Introducing 2014 Presenter, Henk Kraaijenhof

With a great excitement I introduce the third presenter for The 2014 Seminar, Henk Kraaijenhof. Henk gave two fantastic presentations at The 2013 Edition of The Seminar, and I could not be any happier to have him back on the docket. A coach working with a wide range of individuals from field hockey, to soccer, to special operation military personal, to, of course, athletics, Henk’s background not only in coaching, but in a scientific approach to coaching is what has made him one of the most sought after coaches in the world for consulting. On top of his great level of knowledge and impressive coaching resume, Henk’s also one of the best guys you’ll meet in coaching.

JD: Henk!  Welcome back to The Seminar!  We’re really excited to have you back my friend.  Before we get going, let’s catch up everyone on what has been going on with Henk for the past 12 months.

HK: Hello Jay, the pleasure is mine, I have fond memories of your seminar last year, meeting a lot of interesting and interested colleagues. Like always a lot of different things are going on here, some things I already posted on my blog: e.g. I lectured at the Nike Performance Summit, went to the best track meet in Athletics, and currently I am working for the Olympic Committee in Holland as teacher and mentor for young national coaches. Of course my clients for testing, athletes and coaches for consulting, tons of lectures, workshops and courses, e.g. on performance nutrition or stress management new style, and in my spare time writing three books at the same time. Next week I am going to work with SF operators abroad. Time, it’s the only thing I have plenty of  😉

JD: Henk, your bread and butter has been in athletics, and more specifically in sprinting.  You’ll be discussing how to develop speed with athletes at the 2014 Seminar.  Do you find one portion (start, acceleration, top end) more difficult or requiring more time?  If so, which and why?

HK: Each factor has its own difficulty e.g. reaction time and block start, is there much time to gain? No, but there is time to be lost. Most of the time people react and start faster in the semifinals than in the finals, so I spend time stabilizing reaction time under stress. Acceleration is the most valuable one: it is closely related to strength qualities, it is the largest part of the race, and a better acceleration also gives you a higher maximum speed, apart from a better first part of the race. Maximum speed is hard to improve, since you cannot spend much time running at maximum speed. Speed endurance is a tricky one, because it might negatively influence the other factors. One can spend a lot of time here, e.g. running lots of high intensity tempo’s – 3 sets of 5 times 80 meters = 135 secs, 6x150m in 15.5 = 92.5 seconds.  This in comparison with the little time spent on improving maximum speed (6 times 30m flying start = 6 times 3 secs = 18 secs) or reaction time.  Also at the tape you can lose a race by not dipping or dipping at the wrong time.

JD: You are well known for your work with sprinters, but what many overlook is your work with Tactical Units and team sport athletes.  Could you briefly touch upon the differences with how you handled, say the Dutch Field Hockey Team vs. someone in athletics?

HK: This is an easy question: in case of athletes, I am the one in charge, being responsible for all parts of the training process. In case of team sports I am most of the time only responsible for the conditioning part, so my role and influence depends on the demands of the head coach and I have to interact and communicate my work with him/her and the other coaching staff members.

Besides that, I coach athletes for at least 3 years up to 12 years and within a smaller group, maximum 4-5 athletes at the most, and being present on the track almost every day. Working in teams is always almost of a shorter duration 1-3 years as the head coach often changes in an Olympic cycle.  Still I believe that there is little difference in my approach of team vs. individual athletes.

JD: Though all our discussion I’ve come to know that not only are you well schooled, but well-traveled as well.  Through all of this, who, as coaches, has had the biggest influence on how you approach training your athletes?

HK: Holland is a small country with a history of trading and a language not spoken by many. Therefore most Dutch people are multilingual. So speaking Dutch, English and German and many of us speak French or Spanish, this is a great advantage.

I think that the willingness to learn e.g. another language or investigate new fields of interest basically comes down to your motivation for your own improvement.

Since Europe has a lot of different countries with a lot of different and rather isolated cultures also in sprints and approach to training, there is a lot to learn. I was influenced by the ideas of Valentin Petrovski from Kiev, the whole Russian school of sports, like Verkhoshanski, Matveyev, Bondartchuk, Viru, Kuznetzov, Volkov, and many others. Italy has been a great influence too with
sprint coach Carlo), and my mentor Carmelo Bosco Vittori (Pietro Mennea who has shaped a great part of my concepts. From Switzerland there is the work of Jean-Pierre Egger, famous for his work with throwers (Werner Guenthor and currently Valerie Adams). My dear friend Hakan Andersson from Sweden is a very creative, but neglected sprint coach. The East German sports system also brought forth some brilliant minds and some of them became very good colleagues, despite the difference in ideology and the fact that we were competitors. I should mention the US and Canadian coaches and their training ideas, which I carefully studied: Tom Tellez, John Smith, Bob Kersee, Gary Winckler, and Charlie Francis. Of course there are many more good colleagues that I did not mention for lack of space here.

One of the interesting things is that it is obvious that there are completely different ways that have led to success. Partially to be explained by the fact that we have different athlete populations and  different circumstances such as facilities, climate, etc. So it is hard to transfer a concept developed in another setting to one’s own situation.

JD: Monitoring the training process is something else you’re well versed in.  Who are the people who helped you travel this path and what did they teach you?

HK: Again Carmelo Bosco thought me how to monitor all of the neuromuscular parts of the training process. For the nutritional part I educated myself taking information from many sides and the endurance part is the most standardized and well-researched part of monitoring. For the mental part, I am a firm believer in psychophysiology and have been working with that concept since 1988. And of course the proper use of the Omegawave has been a great step forwards to complete the picture of readiness.

JD: Can’t wait to have you back on campus Henk, and am really excited to hear what you have to say.

HK: Working with high-level coaches on an almost daily base I am very much concerned about education of coaches. Due to improvements of information technologies the coaches’ environment has changed rapidly over the last decades. Despite the promises of progress and improved efficiency I must say that I am not overly happy with these technological developments. Being far from  technophobic, I am also not techno-euphoric. Yes, we have much more information at our fingertips, but many coaches get lost in the flood of information. We need a wave to surf not a tsunami. Experience is still the more valuable as a learning tool than reading Wikipedia. Probably more about this when I come to Richmond again, looking forward to that already.


If you’d like to read more from Henk you can check out his blog, Helping The Best To Get Better at:

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