The Exit column is the editorial column in American Track & Field. Since 1989, when we started American Athletics, and in 1994, when we renamed the magazine, American Track & Field, we have tried to support what we see as the backbone of our sport: the 30,000 high school, college and club track & cross country coaches in this country. Forty-six weeks a year, these coaches spend an average of two hours, fifteen minutes a day, six days a week, with their 1.6 million athletes, teaching them how to run, jump and throw.
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?
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.
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 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:
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