RICHMOND, Va. – Entering the winter months, most people try to find their way indoors as much as possible. VCU Track & Field is the exact same way as they have a 14-meet indoor schedule on the horizon.
This weekend will kick things off for the Black & Gold as both the men's and women's track & field squads will head down to Christopher Newport for the annual Vince Brown Invitational.
Prior to the indoor season getting underway, VCU Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant Devon Howard sat down with Head Coach Jon Riley to chat about the upcoming season and some of the new faces that will be debuting as Rams this weekend.
DH: Now that you and your staff now have a full season under your belt of overseeing both programs, how is it different going into this season as opposed to last year when it was your first time at the helm of both the men's and women's programs?
JR: Our roles are well defined and just like athletes gel, coaches do as well. I understand each coach's strength a little better and I trust them to manage their groups. The team grew from 65 to 80 and I feel that we have a better grip on all aspects (weight room, study hall, travel, etc..)
DH: What is your favorite part about starting a new season? Least favorite part?
JR: I love watching newcomer compete on the collegiate level for the first time and I really don't have a least favorite part. I love everything about it.
DH: We know that the athletes go through training and all sorts of drills to prepare for the year, but how do you and your staff prepare for each new season?
JR: We prepare by continuing our education and correcting any mistakes that were made the previous year. We then create an annual plan that is well designed and balanced. It's complicated and requires us to work close with the strength and conditioning staff to make sure all parts sync.
DH: Do you prepare your teams differently for the indoor season as opposed to the outdoor season?
JR: Preparing differently is not the best way to put it. We train in phases. We start in a General Prep phase for 4 to 6 weeks them move into a Special prep phase, then to pre competition which is usually Christmas Break. Finally, we get into the competition phase and compete hard and start peaking at the indoor championships. We re-group after the Indoor Championships by taking them through a Transition Phase with active recovery. We reload and go back and repeat the pre comp and competition phase until the CAA Championships. Again the plan must be planned and well balanced.
DH: Are there specific areas that you have your teams working on during the off-season?
DH: How do you approach this weekend's opening meet, especially with it being the only meet your teams will run before the New Year?
JR: I look at this weekend's meet like another practice but against competition. I want them to get a taste of competition before we go on our long Christmas Break. We will be fatigued because all the hard work we've put in over the past 13 weeks, but I expect them to compete and perform well. I want to see what our game face look like.
DH: With several new faces on both squads, what are you looking to see out of them during the indoor season?
On the women's side, I'm looking for them to blend in seamlessly like last season never ended. We only lost 2 seniors and have a good mix of experience and youth. On the men's side, I'm looking for them to mature quick, fast and in a hurry. We lost quite a few guys last year and this group will respond. They remind me of the Women's Team when I arrived at VCU.
DH: What are your goals as a coach for this weekend?
JR: We will continue to teach and focus on technique.
DH: What are your goals for your squads?
JR: We want the athletes to do everything we've been working on for the past 13 weeks.
DH: What are your goals for the indoor season as a whole?
JR: We want to run fast, throw far, jump high and far. That will set us up for a good Outdoor Season.
DH: Looking at your schedule, which meets look especially important for your teams?
JR: We will put money in the bank at all the meets but we want to withdraw all that money at the CAA Championship.
DH: Being at the helm of both the men's and women's squads, do you change your coaching style depending on which team you're dealing with?
JR: Our coaching style never changes. We deal with all the groups the same. They adapt and adjust. I try my best to be rough on them, but I think they see right through me.
DH: Every team has a unique personality. What do you see as being the personalities of both the men's and women's track teams?
JR: Both the women's and men's teams take on the personality of their senior leaders: Confident and humble.