W ITH the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this year, and Scotland pursuing independence ambitions, there never seemed a better time to promote coaching, establish a legacy in the city, and put Glasgow on the global coaching map.
Part of achieving that looked set to be the International Festival of Athletics Coaching (IFAC), held in the city for the past six years, despite attempts to woo it to fashionable European capitals. The aim was to broaden it to cover many sports, which would have been a world first.
But as we reveal today, scottishathletics have withdrawn support and by intervening, along with sportscotland, have compromised the possibility of IFAC's organising body - the European Athletics Coaches' Association - establishing a broader-based conference. The EACA has taken legal advice on this.
A former Scottish and Great Britain director of coaching, as well as former president of scottishathletics, Frank Dick left the latter role abruptly nearly two years ago. It is hard to avoid the impression that the conference has become collateral damage in a falling out between Dick and scottishathletics ceo Nigel Holl.
The sport would deny it, citing financial issues - some bills are believed to remain unpaid. But it may also be seen as insulting to Stephen Maguire, the scottishathletics director of coaching who has made education and upscaling of coaching the keystone of his philosophy. He has made an excellent impression, a significant difference, but there have been suggestions that he is unlikely to remain. With his philosophy so cavalierly treated, Scotland may do well to retain him beyond Hampden this summer. The job has rarely been more than a staging post.
We went through three national coaches in barely a year to the end of 2011. Senior sprint and hurdles posts beckon at UK Athletics, and we may soon be advertising for another director.
Maguire has done well to settle after the preceding lack of continuity, and his departure, which I believe is now inevitable, would be regretted. Scottishathletics says it has financial issues with continuing the project, and that Maguire has initiated a series of across-the-board education projects of his own. These include three coaching weekend conferences from September to March and on-going sessions with coaches who are volunteers with limited time.
Some of the IFAC speakers have attended these and Scottish coaches have been funded at conferences in the US and Sweden.
Maguire's coaching initiatives have been commendable, and I have no issues with Glasgow Life's coaching programme. But 200 Scottish coaches thought IFAC worthwhile. It is a pity that those of them prepared to be challenged have lost the chance. It is as if the sport had a Ferrari and traded it for a bike, when in Games year they should be going flat out.
Scottish domestic initiatives defy comparison with the calibre of coaches that IFAC brought to Glasgow. The status of speakers and workshop leaders over the years reads like a Who's Who of international athletics. They have included world record icons such as Seb Coe and Sergey Bubka; and world and Olympic shot champion Adam Nelson, but the main attraction has been the depth and quality of coach education.
Up to 300 delegates annually, from the UK and around the world, have flocked to Glasgow. Foreign national associations have offered scholarships and grants to send delegates in order to advance the education of their own people.
Last year's keynote speakers included Harry Marra (coached Ashton Easton to the decathlon world record); Boris Verkhovsky, director of performance design and development at the Cirque du Soleil; rugby's Dean Benton of the Brumbies and Wallabies; Vin Walsh, a world leader in how the brain may be trained to increase performance potential; and Dr. Barry Fudge, manager of physiological services for UKA's World Class Endurance Programme - one of the team behind double World and Olympic champion Mo Farah.
"The Winning Difference: the Bridge to Excellence" was the title of last year's conference, designed as a preview of coach development ideas towards Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Now the bridge has been burned as far as Scotland is concerned.