21st March 2018

Hedman Relishing Athlete To Coach Programme

Former 400m sprinter, double European Relay silver medallist and Commonwealth Games Relay bronze medallist Graham Hedman is one retired elite athlete that is now helping to coach another.

He currently has the honour being able to coach 400m sprinter Martyn Rooney, a two-time European champion and Olympic bronze medallist from Beijing 2008.

The two used to be training partners and have a strong connection but Hedman’s main focus is on keeping Rooney at the very top of his game and he hopes to keep the 30-year-old pushing for medals.

He said: “It’s amazing to go from being an athlete that used to train with him into this position in the few years that I’ve been coaching. To be able to work with a guy at that level with his experience is a great feeling. He’s the only elite athlete that I coach.

“However, I still feel and see myself as a developing coach with plenty to learn. It’s a lot easier to develop myself with my student athletes at Loughborough University rather than with Martyn because of his experience and knowledge.

“Sometimes you have an idea of what you want to do and you sit down with the athlete and they’ll say they need something completely different, so a longer discussion and more compromise is needed.

“For me, it’s more of a partnership with Martyn than it is with the students, where I have to be a more authoritative coach but I can try a lot of methods.”

As Hedman’s career drew towards a close, he felt like stepping into coaching was obvious and now tries to draw his own experiences in athletics to tailor his sessions, adding that he hadn’t noticed that he was already coaching at the same time as he was competing.

“You don’t realise it but you’re coaching them with how you are both on and off the track. It might start off small like offering a pointer on technique but the amount of years I’ve been in it, you learn so much more,” he said.

“Once I was coming towards the end, it felt like the natural thing to do because it’s all I’ve known. I could’ve tried to go in a different direction but people always say to do what you love and that’s what I wanted to do.

“It’s very difficult to be a paid coach and I didn’t expect to be able to walk into a job so soon. I put myself out there, put myself in the right place and got the opportunities I’ve had, otherwise I may have had to move away from it more, which would have been a shame.”

Now, Hedman is embarking on a new and exciting challenge in his coaching career as he will become one of the first retired elite athletes to take part in British Athletics’ new Athlete to Coach programme, the first pilot of which began at the weekend.

The Programme is aimed at encouraging retired and current elite athletes from Great Britain & Northern Ireland who have competed at senior level in either the Olympic or Paralympic Games, World or European Championships, or Commonwealth Games to become licensed coaches.

Hedman, feels that the new initiative will be a major benefit to his coaching career moving forward and thinks it could be huge for other former elite athletes considering transitioning into coaching.

“Initially I was going for a tutoring role. However, after discussions with the organisers it was agreed that going through the course process would be more beneficial for all included. I could look to be a tutor after I’d completed it and learnt more skills on the course,” said Hedman

“The course I feel will help me in going over the coaching I did in my qualification and sharpening me up. It will also give British Athletics an insight into what it’s like being an ex-athlete doing this course. Hopefully I can pass it and then I can move into doing some of the tutoring as well.

“It’s similar to what I’ve done in concept with my coaching course and assistant coaching course but there are parts in both sections that are covered in the new athlete to coach course that will help me specifically. I think it’s going to be more bespoke for an ex-athlete.

“It’s probably more suited towards me because it’s helping you to make the transition as easy as possible. You’re coming from a different path as a teacher or book smart coach, so a different approach to learning is needed and because I’ve already done some coaching, I have my foot in the door, but I am hoping it will help to open more doors for me. It’s important to keep learning and moving forward.”

Hedman feels it is important to have a plan for when an athlete’s competitive career comes to a close.

Programmes like Athlete to Coach he feels can have a positive difference both on and off the track as it offers participants the chance to step away from the track and focus on something that may benefit them more in the long run.

“It can happen where athletes say they’ll start coaching and then don’t do it, whereas I did,” he added. “Had this initiative have been around earlier in my athletics career, it might have given me a quicker transition into coaching.

“Most athletes don’t want to think about doing stuff after they’ve finished until they get there, but by then it may be too late. From my experience, athletes have lots of time and they have the time to do a course like this.

“It can also help to take your mind away from being a full-time athlete which some might say isn’t great, but looking back, I wish I had done that because it means you’re not wrapped up in athletics training all the time.

“You don’t know exact years when you might retire but if you say five years or two years before you do, seriously consider the coaching course if that’s the route you want to go down because it’s a great tool to help you make that move.”