Interview with Jonas Dodoo & Les Spellman

#Sprinting #Coaching #Athletics #Trackandfield

On the 1st June 2019 I spent the day learning from Jonas Dodoo and Les Spellman, you may have even heard me speak about it on my previous podcast episode! As you know, we recorded the full interview and that's available on YouTube HERE and also as a Podcast - just search Spotify or Apple Podcasts for Performance Physique, or you could just click HERE to go directly to the episode! This interview featured as the launch of Friday Night Track Club TV on YouTube and also our first guest Podcast! It was cool, I have so much to improve on and that's simply positive for me. I am however, incredibly proud to release this episode, despite the struggles we had with technical issues, I worked hard and produced something I really feel people may benefit from. If you prefer to read, rather than watch or listen, I thought I would provide the full interview transcript below. Quick Intro Jonas Dodoo is a former rugby player turned speed coach who works with Olympic Track and Field Athletes, Premiership Rugby and Professional Football. He's had success with a variety of athletes including Greg Rutherford when he jumped his PB and Britain fastest male sprinters, Reece Prescod and CJ Ujah through his coaching company Speedworks Training. Les Spellman is a former, American Football, Track athlete and Rugby player who at the age of 17 suffered a life-changing accident whilst protecting others. It was unlikely he'd ever run again, he went on to run and run fast but found his true calling as a Speed Coach. Spellman Performance was created, has taken over the USA and has worked on creating the fastest Rugby, NFL and track and field athletes in the world.

Enjoy! Arj

Direct Transcript This first episode is filmed at Loughborough University following a workshop with two of the world's best speed coaches Jonas Dodoo (Speedworks Training) and Les Spellman (Spellman Performance). The day was an action-packed day of learning and I've got to say it was one of the best workshops I have ever been to, if not the best. Throughout my interview I discussed some of the aspects of coaching science as well as some lighter topics.

There are some absolute gems of information brought to you by Jonas and Les

throughout these 20 minutes. Hopefully we'll hook up with them in again in the future and see how their coaching has developed over that period of time but for now make sure you hit the subscribe button here drop is a comment below and also follow us on Instagram and Facebook it's Performance Physique or you can catch us on Right thanks for watching! Make sure you tune in next time let's go!!!

Arj - Jonas, thank you very. very much for today and Les thank you very much. I've got to

say in all honesty from going to workshops, CPD events over the last 15 years it's very rare you leave an event and actually have so many practical things to be able to apply straightaway! I've got so much my head from the practical - very good - I need to write it all down and write, when I get back at the car I'm gonna write everything down but I'd really appreciate that those kind of events is what we need more of especially since it's like 15 years since I did my UKA Levels. So Jonas you're the most exciting coach in GB right now - thank you - It was about 18 months ago, I came to the scene late, in terms of hearing about you18 months ago I'm having a curry with my friend Simon Hunt ,of Oslo and he basically said you need to go see this man Jonas. I said I don't really know who he is and he said go and find him and I messaged you on Twitter. When's the next workshop, - Yep - and I will be there! And this came up! So, from that, what do you feel is the most important kind of piece of advice you could give to new coaches and young coaches coming up?

Jonas - Most important advice.


Take your time. Do a full review. I think it is very easy to get on the scene and be impressed by a coach who's got an Olympic medalist or the coaches coaching the person in the teams or the most recent coach with Instagram or whatever it is. And those coaches probably have

something you can learn from but um success leaves clues and so I think you're better off going on Powerof10 and saying who's being consistent over the past eight years. Which athletes maybe aren't in top 10 but have improved from 11.5 to 10.5 or 12.9 to 12.1 who's their coach? Oh hold on he's coaching over 20 people that have done the same thing I think it's important to not get carried away by the glitz and glamour of being a Nike athlete or being at Olympic Games although I'm saying you can learn from them but I think you can equally learn and maybe learn a bit more for your your novice level from other coaches, who's developing athletes who are consistently creating faster athletes, boys, girls, maybe even different event groups those guys will have philosophies rules and far more characteristics you can learn a lot more from than someone maybe who's just got one athlete who's running very fast.

Arj - Brilliant. Is that where you kind of say the value of interning comes through then?

Jonas - I think interning definitely helps you to get a deep a deep dive into a specific environment and philosophy, I think networking is where the value is. If you are up and coming or you just want to learn, No matter how long you've been in the game It helps to come to event's like this. Where you can meet other coaches. Where you can listen to Q&A recognise, someone else has the same question as you and maybe you could have a discussion with the coach over coffee in between events and find out that maybe a 10-minute presentation that you've just listened to that you took something completely opposite from someone else.

