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Has USATF Declared War on U.S. Coaches? By James Dunaway and Larry Eder

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IRST came the appointment of a USATF “Director of Coaching.” Who knew we needed one? THEN came the gutting of the Coaches Education program—a program created and run entirely by coaches without any help from USATF for most of its 25 years—a program that educated more than 20,000 American high school and college coaches —a program that visibly raised the level of U.S. track and field coaching, and U.S. performances—in short, the most successful initiative in USATF’s history. Earlier this year, most of the distinguished coaches who led Coaching Ed for the past decade suddenly resigned because of changes that were being made in Indianapolis. Said USATF, “We’ll get new coachinstructors who will be just as good.” We’re still waiting to be told who they are. NOW comes USATF’s Coaches Registry, which more than one well-known coach has called “blackmail.” That’s not our word, but it was spoken by coaches known and respected in our sport. Blackmail, because if you don’t sign up, you can’t get a coach accreditation for USATF championships. Which means you can’t get into the practice and warmup areas to work with your athletes on the important days and hours before they compete. No matter how good a coach you are. One well-known coach, a former Olympic medalist and world champion, said, “I don’t like it at all, but I signed up because my athletes need me and expect me to be there.” There several other important “privileges” not available to non-registered coaches, but the issue of greatest concern is the coach accreditation for the championships. Sam Seemes, who leads the U.S. Track and Cross-Country Coaches of America, reports that most of the comments he has received about Coaches Registry were unfavorable. The day after USATF announced the program, Seemes and USTCCCA president Curtis Frye send a message to members which included the following: “USTFCCCA Members should know that the USTFCCCA neither supports the Coaches Registry program, nor did we develop the program. We are disappointed that USATF implied in their press release that the USTFCCCA was supportive of the Coaches Registry program they have established. Furthermore, we disagree with the statement that the USATF Coaches Registry ‘will identify and acknowledge the coaches who represent the profession’s highest standards.’” USATF CEO Doug Logan said, “No group is more important to the development of our athletes than coaches.” He certainly has a strange way of showing it. One wonders why USTFCCCA wasn’t informed of Coaches Registry before it was announced, and why USTFCCCA wasn’t asked to participate in developing a program specifically involving its membership? Just as bad was USATF’s timing. Here is a new program, affecting the professional lives and status of more than 30,000 coaches, and USATF announces it at the most important time of the year, when coaches at every level are deeply involved in championship-level competition, and USATF gives them five weeks to decide. That may be legal, but it is certainly not fair to the coaches. In politics, that’s called an ultimatum. And it is usually followed by a war.

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in d Coach n a F T A See US Response s Athletic 30 Coaching Athletics Quarterly - Spring 2010

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