By Stuart Weir
It was ‘filling in the blanks’ which ultimately led Andy Young towards piecing together a coaching career that continues to impress on the global stage.
‘He was working in the ship-building industry so didn’t have any experience in coaching but he got information from others, such as Highland Games coaches. We instantly had a lot of success, winning Scottish schools titles for example.
‘Kenny would run the session but I would fill in the blanks for the rest of the week. By the time I was 16, I was highly involved. I would source information from people who could help and together we set the sessions.
By that stage there had also been lessons learned under the guidance of the legendary coaching figure that is George Gandy when Young headed south to study and train at Loughborough University.
A medical student by the name of Kevin McCloy was Young’s first senior international from that group. He wouldn’t be the last.
‘She had won medals in Scottish Schools and was quite a serious trainer but I don’t think she had any great interest in becoming an elite runner.
‘She made progress very quickly, starting in September but by about November she had qualified for the Euro Cross. Then she started breaking Scottish age-group records indoors. Her 1500m PB dropped by about 20 seconds and she made the World Juniors that summer (2012).’
Andy and Laura at our Awards dinner in 2018 (photo by Bobby Gavin)
Much has happened since, with that success bringing a refinement and rise in the quality of the training group.
‘Attention to detail and getting things right,’ explained Young, when asked the basic philosophy.
‘Getting the most out of your workouts. Knowing what you’re trying to achieve. Everything we do should have a purpose with no wasted energy.
‘It’s intense, yes, and hard work but hopefully always with a purpose. We always focus on the next thing to be achieved and keep an eye on the prize. It’s tough so you need to enjoy it.’
Routine is important, too.
‘I have a pretty set routine that I have developed,’ he said.
‘It’s a weekly routine that we have done for a number of years now and that involves speed, gym, strength, mileage etc. Laura likes the familiarity of that routine within the schedule. While we have a set schedule, I do tinker with the workouts or the sessions and blocks within the schedule.
‘Obviously when races are coming, there are changes but most of the year it stays the same. Mileage probably doesn’t massively change throughout the year.
‘It doesn’t spike massively in winter and it doesn’t drop drastically in summer – apart from race weeks. We tend to work on the principle of quality rather than quantity.’
‘If you include warm-up and cool-down runs as well as the actual runs, it’s probably 50-60 miles per week. We concentrate more on the intensity and quality – and they always get a rest day every week. I think I would face a rebellion if I took away the rest day!
‘It’s more the sessions or strength and conditioning that I play around with. It doesn’t change massively but I’m always playing around with it – for example where to put the hill running, where to put more grass workouts but it tends to stay with what they are familiar with.’
Andy with Jemma Reekie after her European U23 double gold success at 800m and 1500m (photo via Twitter)
‘There are three elements to becoming a successful elite athlete – talent, good coaching and effort from the athlete.
‘Then you have Gabriela (DeBues-Stafford) breaking about 10 national (Canadian) records in a matter of months.
‘You wouldn’t necessarily have looked at Laura and said ‘super talent’ but when you put the three elements together, she became among the best in the world.
*With thanks to Stuart Weir and to Euan Crumley, with a version of this article first having appeared in AW.