After the memories, the interviews and the kind words, the night that closes in on Jess’ career gives way to a new, slightly colder dawn. In less poetic prose, what the hell is Toni going to do now?
It’s a question that has been posed to him many times over the last week. As he succinctly puts it,
“I’m not dead. I can’t afford to retire. I’m going to keep working”.
“I know that. I think everyone else does too. They’re just intrigued about what or, should I say, ‘who’ it’ll be with”.
“Is this the KJT question?”
“For now it’s a none question”
I sense there’s more, “Why’s that?”
“Because no-one’s even approached me”. I was wrong.
Toni continues, “It’s not as if I ever stopped coaching. Apart from a few days after Rio there’s no change to what I’m doing”.
“Just a change to the group?”
There are sixteen athletes that Toni still coaches. But no Jessica Ennis-Hill. The Olympic podium may be some way away for this young group but that’s not going to deter anyone, least of all Toni.
It’s also not the whole story. When Toni started work with Jess he was a young coach with a reputation to build. As he puts it,
“When I started coaching I was brilliant. I knew it all. I’d read a book.
Now as every year goes by I learn more and realise I know less”
“Which makes you a far better coach. Because you’ve learned you can’t control everything”. This time it’s Paul Farbrace of England Cricket talking.
Toni shrugs. In an agreeable sort of way.
Toni Minichiello and Paul Farbrace of England Cricket
We’re at Emirates stadium about to watch Arsenal play football.
Despite an indulgent Friday evening, Toni managed to meet me at Kings Cross at 1015 to catch a cab and make it to the ground for a meeting before the game.
We’re now deep in conversation with Paul and David Priestley from Arsenal, examining what it is that enables a coach to get the best out of their athletes and players.
It’s a fascinating exchange.
Toni is no longer the wannabe know it all. His reputation is such that he is in demand to talk to other sports as well as business. He’s also a Fellow of the Fellowship of Elite Coaches – a body put together by the England & Wales Cricket Board to advance coaching and help explore possibilities to help England find competitive advantage. I get to go along for the ride and tell you a bit about it.
It’s the sort of conversation that makes it evident he’s unlikely to only be found down at the track in the future. As we move to get our seats for the match, rather than ask him what he’s going to do, I change tack and ask him what he wants to do.
“I think it’s time to mix it up. I love coaching but I really like the punditry too”.
“What about the working more with other sports”
“That would be perfect”. He pauses, “And I need to write a book”
“Want a hand?”
Toni with the proof copy of The Coach To Rio Book
“What’s it going to be about?”
“Ten years, ten chapters. The story people haven’t seen as well as examining what I’ve learned year on year”.
As I settle in to watch the football I allow myself to wonder about what the next few years might hold. There will probably be a book in that too.
Perhaps a fitting way to end this post is the ‘adieu’ to friends. On Friday night Toni hosted a thank you dinner for the support team that have worked with him and Jess over the years. It was a very private affair but Toni has been kind enough to share a photo.
Toni, Jess and the Support Team
As you can see it was an entirely sober affair.