Dick is pushing for coaching shake-up
BRITAIN’S athletics coaches have been marginalised and that is at the root of the problems facing the sport, claims the Scot who presided over a perceived golden age.
Frank Dick believes his successor has got it wrong, and he has met Ed Warner, chair of UKAthletics, urging him to restructure. “You need a head of coaching,” he said. “With all due respect to Dave Collins, he is not a coach. He is the performance director.
“Look at the set-up in rowing, one of Britain’s most successful sports. You have David Tanner as performance director, but you have Jurgen Grobler as head coach. These aren’t the same jobs, and in athletics we are now moving so far from the relationship that the system should be athlete-centred, coach-led, and performance-focused, the effect on the coach-athlete relationship is not as efficient and effective as it should be.
“I feel we need a head coach in place for Beijing next year, to work alongside the performance director. Coaches and coaching are being marginalised, and that’s reflected in results. We have to rebuild confidence in the system, and make coaches feel valued.
“I suspect we are about to experience our worst World Championships. Does that mean our athletes can’t run, jump or throw, that we can’t coach, and that our science is all wrong? No. I don’t believe that for a minute. But we do need some intervention if London 2012 is not to be a huge disappointment.”
Dick oversaw an era which embraced Daley Thomson as Olympic, World, European, and Commonwealth decathlon champion, Scottish Olympic sprint champion Allan Wells, and middle distance supremacy through the likes of Seb Coe, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, and Peter Elliott, all of whom set world records.
“These achievements kicked off with a new coacheducation system under Dennis Watts and John Le Mesurier, sparked by the fact that we had won just one Olympic athletics bronze medal in 1976,” added Dick. “The coaching and development structure was not right, and I believe it’s the same now.”
Dick, who is president of the European Athletics Coaches’Association, claims significant resources are not used to best advantage. “Relying on science to the extent we do is not the answer. Of course it is an important element, but the notion that high performance can be achieved by some kind of mathematical equation is wrong. It is not the answer and it never will be.”
Warner, who confirmed he had spoken to Dick, rejected his arguments. “I don’t think the comparison is fair,” he said. “Rowing is essentially a single discipline, over the same distance. You can have a single camp. We are a multi-discipline sport. There’s not a lot to connect throws, jumps, and running, let alone distances from sprints to marathon.
“We do have a performance director who’s not a coach, but he has underneath him senior coaches for each of the main disciplines. One of the difficulties of lottery funding is that it creates haves and have-nots. The vast number of coaches are volunteers.
“We will, soberly, carefully, reflectively, review every aspect of the plan in the light of these championships. But if Frank is saying we don’t care about coaches, I think that’s dross. We do.
“Comparisons with the past are invalid for many reasons. Competition is much more intense, many more athletics nations, the emergence, of real strength in depth in Africa over the past 20 years. It’s much tougher, from all the statistical analysis, to win a medal in a major championships now than it was 20 or 30 years back. The sport is professional in a different way now. Most major nations now have professional structures similar to ours.
“I’m not belittling the achievements of the past. As a fan I cheered them. But I don’t think you can replicate these old structures and think you are going to replicate that success now.”