This is part 1 of Stuart Weir’s piece on Stephen Maguire, who has been recently hired by British Athletics as the Technical Director. Stuart Weir sees this move by Chair Ian Beattie and the team as a huge positive for British Athletics. It seems that British Athletics is back on track.
The recruitment of Stephen Maguire as Technical Director by British Athletics seemed like the final piece of the jigsaw following the departure of Joanna Coates, Sara Symington, and Christian Malcolm. The new chair, Ian Beattie, has now recruited Jack Buckner as CEO, kept the previously acting CEO, Mark Munro, involved at the executive level as COO, and has now overseen the appointment of Stephen Maguire to a post, which is broader than the previous performance director or head coach roles.
Maguire is not new to British Athletics. He was Head of Sprints, Hurdles, and Relays from 2014-2017, and speaking particularly about the relay side, he is credited with taking the GB relay squad, which won no medals at the 2012 Olympics, to a position of winning gold, two silvers and a bronze in the 2017 World Championships. He was Director of Performance and Coaching at Scottish Athletics 2018-2021 and, most recently, Head of High-Performance Coaching for Sport Ireland (from gymnastics to sailing and everything in between).
One month into the job, he met the GB athletics writers. Having gone to Sport Ireland after being passed over for the Head Coach role last year, he commented, “This is somewhere which for a long time I didn’t think I would be!” before adding: “It’s been a quick and busy month. I’ve enjoyed coming back on board, seeing what’s happening, meeting people, and understanding. The athletes have been on holiday, a lot of the coaches on holiday, so it has given me a wee bit of time to look at our structures, the budgets, and those things that are a bit boring and look for the capacity to really enhance.
He was asked where he felt the elite program of British Athletics, which he had inherited, was at the present moment: “Obviously, this summer was good – Oregon, Commonwealths, and into Munich. There is a lovely momentum around what the athletes have achieved, which is really good. I was one of those people watching TV looking for a lot of medals. And the outcome was very good.
“I’ve been one month and a job, and it’s been a very quick month. A lot of the work that I’ve been doing has been behind the scenes looking at structures, trying to see if we’ve got the capacity to help those athletes who have succeeded. We all know the athletes who can get on the podium, but can we create a structure so that there’s a pattern of medals and they become regular. Look at the 1500s with Laura and in the men’s with Jake and Josh; we now know that we have athletes who can medal in the 1500m, but can we get that throughout other events that were targeting? If you look at men’s 800, we’ve got some cracking athletes, some young athletes who could do something but haven’t medalled yet. For whatever reason, they haven’t succeeded. Can we create an environment so that those athletes can achieve on a global scale? And can we put the structures in place throughout the event groups, no matter where they are at, so that we can identify talent, identify coaches and begin to surround people with world-class expertise? “
“You look at endurance, and it’s very evident that there’s a cohort of athletes and a cohort of coaches who absolutely know what they’re doing and are world-class. But there are some other events that we need to invest in – the identification of coaches, the education of coaches, etc. I’m trying to create a high-performance business within UK athletics, and with that comes the environment and culture. How do we become world-class in everything we do?”
He admitted that there was a temptation to try to do everything. One of the challenges was identifying the priorities and deciding not to focus on other – potentially very important – areas.
After all the staffing changes that had taken place, he emphasized the importance of stability and continuity going forward: “We have to be stable. But we have to be ‘good’ stable if that makes sense. We have to make sure we are making the right decisions. That stability has to be measured against what world-class is about. Stability is key, but good stability is. It’s like anything; it’s impossible if anybody thinks my coming into the job is this big magic wand that will change things overnight. It will be a team of us getting together”.
There will be more about his hopes and plans in part 2.