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Athletes - coaches - contracts

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Athletes - coaches - contracts

Postby stuart » Thu Apr 13, 2006 3:08 pm

After watching the GC and the WX and reading day after day of, "pick on the runner" I thought why not put the pressure on elsewhere.
Look at Andy Robinson and his whole backroom staff are under threat according to the BBC today.
Alan Storey how long has he been a national coach of sorts and Tony Lester, he coaches, MLF, Devonish, Benjamin, Headman, Shirvington, Mcllroy and I think Malachi all great CG runners and he picks the 4x4 squad who on its last few outings has suffered from the worst placement of runners on wrong legs.
I havent heard their names being tossed around and these guys take a wage like our runners, these guys are meant to educate, help direct and develop their runners.
If funded runners are meant to deliever so are the funded experts looking after them and directing them and if coaches cant get their runners to toe the line in one piece with the qualifier, then they are also to blame. Yes bad luck does occur but if you have the top ranked UK runners from 100m to 400m and you cant get them into a CG final..... well you should resign out of shame.
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Re: Athletes - coaches - contracts

Postby james montgomery » Fri Apr 14, 2006 7:39 am

stuart wrote:After watching the GC and the WX and reading day after day of, "pick on the runner" I thought why not put the pressure on elsewhere.
Look at Andy Robinson and his whole backroom staff are under threat according to the BBC today.
Alan Storey how long has he been a national coach of sorts and Tony Lester, he coaches, MLF, Devonish, Benjamin, Headman, Shirvington, Mcllroy and I think Malachi all great CG runners and he picks the 4x4 squad who on its last few outings has suffered from the worst placement of runners on wrong legs.
I havent heard their names being tossed around and these guys take a wage like our runners, these guys are meant to educate, help direct and develop their runners.
If funded runners are meant to deliever so are the funded experts looking after them and directing them and if coaches cant get their runners to toe the line in one piece with the qualifier, then they are also to blame. Yes bad luck does occur but if you have the top ranked UK runners from 100m to 400m and you cant get them into a CG final..... well you should resign out of shame.


Stuart, you are quite right. Looking at endurance it's really a disgrace that Alan Storey the UKA Endurance Director has been in place for so long when our standards are as low as they are. I don't know the man but I know he's been around a long time and he has been involved with some very good runners in the past with his most notable being Mike McLeod.

But he can't be allowed to rest on his laurels when his job is to improve standards. This really is the problem with the UKA structure. Why don't they have a one year renewable contract for all in senior positions which under the, supposedly to be elected, Athletics Supervisory Body (?) with the power to "hire and fire" all senior posts would be assessed for performance on a range of criteria and if any fall below the required standard they can be replaced. Happens in most other businesses AND sports but UKA seems to operate a job for life policy and are becoming more and more like the Civil Service. Nobody gets fired they just get promoted.
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Postby Oleg » Fri Apr 14, 2006 8:57 am

I agree with the majority of what you say James and think that the idea is a valid one but I guess the question is can one coach change things that significantly in one year? I'm not saying we need to give them 5 years and then hope for results but how can we assess one years performance?

I think the criteria will have to be very carefully formulated as well and not too heavily based on individual athletes performance (i.e. Elite athletes and medal tallies) given that circumstances could mean that a healthy event looks unhealthy if the two elite runners are injured in a major champs.

I would like to see the criteria look at the depth of the event, see how many people are hitting certain thresholds etc. The increased participation and depth in events could surely push those at the top to perform better.
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Postby james montgomery » Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:36 pm

Oleg wrote:I agree with the majority of what you say James and think that the idea is a valid one but I guess the question is can one coach change things that significantly in one year? I'm not saying we need to give them 5 years and then hope for results but how can we assess one years performance?

I think the criteria will have to be very carefully formulated as well and not too heavily based on individual athletes performance (i.e. Elite athletes and medal tallies) given that circumstances could mean that a healthy event looks unhealthy if the two elite runners are injured in a major champs.

I would like to see the criteria look at the depth of the event, see how many people are hitting certain thresholds etc. The increased participation and depth in events could surely push those at the top to perform better.


Your last para. sums up exactly how it should be assessed. Nobody expects dramatic 1st year results but frankly if I were in charge I would definitely expect to achieve significant improvement across the board: not for every single athlete but significant movement within numbers.


Take on board a group of athletes and direct/monitor their training and providing you know what you are doing (a crucial factor) then within 6 weeks most should show improvement in their work capacity and quality and also in any races, cross country, road or track.

