Four-time Scottish sprinting champion Ryan Oswald is determined to help his small cohort of Granite City athletes make big improvements on the track.
Former Great Britain junior and 100m and 200m specialist Oswald, 33, is now holding the stopwatch, more than eight years after hanging up his own spikes.
Now coaching a crop of senior sprinters in Aberdeen, many of whom have represented either Scotland or Great Britain, Oswald certainly has his hands full. His current group of athletes includes Rebecca Matheson, Kathryn Christie, Kelsey Stewart, David Irvine, and Zoey Clark – who is now one of Great Britain’s seasoned 4x400m relay runners.
While the 27-year-old Clark is the most well known of Oswald’s athletes – having been part of the GB relay squad at last year’s Tokyo Olympics among other achievements – Matheson, 23, took a bronze medal in the 200m at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Indoor Championships in February.
The 27-year-old Christie, meanwhile, is a multiple Scottish Champion over 100m and 200m distances, while Stewart, 25, was a Scottish representative at the Commonwealth Games four years ago.
Irvine, also 25, though without an international vest, has a good chance of dipping under 11 seconds for the 100m this year.
Oswald only took on the role as their coach seven months ago – though he has held athletics coaching qualifications far longer – but he does not seem overly daunted by being thrust back into the world of competitive athletics.
In many senses, he may feel as if he never actually left it.
Turning coaching skills gained during own track career on Clark was natural step
As Clark’s long-term partner, Oswald has never been far away from the running track since he stepped back from competing in 2014.
He has always been there to offer advice to Clark – but after her decision to leave her previous coach, Eddie McKenna, last year, Oswald has taken up the mantle of leading one of the British relay team’s mainstays into the 2022 season and beyond.
And Oswald explains he has long been a student of athletics, having attended coaching courses while he was still a competitive athlete in a bid to get the best out of himself.
Now, however, he can use his knowledge and experience to get the most out of others.
“Being a sprinter, I wanted to be the fastest guy in the country,” Oswald said.
“It got to a point when you become a student of the sport a little bit – you want to try and make any improvement possible to your performance, which is why I did coaching courses and certifications, things like that.”
Small squad could yield better results for athletes
With Matheson, Christie, Stewart, and Irvine also moving to Oswald’s coaching set-up, he has had plenty to work on – but with all of the current squad competing at senior level, the challenge of coaching five high-level sprinters has been a manageable one.
He explained: “Every athlete has their own needs and things they need addressed, but it does help that they’re all adults.
“They’re all in their twenties. They’ve become a part of this group because they’ve identified that they need assistance and they need coaching, so they’re willing to listen and they’re willing to learn with me.
“I try and engage them as much as possible in terms of getting them invested in the training programme and what they’re trying to achieve, and (we) work together.
“I’m trying to keep the squad quite small so I can dedicate as much time to each individual as possible.”
The results have been strong so far.
Christie earned her first international call-up in seven years in February, with Matheson, Clark, and Irvine all having set personal bests following a strong winter.
Stewart, too, is making progress having returned to athletics following a stint with the British skeleton programme.
Globe-trotting with partner Clark?
With Clark once again aiming to feature in a season packed with major internationals – the World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and European Championships are all taking place this summer – will Oswald be travelling across country and continent to watch his partner compete?
The answer is that he probably won’t, partly down to Oswald’s work commitments as an engineer, but partly also because Clark has proved herself to be self-reliant on the international stage.
Oswald said: “I probably won’t be there (at the major competitions), but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve watched Zoey race at 2am in the morning.
“When I was working in Singapore, I got up stupidly early to watch her run her 400m semi-final at London 2017.”