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Coaches have their say

By Mark Etheridge

The troubled code of track and field will hopefully take a step in the right direction at this weekend’s Athletics South Africa’s coaching symposium in Bloemfontein.

Ever since being suspended in November last year after the Caster Semenya gender saga, the embattled federation has battled to stay out of the news, often for the wrong reasons.

SASCOC board member Ray Mali took over as interim administrator and a nine-member interim board was appointed to oversee the daily running of the sport.

Sentiments were then expressed that the interim board didn’t entirely have the sport’s best interests at heart as athletes were not qualified on administration matters and vice versa.

Veteran Boland administrator Richard Stander took over the position of Assistant Administrator: Athletes Affairs and has often come under fire for among other things, the introduction of a window period where athletes had to prove their form ahead of the African Championships in Nairobi, Kenya and what is seen by some as an authoritarian approach, notably after the awarding of prizes to the Yellow Pages Series winners.

There was also an outcry over the selecting of the team for the IAAF world junior championships in Moncton, Canada.

The team returned home with two medals (Luvo Manyonga’s gold in the long jump and Tazmin Brits’ bronze in the javelin). That was one less medal than the 2008 championships in Poland.

This weekend’s symposium will see more than 320 of the country’s coaches and officials thrash things out at the Eunice High School as ASA look ahead to the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea and still further down the road to the 2012 Olympics in London.

ÔÇ£This weekend’s coaches symposium will be the platform where coaches can voices their opinions on selection criteria matters in a bid to find a workable solution which will allow for our athletes to be best prepared for next year’s world championships and the next Olympics,ÔÇØ said Stander.

As far as the African championships were concerned, South Africa failed to top the medals table for the first time in a decade, in fact slipping to third behind Kenya and Nigeria. Stander’s take on the championships is as follows: ÔÇ£While ASA’s focus is on delivering athletes that can produce medal-winning performances at next year’s IAAF World Championships and at the 2012 Olympics, the African Championship event was a stepping stone towards reaching this objective. In fact, we set a target of winning 14 medals in Nairobi and returned with 19, so we are pleased with the results.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£We believe that ASA is in the process of raising the bar in a direction back to where the sport was on the international scene 10 years ago, whereby we are able to occupy a position among the top 10 nations in the world.ÔÇØ

His remarks though, made in an ASA release on Tuesday differ from those of joint South African 400m recordholder Arnaud Malherbe who said in an internet blog this week that had a different team been chosen South Africa could have picked up as many as 13 more medals than the 19 that they brought home.

Numerous comments on SASCOC’s Road to London website have pointed out selection inconsistencies and omissions at both the World Junior Championships and African Championships.

The weekend seminar is the ideal voice for coaches and officials to have their say and, like Stander says, get South Africa back to where the sport was 10 years ago.


17 comments
Meaty
Meaty

Seems like it is only WPA people leaving comments here. Why do you badmouth Boland all the time? You seem so obvious....I know someone in WPA talking like this all the time....

Arnaud Malherbe
Arnaud Malherbe

The reasons I was not at the coaches' symposium are: 1. I am not a coach. 2. It is not about me, but about issues. There were other people there who could raise the issues. If I went, they would not speak, assuming I would speak for them, and it would become about me again. 3. I am not a coach. (just in case you missed it the first time) Arnaud

