t like?”   One of the big laughs was at the BMC Conference in Liverpool when Frank Horwill had given a talk on testing – Balke test, Kosmin tests, etc – and the meeting was then thrown open for fifteen minute lecturettes.   Alex got up and using the Kosmin test formula and inserting the appropriate figures proved that according to Mr Kosmin a man with no legs could run two minutes for the 800.   Nobody laughed more than Frank Horwill.

At times I was sonny and at others senilis.   Before anyone else was working with athletes from outside his own club, Alex was famous for coaching “the body of the kirk”.   In other words, all who will may enter.    The patter was good and the training was effective.   One of his sayings was that what people get for nothing, they value at nothing and one of his examples was the circuit training he used to do at Bellahouston Sports Centre.   It was on a Wednesday night and he had the whole big Hall.   Athletes paid a fee of about 5/- and there were literally dozens of athletes being put through their paces with hard but good circuits.   They came from all over the Central Belt to do them.   They were so effective that the SAAA decided to subsidise them and the athletes didn’t have to pay.   Attendances dropped like a stone!

He can also tell a good story against himself.   There was the one where he had Alistair Currie training I think at the Marinecraft in Dumbarton weights room.   He kept telling Alistair that he wasn’t doing a particular exercise properly and demonstrating to the guy how to do it.   After about four or five demos with Alistair still not getting it, the wee guy training away in the corner said to Alex “I don’t know what you are wanting him to do but he is copying what you are doing exactly!”

Although perhaps best known as a coach, he was a very capable administrator and was President of the SAAA in 1978 having previously been Secretary of the West District.   He has also been a member of the British Amateur Athletic Board and he once said that although you were elected for three years you really only had one year where you could do anything.   The first year you were playing yourself in, the second year you had to get the work done because in the third year you were on the way out.   There are coaches whose athletes always look thoroughly miserable but Alex was never one of those.  I remember at the big BMC Conference we had at Jordanhill, we all stayed in on the Saturday night and for a big chunk of it there was a big group of young runners sitting round his table from which gales of laughter were coming at regular intervals.   Speaking of the BMC – he was a regular attender at meetings of the Club and when the meeting was held in Liverpool he gave Frank McGowan a lift down from Glasgow and Frank talks of Alex with a row of cigars on the dashboard before him and lighting one from the stub of the old one all the way down.   After the BMC had agreed to have their final Grand Prix at Scotstoun I had a committee of six or seven to take care of various aspects of the organisation and Alex was one of the key members of such a group.   He was also a Grade 1 Track and Field official and has refereed many important fixtures and was one of the first men that I approached when I was convener of the Decathlon in the 70’s.

He was some guy and I’ll finish for now – more to come – with the time in 1986 when I had been appointed Staff Coach for 5000/10000 and Willie Sharp had the same job for steeplechase.    I had done a paper on the development of the events and Alex invited us up to his flat in Cumbernauld to discuss it.   Once we had done that he turned to Willie who was at that time unmarried and asked him how he washed his shirts!   Alex apparently washed one a day and hung it up over the bath.   There was a row of shirts there and the wet one went at the back and next day he wore the one from the front!   When the bedsheets came into the discussion I switched off!

When I did the second weekend of the Senior Coach course in 1978. the Friday night session was an introduction and issuing of timetables, etc for the weekend.  The first session on Saturday was just covering all the bases and setting up what was to come.   At the morning break, one of the attendees (a throws coach) went round the other coaches asking if they had learned anything new yet getting the obvious reply of “No, not yet.”   Returning after coffee we were all gobsmacked when this chap stood up, interrupted Gordon Cain who was about to speak with a complaint from everyone there that they were learning nothing.   Word got out to Alex who was in the building and at the end of Gordon’s very good presentation, in came Alex in his Great Britain track suit.  He went straight to the rostrum and said straight out in a kind of aggressive manner that there had been some complaints.   Was anyone there wanting to make the complaint and he, in his capacity as President of the SAAA would return his money and he could go home immediately.   Silence.   Alex repeated the question and after more silence, he turned to the chap responsible and asked him if he wanted his money back.   He could go there and then.  Of course he didn’t.    There was no further question of a rebellion that or any other weekend.   Alex had dealt with it immediately and appropriately.

Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number two:    “To cut a short story longer ……………………” Alex tells the story of one of his athletes, who often had to leave the track during sessions for a pit stop,  turning to him when the athletes were lining up for the first rep, “Alex do I need the toilet?” Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number Three:   “Sonny, you breathe through every orifice in your body”

Then there is the one about one of his younger runners who used to get up, take the dog for a walk, have breakfast and go to school.   One day he was halfway round the walk when he discovered he had forgotten the dog!

Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number Four:   “Percolate your way over to the start.”

One of the biggest jobs that he undertook was coach to the Scottish cross country team and governing body.   He held this post for over twenty years and gave it pretty well all he had.    His scheme of Progressively Phased Incentives for the development of athletes from young boys right through to the senior ranks never seemed to me to be properly implemented as it should have been.  It was a first class piece of work which could still be followed almost to the letter and lead to a better standard all round for Scottish cross country running.

Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number Five:  “That was a kind of hand knitted effort!” Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number Six: About a guy who attended every meeting but never spoke a word: “He’s like an apology for somebody who couldn’t come.” Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number Seven: “Digitus Extractus!” Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number Eight: “Stop lying on the track, I don’t want people to get blood on their spikes.” Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number Nine: “You’re running like you have starch in your pants!” Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number Ten: “Many are cauld but few are frozen.”

Sayings of Chairman Alex, Number Eleven: I was on my way to visit some friends and dropped in to Crown Point to see a bit of an Open Graded on the way.   Alex looked at my neat jacket and pressed trousers and sai “You look like you’re going to a funeral for somebody you don’t like!”

… and of course he invented, I think, the word diabasterous …..

Numbers Seven and Eight above came from postings on the unofficial Scottish Athletics website.   Coach, administrator, official, runner – he was all of those and one of the good guys.   When I attended my first meeting of the West District General Committee, I was making my list of those present when Colin Shields sitting beside me asked what the crosses and ticks were.   He claims I said “I’m sorting out the goodies and the baddies!”   It’s more likely that I was sorting out the runners’ men from the committee men – and Alex was always a runner’s man!

There was a very good article in the very first edition of PB (Scottishathletics quarterly magazine) by John Anderson about Alex and it is reproduced below along with some thoughts from Frank Dick.

“Alex Naylor and I first became friends when, as a teacher in Dennistoun and Shettleston, I sent some of my pupils to join him at Shettleston Harriers.   His work with them and others under his tutelage there reinforced his excellence both as a coach and as a human being.   His enthusiasm and larger than life personality produced many successful endurance runners.   On my appointment as Scottish National Athletics Coach, having been National Coach in England for a couple of years one of my first moves was to contact Alex, and his sidekick Eddie Taylor, to bring me up to date with what was happening in the Scottish coaching scene.   It followed that whenever I ran a course for coaches or athletes, Alex would be there expressing his views strongly but with his ever-present sense of humour.   In particular the highlight of the coaching courses were the annual Scottish Schoolboys and Schoolgirls courses held at Easter at Largs.   Alex was always first to volunteer his services and was a great success with his athletes both on and off the track.   Alex Naylor was a very special kind of individual who was passionate about Shettleston Harriers and about his own role in coaching athletes.   He was a one-off and though willing to express his views strongly did so with a light touch that was respected and valued by his peers.   His impact on athletes he coached and indeed athletes he simply came in contact with left an impression they would carry with them for many years.   Alex Naylor was a very special kind of person who you felt enriched for having known.   His contribution to Scottish Athletics was immense.   Thank you, Alex!”


“Alex Naylor personified the harrier culture that is the soul of endurance athletics in Scotland – on track and off track.   He lived and breathed this large sector of our sport.   Truly he was a man for all seasons and weathers.   His characteristic generosity in selflessly affording time, energy and resource to his athletes and coaches making their way through the art and science of running enriched the cultures of coaching and of athletics.    My personal debt to him was his special way of questioning conventional wisdom and of creating a tension between challenge and support – often cloaked in a bit of mischief.”