Can our coaches ever work together?

blowing_whistle1For several years attempts have been made in St Vincent and the Grenadines to bring coaches together to facilitate the development of a national coaches association. The intent has always been to engender camaraderie amongst an important segment of the sporting fraternity without whom no sport can genuinely develop.
Unfortunately, despite the numerous initiatives undertaken the country still remains without a coaches association.
What is perhaps much worse is the fact that in the respective individual sports there is much division amongst coaches that literally prevent them from working together to aid in the systematic development of the particular sport. This untenable situation continues to exist even after they have benefitted from courses organized by their respective national associations, often in tandem with the respective international federation and/or the National Olympic Committee.
What is it that prevents coaches in the same sport from working together in the best interest of its genuine development?
Why do coaches in a small country such as St Vincent and the Grenadines find it almost impossible to work collaboratively in their own best interest and that of the athletes and the sport they claim they are so anxious to develop?
What is it that explains the clear contradiction between what our coaches say and what they do in reality?
The coach
It has often been said that a coach is not an ordinary person if we understand the numerous roles into which he/she is cast in pursuit of the chosen field of endeavor.
The coach is trained to prepare the athletes in his/her charge along a development pathway. This means that the coach is expected top engage in an understanding of the individual athlete.
The coach must get to know each individual athlete in his/her care. The coach must know not just the name of the athlete and where he/she lives but must also know who are the parents, what the child has been doing before coming into his/her care, the individual’s educational performance, his/her likes and dislikes, interests, hobbies and above all, why he/she possesses a desire to practice this particular sport.
It is important to know whether there are any health issues impacting the individual athlete.
Before starting any form of training with an individual the coach must ensure that he/she has a medical check to ensure that it is possible to undertake training in the particular sport.
Once the foregoing issues have been addressed the coach gets the athlete into a developmental programme that is based on what has been termed, long-term athlete development (LTAD). What this means is that the individual is gradually introduced to the training requirements of the particular sport but in a manner consistent with his/her chronological age, emotional state and biological/physical development.
Training is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. The athlete cannot be taken to a rigid training regimen unless all of the foregoing aspects have been appropriately assessed. To do otherwise would readily lead to athlete burnout and an eagerness to leave the sport for good.
In actual training, the coach must monitor each athlete as individuals. Athletes cannot simply be grouped as though they should be at the same level of progress at the same time.
While involved in training the coach must make critical analyses of the different responses to the varying exercises the athlete is taken through in order to assess the proficiency levels at any given point. This allows for the ready change of programme components when deemed necessary.
The coach is also expected to understand that each athlete is a social being. This means that he is on occasions the athlete’s mother, father, brother, sister and friend. This is critical if the coach is to perform his/her duties to the benefit of the athlete.
The coach, for all intents and purposes, is involved in a very complex relationship with the athletes in his/her care and this has to be managed properly and above all, professionally.
Our reality
Over the past several years we have had in St Vincent and the Grenadines constant bickering amongst coaches, each of whom seems to think that he is on the right path.\In the sport of athletics, for example, Gideon Laban, this country’s first IAAF coaches instructor, earned the ire of his colleagues because he dared to utilize his training to the benefit of as many athletes as possible.
At the time he received the full support of Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) and was installed at the organisation’s first technical director. It did not take long before his peers, many of whom were perhaps envious of his approach to his craft, were characterizing him as a super coach.
Labban was himself shocked at the response he received from several of his fellow coaches but continued anyway.
It was interesting at the time to note that there were some coaches in the same sport who sought to undermine Labban and his work. There were some who actually informed their athletes that Labban did not know what he was doing and questioned his competence.
There were instances of athletes who were training with Labban being encouraged to training with other coaches because of their eagerness to undermine his work.
The extent to which some coaches went remains to this day unbelievable.
Labban has since move don and now lives and works in the USA.
The divisiveness between the coaches fraternity is nonetheless still being fuelled and today we have coaches who seem only too eager to have their athletes embroiled in their sinister plots.
Today, in an effort to get athletes to change coaches they are being told that their current coaches know nothing, that they are incompetent. In some instances coaches go so far as to convince athletes and their parents that they alone can get the children to perform better because of the incompetence of their current coaches.
More than this some coaches are actually telling athletes that they alone can get them to make national representative teams.
While practicing here as a coach, Labban never brought himself to the point of engaging in such practices and would probably be most shocked to learn that this is what now exists amongst the very fraternity he worked so diligently to elevate to the level of professionalism.
It is unbelievable that in a small country like ours there would be coaches who are hell bent on trying to get to the top by pulling down all others.
It is against this backdrop that several coaches are today unwilling to work with others who they know to be engaged in the deliberate practice of undermining them with parents, fellow athletes and friends.
This unsavoury practice has already caused some consternation among some school principals where the behavior of some coaches has student athletes heavily pitted against each other.
There is the additional practice of using money and sport gifts as a means of virtually bribing athletes to change coaches leading to an untenable situation here athletes are being pitted against each other to the point of neither speaking nor sharing with one another. How then are they to work with each other on national representative teams?
How are such coaches to work with the very athletes and coaches they have undermines when they are selected on national teams?
Will we therefore see teams being selected based on coaches and who are willing to speak and work with one another?
Can we imagine these athletes on the same relay team?
One issue is that if sport is supposed to be a vehicle for bringing people together in a spirit of camaraderie, why would some coaches deliberately seek to undermine the work of others?
If in this small country the objective is to raise the level of performance of our athletes generally why is it that some coaches would rather destroy athletes’ confidence in other coaches so that they can have them join their own clubs thereafter?
What does it benefit a coach to strive after the development of only his athletes and club at the expense of everyone else and the work they are doing?
When a senior, more experienced coach can abuse a young coach because he has been given some responsibility then we must ask ourselves the real reason for the former being involved in the sport.
There is today an appeal from many quarters to have an end to the undermining of coaches by others in the same field since it demeans the individuals engaged in such a disgraceful practice and weakens the very sport that they profess to have an interest in developing. Will this happen?
Can it happen?
What can we expect of sport development in St Vincent and the Grenadines if our coaches continue along the path of seeking individual glory at everyone else’s expense?
Obviously there are major concerns for any association desirous of moving along a genuine developmental pathway in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Once we examine the reality in our country’s sport programmes today we must continue to ask ourselves whether some of those involved are really keen on sport being of any social significance to Vincentian society.