In response to connivers
In response to connivers

Thanks for your objective input but I must just ask you to reflect on the views you noted: 1. Regarding the ducking and diving by Stander and Mokoka - if they are deceptive in such an improtant forum, how can you trust them when they represent you in your absence. This is purely my view but I don't trust them. They will change things in a politically motivated way and tell you it had to be that way. The sponsors wanted it that way and the input at this symposium would have been useless. Even some of the Boland/Maties guys stood up to them and challenged some relevant issues and he just used his charm to move away from issues and flattered them with compliments later on to silence them. I hear the coffee is good in Boland they should wake up and smell it- he is deceiving them. 2. You also talked about people not coming to the symposium and I agree with you that they are cowards and they missed an opprtunity but remember also that Arnaud for one has stood up to ASA and demanded answers He went as high up as the minister of sport and he was ignored. What makes you think that they were going to be able to change things through this symposium where I hear that when a guy stood up and made some demands he was told that the forum could not take any resolutions - they were probably right in this case! (you don't have to agree but it must be food for thought). 3. The other worrying thing is that you think that the 2010 Team selection issues are not important and I disagree with you here. This was extremely relevant and raised by one guy when he said it will impact on the decisions we make. I hear that the same guys who said that the window period doesn't work went on to agree on the window period (under the spin of Stander saying that there will be events that rival the Diamond League - he was reported to has mentioned 60000 US dollars for the winners of each event). They agreed despite raising the point that only Simon Magkwakwa and one athlete in Canada had personal best performances. It's a wonder the comment you made about the quality of the ASA level III was poor -look at how blind they were. I hear that Stander was typical Stander even trying to silence a member from his own province and the CEO of Gauteng North at some stage. If there is one thing this symposium has taught us it is that we are under the influence of manipulative dominance and more so people are afraid once again to speak their minds just like the Chuene era which I hear is not quite over yet

Junior
Junior

@No more connivers Thanks for the feedback and Hallelujah to the proposed Youth/Junior/U/23's!!!!! One just have to look at Europe to see the advantages of proper u/23 competition and develoment. If at all possible also try to get international competitions for our u/23's. Looking forward to the new season structure and hoping that provinces will make good work of it to get athletics back as a entertaining venture for the crowds. Any other views out there?

No more connivers!
No more connivers!

On the whole it was more positive than I thought beforehand. A lot of points were raised and addressed. The good thing for me was that we did not get stuck on the blame game and did not spend too much time on the two championships we had in 2010 and the issues around it. That would have taken half the symposium and frankly nothing would have come from that. Luckily none of the behind-the-scenes-anti-Boland-anti-Richard Stander-cowards were there to sidetrack the whole thing. So I think all of them should shut-up now and disappear as it is clear that their intention is clearly not to fix the problems in athletics in SA. A proper forum was created in Bloemfontein to solve the problems and they chose not to take part in it (playing the blame game does not solve anything). So Evans and Malherbe should now let it go and find something else to occupy their time with. On the whole most of the coaches there were very positive in trying to solve the problems we have. The contributions were positive and a few good proposals where raised. Richard Stander and James Makoka obviously ducked and dived some of the issues and provided inconclusive answers. They are well trained at this and managed to dance around uncomfortable issues like masters. This is the only thing that worries me about the symposium. We talked a hell of a lot, and planned and chose committees, but are these going to be enforced at all? I state that the symposium was positive if one considers the following: Everything is uncertain at ASA at the moment. The system had to somehow change after the farce in Berlin. No system or structure in terms of coaches or administration has been in existence in ASA for the last couple of years. The inconsistencies in teams selections have been an issue with every team for the past decade, and will most probably be forever (in every country). And I say this again: No one before the symposium came forward with a better plan. A short round-up on some of the major issues changed and proposed (Richard Stander should be held accountable for this): There will be three Yellow Pages type meets before the Senior SA’s in middle April. From January to March clubs and provinces must hold permit type meetings. The SA Juniors will be held over three days and will include youth, junior and under 23. The u/23 will this time round have a full program of events like the youth and juniors. Two prestige meets will be held in May/June where various teams e.g a SA-teams vs a SA Students vs SA Junior vs an Invitational team will compete. The floor decided that the window-period stays but that the initial selection criteria are replaced by the IAAF entry standards. The coaches’ structure in SA will be revised and clearly split between the national level and the provincial level. Two interim committees were selected from the floor, one to look into the creation of a proper coaching structure and one to review and revise selection criteria for all championships or meetings. Some of the disappointments: Many of the country’s top coaches were missing. Whether they boycotted or could not make it does not matter as they missed out on a chance to positively influence athletics. Those who boycotted must please keep boycotting all forms of athletics for the rest of their lives as we don’t need these behind the scenes connivers anymore. A further disappointment was the quality of the work done by the ASA Level III candidates. Most of those were truly poor efforts. Also disappointing was the constant distraction by certain parties on totally irrelevant or even silly issues such as the constant reverences to rugby by one coach, or the constant issues with schools and winter sports, or in fights in provinces. This is an elite coaches symposium, where the best and most respected coaches gather, and it should have been kept to that. The 2009 symposium was useless as nothing discussed there every came into existence. I truly hope that the 2010 version will not be the same.

