[Skip to content]

Search our Site
  • Instagram Icon
  • RSS Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Facebook Icon
  • YouTube Icon
UK Athletics

Ask Steve Backley

Share this

Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Tell friends via WhatsApp Email us
Steve Backley

Last month we invited you send in your questions into Norwich Union GB & NI Team mentor Steve Backley. Well here are Steve's answers to those questions that we received:


Question from: Jonathan Ilori

On a scale of 1 - 10 (1 being the worst), what would you rate GB athletics at the moment?


Answer: In my opinion we have recently gone from a 4 to a 6 and rising. The recent Euro indoors were a great success. If the athletes who have shown the potential can convert to the outdoors plus the athletes who did not do the indoors deliver aswell, there is no reason why we cannot go one more level to a 7 by the end of the summer.



Question from: Richard Taylor


Hi Steve, I have been throwing the javelin for a couple of years now and have just moved up to the u17's age group, I throw just over  the 40m mark.


Could you advise me as to what type of drills, warm ups, exercise etc, I could be doing to improve my skills?  We have a good coach and in no way am I criticising him but we do need some different drills on PAC.



Answer: There are an infinite number of drills that you can do. My advice would be to keep them varied and challenging. You should never be in a comfort zone and just be ‘going through the motions’. Try combining a few simple drills together and alternate between the two to make a new and stimulating drill which will challenge your mind and your body. Also pay close attention this time of year to the quality of your movement and posture and especially the rhythm of your movement and contacts.


Be lucky!



Question from: Michelle Sharrock


Hi Steve. I want more than anything to be in the Olympic games.  I have now finished studying and work full time as a PE teacher.  With limited time compared to my competitors (some of who train full time) do you think it is still possible to achieve my goal if I want it so much? 


Answer: Desire is certainly one of the major components that will bring about success. If you have the ability to apply yourself, make good decisions about your direction, have enough talent, have sound technique, train hard enough, train smart enough and believe yourself as well as the obvious desire you possess, then I believe you can make it.


Try this….note down the factors I have listed (and any others you think are important) and give yourself a grade of 1-10 for each of them, then ask your coach to grade you similarly. You may also like to ask a colleague or a training partner to do the same for you. Then, go through your scores and discuss them, requesting honesty from your ‘advisors’. This will help you highlight your weaknesses and then it is over to you to do something about them.


Question from: Beyang Rosemary Abunaw


I would like to revive my athletic skills, eventhough I am 26. Is it possible at this age? and if yes, how do i become a member.


Answer: You are 26 years young and in your prime. What a great time to re-invent your athletic skills! I presume the membership you are referring to is the training site www.PACsportstraining.com


If you sign up for our newsletter, I can then send you the relevant information you will need to join and access the vast database of videos showing the drills and exercises that you will need.


Question from: Mark Lelerre


I used to fartlek 1 minute intervals averaging at 5.45 mins per mile pace for 20 reps now I have cut down reps to 10 and average at 5.15 minutes per mile do you think this is the right way to improve my 10k and half marathon times?


Answer: This is certainly not in my ‘normal’ realm of athletics advice, but generally, my belief is that the body responds quite simply to stimulation and rest.That means in this instance that if you are ‘mixing up’ your sessions and therefore stimulating your body in a slightly different way then this will be positive. The move towards quality is undoubtedly something that I would endorse as it is my belief that too many athletes train like slaves, while the guys who keep on improving are the ones who train smart.

More is certainly not better and the optimum is not the maximum etc.

Continue to look for slightly different ways to stimulate your body to be more comfortable at higher intensity.


I’d also be keen to see what your best times are?


Question from: Scott Litton-Hayes


How far can people throw without drug enhancement? Why not bring in blood testing, what are your thoughts?


Answer: With regards the javelin. I know that the current distances are not drug assisted. If you are a thrower…..Train hard, get the chip off your shoulder and concentrate on throwing far!


Forget about drugs. Leave that to the testers! (who by the way should have the authority to take urine, blood, hair and do lie detector tests!!)



Question from: Malcolm Coomber


Hi Steve, I really don't have a question; I just wanted to say "hello" from across the "pond" I'm glad to see you're being successful. Best wishes, Malcolm.


Answer: Hi Malcolm

Hi from all at Cambridge Harriers!!