Yeah if I stand in front of you and I draw a W and I see a W but you see an M yeah so if you can network over enough people because if I see a W and you see an M he sees an E or maybe a 3 yeah? So if you can network of enough people you can start to see the forest for the trees you can start to really see and to really start to understand at a deeper level from sharing perspectives. So I think networking has always been and for our time has been mentorship, internship and networking has been the most important thing for humans in general because then you can tell stories and that's how it's done.

Arj - Cool, so in terms of public interest in athletics what do you see the future of

athletics is? Is it the Nitro Athletics format or is it something else you see?

Jonas - I think our sport is under, is in trouble yeah I think the interest, I think the future is probably in smaller events and maybe not the Nitro level. May be really competitive open meets. I think that at least as a sprint coach who had a long jumper jump long-ish last week Monday. Based at Loughborough they threw a javelin competition here the other day. It's 2, 3 hours of attendance about a specific event group. I think that seems to be needed to draw the crowd for it's almost like attention span for people who can be there for a limited amount of time, enjoy the event and go home. I think normal athletics you turn up at British League 9am and it runs all the way till 5pm and there's no music it's quite low energy and it's very, it's built around what it used to be 35 years ago when you could turn up to summer league and it was like national champs. I wasn't involved in the sport then but my wife talks about it a lot. She wasn't competing back then, that's the disclaimer otherwise she'll tell me off!

I think the reality is that your sport needs to be attractive to a generation of people who have a low attention span who are very very much indoctrinated into a specific event group and I think you're going to get more sponsors that are aligned with an event group than sponsors who are aligned with the whole athletic environment.

Arj - that's interesting, that's really interesting.

Jonas - it's just an idea.

Arj - so that's something I'll go and test out in Birmingham and then bring you down.

Les, you mentioned earlier on today about your unfortunate accident that happened when you were 17, in terms of what you took away from that what was the main thing that made you the man you are today? From that particular incident?

Les - That's a deep question. Arj - Yeah hitting you hard straight away!

Les - Yeah I think the main thing is just like it's just there's always a way so I think my coaching brain kind of figured out from that you could always find another method to do something I just got really creative and started trying to figure out like what do I really want to achieve and how do I achieve it. Like Jonas said going to people and learning from them. Figuring out taking a piece from them and taking a piece from them and just figured out how can I help myself and in the process of helping myself I started to realise okay some of this knowledge can help other people that's when I was like okay I think I am destined to be a coach not an athlete.

Arj - that was that message you delivered right at the start. Do you think that has anything to do with the next question really, where for someone so young, I thought I'm the youngest I've got so much time, you're younger than me and so far ahead do you think that has something to do with the fact that you've worked with such an extensive group of athletes on such a wide scale already?

Les - yeah I don't know, I feel like so I was in the right place at the right time and learned from some of the best people out there. I think me being 29 is just the only reason that that matters is that I grew up during a social media age where you could reach out to people or you could watch things or there's podcasts that are for free on your phone I put everybody I know on to Jonas' podcasts you know Jonas' podcast you get, it's just free information so our learning is just a lot faster and we can reach out to people and figure out where they are just show up and learn from them. So I think there's a lot of coaches that are my age now that are learning rapidly. Which is cool because when I was younger coaching wasn't cool and I don't know when it became cool but everyone want's to be a coach now but there's so much information out there for people to learn and it's so easily available it's kind of cool.

Arj - That is cool to hear. It obviously does work on that social media thing because I contacted both of you on social media, -Yeah, to start the whole thing off. So a question to both of you . The most influential person or book for your coaching development?

Jonas - my personal?

Arj - Yeah

Jonas - Dan Pfaff is.

Les - Yeah Jonas, Dan Pfaff, Ralph Mann and I don't know there's got to be a combination of those three really always yes definitely.

Arj - So anyone who wants to get into coaching, go and find those three on Google and follow that pathway.

Les - you can't go wrong there!

Jonas - You can't go wrong with Altis coach education material. I had to go to Canada and then to California and to spend what save up all summer to go and live on people's floors to be able to watch Dan and chase Dan bother him and ten years or 12 years down the line all of that information and more is at your fingertips on your phone and so Les' point, back in the day, I'm 33 so not back back in the days but it's very interesting how information I'm like almost like James Wilde, James Wilde has a really good book that really is a summary of what I spent six years doing and learning and he just wrote a book 3 years ago or 4 years ago that summarises all of that so now so as a 19 year old who may be decides on wanting to go into coaching, you can go and find that book and read that. Whereas it took me six years to go and find different the people to grab that information so right now the excuse of information there is no excuse. All the information is at people's finger tips I'll say it again, Altis, even I have signed onto a Altis 360 or to their speed program for a hundred dollars or hundred pounds or whatever is you can you can get some really top class information, you can hear from the likes of Stu and Dan and a lot of other people. So that information is at your hands and then knowledge they do help you apply some of that into

knowledge into work but what you've got to do, what you can't do is you can never microwave experience. So you can't ever speed it up you can read everything possible but you still have to go have an athlete or have some athletes and go and do trial and error and make some mistakes. So big influences are out there and the information's out there but I think it always comes down to needing a mentor-mentee networking, type environments. So you can go and learn and go and talk to someone who has done it before.

