Coaching is the backbone of all aspects of our sport, whether that’s learning to ride a bike, leading a group ride or activity, or developing the next generation of elite cyclists.
In the first of a mini-series of articles looking at the team behind the team, we sat down with Archie Johnstone, coach with Edinburgh Road Club and someone who assists with the delivery of Scottish Cycling Performance sessions for track and road.
Archie got involved in the performance set up at Scottish Cycling through his son, who was taking part in the sessions as a youth:
“It was really a while back. Watching the work that Mark Young did with Neil and all the volunteers helping him out. I only felt that, once our Neil had moved on, that without the voluntary side, he wouldn’t have improved as well as he did, and I thought that you need to repay that somehow.”
Archie started off volunteering at the Youth Cluster sessions, which helped build his own coaching skill, as he said:
“I think that’s a good way of, you know, progressing through cycling coaching, watching national team coaches, picking up hints and tips from them and then taking that back to a club level, to improve the youngsters as they come through.”
centre assisting the coaches with the Sprint Performance Squad in the delivery of their sessions. However, he still assists the RACE National Sessions as well as the cluster sessions for the endurance athletes, all the while still delivering club sessions with ERC.
Developing riders to progress towards riding for age-group and eventually senior national teams is key, with a number of riders from the youth sessions, first at Stirling BC, and more recently at Edinburgh RC, progressing onto RACE National sessions, with a few of those riders progressing to ride for Team Scotland and Great Britain.
“There’s been a few to go far”, Archie said.
“The first ones that we really sort of identified would be Jenny Holl and Rhona Callender. You could just tell that they were going to be competitive right to the end. In any weathers they would appear at a car park in Stirling and give it their best in all sorts of conditions.”
Jenny Holl graduated from the Stirling sessions and the Youth Clusters (then known as Regional School of Racing sessions) which Johnstone was part of, to eventually join the Great Britain squad and is now a reigning quintuple World Champion on the tandem.
“Having Archie and the other volunteer coaches come along to the RSRs to help out was really beneficial. It made sure there was never any pressure and stopped it from becoming too serious too early”, said Holl
“It was really good to have someone there like Archie, that isn’t necessarily looking at you from a performance perspective, there looking at you as a young kid who wants to ride their bike.”
Johnstone had also worked with a number of Olympians and Professional riders with Jack Carlin, Katie Archibald, Mark Stewart among those who passed through the Rising Stars activities at the old Meadowbank Velodrome in Edinburgh.
Since working with Edinburgh Road Club’s youth set-up there’s been several young and upcoming riders come through the ranks and onto national team set-ups including Scottish national road race champion Eilidh Shaw her younger brother Struan Shaw and Jamie Sweeney – to name but a few -with Eilidh making the step up to race in the UCI ranks in 2024.
A key dividend of experiencing the performance coaching environment was to allow the expertise of elite coaching to feed back into clubs, with Archie among those coaches delivering session for youth riders, which in turn allows better development opportunities:
“It gave you experience of the way that the performance coaches talk through a session. Let the riders know what the session’s going to contain and the technical aspects and the breakdown of a session.
“You can then take that back to a club level and use that kind of breakdown to assist the young kids that are looking like they could make the step up to good national riders. It’s also very good for the fact that you see where your club riders need to be to be considered to go forward on to RACE National Sessions, and then forward on to talent development programmes in some way.”
However, the benefit has not been just for the riders developed, Archie has seen improvements in his own racing on the track, whether that be on the Friday night Track League events or competing in Masters racing.
“I can take out the breakdowns, I can take down the things that the performance coaches look for, what they try and concentrate on, the good technique and the bad technique. And I try and apply that just when I’m doing my own racing. It really has helped me kind of focus on my technique and in the later stages of races and how to relax or do whatever you need to do and, basically tactics as well that, they kind of impart to the riders. And that’s all coming from helping at the track here in the Performance squad.”
If you want to try coaching, then there’s numerous opportunities to gain your coaching qualifications over the course of the coming months by enrolling in a British Cycling Coaching Course.
You can find out about upcoming Coach Education courses by clicking here.
If you wish to assist the Performance Coaches with the Scottish Cycling Performance sessions, then please contact us [email protected]