Question from: J General


Hi Steve i would like to know when you think that young athletes should begin weight training and when did you begin weight training. Thanks




Answer: In my opinion, resistance training can start very early in the form of body weight exercises. These are not only safe but usually involve development of complex stability in all areas of the body. The first step is to get the athlete stable before they will even need to think about using any weights. This could be any time between the age of 15 and 50!! Master the basics of body weight exercises, then introduce some weights slowly and in a well structured manner.



Question from: Robyn Purchase


How often should a 15 year old train? At the moment I am training 5- 6 times a week. The event I do is Javelin and I throw 2 times a week and I do sprints, gym, core & Flexability, circuit and I also do a lot of polymetric and Javelin drills and I Long Jump once a week.




Answer: This will completely depend on what you are doing for training and what you call training. If you count game situations and skill development in other sports then why not twice per day?


In my opinion it is only the structured and repetitive type of work that should be avoided at this stage. Enjoy your training!



One small point though is to try to highlight your weaknesses early and look for solutions early on. This may involve your flexibility, rhythm, coordination, balance, symmetry, posture, skill level, skill diversity etc.



Question from: Bryan Roy


Steve I coach a multi-eventer who now needs to do Javelin. She is 15 (1st yr U17). What exercises do we need to start with and do you know of any website that has drills, Video..


Answer: I can certainly point you in the direction of a website



Look at developing good should and spine stability. All round, hip and leg stability, good coordination, posture and balance. It is also important in my opinion to stay flexible especially in the shoulder but also in the forearm/ elbow and upper spine, both in flexion/ extension and in rotation. I look forward to greeting you online


Question from: ABDI

What does it take to be a great champion?

Answer: I believe we can probably break this down into 3 general factors:


1. An unfaltering belief in yourself

2. Extreme motivation

3. ‘Enough’ talent




Question from: Charlie Bradbury


How old were you when you knew that javelin was your event and how long did it take you to find it?


I guess I got going quite quickly after being a failed runner. I started throwing at 14 and I was truly awful at first. I did improve quite quickly though and by the end of that season I was ranked 5th in the country for my age. So, I guess it took me 14 years but once I did, there was no looking back.



Question from: Abdul Buhari


Hi Steve,

How are you doing? I hope the hip is ok.

I wanted to ask you, how were you able to consistently throw world class distances year on year? As a thrower you have often said to me to stay athletic... What would you say most world class discuss thrower have in common?


Answer: Thanks Abdul,

You are certainly athletic! I remember those sessions at Crystal Palace!

I know that strength is perceived to be a much more important factor for discus compared to javelin as the implement is heavier and you don’t get a run up!


Of course as you know, your ability to ‘create’ force is really important. This is usually something that people translate quickly into getting strong. I would however never neglect the balance, posture and rhythm work which is of course of consistently at very high levels in world class discus throwers. That is, an athlete with good balance will always be able to apply force efficiently.


With regards to competing year in year out, I believe that comes down to re-inventing yourself and looking for new and better ways every year.


Train hard and catch you soon!


Question from: Caroline Price

In your opinion, how do we ensure that we retain talented athletes?


Answer: Do we, or should we? My belief is that talent must take into account all aspects of competing. If the athlete is physically gifted but not motivated (which I think is what you are referring to?) then they are only partly talented. I think that there always needs to be some natural selection in athletics. That is what I really like about it, is that it will always find a way of sifting out the best people for whatever reason, whether it be physical, psychological or any other that you may be able to think of?

Thanks for your question.


Question from: Martin Gouldstone


Hi Steve

What has happened to British javelin throwing since you and Mick Hill retired? We seem to have slipped back in terms of top competitors, who do you think will come through and when to keep us competing at the top level?


Answer: Thanks Martin. It is a bit of a concern immediately but as we well know athletics can be cyclical and I am sure it will come back. The youngsters are looking very healthy with our 15/16 year olds setting age bests. Let’s be patient, raise standards in all aspects of preparation, and wait for the new talent to mature. After all, what else can we do?


Question from: Annette Fisher, PE Teacher


Would you be interested in being a guest speaker at a school sport achievement evening in June?  I understand you are very busy and that you will probably be unable to do this but if you have any alternative suggestions we would gratefully receive them.


Answer: Thanks Annette,

Please pass your details on to UKA and I will be in contact soon.




The winner of the prize for the best question submitted will be advised by UK Athletics by e-mail. Thanks to everyone who sent their questions in and thanks to Steve for taking time out to answer them.