Brain Dead Coaches Must Go: Collins UKA

Medals the target as Collins preaches ruthless doctrine
By Tom Knight
(Filed: 04/11/2005)
References to “brain dead” coaches and “idle” athletes suggest that the “cascade of changes” promised by Dave Collins are going to prove painful for more than a few within the sport.
Collins, the former Marine and professor of physical education and sports performance who became UK Athletics’ performance director in March, is a man on a mission. He is responsible for making sure British athletes win medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
His job has little to do with improving the state of the sport as a whole and there will be no time for the whims of over-indulged athletes or coaches. Performance is the key and medals the target.
He does not much care where the medals come from but knows that the sprint relays, women’s marathon, horizontal jumps and combined events are likely to yield the best results. The medal targets appear modest enough, five in Beijing and eight in London. The stated aim of getting British athletes into 50 per cent of the finals in London is more ambitious.
Collins is smart enough to realise that the Athens Olympics and Helsinki World Championships showed that nothing should be taken for granted.
In his eight months in the role, Collins has seen the best and worst of a sport in real need of change, including arrogant coaches and under-performing athletes.
In a mini-tour of Britain to outline his plans for a “Performance Pathway” designed to identify and support the athletes who will achieve success, he pulled no punches.
He said: "All the best coaches I’ve known pinch ideas. Yet, in the short time I have been performance director, I have asked at least four coaches ‘What can I do for you? Where can I send you around the world to help you improve the help you give your athletes?’
" ‘Nowhere’, they replied. ‘I know all I need to know’. Nobody ever stops learning. Those guys who reckon they know everything are brain dead. Take them away and turn them into meat pies.
“These were four coaches, all well known in terms of being around a long time but not involved with athletes likely to be in the top 40 in Beijing - and that is, perhaps, indicative.”
As for athletes, Collins is part-way through a process to identify performers who can justify being labelled “world class” and being given Lottery support.
At the end of the month, Collins will reveal the list of athletes on the world-class performance programme. They will be those considered good enough to win medals or finish in the top eight in Beijing and capable of using the experience to give them a shot at reaching the podium at the London Olympics.
The list will be shorter than in previous years and include only about 40 athletes - from 52 this year - who will benefit from the £5.3 million invested by the Lottery funders into world-class performance for 2006-2009.
In addition, Collins will put resources into about 85 athletes considered upwardly mobile in terms of potential - youngsters such as Emily Pidgeon and Craig Pickering, who won European junior titles this year.
The performances of young athletes in Helsinki, where the average age of the gold medallists was 23, could prompt a radical overhaul of the way Britain’s promising youngsters are handled.
Collins said: "Maybe we’ve got to work the younger athletes harder. Maybe we’ve got to work them smarter.
“Maybe there is a need for more attention to strength and conditioning at an earlier age. It’s another area to explore.”
As ever, the list of athletes set to benefit from Lottery funding will not be definitive. Performances will dictate if an athlete survives or falls.
Collins added: "Why would I fund athletes who, while they are improving, show no sign of hitting the standards required?
“We always bear in mind that there are vacancies. How do you get on the Performance Pathway? Run faster, jump longer, throw further, jump higher.”
Like many observers, Dave Moorcroft, the chief executive of UK Athletics, watched the British failures in Helsinki with dismay.
He said: “We are potentially facing a tough couple of years performance-wise, but can only move forward through changing and that includes athletes, coaches, all of us.”

I find this Collins to be an interesting character. He has a few interesting ideas and to be fair has been thrown into the deep end. As a up and coming GB sprinter it would have been interesting to know how he’d support sprinters who are at the non grass roots level who are senior (over 25). I would fit into that bracket and I’ve made massive improvements in my event in a very short space of time (training age 3 years) PR 10.59. I fund myself totally…from physio to warm weather training.

I feel that we do get over looked as potential medalists and as a result get little to direction,funding and support. How about looking at both ends of the spectrum.

I’ve never been a fan of Lottery funding. This is because you then become the property of the nation so to speak and leave yourself open to critism and comments of ‘wasting my hard earned money on rubbish’. These comments annoy me as most of the joe public haven’t got a clue about training and competing at the elite level. Yet when the English football team or cricket team perform badly, comments are never made about them being a waste of money! It would be better to have athletes privately funded. Kind of like the Canadian carded system (?).

Myself like many others, I’m very interested to see what happens with athletics in the UK.

Just imagine if you had access to a full 140m indoor facility, physio and strength & conditioning facilities.

The one thing you have going for yourself is that you are old enough to take responsability for yourself and realise when “Brain Dead Coaches” are talking crap to you. Plus funding yourself gives you fire to succeed.

My main worry is that while it would be good to have everything controlled in 1 smooth operation what happens if that opperation is sabotaged by the brain dead and you have no choice but to go along with it?

The best example i can give of this is the problem that exists with the fact that UKA coaches can’t (or at least arn’t supposed to) provide information on supplementation to thier athletes. I was talking to one 200m guy the other day who has been injured for 2 years straight. He was complaining that evey time he got back fit he would pull another muscle for no reason. Somehow the converation turned to supplements and it transpired that he was taking 20g of creatine a day! What would happen was he’d get injured so started to lift weights instead --> taking creatine to help with that (in massive dosages) and then he’d maintain this when he went back to track training. I think he made it 3 weeks last time before he pulled his hamstring!

I suggested perhaps this time he keep the dosage around 3g tops. he’s been back at training for 6 weeks now… we will have to see.