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Delivering on the day should be letter of the law, says Dick

WITHOUT warning, and with key appointments on which he was advising still to be made, Frank Dick quit as chair of scottishathletics in February.

Among the vacant posts was that of head coach. The last incumbent, Laurier Primeau, resigned after five months, returning to Canada 18 months ago. Acting replacement Steve Rippon quit last December. The permanent appointee, Stephen Maguire, finally started as director of coaching last week.

Long before the Northern Irishman arrived, he said he would not directly coach individual athletes or build a personal training squad. Maguire's remit is to help "coaches who are already working with quality athletes".

This defuses potential resentment from those who might otherwise regard him as a poacher of their talent.

Maguire steered the visually impaired Jason Smyth to 100 and 200 metres gold at the last two Paralympics, and worked with the training group of the former world 100 and 200m champion Tyson Gay in Florida. That's the job he quit to come to Scotland, but it's too late to make a meaningful impact on Glasgow 2014.

Yet, in opting to focus on promoting quality coaching, Maguire has surely identified the biggest failing of the Scottish and UK system: a general inability of athletes to deliver the best display of their life in the most important event of the year.

As Dick points out, none of the Scots in the 2012 Olympic athletics squad did so, not even a season's best. Only Jessica Ennis (twice) and Sophie Hitchon, set UK athletics records at the Olympics. No men did.

Dick, a former UK Athletics head coach, delivers a chilling analysis. He cites 75 UK "Olympic athletics interventions" excluding relays (Mo Farah's two finals count as two interventions). "They produced six medals and only 10 personal bests, yet we are not the worst among European countries. Many of them [other countries] are looking at this.

"Early-season UK performances, as athletes attempted to qualify, were not replicated in London," he said. "Coach education has not got down to the hard facts of life. It's not strong enough. It's not just about performing in ideal conditions, like paced races in the Diamond League, it's about doing it on a given day when somebody else has called the shots, in your Olympic final. Bottom line, the only statistic which matters is the number of people who deliver on the day. At last year's world athletics championship in Daegu, only 25.6% of the GB team managed a personal best. That percentage was even lower in London."

This was the biggest and best-funded and prepared GB Olympic team of all time. The GB swimming team's strike rate was even poorer: just three personal bests.

"Are we too soft?" asks Dick who chaired a major Olympic debrief with international coaches in London. "I think, perhaps, we are. Political correctness has influenced us for the worse. You have to have some kind of licence to drive people beyond where they are comfortable with.

"I am not saying the means should be illegal or brutal, but coaches have to have the competency to push people beyond mediocrity. That's because most people are quite comfortable with medicocrity, and I think that is a factor with Scotland. We are too comfortable.

"We look at what is the best in Scotland or what is the best in Britain, and think that's good enough. It's not. We need to be looking at where we rank overall in the world."

For the record, the only Scots ranked in the world top 50 in their respective events are Eilidh Child (17th) and Eilish McColgan (49th).

"It's not looking very healthy at all for 2014," concludes Dick.

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