Re CVC and Daegu....We onlookers can only agree. This is certainly not the finished or even nearly finished product that we might have expected for our £11,000,000 per annum investment. Notwithstanding the national delight at the medals accrued by Mo’s maturity, Greene’s composure, Ennis’s courage, England’s joyful and elegant opportunism, Idowu’s solidity and Turner’s luck, there is much to be concerned about one year away from London.
.........But the real worries go far beyond the ups and downs of Daegu. A couple of medals more or less in London might be a side-issue if the system that has been so expensively put in place was strengthening the sport’s infrastructure so as to consistently produce talent able to realistically vie for top 8 status. But the Shakes-Draytons, Morses and Williamses are thin on the ground. In sprinting the stream of male talent no longer seems to be making it through. Women’s sprinting, Williams apart, is not continuing the gentle improvements of recent seasons. With the exception of two pole vaulters and recruits Aldama and Proctor, women’s jumping is all but dead in terms of global standards…and so on and so on.
Why is this the case? Of the many contributory factors, the state of coaching must be the most fundamental. It seems rare to find a coach who is happy with the system these days, and my experience is that the nearer to the top the coach functions at, the less happy in the sport he, or very occasionally she, is likely to be. I have the impression that the higher echelons of coaching can be a bit like the court of Henry VIII. Fear and insecurity, suspicion, power-play, manipulation, who’s in – who’s out, opaque decision-making, shifting goal posts….mixed metaphors not withstanding, not a particularly happy ship!
..........Upon these ancient axioms is based every development strategy the sport as ever had and it seems to me these have mostly failed. The notion that your average athletics club functions in order to “develop the next generation of champions” is based in faith, not reality. The idea that a club or even a cluster of clubs can supply an adequate coaching service to cover all events and levels of talent in its area is based in hope, not experience. The assumption that, even if and when a state of the art coach education syllabus is available, sufficient numbers of intelligent, caring and athletically ambitious individuals, with just the right event group and geographical spread, are going to fund themselves through the system, donate all their spare hours to the detriment of family and career, and then happily give up the talent they develop to a highly paid, controlled and pressurised “elite” is deeply unrealistic.