Raising the bar: Our Q and A with Matthew Tait and coach Allan Smith

Sunday 14th April 2024

Photo via England Athletics

Matthew Tait won the England Athletics U20 High Jump gold with 2.10m PB leap. On way back north from Sheffield, Matthew and coach Allan Smith posed for a fun Border medal pic.

Here, coach and athlete tell us more . . .

Allan Smith

How long have you been coaching Matthew? 

I have been coaching Matthew since 2019 from first year U15.

Currently we are training four days a week. 1 sprint session, 1 weights session, 1 plyometrics session and 1 high jump session per week. I train with Matthew in person three times a week, with the Wednesday sessions being taken by combination of Emma Nuttall, Moira Maguire, John and Anne Scott.

Currently the only remote sessions taking place are with the guys up in Stornaway. Bringing home two medals at the 2024 Scottish championships for Ewan (U17) and James (U15).

It can be difficult for young athletes in their late teens – how much do you have to work at keeping it fun while also progressing?

In your late teens, it’s crucial to define your athletic goals while maintaining an enjoyable training environment.

Incorporate music into workouts to add a fun element and enhance motivation. Introduce creative exercises that loosely align with your specific event, injecting variety to keep training engaging.

Ensure that the focus on goals doesn’t overshadow the enjoyment of the sport. Mix structured training sessions with occasional games or activities related to your discipline.

Balancing seriousness with enjoyment creates a positive atmosphere, promoting sustained commitment to training and personal growth.

How much potential do you think he has ?

Matthew’s potential as a high jumper is under-scored not only by his impressive progress during the winter period but also by the maturing attitude towards the demands of becoming a successful athlete.

His dedication and resilience are evident in his commitment to refining not just his physical abilities but also his mental fortitude.

This holistic approach bodes well for Matthew’s future, indicating a promising trajectory as he develops both skills and mindset.

Photo by Bobby Gavin

Your own development took you to a high level – do you draw on experiences from your own career to help your coaching?

Transitioning from a professional athlete to a coach has been an invaluable journey, offering insights and knowledge crucial for personal progress.

In assuming a role once guided by seasoned coaches like Darren Richie and Bryan Roy, I’ve not only gained a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the sport but also cultivated leadership skills essential for effective coaching.

Drawing from my own experiences as an athlete, I can relate to the challenges and aspirations of those under my guidance, hopefully fostering a better coaching approach.

Whose idea was the Border stop photo and did you get a lot of reaction on social media ?

The Scottish Border sign was a very last-minute decision by myself, all in good fun as we were driving by on way back from Sheffield. Memories to look back on in 10 years with hopefully plenty more successful trips to come.

A gentle reminder also that Scotland is a small country but a force to be reckoned within British athletics.

There were many positive messages on social media mainly from Scots (with a light hearted message from Denis Doyle about Hadrian’s wall needing to be rebuilt).

Matthew Tait

How long have you been in athletics?

I have been competing in athletics since I was 11.

Did you do other events before high jump?

Starting out at Lasswade I competed in both long and high jump competitions until U15 when I decided to make high jump my only event.

What do you like about high jump – training and competition?

As much as I enjoy all aspects of my training I am driven by my ambition to succeed. I enjoy the competitive atmosphere created at events.

What was it like to wear a Scotland vest at DNA a couple of years ago at 16. Did that help confidence?

I have always seen the opportunity to wear a Scotland vest at any competition as an honour. To wear my first Senior vest at a competition like DNA at 16 exposed me to the talents of older athletes.

This allowed me to gain insights to the standards set by Seniors, and understand my capability of competing at the same level.

How much did it mean to win England Athletics U20 title with a PB on the day?

It was a rewarding experience to travel to England and earn the win and PB that I felt capable of.

I’m so pleased to have achieved this for myself and my club; Dunfermline Track and Field. Having gone to the competition ranked lower than some of my competitors, I knew to secure this title I had to have the right mindset and be confident in my abilities.

To gain two new PBs alongside my win has boosted my confidence for future competitions and rewarded my recent increase in training.

What do you do outside of sport – college, apprenticeship? Are there things you can do every day to improve (exercises, diet etc)?

Outside of athletics I am balancing a full-time modern joinery apprenticeship. This is quite a heavy workload to maintain on top of my athletics, which I make up for by keeping on top of a healthy and hydrated diet and regularly stretching.

Photo by Bobby Gavin




Tags: Allan Smith, coaching, high jump, Matthew Tait

Expand Social Feeds