On June 11, James Dunaway and I posted our Summer 2010 AT&F editorial, “Has USATF Declared War on U.S. Coaches?”. The piece was sent posted on runblogrun.com, on our
websites, and distributed to our coaching digital network.
I spoke with Stephanie Hightower, Jill M. Geer and Doug Logan over the weekend, at the adidas Grand Prix. I offered them the same distribution network from which, I distributed the original editorial for their response, if they choose to use the opportunity. Jill M. Geer, USATF Public Affairs Officer, sent a response signed by Stephanie Hightower, President of USA Track & Field. I have posted her response next, right after that, the original editorial and link, and finally, a short response from myself.
A. Letter of Response from Stephanie Hightower, President & Chair/USATF, (received via email, 3.30 PM CST, from Jill M. Geer:
Dear Larry Eder,
On June 11, your publication released an editorial co-signed by James Dunaway and
yourself entitled “Has USATF Declared War on U.S. Coaches?” The
piece contained many factual errors and invalid assumptions. As Chair of
USATF‘s Board of Directors and President of USATF, I wanted to respond.
Coaches Registry is part of our commitment to implementing “best
practices” that are on a par with the best-run sports in America. It was
designed for very simple and important purposes:
To provide an easily accessible system
that will enable coaches in good standing to be publicly recognized as such.
To provide a mechanism for athletes,
their parents and others to know if a coach they are considering has met
certain basic professional and ethical standards.
To ensure that USATF benefits and
privileges are going to individuals who do not pose a risk to the reputation of
coaches, athletes, the sport and/or the organization. For USATF to distribute
funds, credentials and team staff positions without any vetting process is at
best ill-advised and at worst legally risky.
two key elements of the Coaches registry are having coaches undergo a criminal
background check and agreeing to abide by a Code of Conduct that states, among
other basic points, that a coach shall not advocate the use of
performance-enhancing drugs, have inappropriate contact with athletes, or
exploit a conflict of interest to financially benefit from an athlete.
Track & Field‘s Coaches Registry is a directive of USATF’s
Board of Directors – not CEO Doug Logan – that has been in the
works for more than three years. The first call came at the 2006 USATF Annual
Meeting when the Coaches Advisory Committee – comprised entirely of
coaches who also are members and in some cases officers of the USTFCCCA –
called on USATF to come up with a system that would keep coaches in good
standing from being lumped in with the “bad actors”. Specifically,
the role of coaches in the lives of athletes had become a national focus in the
wake of Justin Gatlin‘s positive drug test, and the sanctioning of coaches
such as Remy Korchemny and Trevor Graham by USADA was another blow.
of the reasons for hiring a Director of Coaching was to give American coaches
the voice in the organization that they often felt they lacked. With proper
staffing in place, our Board of Directors issued a directive to the National
Office to devise a “certification” plan for coaches.
recent months, USATF has sent emails to USTFCCCA officers asking for their
opinion on the Code of Conduct and the Registry as a whole. We also have had
numerous telephone discussions and in-person conversations with them.
realize that having more than five weeks for coaches to register, prior to our
Outdoor National Championships, would have been ideal. But recent events have
provided a Call to Action. One NGB, whose vetting system had previously been
more substantive than ours, has come under intense media scrutiny and faces
litigation for not doing more to keep pedophiles from their athletes. As a
result, the U.S. Olympic Committee has made clear it will be instituting
minimal standards to NGBs for “athlete protection.” Rather than
playing defense, USATF sought to do the right thing proactively by developing a
system our coaches have asked for since 2006.
course there are those who don’t like the system, but we have received
feedback from scores of prominent coaches saying this is long overdue.
the end, this is not “us against them.” This is everybody doing
what is best for athletes, coaches and our sport. It is our intent to work
together with coaches in a positive and productive way to make sure we are
serving them as well as our athletes.
this blackmail? Not by any stretch. But transparency and accountability for
our sport … absolutely!
President and Chair
B. Original editorial, written for American Track & Field, Summer, volume 17, number 2, posted on Runblogrun.com, June 11, 2010:
(Please note: The intro, noted in italics, was part of piece, as it was posted on runblogrun.com on June 11, 2010):
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.
HAS USATF DECLARED WAR ON U.S. COACHES?
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
C. Response to Stephanie Hightower (from Larry Eder):
I thank Stephanie Hightower for stating her organization’s position in such eloquent terms. Unfortunately, in my mind, the fact remains that the five week time period given for coaches to register comprises the five most important weeks in a high school, college or elite club coaches season in North America. They are already putting 28 hours of work into a 24 hour day. My concern lies in the fact that, somehow, this was not seen as an issue. For me, this is the issue: no one in a position of power appreciated how this Call to Action would impact the majority of coaches.
We at runblogrun.com and AT&F welcome USATF‘s concern over the need for a Coaches’ Registry. However, one of USATF’s challenges is to convince many of the coaches who support this sport, to change their opinion of an organization that has been, in the past, less than understanding of the needs of the coaching community. To some of the coaches
who have spoken to RBR, the implementation of the Coaching Registry shows little consideration for coaches’ actual work loads. Perhaps, in the enthusiasm to develop a worthwhile program, no one in the discussions realized how challenging the time period was for coaches.
In that light, we encourage coaches to reach out to Stephanie Hightower (email@example.com), to express their opinion regarding the Coaching Registry and other
subjects dear to the coaching community. True to her word, Ms. Hightower responded, and we will take her at her word. She wants an organization with transparency and accountability, and she needs information to do that. We will endeavor to provide Ms. Hightower and her team with information on the needs of the coach. We thank her for her response.
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