MUAC Coach Profile

Tony Brain



Middle/Distance Squad – MUAC

Coaching Level

IV Middle Distance

Full time occupation

Head of Risk Management at AustralianSuper

What is your running history?

Started competing in athletics in final year at uni (with MUAC of course) and have continued to participate to this day. “Sweet spot” was 3000m/3.8k around the Tan. No better than solid club runner in my day!

How did you get into coaching?

I’d been managing the winter season team for a few years in the early 90’s and we’d moved both the men and women teams through the divisions from a lowly 4th or 5th division in each instance. Neil Croker was the coach of the middle/distance group at the time – based at Olympic Park as the standard of the uni track was quite poor.

It was the start of the uni year and Neil had decided that he wasn’t able to continue with the coaching. I didn’t want the momentum of the last few years to halt and so made up some training programs from Neil’s previous programs and also decided to change the location of the training group back to Melb Uni as we hadn’t been getting a lot of new people coming into the group. I think the track had been redone or was about to be at the time, so the facility was (or was about to be) much better.

I received some good feedback from people in the group about the way I was directing and organising the group (pretty small at that time) and then started to think a little about coaching. The club was willing to support me to do some coaching courses. Neil, who I was still in contact with, was also encouraging. It has grown from there…

Time coaching MUAC?

Since 1994 or thereabouts – you can do the maths!

What is your coaching philosophy?

It’s probably morphed over the years, but I am very focussed on consistency being the greatest means to the end of improvement and continuous and sustained enjoyment. I don’t think there are “magic sessions” – particularly from a physical point of view. I do think psychologically there are sessions that can mean a lot to an individual and from that they can have a confidence boost that is useful from a racing performance viewpoint.

Training as a group/cohort has always been important. The benefit of training with others is something I have experienced and witnessed over the years as being beneficial 98% of the time.

Enjoyment and overall health of the individual in a holistic manner is important and not to be neglected from a coaching viewpoint.

What is your mission as a coach?

To see people improve – as athletes, but also in life in general.

Contribute to MUAC.

Define a typical week for you as MUAC coach

The formal side of it will usually be taking Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday training sessions. Then there is some time of a weekend doing some planning. This tends to increase in the period leading into major competitions, as does attendance at competitions – for example, the Victorian Championships that are coming up this weekend.

Then there will typically be fielding some enquiries from prospective new athletes/members and ad hoc discussions and follow ups with athletes I am coaching. A bit of relevant reading if there is time.

What are your two most prominent strengths as a coach?

Care for the individual

Patience – taking a long term view

What does coaching offer you emotionally?

For the most time the pleasure of working with someone to see them set some goals and reach those goals. To see people who turn up for the first time as a shy 1st year uni student become integral members of the training group and see their lives take shape over a number of years.
Occasionally, it offers disappointment where behaviours of others are such that they show disrespect for the athlete/coach relationship or the value of the positive group dynamics and culture.

What has been your biggest coaching disappointment/achievement so far?

The disappointments are fleeting and short-term, so I’ll focus on the achievements (there’s not a single one) and positives and these are probably at two ends of the spectrum.

There are the obvious ones where somebody wins a big race they have been working towards, get selected in a National Team or run a great time, for example Nelly Marmy-Conus’s Melb Marathon win and Olympic Games B qualifier, Dan Quin making it to an Australian team, David McDonald’s recent first up marathon result or Rosie Donegan’s selection in World Mountain Running team a few years ago.

At the other end of the spectrum it is seeing someone who has had to battle through injury and other obstacles to finally get the results they are capable of or someone who perhaps is not a natural runner when they first start persevere and show great improvement in due course.

Being involved in three University Ekiden tours to Osaka, Japan as coach of each of those teams was also a great highlight along with trips to Milan and Osaka with an athlete on each occasion (Grant Morgan and Andrew Selby-Smith respectively) to see them compete in those cities half marathons as invited guests of those Melbourne sister cities.

How do you define success for your athletes?

They’re having fun, improving and athletics is contributing to their well-being.

(Any other question you may like to answer)

Sorry, no more – I’m out of breath!