Junior
Junior

Hi is there anyone else that would like to share their experience of the coaches symposium with us? Anything positive coming from it?

I was at the symposium
I was at the symposium

From the view I had at the Symposium not all of Boland is behind Slander. He did side-step direct questions around the reports of the Senior and Junior teams when requested by a Boland member so did James Mokoka! This Boland member had the balls to blame the selectors for the blunder and there was no response from the floor or the seletors! Slander once again ignored the issue. By the time the symposium got to the 2nd day there were only about 70 coaches there. Slander even went on to side-step concerns raised about June competitions with another empty promise which I think they reluctantly bounght - he will be caught out. He will have his day. Like Chuene and co.... Slander and co will have their day. Is this guy for real. How dumb does he think people are? And Mali seems to be in cahoots with him.

Loretta Marthinus
Loretta Marthinus

The symposium was just a smoke screen for Richard to get all his friends back in the game. Those same friends who could not transform the sport in their own provinces. Sly Richard even took the events calender that was rejected to the symposium. I wonder when will those pirates will get their day. They hijacked the sport. Now they are using LOTTO money to buy votes. Who is corrupt now? Play Fair

Concerned Parent
Concerned Parent

Our athletes need help!!! They are not getting any help what so ever!!! No wonder so many of them give up the sport or move overseas and participate there!!! Come on guys!!! Stop thining about yourselves!! Think of the future of our talented athletes!!

Antie Stander
Antie Stander

Facts are: this forum is not the place or time to take any decisions!! We do not trust the agenda, not even all the invited speakers. Stander will never acknowledge mistakes and will always justify his own agenda. What is ASAs vision? "to secure Adam's position" ... Stander believes athletes can peak multiple times a year - no science, no logic, just arrogance. SYMPOSIUM? who are the speakers? were they influenced? papers reviewed? why are they fully booked so quickly? We would have liked to be there also - to defend athletics. PLEASE speak the truth for the sake of a wonderfull sport.

Statistical
Statistical

Yes, there are a number of complaints about team selections, administration, etc. If one goes through the 2010 Ranking Lists on the ASA Website one will find many discrepencies and incorrectness. If the ASA Selectors were is a postion that they were presented with the correct statistical data then the job would be so much easier. This would be a great move in the right direction for starters.

Mark Etheridge
Mark Etheridge

I agree spot on that you need someone with both business skills AND athletics knowledge, a highly specialised sport and more so, in my opinion than single codes like rugby, cricket and soccer. And I'm sure there are people out there who do have both but right now are loathe to touch the sport with a barge pole, or should that be a vaulting pole! Ray is first to admit that his skills lie in administration, he has to rely on the athletics brains for guidance and clearly in this case he is getting an almightily mixed message right now. P.S mail me on [email protected] and let me know who you are in "real life" :-) but please keep providing input on this forum .. it can only help!

Administration Failure!
Administration Failure!

