Just a personal observation over the last 25 years but one of the causes for poor retention is down to a growing number of dogmatic and self-promoting coaches.
If you learn to swim, play cricket, tennis, and many other sports in your teens…….then you are more likely to continue to participate and enjoy such sports well into adulthood. Not so T&F Athletics.
The unrealistic high expectations promoted by some coaches (probably at least one in each club) on their young inexperienced athletes (and parents) does nothing to engender a long term love for the sport.
Such coaches do not encourage social engagement and interaction with other athletics at the club. In fact they often deliberately isolate their young charges. Rather than attend and support their Clubs Open meetings and League matches will seek out other events ,aiming solely for a new PB. And these coaches will refuse outright if ‘his’ young athletes wish to try an event, a distance , a relay during a league match.
The diversity of T&F events should be one of its positives, but, sadly, is also a significant reason for its historic problems with retention……and some Coaches should wise up and rethink what really is their role.
Rather than centralising these concerns on a generic sort of coach, I think it would be more helpful to identify ways of measuring things like retention and improvement.
It is not unreasonable for every club to have a statistician. Possibly it should be a position voted on at the AGM.
This is the person who should be able to link club athletes to a coach. They could gather a start date for an athlete and the last appearance date (if not a leave date).
I am a strong believer that all coaches should be measured in terms of retaining athletes and improvement of the lowest and highest achievers in the squad.
I did once start developing a scale of percentage improvements for young athletes which I equated to standing still. For example these 800m times for the same athlete growing older might be considered standing still:
1st Year U13B 2:30
2nd Year U13B 2:25
1st Year U15B 2:20
2nd Year U15B 2:15
1st Year U17M 2:10
2nd Year U17M 2:05
1st Year U20M 2:00
2nd Year U20M 1:55
I would expect any thoughtful coach to pick this table apart, and recognise at the same time it would be difficult to produce a more meaningful scale.
Despite being easy it is to pick apart such measuring tools, I think it is important that such scales are developed so coaches can be statistically judged based on the performance and attendance (in competition) of athletes.
It is better to gather evidence that a coach is good or crap, rather simply bathing them briefly in the glory of a great athlete, and creditting them with an expertise thereafter, despite the years of failure.
Zac I’m curious about how the measures above will improve athlete and coach retention?
Will coaches be willing to stay if they are rated ‘bad’ because an athlete chooses to focus on exams rather than running in one season?
Will young athletes enjoy and be willing to stay in the sport if they are constantly being pushed and pushed by coaches desperate for them to run fast for the coach ratings rather than enjoy the sport?
It potentially raises some moral issues too-it seems the system above might punish coaches who allow their athletes to concentrate on exams etc and reward those who push their athletes to prioritise athletics above anything else regardless of what is best for the athlete as a person?
The only thing I have advocated is the development of statistical tools for measuring achievement in terms of performance and retention.
As regards how it will improve athlete retention that is a matter for future analysis if it is ever implemented. It might shine a torch on coaches who retain athletes from childhood into adulthood and cause more parents or children to seek out such training squads which might have the beneficial impact of improving both retention and performance.
If you wish to create another set of tools which measure coaching success in terms of retention, performance, and successful academic exam passes, I would not be alarmed by such a prospect.
The more measuring tools and information gathering methods, the better.
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