Depending upon the potential and assumed under achieved potential (as is the case for most of our distance runners) some athletes might make considerable gains. There is no way a coach can deny the realistic improvement that just about any athlete could make in one year. I do not suggest that any (FOR EXAMPLE) 1.50 / 3.45 /13.55 athletes are going to suddenly secure Olympic qualification but taking the same values it is reasonable to expect to achieve + 1.47 / 3.39 / 13. 40 after 6 months let alone 1 year assuming that they are in progression rather than regression when the coach gets them.

The Performance Director for any area is not, of course, responsible for every individual athletes training but it is his responsibility to ensure that whoever is coaching is following best practice and best paractice for that particular athlete and where appropriate the best possible opportunities for relevant competion

As our standards continue to decline how does it justify keeping the same person in overall responsibility? They need to be removed and someone else appointed who can make the necessary and very realistically achieveable improvements to our overall standards
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Postby Oleg » Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:29 pm

james montgomery wrote:As our standards continue to decline how does it justify keeping the same person in overall responsibility?


It is obvious that the standards at the top are declining but do we think the depth of athletes in each event are declining too? I only really know about my event and although the top javelin throwers have retired from the event hence making the top level of a lower standard, I think that the depth of throwers has increased in the last few years if you look at the number of throwers over certain thresholds each year, 60m, 65m, 70m. That is said with no disrespect to Nieland who did a fantastic job winning gold in the CWG and perhaps the fact that more people were pushing from below helped (unlikely but a nice thought!)

How true is this of other events? Has anyone seen any patterns in their given events?

I do agree though that if things are in a steady decline then there is no reason why something shouldn't be changed quickly before it fits into a strong downward trend which is ever harder to move away from (which is happening now?)
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Postby Smoke » Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:33 am

James, I see the thoughts working. My question is how do you hold the PD responsible for individual coaches and athletes? That seems to be a sticking point.
I agree with the assessment requirement and accountablilty, but it seems a complicated process. not to say it cannot be done, but I think it can only be strictly applied to those COACHES that are being paid. Trying to get after the management has to be a little more detailed I suppose.

Also, I think, sorry I know, one year is too short a period to judge a new coach athlete relationship. Under normal circumstances it takes that year to establish the relationship and introduce the athlete to the new program, in some cases a program that is radically different from what they knew before. I have seen athletes make these snap decisions at the expense of their careers. 2 years a legitimate evaluation can be made and after three serious decisions can be made. My 2 cents, I just think one year is russian roulet for concerned parties and would create a destructive cycle for the athlete.
As I am sure you are aware, switching coaches is the death of many athletes....
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Postby james montgomery » Sat Apr 15, 2006 10:51 am

Smoke wrote:James, I see the thoughts working. My question is how do you hold the PD responsible for individual coaches and athletes? That seems to be a sticking point.
I agree with the assessment requirement and accountablilty, but it seems a complicated process. not to say it cannot be done, but I think it can only be strictly applied to those COACHES that are being paid. Trying to get after the management has to be a little more detailed I suppose.

Also, I think, sorry I know, one year is too short a period to judge a new coach athlete relationship. Under normal circumstances it takes that year to establish the relationship and introduce the athlete to the new program, in some cases a program that is radically different from what they knew before. I have seen athletes make these snap decisions at the expense of their careers. 2 years a legitimate evaluation can be made and after three serious decisions can be made. My 2 cents, I just think one year is russian roulet for concerned parties and would create a destructive cycle for the athlete.
As I am sure you are aware, switching coaches is the death of many athletes....



What you say may be true in some cases but in general I would be far more optimistic about achieving improvement. I am not referring just to the athlete who changes coaches and it cannot be assumed even in that case that the programme is going to be radically different. Certainly not. As for "snap decisions" to changes coaches, I think this is pretty rare. Considered decisions, yes and usually for the better not the worse.

First of all an athlete would only need to change coach if they felt they could achieve more with someone else whom they believed recognised their abilities and potential ability better; understood the process better and understood them and how the process might best be applied to them.

Secondly, not every athlete at elite level or sub elite level is likely to need "radical" training change. Only perhaps change in emphasis on the different factors involved in their particular discipline, and/or change in workload, and/or change in approach in relation to work/studies/lifestyle etc.

A PD for the event should be able to identify those athlete performing below their expectation and potential. He should be able to communicate with the athlete/s and their coach/s and to analyse the training programme and identify where changes could be made for both athlete and coach to consider taking on board on the basis of sound evaluation/empiricism related to the training programmes of higher achievers in the same event but of course cannot force them to do anything different, unless as you say, they are paid coaches. Mostly, though, any decent coach would welcome authoritative opinion and advice.

Take the pole vault as an example of a technical event. If the PD for the event cannot properly identify where an athlete/coach might be getting it wrong then he should be able to bring in or send them to others in the event who might. Take the top six PV's men and women in the country and put them together with their coaches for a 3-5 days PV workshop with one of the world's best PV coaches. Learning how others do it and what might be best for them can lead to sometimes dramatic improvement. The same applies to all events.