Mark, I would most certainly not put anyone currently around into that job. At this stage it will be the same [email protected], just different faces. Athletics just does not have competent people. We do not even know what a competent person looks like. I like what rugby just did, get a CEO with a rugby background (by no means a Springbok or even a provincial player), but with a very good business acumen, loads of managerial skills and a proven track record. What do we have? The majority of athletics people are school teachers and the rest are former school teachers. Sport needs to be run as a business these days. A CEO or administrator or whatever you want to call it has to have the managerial skills needed to run it like a business, with clear visions, strategies, goals and targets. And must be able surround him/herself with the right people to do the job. ASA is the dumping ground for people who are semi-connected, but not really. Who get jobs because well connected people feel for them or has some other function for them. Can anyone in their right mind tell me the current people at the ASA office or those before them) and the ASA interim board are the best people in South Africa that the federation can get? That they have searched far and wide to get the best people there, from the tea lady to the administrator. When the board (or whoever did) appointed Richard Stander as administrator, CEO, big boss, headmaster, tyrant or whatever the hell he is at ASA, did they go through the same process as SARU just did? Shortlists, interviews, presentations, outside consultants etc etc etc? No someone (his name begins with H) phoned his mates at SASCOC or government and offered Richard Stander to ASA. That’s it! And all the other appointments? Surely not.Someone needs to run ASA like Niels de Vos and Charles van Commenee of Britain does. With clear objective, no BS, no politics, no nothing, just the appetite for success and a clear plan of how to achieve it. Look what van Commenee says is needed: "The athletes must stand up and take responsibility for success, and also failure. They should not look for external circumstances. And that's what I would like to see from everybody involved. That applies to the athletes in the arena and also to the administrators, who is running the federation, and also to myself, and to the other coaches, and to the people in the office." They came in said they will get Britain to win at least eight medals at the 2012 games, if they don’t they will leave. Show me one administrator in SA that is going to say and do that, chances are better that we will win eight medals in 2012 before you find that administrator. Athletics people in general are serial complainers. We complain about everything and everyone. We complain about the weather, the competition, the IAAF and just about everything else. I think everyone should stop complaining and find a solution. Everyone bitches, some more than others, but not a single person has come to the fore and said: this is the complete plan on how to fix athletics in SA. Not one. So Mark, I would at this stage not look at anyone within ASA or SASCOC (Ray Mali failed miserably, and SASCOC is no better that ASA in term of administration and achieving sporting excellence). I would start looking in the private sector or overseas.

Track Enthusiast
Track Enthusiast

Just to jump in and answer Mark..And by the way thanks for a brilliant article - I would say that the best way forward for the sport is to head hunt a CEO with strong business acumen and he should meet with the coaches to understand the sport and its assets alot better. he should then visit the hosts of some of the biggest events in South Africa to see how we can maximize its potential. I say this because no matter who takes over as CEO, if they don't have a mixture of a strong business acumen and a proper understanding of the sport he/she will not succeed in prioritising the needs in as far as achieving the ultimate goals of ASA are concerned. Richard Stander and Ray Mali have already destroyed the sport! The interim board have already shown that they don't understand the sport. I would like to hear what administration failure thinks?

Mark Etheridge
Mark Etheridge

Thanx for the comments guys. Administration Failure, you're quite right -- the We Are Sick of All of You-group is growing fast I think. If you had your say, who would YOU put up there in the important management positions that could get the sport on track? And to For the love of athletics .. you're right but coaches must make sure their voices are heard. Hopefully this symposium WILL enable their voices to be heard. There are a lot of frustrated people out there and they must speak up now or else you are right, it's only going to get worse!

For the love of athletics
For the love of athletics

I wish middle distance coaches can speak their minds for the sake of the sport. Its in the worst state especialy the women. If nothing is done as a matter of urgency there will be no women representing the country in middle distance in the next 2 olympics.

Administration Failure!
Administration Failure!

I seriously doubt if anything is going to come from this symposium. If Richard Stander is there he will spin things his way. All the coaches will moan and groan till they are blue. They are going to rant off the same spiel we have been hearing over the last weeks. We will hear about the selections and prize money and Richard Stander’s dealings with Doc Adams. The coaches will be all up in arms with Arnaud Malherbe and James Evans the main cheerleaders. Richard Stander will duck and dive and blame the selectors for the team selections and the IAAF tables for the prize money and deny everything else. He will use the words “paper trail” a lot and deny Arnaud Malherbe’s position. I suspect this will carry on for a long time. When all is set and done and we’ve had a few screams and shouts everything will still be the same. No new action plan, no new long term strategy, no new administrators, no new head coach, no new accountability measures. Nothing new in fact. Except maybe a fourth faction in this whole farce that is South African athletics. You will have the Stander/Adams/Boland-group, the Malherbe/Evans-group, the ANCYL/Chuene-group and the new We Are Sick of All of You-group. If the right people are there to hear what is going on in athletics at the moment there might be a slight chance that we might see change. We need Gideon Sam, Tubby Reddy, Ray Mali and anyone else who can hire and fire people within ASA there. Otherwise we will have the same thing we have every year, a hell of a lot of talking and exactly zero outcomes!