The changes in the last two weeks at British Athletics and UK Athletics, are paradigm changing. The former administration was the focal point of frustration from coaches, athletes, fans and sponsors. Under Ian Beattie and Mark Munro, the appreciation of the situation is quite clear. Perhaps a better word could be, the word “sobering”. There have been some less than stellar moments.
Across the pond, I can not tell my friend in Oxford how many times I have seen American companies and federations put non track or running people at the top of the food chain. In most cases, the human need to change, and built a legacy total “screws the pooch”. Change for changes’ sake is wrong. But, the quick moves by Ian Beattie, in his first UK meeting mind you, must have given Jo Coates the knowledge that it was time to remove herself.
In this piece, Stuart Weir updates us on the plans to begin fixing some of the issues within British Athletics. Lots of lessons for us in the U.S.
Update on British athletics
Following the recent resignation of the CEO and Performance Director of British Athletics, an interim CEO was appointed and the process to replace the performance director has commenced. The job description for a new performance director looks for a candidate who can provide vision, leadership and strategic direction. A strategic thinker, confident with leading and managing change, excellent at relationship building and good communication skills etc etc is sought.
But two things are significant about the new post. Firstly the title has changed to Technical Director (performance) and the successful candidate is required to have “technical expertise in athletics” (track and field). Jo Coates and Sara Symington were both highly capable people with good experience of leadership in sport but neither of them was from the sport of athletics (track and field). A major criticism of them, arguably the major criticism was that the did not “get” the sport.
As it has been put, netball (the previous job of both Coates and Symington) is a game where six girls play against another six girls on a small court. Athletics involves races from 60m to 50K, throwing and jumping, track and field, road and cross country, outdoor summer and indoor winter etc. Development plans and strategies, which worked in netball, are not adequate for the diversity of our sport. Many people in our sport will be encouraged by the recognition that a mistake was made last time in appointing two “outsiders” to run our sport.
Another significant moment was the publication late last month of the “UK wide coaching strategy for athletics”, a document created through consultation with the athletics coaching community across the UK using surveys, focus groups and individual conversations. The document states: “we want UK coaches to be the best in the world, working in roles across a pathway with expertise in as many events as possible”.
It talks of the need for increasing visibility of coaches and recognizing their value. A section entitled well-being of coaches refers to “treating coaches with dignity, respect and recognition”. The document sets out the joint values of British, Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Ireland athletics alongside objectives and an identification of issues that need to be addressed, as well as key measures of success. There’s an action plan for the next three years.
Four strategic priorities are identified
1 Coach focused philosophy
2 Inclusive, valued coaching work force
3 Coach learning and development
4 Expert high performance and talent coaches.
The new report has been widely welcomed.
The report can be downloaded at: UK-Wide-Coaching-Strategy-FINAL.pdf (uka.org.uk)