Sprints and technical events are probably the hardest to improve on but endurance is the area best open to improvement. The PD needs to facilitate the best athletes regulary training (appropriately) together, under one direction, as a condition of funding. Athletes are far less likely to improve in isolation and that is one of the main problems in this country for many events.

As this is a forum and not a conference and I am not presenting a paper I have to try to keep it short and this is a complex issue. The point of my posts is that as far as endurance is concerned it is not acceptable for poor performance to be dismissed as something out of the control of the PD for the area. He is appointed and has been in place for years to make that improvemnt happen and it hasn't so he should go because clearly he either doesn't know what to do or if he does then he has failed to be sufficiently pro-active in getting the necessary done.
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Postby Albert » Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:00 pm

Firstly can I say that I have only become involved with Athletics through the participation of my daughter.

In my own chosen sport I have enjoyed a great life and had great successes.

I am fortunate that I can put it on the back burner and support my daughter in her sporting activities for however long she needs me to do so.

I hear everyone complaining about the drop in quality of our top athletes and what strikes me most is the view that Track and Field is in some way a leading sport in this nation and as such we should have Athletes who can compete at the top on the worldwide stage.

I think we do amazingly well considering the small talent pool which Track and Field retains after the ages of 15 or 16.

I have to say that as an incomer I find Track and Field very outdated and not very attractive to physically talented people of the right age.

Producing elite athletes is done through retaining massive numbers in the sport through to adulthood in the hope of that 1 in a million not slipping through the net.

Even the real top sports have evolved and moved with the times over the years to keep their support.

Why Athletics thinks it deserves any money it gets and all the fabulous facilities it has baffles me with it's "This is it ;Take it or leave it" attitude.

Championships will always be what they are, but for Gods sake do the leagues and opens have to try and be their own version of the Olympic games?
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Postby Thornhill » Sat Apr 15, 2006 8:49 pm

To come back to Stuarts original point, coaches if employed should be made responsible, but how do you make the coach who is nothing more than a volunteer, responsible.

The sport was up in arms when MLF was made to move from his coach, but at that point his coach Steve was made responsible. The honest truth is that MLF like many others may have been blinded by his early success and no coach can force an athlete to train. So are the paid coaches going to be made responsible?

It maybe too soon but how long 2 years or 3 years, and then how do you replace the coach? Buiding relationships is difficult in such a short space of time. The bottom line is that the athlete is responsible for thier own performance no one else.

However the fact that the Commonwealth mens 4 x 100m relay team did little or no practise together at the frustration of Jason Gardner means that someone (team manager or Coach) is responsible and should be fired or on some kind of last warning. Those who choose not to practise should be excluded from relays completely.

I predict that the French with 4 slower sprinters will beat GB & NI in the European Championships 4 x 100m relay. remember Split 1990 with team which prodominatley ran 10.20 for 100m, the french broke the World Record.
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Re Oleg

Postby bevone » Sun Apr 16, 2006 2:32 pm

Oleg wrote 'It is obvious that the standards at the top are declining but do we think the depth of athletes in each event are declining too? I only really know about my event and although the top javelin throwers have retired from the event hence making the top level of a lower standard, I think that the depth of throwers has increased in the last few years if you look at the number of throwers over certain thresholds each year, 60m, 65m, 70m. That is said with no disrespect to Nieland who did a fantastic job winning gold in the CWG and perhaps the fact that more people were pushing from below helped (unlikely but a nice thought!)'

You make good points as do many in this forum, however, world standards are generally falling in many events and UK standards have plummetted in many as well. I think you will find that the men's javelin standard is probably at it's lowest point since the new impliment was introduced in 1986/87. The fact is that only 1 person has thrown over 80m and that the number of 70m throwers is as low as it has been. We used to have 4-5 men in the world top 50 in the early to late 90's. I recall a BAL div 1 match at Kingston where a mate of mine threw 70m for the first time... and came 9th!

However, it is encouraging that there seem to be some good youngsters around and the big thing is for them to take it up to the next level. Nick was probably the latest developer out of the 80m throwers but there are many guys who threw far up to 20ish and have not developed since. This is where UK athletics has struggled - making the potentially good athletes move to the next level. Arguably you could say MLF falls into this category. I can think of several World junior medal winners who unlike Backley and Fiona May who have not made it at the senior level.

I really believe throwing money (which they don't do because the athletes are means tested out of it) at our athletes who meet the elite lottery standards and subsidising sub standard relay runners (where the money seems to go) should be our main thrust towards success. Identifying and assisting potential should be another string to the development bow. Now how do you identify potential? This is something that would be open to abuse, as I can speak from experience with some athletes I have coahced.

