Firstly let me make it clear I am not anti UKA or Welsh Athletics or anti anything just for the sake of it. There are certain areas of coaching which I believe we have got wrong, areas we have probably always got wrong! There are general issues that affect coaching at all levels. There are coaching issues that are, in part, the making of organisations outside of athletics.
I also believe many experienced coaches within our sport, including those employed by UKA and the home nations, are not happy with the current situation. Most feel there should be a root and branch review of coaching from grassroots to elite level with the aim of developing a harmonious coaching structure suitable for our sport (as opposed to a generic approach for all sports).
Some of the main issues are:
1. The changing role of governing bodies from supporting coaches to employing coaches
2. Centralisation and the effect of reducing coaching expertise around the country
3. Direct and indirect transfer of athletes by governing bodies
4. A growing gap between local coaches of all levels and governing body coaches
5. An already shambollic and incomprehensible coaching structure at elite level
A few interesting observations. In Scotland where they are attempting to run an athletics coaches association they have recommended SAF must approach coaches first and not athletes regarding any potential move and ensure all possible support is given in the first instance to retaining the coach/athlete partnership. In Wales, UWIC based coaches (some employed by Welsh Athletics) have been told not to approach athletes to encourage them to move to Cardiff. England instruct all their coach mentors not to instigate any athlete transfer. So the home nations appear to be changing their attitude but UKA employ national coaches and apprentice coaches in some events at a few facilities where they expect the best athletes to be based. The result - a recipe for conflict!
We have some of our best athletes not being coached by UKA coaches but in many cases it becomes something of a battle. Some events have national coaches while some do not. We have events with a national coach and apprentice coach costing c£100,000 but our best athletes are being coached by others!
Rather than going into minute detail and being deliberately guilty of leaving lots of gaps in my synopsis of UK coaching I offer the following recommendations:
1. Govering bodies should support, coordinate and educate coaches
2. Governing bodies, either directly or indirectly, should not enforce or encourage athletes to transfer
3. We should review the way we deliver coaching through clubs, schools, universities, local authorities etc
4. Issues which have always been taboo such as poaching, paying coaches etc should be addressed
5. We should move towards establishing a national coaches association
6. The grassroots of our sport needs to change to a more professional approach and not just the elite (otherwise it exacerbates the us and them situation)
All the above need to be addressed if we want to re-establish a more harmonious and joined up coaching structure. We need to re-establish trust.