6th June 2018
UK COACHING WEEK - LEON BAPTISTE
After moving away from racing on the track and into a coaching capacity in 2012, Leon Baptiste has been on a rollercoaster of a journey.
A double Commonwealth Games medallist in Delhi 2010 in the 100 and 200 metres, he has now channelled his love of the sport into helping to coach the stars of tomorrow.
Despite being nervous at first about the transition, he has taken to the fact that the eyes of the world are now watching the work of his team in action.
“I’m happy doing what I’m doing, developing young athletes and bringing them through. Over time that may change to wanting to coach athletes at a World or Olympic level, but that’s the next stage.
“It’s all about understanding you go through stages. I’ve had six years of coaching but I can’t say ‘I want to coach the Olympic champion now’ because it’s a process to get to that stage.”
Baptiste has had the opportunity to gain an insight into exactly what is needed to make the step up to become an elite coach, working with lead coaches such as Benke Blomkvist and Steve Fudge and he is taking what he has learnt with them into developing his own athletes.
“The opportunity to work alongside world class athletes is superb. Andy Pozzi (coach: Benke Blomkvist) being crowned World Indoor champion and the year before being named European Indoor champion is huge. Danny Talbot also had a fantastic year.
“Previously to that I had been working alongside Steve Fudge when he was having success in his group, the likes of Adam Gemili being crowned European Champion and James Dasaolu as well.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to work with some of the top athletes in Europe and that’s been fantastic for my development as a coach. At the same time, I’m still developing my group as well and it’s been a really big learning curve.”
Each athlete within Baptiste’s care has their own aspirations and it’s about him helping to manage their goals and reach their potential, making his job more meaningful when they reach their targets. One of his athletes – Beth Dobbin – broke the Scottish record over 200m last weekend, clocking a best of 22.84, while Alisha Rees set the Scottish junior record over the distance last year.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have some great success with my athletes but knowing when they’ve put all the hard work in to achieve their dreams makes it more worthwhile.
“Not everyone can win Olympic Gold or World Championship medals. For some, it might be about making the finals of the UK Championships, winning a county championship or an inter-schools event.
“No one has the same goals and it’s about helping each individual to achieve theirs and when they do it’s a really good feeling.”
For athletes looking to step into a coaching capacity, Baptiste acknowledges that the transition will not be as easy as they think it is.
On the surface it appears straightforward, however there is a stark reality that working as a mentor is no mean feat. He does recognise that the journey may be long, but if you can connect with your athletes, there is a real opportunity to build success.
“I think sometimes athletes go into coaching thinking it’s going to be easy. You effectively think you do what you’ve done as an athlete, only when you get in there it’s a different thing altogether.
“It looks easy from the outside but quickly you realise when an athlete you’re coaching doesn’t respond to something you did, it hits home that it’s so much harder.
“You can only do the best job you can. It’s about trying to change the culture and getting them to really believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
“Belief comes from trust and that’s something that I look for in a coach, someone that I can trust and that’s what I want from my athletes, for them to look at me and feel like they can trust me.
“That to me is what it’s about, having trust in your coach and once that’s there you can build the success.”
After making the step from athlete to coach six years ago, Baptiste has not looked back and feels he made the step for the right reasons when he sees his hard work paying off.
“It gives me an opportunity to work with different athletes and bring them through to a good level.
“It’s all about developing them. I got into coaching in 2012 because I wanted to help athletes achieve their goals and dreams and try to contribute to that as best as I could.
“One of the most important things is making the difference. I’ve been in the sport for around 16 years, the majority of that wasn’t as an athlete but the last six years of coaching I’ve really enjoyed and is something I’m really passionate about,” he added.