Finally, I don't know if it is just positive propaganda for UKA from Arreytey to distract from the fact that him visiting the US had caused some criticism in the media, but we must ask ourselves some serious questions if this bright yong lad reckons that he has learned so much in 10 days from a US coach when he is supposed to have the best support UK can offer.

It is refreshing though and I hope, as a UK fan of athletics, that he and the others can turn our slump of form around. However, we are probably suffering from the lack of investment in the potential athletes over the last 10 years and over burgeoing the sport with adminstrators, sitting in a comfort zone of relying on some of our genuine world beaters such as Jackson, Edwards, Backley, Christie, Black, Gunnell, Holmes, Radcliffe, Lewis etc to win medals but when they retired... there was little behind them. Most if not all of these athletes were not products of the lottery era and we are left to ask exactly who has the lottery produced. I can only echo what Leith Marar claimed in a letter to AW the other week when he suggested that the lottery in many respects has had an adverse effect on the performance side of the sport. I can hardly think of an event which has really improved over the last 10 years (men's PV!)

Sorry to sound so negative but I am hopeful that over the next 5 years, the sport can learn from it's mistakes and bring through new talent... and Oleg, our men's javelin standards can surpass those set before.

Keep training everyone... as much as we may pontificate, real results are earned in your training time!
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Postby Smoke » Sun Apr 16, 2006 8:39 pm

Wow a lot of thoughtful post on this one, my head hurts from reading it all...

james, I think your point on distance running is a legitimate one. There has been a significant amount of time spent, so maybe there is just cause for a sacking..
On your greater point about coaching changes... just not possible in the current system, what you propose is a state run system that does not exist past Poland... we are talking about individual talent coming up on their own without the help of the federation, then once they achieve a certain level the federation takes note of them... in this case and scenario you will be hard pressed to start dictating who the coach should be and what the coach should be doing for said athlete... there is also a cookie cutter mentality inheritent to your theory...
While there are basics that are true across the board the thing or things that make those individuals better are rarely general concepts, they are most often specific to that person. The are specifics borne from the coach athlete relationship that is personal and built over the long haul, just like a marriage. YES, there are situations that are bad, and changes need to be made, but those are rare. MLF needed a change not because he was comfortable with his lottery money or position in the sport, but because his coach was unequipped to take him to the next leve, he was comfortable in his life, and he was not in a situation that would naturally facilitate him coming to this decision on his own... Now does Marlon Devonish need that same intervention? Darren Campbell? Jo Pavey? jade Johnson? Ben Challenger? Chris Tomlinson? Laura Turner? Carl Myerscough? Etc.

I am of the opinion that you cannot venture into the area of dictating where an athlete trains simply because a higher power thinks or has evaluated another situation would be better. That is part of this game you cannot control, maybe Linford's program works better for athlete A, and Tony's program is better for athlete B, but because of location, affinity, or whatever arbitrary factor these athletes are placed in the wrong camps. then what do we do? If it is going to be a case of trial and error, it should remain a personal choice. (Of course this is considering things being on par, i.e. training time, dedication, successes.

As I stated before, a complicated situation and maybe distance running and the field events are a little more uniform in terms of training, i assure you sprinting and hurdling are not....
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Postby sleady » Sun Apr 16, 2006 9:08 pm

There seems to be a belief going around here that training for distance events is somehow easy. It ain't. And to add to that consider that a world class marathon runner, specialising just in racing marathons gets at best, two shots at a race each year - three at an absolute push, if you accept reducing your total career span. There's no 'never mind, there's another race next week' to this. You hit the mark, for a little over 2 hours on a given day, in a given race. And that's it for three months at best.
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Postby Smoke » Sun Apr 16, 2006 10:42 pm

Sleady I dont think any of us were demeaning the skill level of a distance runner. I believe it is more about training programs and the "broad stroke" applicability of them.
It is not easy to achieve the elite level of any discipline, but you will get more success out of ten runners training with Paula than ten runners training with say Justin, or Darren, etc. The technique in distance running is more strategic, therefore making training a bit broader...
You may see this as a slam but I do not mean it that way and I am confident james did not mean it either...
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Postby sleady » Mon Apr 17, 2006 12:41 am

Smoke,
If that were true do you not think Runners World would print 'Be a World Champ' training schedule every month ? Like every event, what works for one athlete doesn't always work for another.
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Postby Smoke » Tue Apr 18, 2006 9:45 pm

Sleady,
You see far more training programs detailed in regards to distance running than sprinting in print magazines.
I have no idea why you are being so sensitive because no one is attacking you or distance running, relax. You are starting to deny reality.
As I said, I would never demean any disciplines training requirement, i know exactly how detailed what we do is in all areas...
Peace be unto you :P
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