James Dunaway, our Executive Editor, has used the Exit column as an opportunity to both educate and advocate. James is my mentor, editor and friend. He and I have been terribly concerned with the way the Coaching Registry has been implemented. We see it as an example of a much larger issue: try as they might, does U.S.A.T.F. understand the needs of coaches? We are not so sure.
Please read the following column, signed by both James and myself. We are releasing this at the same time the magazine is mailing, we believe it is that important. Please send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
First came the appointment of a USATF "Director of Coaching." Who knew we needed one?
Then came the gutting of the Coaches Education program -- a program created and run entirely by coaches without any help from USATF for most of its 25 years - a program which educated more than 20,000 American high school and college coaches - a program which visibly raised the level of U.S. track and field coaching, and U.S. performances - in short, the most successful initiative in USATF's history.
Earlier this year, most of the distinguished coaches who led Coaching Ed for the past decade suddenly resigned because of changes which were being made in Indianapolis. Said USATF, "We'll get new coach-instructors who will be just as good." We're still waiting to be told who they are.
Now comes USATF's Coaches Registry, which more than one well-known coach has called, "Blackmail." That's not our word, but it was spoken by coaches known and respected in our sport.
Blackmail, because if you don't
sign up, you can't get a coach accreditation for USATF Championships.
Which means you can't get into the practice and warmup areas to work
with your athletes in the important days and hours before they
compete. No matter how good a coach you are.
One well-known coach, a former Olympic medalist and world champion, said, "I don't like it at all, but I signed up because my athletes need me and expect me to be there."
There are several other important "privileges" not available to non-registered coaches, but the issue of greatest concern is the coach accreditation for the Championships.
Sam Seemes, who leads the U.S. Track and Cross-Country Coaches of America, reports that most of the comments he has received about Coaches Registry were unfavorable. The day after USATF announced the program, Seemes and USTFCCCA president Curtis Frye sent a message to members which included the following:
"USTFCCCA Members should know that the USTFCCCA neither supports the Coaches Registry program, nor did we develop the program. We are disappointed that USATF implied in their press release that the USTFCCCA was supportive of the Coaches Registry program they have established. Furthermore, we disagree with the statement that the USATF Coaches Registry 'will identify and acknowledge the coaches who represent the profession's highest standards.' "
USATF CEO Doug Logan said, "No group is more important to the development of our athletes than coaches." He certainly has a strange way of showing it. One wonders why USTFCCA wasn't informed of Coaches Registry before it was announced, and why USTFCCA wasn't asked to participate in developing a program specifically involving its membership?
Just as bad was USATF's timing. Here is a new program, affecting the professional lives and status of more than 30,000 coaches, and USATF announces it at the most important time of the year, when coaches at every level are deeply involved in championship-level competition, and USATF gives them five weeks to decide. That may be legal, but it is certainly not fair to the coaches.
In politics, that's called an ultimatum. And it is usually followed by a war.
James Dunaway/Executive Editor and Larry Eder/Group Publisher
American Track & Field, www.american-trackandfield.com