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Wall of Vulnerability Coaching Experiences with Richard Rodgers


“Wall of Vulnerability” with Richard Rodgers

Richard addressed the coaches at the first ECN seminar in January and his sincere and modest demeanour didn’t mask his obvious passion and intensive knowledge of the sport.  His quote of “Why play Russian roulette with your athletes?” in reference to using Heart Rate as a proxy for effort gave us an insight into Richard’s scientific yet athlete centric approach. However for this writer, Richard’s biggest contribution to the day was his reference to the fact that the legitimate use of ice jackets by some of the competitors of the Irish female steeplechasers at the 2015 World Championships in the stifling heat of Beijing may have put the Irish contingent at a competitive disadvantage before the starting gun was even fired.  At that very moment Richard was laying the foundation for this “Wall of Vulnerability” community, whereby hopefully in future no individual Irish athlete or coach will ever be isolated from the smallest piece of knowledge required to compete on a par at the very highest level.

“Ní neart go cur le chéile” – There is no strength without unity.


Name: Richard Rodgers

Age: 52

Club: Newcastle & District AC

Number of Years Coaching: 20

Richard Rodgers has been involved with distance running in one way or another for forty years since the age of twelve. He was born in Newcastle, County Down under the shadow of the 2,800 foot high Slieve Donard.  He modestly describes himself as “no great talent” and his competitive career was focused primarily on mountain racing where he represented Northern Ireland forty times and Ireland once including six World Mountain Racing championships and numerous other international events. He was a founder member of the Newcastle and District Athletic Club formed in 1981. He has been coaching for 20 years, the last 12 of which at senior level. The most high profile athlete whom he has coached to date is Kerry O’Flaherty European Cross Country team medallist 2015 and Rio Olympics 2016 3000m Steeplechase qualifier.


What’s the most significant message you could pass on to a young coach today?

Ask and listen….

Name two key mistakes you have made as a coach throughout your career?

1. From time to time, I have been too dismissive of new ideas.

2. Sometimes I don’t have enough patience – listen then advise rather than just advise.

If you were only permitted to utter one sentence to an athlete prior to the most important race of their career, what would this sentence be?

You are here because you have ability, believe in that ability; you’ve done all the hard work and this is why you do it; enjoy the race, this is where you are meant to be…

Name two of the greatest challenges you face as a coach on a regular basis?

Ensuring that I continue to learn – there is a big responsibility in understanding as much as possible because athletes invest a lot in my knowledge – an athlete’s career window is short so I owe it to them to provide the best possible guidance.
Making the time to ensure that I don’t let any individual down.

You have just retired from coaching and you are only allowed document three pieces of coaching information encapsulating the entirety of your coaching career, experience and knowledge. What are they?

  • and with athlete emails and passwords – this contains all the details that are ever needed to monitor performance, development and plan for the future.
  • Spreadsheet with performance details from key races and training sessions plus training plans (there is no point in keeping a training diary if it’s not used to learn and shape the future).
  • The answer is 42 but what was the question again?

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