Coach to the coaching

By Gwen Matthews

Introduced as a “delightful character, with a wealth of information”, Ian Harris confirmed this to be true at an open discussion held on Friday, 19 September at the Sports Admin lounge.

You are probably wondering who Ian Harris is. Harris is a sports coach, – but not your average coach at all. During his 41 years in the profession, Harris has coached 36 international athletes. In the last eight Olympic Games, Harris has entered six of his athletes, but his big claim to fame is the coaching of the South African 800m 2004 Olympic silver medalist, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi.

Remembering his first meeting with his future trainee, Harris remembers Mulaudzi’s “bow legs, which would allow a bus to fit through!” He recalls it being team work, explaining that “the catalyst for performance must involve both the athlete and coach”. Mulaudzi lacked “strength, speed endurance and aerobic threshold”. Core stability was also critical to get his personal best down to 1:42.89 in 2003.

Today, Harris works as a Virgin Active personal trainer. He has transferred his skills, organising programs for keen gym-goers and athletes alike. He even has a “system of backup” consisting of a GP, a physiotherapist, and a dietitian for general members. He explains that such a diverse team is owing to the fact that “exercise is one of the hardest ways to lose weight”. He also caters for specific sports coaching sessions, incorporating custom-designed Virgin Packages into his individual programmes. Other aspects of his current career involve coaching by e-mail and lecturing for the International Association of Athletics Federations around Africa.

Harris believes in keeping everything in perspective saying, “if you don’t like running, rather play the violin. Find something that you are good at, the sun will still shine and the earth will still spin on its axis.” To all you flourishing and high flying sportspeople out there, Harris reminded me, above all, of the “need to embrace discomfort, for no training will ever kill you!”


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