Arj - Brilliant, really good. You guys have said so many good analogies by the way over the day, I've written down these little notes.

Jonas - You can't microwave experience comes from Michael Afilaka, that's not me! I stole that one straight off.

Les - That's coaching though, you always have to figure out a way to get people to relate with you or something.

Arj - Yeah again something you brought up today. In terms of specialisation a lot of people talk about a lot of parent coaches basically turn up and say like my kid is the fastest in school I want them only to do sprinting right now, do you have a perception that they need to get to a certain age before you say, "right you're going to specialise in this one sport"

Jonas - Yeah because you never know what they're gonna do, you never know if they're gonna have a growth spurt you never know if they're going to become or are already risk takers and risk takers are better off in events that take more risk like long jumping, hurdling I think in the States they seem to do a better job than we do over here. Over here, if you're fast people feel you should run 100 yeah whereas you've gotta be fast to run 800m at a world-class level and you've gotta have speed in your legs you've gotta be fast to do the hurdles. We think every fast person should run the 100m, just like every fast footballer thinks they should be a centre-forward, so I think before the age of 14 or 15 it's very difficult to say you must be in this event. My French, 200m sprinter, he can high jump, he can long jump. He can high jump 1.95m, so I think at the end of the day and he's very coachable you know so if you want your son to be coachable so when they do decide to specialise, get them specialise late and instead give them lots of opportunities to learn hand eye, foot eye, to learn how to stay orientated in space when they're upside down in the high jump or pole vault to learn how to deal with overcoming resistance and overcoming inertia, I think those are all important skill sets we talk about strength and conditioning in physical development that doesn't just happen in circuits the multi-events route makes so much sense to me because once you've finished learning how to rotate and apply force through the ground through your hip and and out of your hand once you've learned that or all you've just learnt how to do is to control your spine and control your hips and apply force, how to use your rotation things so yes you're learning to throw the shot putt or the discus or you're just throwing the med ball in circuits but really what you're doing is developing physical qualities that are really important for sprinting at the end. So I think before 14 or 15 it's very difficult to suggest that any one specialises I think as people start to do their GCSEs (15-16 years) and start to think about A-Levels (17) and the pressures of school life and real life, puberty and social social pressures I think it does make sense just in life to start to focus on an event. I mean all the LTAD models are out there to kind of suggest that but it's kind of my spin on it.

Arj - Anything to add Les?

Les - Yeah I mean in the States it's more of a business model for specialisation so look at kids that are specialising it's because their club teams want them there all year you know three or four thousand dollars to be there all year and they just kind of want to monopolise the fact that they can get money from that kid all year. So we're seeing a lot of that and I think it's hurting for kids. I think it's hurting kids, when I grew up we would just go with the seasons. Summer we would just play outside, fall would come and we would play a sport Winter would come and we'd play a sport Spring would come and we'd play another sport and we developed not only just like physical capabilities but like cultural as well so you're getting you're getting a chance to meet people from all walks of life and that was the coolest part we're not specialising looking at one thing and being around the same types of people. We had to relate to all different types of people so we had to communicate to them and we had to you know work with them we had to fight with them and I think those are valuable skills. So my little sister she did volleyball she did softball she just won the state championship in high jump but she just learned how to high jump last year but she had so much, she has skills and she was so coachable and she had all the skills from playing volleyball and all the skills from playing softball that when she went to high jump she's like I want to try that she won the state championship like that so I think I think athlete just kind of have to look at you know where's the pressure to specialise coming from, is it coming from the team sport coach or are you really the best in the world at what you do but if you're not become the best in the world at what you do you should probably keep developing those skills in other sports.

Arj - One of our youngest athletes, Sophie she basically said what is the most single, the single most important element, part whether that's, physical or psychological that an athlete can take away and think about the single most thing?

Jonas - Failing forwards, yeah, it's a Will Smith phrase that I heard.

Les - Fail forwards.

