18th November 2021


Following the launch of the Athletics Coaching Strategy last month, we are continuing our new weekly series profiling coaches from across the pathway and event groups. Today is the turn of Janice Hendrie who is a coach coordinator and junior coach, Inverclyde AC.

What is your athletics background?

I played other sports at school specialising in volleyball and badminton.  Athletics wasn’t, and probably still isn’t, taught well at most schools and doesn’t seem to be a priority.   At my school it was a quick race with the fastest four getting picked for the school team.  I dabbled a bit with running in S6 and went along to an after-school club run by a new member of staff who was a club athlete.  That year, I was persuaded to make up a team to compete in the Scottish Schools Cross Country Championships. I didn’t feature in the medals and was probably close to the back of field but I enjoyed the experience.

When I went to Edinburgh to start my training as a PE teacher at Dunfermline College of Physical Education, we were taught the range of athletic events opened to females at that time. However, it was still the competition event with no adaptation of equipment or progressions.  Frank Dick was Scottish head coach at this time, and he ran a weekly running and fitness session at the college which helped to continue my interest in running.

I became a PE teacher in 1977 and I got interested in teaching athletics and in particular, skills development.  It wasn’t really until 1984 that I got interested in running again and decided to run a marathon.   I ran a few in the 1980s then concentrated more on coaching.  Since retiring I have taken on a few challenges – National Cross Country Championships every five years to celebrate a ‘special’ birthday and, when this was not possible in 2021, I ran 65 miles in February for my 65th birthday as a fundraiser.

How did you get into coaching?

As a PE teacher I feel I was able to transfer my teaching skills and ethos easily to coaching and also to take on team management roles.  I started my formal coaching badges in 1986. I think I got asked to help out at my local club because I was a PE teacher!

Amazingly all the coaches at the club were men and, in fact, it wasn’t until the AGM of 1986 that the club opened its doors to women.  My first few courses were under British Athletics Federation (BAF) so I had to go to Glasgow for 12 Wednesday evenings, and I still have memories of having to hold a discus in the freezing cold on a dark November night!  I learned a lot over those early courses but was still uncertain of the best way to introduce and develop the activities for the young people I was coaching.  I went onto the next stage in both speed and middle distance.  In those days we brought along our own athletes for the practical aspect of the assessment and had a lengthy theory exam!  However, it was attending workshops on Run Jump Throw organised for teachers in Renfrewshire and delivered by Sandy Robertson a Principal Teacher of PE and a BAF Masters Coach, that really enthused me and gave me the tools and inspiration to deliver athletics to young people the way I wanted to.  Sandy became a role model for me and I will always be grateful for his advice and support.

In the 90s, I had the opportunity to attend another coach level award, this time focused on Children in Athletics. It was the best course I had attended.  In addition to the focused content and the opportunity to be creative, the assessment involved, a practical – a full session observed with my group of athletes; a Knowledge and Understanding paper; and, what probably had the longest lasting impact on me, I had to plan two blocks of work:  one for under 13s during the winter and another for under 15s in the summer. These blocks had to show skill development for a range of Run Jump Throw activities across the sessions and the summer one also had to involve the inclusion of a group of helpers as ‘coaching as a member of a team’ was being highlighted at that time.

Since 2018, I have concentrated mainly with younger age groups, with our weekly minis session for 5-8 year olds and the U13/15 Run Jump Throw groups. I also still keep my hand in the endurance area, advising some young senior women.

What is your coaching role?

I became the club coach coordinator for Inverclyde AC a number of years back when the club’s junior section got bigger and there was the need for someone to have an overview of what was going on.

We have around 120 juniors at the club, and we follow a programme especially with the U15s to ensure they all do some running, jumping and throwing to start with, before developing into specialised areas as they get older.  We have midweek sessions at our local track on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and also Saturday mornings. It is my responsibility to coordinate the various groups and to ensure they are all managed.

We have a well-established Young Leader’s programme and through this we organise holiday camps, and after-school sessions. For a number of years now we have also organised club development camps which provide both our athletes and our coaches with opportunities to participate and learn more about a wider range of events.   It is important for coaches to keep up their own professional development and I find we can all learn from each other.

What is your coaching philosophy?

My club has a strong ethos of inclusion and aims to welcome everyone and anyone to come and to do their best.  We do not turn anyone away.  We also give everyone an opportunity to compete if they want it.  The club will enter more teams in competitions if necessary to give everyone this opportunity – rather than just to go and win. Our younger members are encouraged to begin competing by participating in team challenges at the end of each block.

The Club was awarded a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services in 2009 and the citation highlighted the inclusive and welcoming ethos.Not being solely focussed on the outcome. i.e.  medals, is the key, and looking to find ways for each individual to develop their own potential is so important to me.

What motivates you as a coach?

My motivation is seeing the children develop as athletes and also as well-rounded young adults.  I feel privileged to have been involved with so many children and see them succeed and witness their own sense of achievement when they do.

It is also great to see our young leaders develop into highly competent coaches and become valuable members of the club’s coaching team.

Working with children at a national level at UK School Games and school internationals has been a marvellous experience and this has helped me develop as a coach.

What is your most memorable moment(s) as a coach?

Athletes winning medals and titles is, of course, great but what I most want is for them to reach their potential.

I love it when a child exceeds expectations. For instance, there was one young boy who could not get the cariocas/grapevine step right during the warm up.  It took him many weeks, but eventually he manged it. His shouts of ‘I can do it’ and a spontaneous lap of honour will remain with me.

Then there was another young boy who struggled with the distance he was achieving in jumping; so I set it up for him to demonstrate and as I focused the groups’ attention on what he was doing well, the lack of distance was not an issue. He was absolutely chuffed with himself and was so confident during the rest of the session. Later on, I heard him telling his mother “I demonstrated today.”  Finding what works for each child is the key. I think listening to a child who has made their own memories is very rewarding.

What are your coaching ambitions going forward?

It will be nice to get back to some sort of normal after all the restrictions from the pandemic.  Last week we took part in the first inter-club cross-country event since March 2020, and it was great to see athletes young and old competing again.

From a club perspective I would really like to strengthen and develop our throws and jumps sections.  There has been some progress, but we can do a lot more.