This is a piece on Dina Asher-Smith and her coach, John Blackie. Dina has been with John Blackie since she was eight years old.
Dina Asher-Smith and her coach
Dina Asher-Smith has only ever had one coach, John Blackie. Dina joined Blackie when she was 8 years old and has never left. Having spent his whole life playing and volunteering in sport, Blackie has focused on athletics coaching for 20 years. Check him out on www.thepowerof10.info and you will see that he currently coaches 19 athletes at all ages and levels.
Speaking at the Sports Journalists Association annual awards ceremony last year, Dina said of her coach: “I owe just about everything to John. John is an amazing man, an amazing human being, so intelligent and so patient with me. Rain or shine he’s always at the track, committed to getting the best out of his athletes. And there’s no bias. He’s proud of what I did at the World Championships but equally proud of someone who’s gone to the English schools and got a PR or just performed really well. It means a lot to see a volunteer coach recognized. I’ve known him since I was eight years old. I didn’t see what he saw but he’s always believed in me and been careful with my progression, to advance me when I needed to be advanced and to hold me back so I could get stronger. So this is dedicated to his persistence, intelligence and wisdom”.
Writing in her column in the Daily Telegraph (20 September 2019), she elaborated on the coaching relationship: “My coach John is like family to me. Lots of people wonder about him, as he is not the sort of person to seek out the limelight and want extra attention. He is happy within himself and finds joy in supporting others and helping them to fulfil their potential. He is a humble and kind person, and I love him to bits.
“I trust John because he would never let me do something that I was not ready to do. He would never put me in a situation that would compromise my happiness, or would not be good for me. That might sound very boring – and it should, of course, be a given – but being in this industry for so long I am aware it is somewhat unique.
“No matter the situation, if John says I can do it, I can do it. He would not set me a session that I could not tackle and conquer. He knows me inside out, and what the environment around me needs to be like if I want to perform well. In my opinion being able to trust and believe in your coach – and not just their ability, but trusting them emotionally and understanding their motivations and character – is essential in track and field”.
Going back to the 2019 SJA Awards, Blackie shared aspects of the coaching relationship from his perspective. He commented on the shoes that Dina was wearing: “I don’t know what she’s got on her feet [heels] but we need to get rid of those because she will be training tonight and I don’t want her falling over! We are quite close and that can have its drawbacks, particularly when I see the kind of stuff that Dina wears to some of these events – not just on her feet. And I do tell her off about that occasionally. If we weren’t family, I wouldn’t do that”.
Asked what his role was on race-day Blackie said that they sometimes talked about “her hair and about her eye-shadow – if it’s the right one. But not much about the race because we don’t need to”. He added: “Dina is a talent – a multifaceted talent, not just athletics. And she can talk for Great Britain and I’m sure she’d like to”.
In another Daily Telegraph column (21 May 2020) she explained how her structures worked: “My contact with British Athletics mainly revolves around relay commitments and major championship events, with the occasional use of biomechanical resources. Since 2017, I have been largely independent, and – like many athletes – working away from the main hub in Loughborough. So, when there have been well-publicised central changes, it has not affected what would have been my build-up to Tokyo 2020.”
“I value that independence, I am fortunate to have a strong support system in my parents, coach and management to help guide my decision-making, and loyal sponsors to give me financial freedom. And it has paid off, in the shape of three European golds and a World gold. But I am well aware that not all athletes have had the opportunity and means to make that choice and investment, which is why it is great to see British Athletics making changes for the future of the sport.”
Finally if want to make small-talk to Dina, try American Jazz as she wrote a dissertation on “commercial image and agency concentrating on Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington”.