Jonas - If you do a study of the most successful companies grow quickly and sustain that growth, what you notice is that they don't fail less than the other companies they recognise their failures really early.They don't see those failures as a problem, there's a lot of security and psychological security within the organisation, so if you can identify our failure really quickly one of your own and come up with a solution and it's great. Whereas if you're building cultures where failing is is you're made out to be naughty or bad or to be literally a failure then people tend to hide failure, they tend to avoid it they tend to not try to discuss it, they don't bring it forward to other people to help them and as a result then things are just rotting in the fridge but if you recognise that something's going to go off early in the fridge you make a concoction and make it work and you're not wasting food but if you don't recognise it or you hide from it then actually you just waste lots food and naturally it's contagious, it becomes worse and worse. So failing forward and looking at everything at everything that happens as an opportunity to learn then great, no matter what happens to you and in sport or in life you will always be looking on the bright side and you'll always be looking you always be progressive.

Les - Yeah same thing that's like I think we talked about social media how it's positive but it could also be negative and a lot of athletes think they should just walk into something and succeed the first time and they have this perception like they should be the best from the minute they start they're afraid to fail and you see those athletes just not ever really make it past the level they're at. The athletes that make it, they're making it because they don't really care what people think and when they fail, they're not really concerned what the perception is of their failure. They're just trying to figure out, how do I get better. You see those athletes all the time, the guys that are the best, they've gone through so many injuries so many different trials life, they are just un-bothered and just willing to do whatever it takes, and the more you can stay focused on the task than actually what outcome you're trying to achieve. The more successful you're going to be, for sure!

Arj - In terms of kind of strategy, you've kind of touched on it already Jonas, athletics meets are all day to have particular recovery strategies for someone who's doing heats earlier on and then finals later that day?

Jonas - It depends on the number on what they're really used to but it's simple sugars things like for their for the whole day even though and this is where my performance mindset might come against a social reason why you may do athletics but often we've had people that by just walking around all day trying to their friends running around joking, flirting and it's not it's not that you can't do these things but if you've got a heat at ten your final's at four you're there for the whole day, you probably need a quiet space to go and lie down, you might nap.

You need to be smart about when you consume, sugar, simple sugars.

And you need to have food ready, some people just turn up and are like, "now I'm hungry, I'll go to the canteen and just grab some Maltesers or I'm just gonna have this".

So I just think it's about being prepared, one be prepared to be selfish, two be prepared with your fuel, three be well planned and being aware of when when it is you are meant to be racing and when it's appropriate to take yourself away and have some mental recovery.

Arj - Right. We've got a quick fire round and with the focus of the day being around the NFL Combine, I thought we could start off and this will stay forever on our Channel and our podcast we're calling the 40-yard dash and basically these questions are for both of you it's whatever comes to your head fastest.

*The 40-yard dash quick fire round.*

What's your go to music track to get you pumped up?

Les - Nipsey, Nipsey Hussle 100%

Jonas - Oh, I don't know.

Les - Anything Nipsey.

Joans - Anything Wu-Tang Clan!

Arj - Wu-Tang, okay cool they are playing in the UK this year, in Cornwall.

Jonas - Ok that's the most random fact ever.

Arj - I saw them on the lineup and thought I might go.

Arj - Who was your sports hero when you were growing up?

Les - Ali,

Jonas - Jonah Lomu,

Arj - Ahh I think I read that actually.

Arj - Your Last Supper, so you've got one meal left?

Jonas - My mums Jollof, Jollof Rice.

Les - Philly Cheese Steak

Arj - Beach life or City life?

Les - BEACH, oh my god.

Jonas - Beach. Beach.

Les - San Diego, that's why I moved there! I love it.

Arj - And then finally pastries or full English for breakfast? Full English is like sausages eggs, everything.

Jonas - Full English.

Les - Full English but no pork though.

Arj - Basically, do you have any words for the next generation if you could leave one message with them?

Les - Yeah, I'll take it, I think we talked about it there's so much information out there it's actually information overload it's just finding out what's the best information to go to and that's through mentoring. And you figure out what to study and it's all there, it's free.Which is amazing! I feel late to the game, reading and studying everyday. I know that there is probably some 15 or 16 year old out there right now that's studying everything that I'm studying I'm like I need to hire that guy one day, that's my goal, I think there's so much out there just you find it you have to decipher what you believe in and that's through your philosophy you know it's, just go for it!

Jonas - Build a strong team a strong team of people who are different not all the same as you yeah, who aren't afraid to tell you that your breath smells or that there's a bogey in your nose. Those people that's real friends, that's a real supportive team that are able to tell you the tough things because not everyone can tell you something. If someone cares about enough they will tell you. What you must know even if it means it's hard or you argue. So I think build a strong team.

Arj - Once again guys thank you ever so much

for today I've really enjoyed it!

Les - I appreciate it.

Jonas - No worries.









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