Jeremy Fischer is the Head Coach of Track and Field at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. He has coached at every level from College to pro track athletes, as well as working with MLB and NFL players on speed development and power. He was a professional athlete in the High Jump and All-American for the University of Wisconsin. Over the last few years, I've had the pleasure and privilege of working with him and his athletes doing trackside performance therapy with them. He is an outstanding coach from whom I've learned a lot about elite performance and training. You can find him on twitter @jeremyfhj and on the web here. He is the personal coach of Will Claye and Brittney Reese, both Olympic medalists from London 2012. I hope you enjoy these insights from one of the greats!
Jeremy, I know your history quite well, but others may not. Could you describe four or five key experiences, jobs, positions etc. that shaped your coaching and management style today?
"Everywhere I’ve been as an athlete or coach I have been part of a winning environment. In college we won many conference championships and were a trophy winning team. As an athlete I won championships and was driven to be the best I could be. As a coach I have helped my athletes and teams win, conference, national, world, and Olympic medals and championships. I have had the pleasure of working with, learning from and being mentored by many of the great coaches around the world. From each one I’ve learned great management and coaching idiosyncracies that have been beneficial and shape my style. I try to instill in my coaching environment one of learning and openness to learn and be teachable."
Obviously we have worked together quite a bit, and in that time I learned a lot. One thing I took away is how you build injury prevention work into all the warmups and the training sessions that you do, such as your tendon/ligament circuit. How did this develop and what have you noticed in doing it?
"In all the coaches that I’ve been able to mentor and/or been mentored by I’ve learned something. I continue to learn and read about different training methodologies and styles. I feel we can learn from different sports, event areas and the way coaches manage their teams. By also studying biomechanist, therapist and performance coaches you can start to see movement patterns and drills needed to help athletes be more efficient in their movement and stay healthier."
What do you like about trackside therapy and its relationship to performance?
"I think a coach and therapist can diagnose issues that can fix an athlete right away. They can prevent potential injury that may occur from imbalances and tightness, at the highest level health is the key to performance."
What are the biggest challenges or obstacles to performance with elite athletes? Are they different in collegiate athletes?
"At the elite level finding the right training situation is the hardest. Being told to go here or there because of contracts or agents is difficult. I think athletes need to find the best situation for themselves not ones they are forced to be in. In college they find success but it usually takes a few years and when they finally find how to navigate training, things change."
What have you learned the most in collaborating with your medical and therapy team?
"The biggest thing in collaborating within our therapy team is communication. Not just general communication but where you are, where you want to go and how to get there."
What lessons could a distance coach learn from the world of sprints/jumps?
"I think looking at training designs and even learning some mechanical and muscle physiology design and biomechanics that jumps and sprint coaches apply to training could be beneficial to distance coaches. Also as distance coaches doing what is best for each athlete instead of what has been done in the past. True coaching doesn’t use a model and apply it to every athlete. True coaching molds training to each athlete."
What recurring faults with mechanics do you see playing out in the distance running population?
"I think that distance coaches try to retread the same training to all athletes and underestimate how efficiency can be beneficial to the health and success of an athlete. I know some coaches who continue to hurt their athletes but won’t make any changes to their training regimen or integrate more technical work to their environment."
Why do you think addressing mechanics in distance running is so controversial when the opposite is true in technical and sprint events?
"I think distance coaches are stuck into a mileage a little too much. I’ve done a straw poll question to many of America’s great distance minds about taking a day off weekly or even biweekly and they all answer about the same, which is 'we do a recovery run,' but that is not a true restorative or rest day. I even site studies that show running 6 days or 13 out of 14 days reduces injuries by nearly 50%, but they say it’s against the running culture."
If you could work on the mechanics of the world’s greatest footballers (soccer), what would you primarily address?
"With footballers it’s about having a low center of gravity, since soccer is a stop and go sport with sudden movement changes for short burst, balance is key."
What do you think are the key fundamentals for an elite Track and Field athlete to stay healthy?
"Initial assessment, continued analysis, and of course constant full body treatment."
Thanks for your time Jeremy, and all the best to your athletes this year!