Tom Druce is a familiar face to anyone involved in athletics having been the Sport’s Development Officer since February 2015.
‘I did a Sports Performance Degree at Bath University with my dissertation on Sport Development,’ says Tom who has been putting all his learning into practice over the past four and a half years.
Tom, now 33, retired from high level competitive athletics in 2014 although he has dabbled a little since. Most recently winning two gold medals as part of the Guernsey relay teams at the Gibraltar Island Games. He now gets his kicks from bringing other young talent through to perform to the best of their ability.
‘Athletics has grown, developed and evolved over the years to the way we are working and coaching now,’ said Tom.
‘We work with the Youth Athletic Development model and take this into schools.
‘We work with all ages in schools and then have a three-tier structure for those taking part in our out of school athletics club – Foundation, Development and Performance.’
As with most of the Guernsey Sports Commission’s Sport Development Officer, Tom’s work in schools is focused on ensuring the children have fun.
‘There are a number of fundamental skills we teach – running, jumping and throwing – but we aim to teach these skills within a games-based scenario.’
Tom admits that the focus on teaching fundamental movement skills was a big challenge at the start but now it’s making a real difference.
‘Jumping is a really good one. It develops a lot of qualities that show themselves quite quickly. In a way we are trying to disguise what we are teaching. Some are interested in athletics as a sport and learning the specific skills but with the young ones it’s about making sure they enjoy it.’
Tom highlights the recent Utmost Family Fun Day as a great example of young people being able to try the sport and then sign up to join the club to continue their enjoyment of athletics.
He advocates the importance of properly trained and experienced coaches working with young athletes.
‘When I was younger I trained but I wasn’t really coached and that was probably the case into my mid-20s. If I had received more technical coaching that was drilling down deeper, I might have reached a higher level.
‘It’s about being savvy and using the most appropriate level and stage for the athlete you are working with.
That’s the beauty of having been in the role for so long. I can see the progress of those who have bought into it at the beginning.
‘It really fuels my passion to make sure they are all equipped with as much knowledge and skills development as possible. It’s as complex as you want to make it.
‘When someone comes out to be achieving at National Level it is highly rewarding.
‘My ultimate aim would be to have someone get to the Commonwealths. Last year I had a girl get to the British Championships.’
Tom is keen to stress that athletics isn’t just for those with ambitions of competing at national or even international level.
‘I think we’ve always said in athletics it’s about beating yourself and trying to improve on your own personal best. Even with the fun games we do in school it’s about seeing what you did last time and trying to beat your previous score.’
Tom’s own performances on the track are pretty impressive too. He held the Island 400m record from 2011 until local GB athlete Cameron Chalmers took his crown in 2017. Tom cites his top performance as winning a silver medal at the English National Championships.
But now he’s looking forward to ensuring his young athletes get the opportunity to be part of the Island Games being hosted in Guernsey next year, whether competing or just being able to volunteer or watch.
‘I am really excited if it does happen. Taking part in 2003 really inspired me to work hard and give more to the sport.
‘For kids to be able to watch the Games and maybe have a chance to carry kit for some of the athletes is a great opportunity.’