A very personal tribute to Bruce

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A very personal tribute to Bruce Longden

English Schools 300mHurdles Champion
Grace Gentry competing for England

Foundation Secretary – David Rice

I first met Bruce in 1989, when I attend a hurdle workshop at St.Albans, he was running as the National Coach for this area, where I also encountered my first meeting with Sally Gunnell and Colin Jackson. At that time I had just passed my British Athletic Federation’s (BAF) Club Coach exam in Sprinting, Hurdling and Relays. At the conclusion of the workshop I asked Bruce for his assistance with a talented young female sprinter I was coaching, and he agreed to meet me with her.
He watched me coach the athlete and asked me “what’s the problem”, and I explained that I did not understand why she was performing so well, so he asked to see her training programme, which he studied, and her competition history which he also studied, “well” he said “its because you are doing everything right”. We agreed to meet in a month’s time so he could see my plans for her winter training, and to watch me do another training session with her, and what was to follow I was totally unprepared for. At the end of the session, we returned to discussing the athlete’s performances, and he announced “she is competing at a national standard and you are not qualified to do that as a Club Coach, so I am enrolling you on the Senior Coach Course in December at Twickenham …….. AND bye the way, I have a job for you”.

After I attended the Senior Coach Theory Course, he told me he wanted me to be his Performance Manager for the North of the Thames Region he was National Coach for, and I accepted, and yes I attended and completed the Senior Coaching Award. For almost ten years I worked with Bruce running coaching workshops and running coach education courses, right up until the demise of the BAF in 1999/2000, when Bruce lost his job.
In those ten years I cannot begin to say how much he taught me and how much I learned, he remained my mentor and close friend right up to his untimely death In those later years he continued to help me with the preparation of training programmes and coaching of my athletes, which resulted in a number achieving internationals, mostly in Combined Events, but also in 400m sprints. This year, 2016 I gained my first winner of English Schools in the 300mHurdles with 15 year old Grace Gentry, and it is without doubt this was achieved because of Bruce’s outstanding tuition and commitment to my Coach education, not in one event, but many.

Grace enjoying a surprise training session with Sally Gunnell

Bruce’s philosophy as a coach was “you never, ever stop learning.”