Tiffany Porter has recently retired . Stuart Weir, who has watched her race for a decade, asked her, in this third part of his feature on Tiffany and her career. Tiffany Porter has always been good with media and I always enjoyed the time my time with her in interviews.
Tiffany Porter, photo by British Athletics
Tiffany Porter has had three main coaches during her career – James Henry, Rana Reider and finally Jeff Porter. Jeff doubled up as husband as well as coach! In the final part of our interview we discuss coaching and move on to the role of the national association and other matters.
Tell me about your coach
Jeffrey Porter became my coach in 2017. He’s very dedicated. He’s a very good coach. He knows the sport, he loves the sport, he’s a student of the sport and that is reflected in the way that he coached my sister and myself. It has been a great transition and a great partnership but I told him that that’s the only time that he’s the boss – on the track. And when we get home it’s back to business as usual!
Sometimes at home, we would watch a video or something but we do put constraints and limitations on it so that we didn’t spend all our time talking about track. We have so many other things that were interested in. And frankly, talking track 24/7 can get a bit boring.
Jeff’s input before being a coach
Dr. Jeff Porter, photo courtesy of JeffPorter.com
Oh yes, he has always been a huge part of my success, even when he wasn’t officially my coach. That is simply one of the advantages of having a world-class hurdler as a husband. And not just a world-class hurdler but someone who has a knack for coaching and teaching. It comes very naturally to him and not everyone is blessed with that. He had always been a great support system it’s just that at one point he officially became my coach.
What do you want from a coach?
I think that depends on where you are in your career. At the beginning of my career, I was learning the event and didn’t know anything about spacings or driving to the first hurdle but was just running from a place of inexperience. So at that point, it’s going to be different, what I needed from a coach, compared to my last year when I’ve been doing it for two decades and know the sport in and out, and know my body and I know what makes me tick. I’ve had success, and I’ve had a failure, and have now a more collaborative relationship with your coach. Those are two opposite sides of the spectrum. But two things that I needed throughout all the different phases were: someone who would listen to me, someone who understood me as an athlete and as a person because a lot of this is mental, as well as someone who was as committed to my success as I was. I was fortunate throughout my career to have coaches who really poured into me and who really believed in me and my talent.
Sally Pearson and Tiffany Porter, Birmingham DL, photo by British Athletics
How do you deal with days when the body just won’t do what you want it to?
On those days, you just go back to the mental aspect. Not just your body not doing what you wanted to, but mentally when you are not having that great a day. But you’ve just got to turn that off and say: “I am here. I have got two or three hours to dedicate to this work-out and I am not going to waste the time or these opportunities. Go after it!” I actually found that I have had my greatest growth in those moments just focusing on the tenacity and fortitude which is essential to being an athlete. We all have those days, and some athletes can handle them, and some can’t.
Cindy Sember and Tiffany Porter, (sisters), photo by British Athletics
On your blog, you said that you’re not going to coach now but didn’t rule it out forever
Maybe! I never say never. Life is just funny like that. I never thought I would be a blogger but here I am and I’m genuinely loving it. I never thought I’d be the person behind the microphone asking the questions, but I tried it out [at Staten Island], and I am coming up my second time soon, and I genuinely loved it. So I think it would be a bit naïve of me to say “never, I’m never going to coach”. Who knows? I might have a great opportunity, I might feel called to take on an athlete, but at the moment I don’t feel it is something I want to be focusing on. But never say never!
Sometimes American College athletes run a one-off ridiculously fast time but are never heard of again. What is the difference between running one fast time and performing in a championship?
I think there’s something to be said for being able to run at that level in college but then being able to transition into the professional. And a lot of people are not able to make that transition very effectively. It involves getting used to what it feels like overseas, which means for a lot of American athletes that you’re not in your comfort zone, and you don’t have your teammates cheering you on. You might have a different coach or no coach and have to fend for yourself. For championships, you have to learn the art of running rounds because that is definitely an art in itself. Being able to run the prelim and the semi but not run well in the final is obviously not the goal. There are a lot of different nuances between the NCAA college system and the professional scene. Without a proper introduction to what professional track looks like on the next level because it’s almost unrecognizable, to be honest with you. It’s a different game and foremost college athletes it’s a learning curve and a transition that you have to get through because that is very different.
What do you expect from a governing body? Do you feel you got it from British Athletics?
That’s a very good question. I definitely felt supported by British Athletics. Obviously, nothing is perfect and there are times like: why have I been taken off funding? But ultimately if you look at the track record of what British Athletics has done for me personally as an athlete, I genuinely can’t complain. And I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it because at this point I am retired so I’m free to say whatever. But I do appreciate all that British Athletics has given me. It is important for a federation whether you’re talking about British Athletics or UST&F, to have the athletes’ best interest at heart. We’re here for the athletes; we’re here to serve the athletes. We are here to allow the athletes to perform at their highest level with the support that we can give them and as long as you don’t lose sight of that and don’t forget ultimately what you’re doing this for, you will be fine. And I do feel I got that from British Athletics.
To learn more about Tiffany Porter, check out: https://www.runblogrun.com/2022/03/tiffany-porter-reflects-on-retirement-and-life-after-hurdles-part-2.html
Tiffany Porter has a new blog at https://tiffofili.com/blog/
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