The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Coaches Registry Latest Misstep of USATF Leadership…

Jun 16th, 2010
6:43 am PST

When discussing “Leadership” from a management perspective, it is often defined as the ability to motivate a group of people towards a common goal. Once again USATF management has shown that it is sorely lacking in this skill set. The latest drama emanating from the head office is the “’Coaches Registry” that has been dropped in the laps of America’s coaches.

Now, on the surface, the idea of a Coaches Registry I believe is a good one. As a matter of fact I thought that the lead organization of the sport in this country was already collecting this data on our coaches. I think that would be a tremendous aid in working towards the “30 medal goal” in major championships. Such a collection of data would be very useful in trying to match up athletes on the brink of success with coaches that possibly might be able to help them get “over the hump”. Especially in areas where we have been absent from the medal stand for some time.

So when individuals started to talk to me about this situation I was actually somewhat surprised to find out that such a “registry’ is not already in existence! Because my initial reaction was, “what is everyone so upset about, don’t we already have a coaches registry?”. What I discovered, however, is that a registry apparently doesn’t exist. So it’s clearly about time that the sport develop one. Unfortunately, it’s been the delivery of the concept to the coaches, and the rationale for the need of a registry, where “leadership” has dropped the ball.

For starters, I have to ask why this has taken so long to come to fruition given that apparently the idea for the registry was first presented in 2006 with the underlying goal of “weeding out” those coaches that USATF deems to be “bad actors”. A sentiment that was recently reiterated to the coaching community in a letter from the director of coaching which read:

“As a colleague,

I want you to be aware that credentialing at the outdoor championships is dependent on Coaches belonging to the Coaches Registry, new program started in 2010. Please go to the following site to expedite your membership to the Coaches Registry. While sign up will be available in Des Moines, I urge you not to wait if you anticipate having a coaching credential.

The  registry is an effort  to validate coaches who participate in USATF programs and to eliminate those coaches who have brought disgrace to our sport. It is the right step in the right direction. The program is still in its infant stage, but we must start to separate ourselves from the unethical characters who bring our great profession down in the eyes of the public. Hope to see you in Des Moines.”

Now, I’m against the use of PEDs and “bad coaches” as much as anyone, but everything that we do can’t be based on trying to eliminate “bad coaches”. Bad coaches will surface and should be dealt with accordingly. Especially if the sport is doing the kind of drug testing and monitoring of programs that it should be doing. Simply focus on running the sport properly and the wheat will be separated from the chaff – we don’t need a special program to get rid of coaches. Besides, there is no test to detect which coaches are giving their athletes PEDs! If a coach is providing athletes with “banned substances” the only test that will detect that is a drug test. And once a coach has athletes that begin to test positive EVERYONE knows! Putting coaches into a registry is NOT going to identify “bad apple” coaches. Nor is having coaches “register” on the eve of the National Championships. If we have a problem with a coach, we’re not going to find out until AFTER the meet is over! Which makes me question the whole methodology of USATF’s attempt at creating this registry. Especially when according to the leadership of the USTFCCCA they have not been invited to participate in its development.

More importantly, the development of a registry should be a “service” that USATF provides (and coaches shouldn’t be charged, we don’t charge athletes for their drug tests) not to identify “drug” coaches, but to protect the youth that the sport serves. Because USATF is not only responsible for our “elite” athletes but oversees all of our youth programs. And to discover that we have been allowing coaches to work with our kids WITHOUT having done background checks on them is the height of irresponsibility on the part of USATF and appalling. If we are more concerned with whether or not a coach might embarrass the US by coaching an athlete that comes up “positive” than we are about putting our kids in the hands of potential pedophiles, drug pushers or individuals with other unsavory backgrounds, then the priorities of our leadership is in serious question!

Given the size and breath of our youth program here in the United States a background check should be MANDATORY upon signing any documents related to coaching at any and every level of USATF programs! To discover that this hasn’t been the policy is simply appalling. THIS is why we need a registry, and this is what we should be talking to all of our coaches and program leaders about. It’s a service that is LONG overdue.

The leadership of the sport is supposed to be leading the our coaches and athletes towards a common goal. The only goal that I’ve seen stated from the Office Of USATF CEO Doug Logan since he took over the helm in 2008 was that he wants to see us win 30 medals in London (2012). Yet towards that goal we’ve dropped our relay program (and the baton in 4 out of 4 major races); we’ve gotten rid of coaching education programs; and now we’re attempting to created a quasi coaches registry whose intent is not the safety of our youth but the identification of coaches that apparently may embarrass our head office. We’ve had more comments about how appalled our CEO is that Trevor Graham ever coached for the US and how disgusted he is with Lashawn Merritt, than we have about how we are going to get the baton around the track in majors, how we are going educate our coaches, how we can help our athletes avoid the use of PED’s, how we can help collegiate athletes transition from college to the pros, or when where and how we will be able to host a World Championships!

The drug issue is important, but it is not the only issue that the sport is facing in this country. And if we don’t begin to solve some of these other issues, the issue of drugs will become a moot point – because the sport will have become a moot point within the sporting community of this country. Put together the Coaches Registry – our KIDS need it! But also take a look at all the other issues that are on the table – our SPORT needs it! A CEO is put in place to provide leadership to the whole. We need to see some leadership.

One Response to “Coaches Registry Latest Misstep of USATF Leadership”

  1. Larry says:

    Nicely done, well put.

    Larry Eder

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