Marina Armstrong is a track & field coach based in the U.K. and achieved her Masters in Athletics in 1983 in Moscow. She has since relocated to the UK where she has continued her coaching career, now holding a UKA Level 3 Sprints and Hurdles Qualification. She has been coaching regularly in the UK since 2005 and in this time has developed a strong group of hurdlers who have amassed a large number of English Schools and English Championships medals as well as International representative honours.
Most notably she coached Jacob Paul (European and World Junior Championships) and Shona Richards Silver medal in 400m Hurdles with a new National Junior Record at the World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA. Her athletes were first and second in both male and female 400m Hurdles at the U23 Championships this season.
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey from the beginning of your coaching career until now. What where your first coaching steps and how have you reached the success you have had in recent years?
My love for sport was developed at a young age. I was doing every possible sport available at school. In my first year at University I joined the athletics team. Although athletics was not my priority at the time; I was studying architecture; but I soon developed a passion for it.
In1983 I graduated as an architect and at the same time I reached the USSR national final after which I was invited to Moscow to train with the USSR National Team. I carried on professional athletics until 1987, finally giving it up due to injuries.
At the time the idea of coaching didn?t appeal to me, but it was in the year 2000 that I found my way back to the track, thanks to my young daughter who decided to start athletics, to my surprise.
I still didn?t want to coach and it was a few years later that three 400m hurdlers approached me and asked me if I would be able to help them. They were in their last year of school and I thought that I would just coach for a year until they went to University?. That was in 2005?
I believe that coaching is not a profession; it is a calling.
If it was not for my daughter dragging me to the track, and for those three girls that approached me in 2005, I would have missed my calling.
The success that my squad has enjoyed so far is due to our dedication, work ethic, honesty and their talent.
I believe in the continuation of learning and research. The moment I say ?I know it all?, my athletes should find a different coach.
How many hours a week do you coach at the moment and how do you fit these hours in (including all the planning etc) around your working week?
I’m at the track three hours per day, six days per week, but on some days I deliver two sessions per day. Research differs from week to week. Fitting it all in is not a problem, as I am one of the lucky ones. I coach full time.
You have had great success with both male and female athletes; do you find a difference in coaching boys and girls and do you as a female coach have to adapt your coaching style because of the gender of your athletes?
All athletes, whether they are male of female, are individuals. I believe that one of my strongest qualities, as a coach is the ability to adapt and change a training plan according to each athlete?s needs.
You were involved with the UK Athletics female Coach Legacy Programme back in 2012; can you tell us a little bit about this programme, how it helped you as a coach and why it is important that such programmes exists?
I enjoyed the program very much, due to the fact that we had an extraordinary leader, Tony Lycholat, as well as the other speakers and participants. I also had a privilege to present at one of the Female Coach Legacy Conference, which I enjoyed tremendously. However, I have to say I don’t believe in gender segregation when it comes to learning, discussions and debates. I would have much preferred to be part of an all gender Elite Coach Program.
I believe that British Athletics no longer supports the women?s coaching programme – how do you feel about this and do you think it is important that programmes such as this are supported by governing bodies?
While I do believe that there is gender inequality in the world in many areas, I do not believe that it is necessary to have gender segregation in coach education. I believe that we need more coach education programs on all levels. Highly educated and knowledgeable female and male coaches can produce an unlimited numbers of elite athletes.
Why do you think there is such a huge lack of female track and field coaches at the top ends of the sport in all age groups?
I gave this question a good thought, but I honestly couldn’t answer it. More research has to be done on the subject.
What is your ultimate ambition for our future coaching career?
My ultimate ambition as a coach is to help athletes to achieve their dreams, whether it is an Olympic podium or making a National Final.
What advice would you give to other female athletics coaches who want to have the same success you have had so far?
Trust yourself and your athletes.