To see Jess, only three weeks before the Olympics, competing at a local event and mixing it with young athletes at all levels made an impact on me. I wasn’t the only one as I explain to Toni,

“Lots of people have been in touch praising Jess for her willingness to pose in countless selfies”.

strike a pose

Strike a Pose

“I think she stands out because too many sports people have become isolated. Jess has never forgotten where she came from”.

“Maybe the team banter helps?”

“A bit of banter always helps,” Toni pauses, I sense a shift in gear, “The team dynamic is the thing. With us, every one mucks in, there are no prima-donna attitudes allowed. And if anyone gets above themselves it doesn’t take long for the group to drop them down a peg or two”. Another pause, “Or they don’t last long”.

“The team dynamic is the thing. With us, every one mucks in, there are no prima-donna attitudes allowed.”

It’s true. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Many times. If there are hurdles to be moved, you move them. If there are benches to be carried, you carry them. If you do something daft, prepare to be laughed at.

Catch Me if You Can

“That said, surely it makes an impact on the younger athletes to be training with a World and Olympic champion?”

“Of course. When you’re trying to improve your own performance it doesn’t hurt to be training with a Jessica Ennis.”

“Or a world class coach?”

“Flattery will get you everywhere”

A few days ago Toni asked why Alicia had stuck with athletics.

This time, it’s the turn of Karla and Nikita.

Toni Talks to Karla
Toni Talks to Nikita

I pick up the thread with Toni,

“What do you think of their answers?”

“It’s interesting. Obviously all three have a degree of talent that made them stand out when at school but they all have the drive to get better”.

“I think people might say that you’ve just got a good bunch. That it doesn’t really address why girls drop out of sport”.

“I think it’s important to know why people stay in anything to understand why they drop out.

Of course I’m working with athletes of a certain standard but that wasn’t always the case. And fundamentally any good coach is interested in improvement, whatever that means to the individual. Don’t get me wrong, medals are great but at the end of the day it’s about how you can help an individual fulfil their potential, whatever that might be”.

“Not everyone can be a Jessica Ennis-Hill?”

“True. But anyone can get better. And I think the desire to improve is something we all have deep down. It’s for a coach to light the fire in your belly and keep fanning the flames”.

karla hurdles sequence

Karla In Action

Nikita takes five

Nikita Takes Five

“Nicely put”.

The subject of keeping more girls in sport is something we’ll pick up another time.