Stuart Weir sent 3 pieces on Jo Coates conversation with the media, updating them on how she is managing British Athletics. I think it is a good piece to read in the US, and allows us to ask the question, what is USATF doing in the pandemic to lead the sport.
This is a person immersed in her job…
Jo Coates stresses the importance of listening to athletes
In her August press briefing, Jo Coates, recently appointed CEO of UK Athletics, stressed several times the importance of involving athletes in the decision making.
She said: “Competition is another area that we were quite critical of. We have a group of athletes working with us to consider what the events might look like going forward – that is TV events and the top end of competition, that we know is lacking in this country. We said we would do this and we started this piece of work”.
She felt that the previous leadership of UKA had lost the trust of athletes for a variety of reasons: “I have had lots of conversations and it’s different reasons for different people. Potentially the central [training] venue hasn’t worked for certain athletes. Some think that they can put a team around them better than we can put around them. What we’re doing to make it better, is to review both of those situations. But also just having conversations with them and listening to them. I have groups of athletes that I zoom with on a regular basis and I listen to their concerns. They have all got my number and they can have a conversation with me at any time, whether things are going brilliantly well or not so well. Athletes know that there’s an open communication channel to me if things aren’t working and they have really appreciated that”.
Coates continued: “We have to give athletes the right sort of events, the events that they want and the right sort of competition. It’s about listening to them. We’re working very hard for that to be the case so that when we do announce those dates, athletes will be thinking ‘we should be there to support British Athletics’. But we know, at the moment, we’re not quite there with some of our athletes”.
She related a story about recently paying a surprise visit to the High Performance Athletics Centre at Loughborough University – adding “don’t worry I did social distancing and had my temperature taken.” She said: “athletes couldn’t believe that I was there. They thanked me for coming to the track. I found that very strange. It’s about building up close relationships with them which have unfortunately been lost by the previous leadership. If you don’t have any relationship with these people, why on earth are they going to trust you? They are just not going to and they won’t want to be with you and they are not going to join the journey with you”.
“And with the trailer [Join the Journey], we have had endless conversations with athletes – what do you want to say? Do you like the idea of playground to podium? Does that resonate with you? The things that we’re talking about in the new strategy, are they right for you? Athletes have fed into this and they have told us how they want their sport to be promoted.
“It is about just trying to help athletes to understand that we are their governing body. we are there to make them the best. Thfey should not thank me for doing my job. I am there as their CEO to create an environment which makes them the best. That is my job but there is this kind of feeling that they have to thank us. That is quite strange and it comes back to the behavioral and cultural change that we need to make in the organization. Those are some of the things we’re doing to build their trust”.