Vale - Jess Jarver: Contemporary Coaching Giant



Jess Jarver, one of the great pioneers of modern coaching in Australia and founding father of the ATFCA, after an extended battle, succumbed to cancer and passed away on Saturday 11th February 2005. No other person has contributed so such to the development of coaching in all sports but especially athletics, in Australia. He will be greatly missed.

Jess has contributed a lifetime to sport. His involvement extends over six decades as an athlete, coach, administrator, journalist and writer and thinker. His impact has been enormous, he coached Commonwealth games and Olympic representatives, led the formation of organised coaching in South Australia and the nation through the formation of the SA Coaches Association and the ATFCA’. He was one of the guiding founders of the SA Sports Institute for which he worked in a number of different roles from its establishment until May, 2004. He played a major role in the establishment of the National Coaching Council in 1997 of which he was an inaugural member.

Jess was born in Tallinn, Estonia in 1922 and began his interest in athletics at a young age.

He attended the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and was captivated by the performances of Jessie Owens, so much so that his friends gave him the nickname “Jess” which remained with him for the rest of his life.

Jess was educated at the University of Tartu and became an exceptional pole vaulter and cross-country skier reaching national standards in both.

However, his athletic career was cut short by the Second World War and the Russian invasion of Estonia. Jess’s family was split apart during the invasion, his father and officer in the Estonian Army was killed and his other deported to Siberia.

Jess was forced to flee and spent the war years in a number of different roles. Athletes in his squad vividly remember Jess reciting tales of his adventures at this time: they range from wartime missions as a tail gunner on Luftwaffe planes over Moscow, to scrounging for food in wartime Berlin and hand digging coal seams in the Belgian coal mines immediately after the War.
As the Russians moved closer, Jess moved westward and at the end of the war he was placed in a displaced persons camp. Here he met Aita, his wife, who remained with him for the rest of his life.

He and Aita emigrated to Australia in 1949 and, after an initial period in the immigration camps, he was appointed a Field Officer for the National Fitness Council in 1952, a position which he held until 1976. During this period he thrived as a coach and had an enormous impact of the SA sorting and athletics scene.

For example, he worked closely with SA gymnastics to introduce modern scoring methodology as, at the time, they only had a single qualified judge.

In athletics, he quickly teamed up with Bob Vollugi and Ken Peake-Jones, two of SA’s leading coaches, to conduct coaching camps and training seminars.

They established a regular coaching newsletter “Athlete & Coach” and generally lifted the standard and profile of coaching in SA. Jess was a very successful coach at the national level during this period. He was particularly interested in the pole vault and was quickly recognised as a world authority in the event at a time that it was being revolutionised by the introduction of the fibre glass pole.

He coached John Pfitzner to the Australian record of 14’6 and International representation and was sought out by leading athletes such as Trevor Bickle who lived in Adelaide to get coaching assistance from Jess. At this time he started the SA Pole Vaulters Club which had its own newsletter and recognition schemes. However, his coaching was not confined to the pole vault.
He coached a wide array of events with national calibre athletes from Roger Halliday in the sprints to Olympian Graham Boase in the triple jump and Barrie Tucker in the discus. He organised winter “training weekends” at National Fitness camps which were attended by athletes of all disciplines for many years.

In addition, he instituted a systemic series of holiday athletics clinics for schoolchildren, press-ganging his athletes to be instructors, and in the end inspiring may to continue as coaches after their competitions careers ended.

In the early sixties Jess was and independent Councillor for the SAAAA, a state selector, newspaper and Television journalist as well as an active and successful coach.
He did much to keep athletics in the public eye. His columns were lively, sometimes controversial, but always aimed at improving the lot of the athlete and coach. He prodded administrators, government and the general public to ensure that the athletics sport was well managed and understood.

In 1963 he published his first book “The How and Why of Physical Conditioning” which became a major reference for many sports.

At the same time he began to produce a second generation coaching magazine :cool: “Modern Athlete and Coach”.

The magazine was Jess’ obsession and was to rise to prominent international status with recognition as on one the world’s leading coaching magazines and subscribers in more than seventy countries. Jess made use of all his connections with coaches in Estonia and through them turned the magazine into a major conduit of Soviet research and practice to the West. It, of course, is now the journal of the ATFCA.

Jess’ pioneering work in coach education led to the development of a South Australian Coaches Education Scheme which was to become a forerunner of the national scheme.

He worked tirelessly to promote coaching and was the driving force behind the formation of the ATFCA in 1973 which quickly adopted a National Coaching Accreditation scheme which was largely modelled on the SA system.

Jess continued to agitate for national coaching scheme in all sports and was delighted by the formation of the Australian Coaching Council in 1979.
He saw the establishment of the Council as a major step in the improvement of coaching in the country and he played a major role in its early work as a member of the general council and of the technical committee. The structure of the national Coaching Accreditation Scheme which followed was largely influenced by Jess’ contributions.

Jess retired from active coaching in the late seventies but continues on in a number of important roles from that time. He was President of the ATFCA from 1980-1990, a period in which the Association was taken in from “out of the cold” to become the official coaching arm of the Australian Athletic Union. He was Coaching Director for the SA Sports Institute and continued to translate and distribute the latest coaching information from the Eastern block in Australia and the wide world.

Jess Jarver’s work has been recognised by the community: he was appointed as SA’s Father of the Year in 1977 and awarded an OAM for services to Australian athletics as a coach, administrator commentator and writer in 1993. He has left an enormous legacy to coaching in Australia.

His influence lives on through the various coaching schemes which he inspired, through the journals which he founded, through the coaching activities of his former athletes and through the work of the ATFCA which he helped to create. His work has been recognised by the community: he was appointed as SA’s Father of the Year in 1977 and awarded an OAM for services to Australian athletics as a coach, administrator commentator and writer in 1993.

Coaching has lost a great advocate and the coaching community a great friend. Vale – JessJarver.

Hear Hear Kitkat.

A truly great man.

Who did most of the translations, by all accounts.

The world and our sport has lost a great.

RIP Jess

I ordered stuff from CF in november and still don’t have it yet. I have emailed several times. Have any of you had this experience? How do I get my $87 back. They say they need information to follow up on and then when I send it they ignore me then I start over again. How do you solve.