On Target
August 5, 2011
Understanding your role as a Coach

The role of modern sports coaches continues to evolve, as accountability, professionalism and mentorship are being added to what is expected of those who initially were seen as being there to impart skills.{{more}}

As St. Vincent and the Grenadines is confronted with the challenges of making a good impression on the sporting scene, we are lacking in our understanding of the true role of our coaches.

Coaches today seem to be only concerned about the skill level of their charges and are neglecting the other facets which make them better coaches, and their charges, better rounded athletes.

We are seeing athletes who are struggling to get ahead with their academics, with little or no concern of the coaches, once they perform on the courts, on the track, or on the field of play.

Coaches are also supposed to be the guardians of their athletes, not only when they are directly under their care.

It is important that they ensure that their young charges get home on time after training, and that a link is made with the athletes’ parents or guardians. Sadly, in many respects, this is sorely lacking.

Far too often, I have seen coaches turn a blind eye to the open public affection shown by several young athletes at sporting events.

It was appalling at the last Secondary Schools’ Athletics Championships to see two athletes cuddling in the Mike Findlay Pavilion, with members of their management team nearby.

Recently, I was within ear shot of two school coaches, yes school coaches, whose coloured language made me puke with amazement and disappointment.

In one instance, the teacher was unrepentant about his use of expletives to a youngsters who had erred on the field of play,

The other was even more audible, as the coach went on a verbal tirade on the match referee for insisting on proper code of dress. This was done in the presence of the footballers, and they were at the Under-17 level!

Then, there are the subtle messages of not accepting your nationality, or just wanting to be identified among the who is who in the region.

Most recently, it was reported that one member of the Technical team of a national team was decked off in colours, paraphernalia, insignia and all, of another country.

Well, that cannot be right, but if it truly happened, then, Lord have mercy on us, if that is the re- written meaning of Vincentian national pride.

In our small St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the ‘claiming’ of athletes is fast becoming a “biggy”, as coaches for their own egos often refer to their charges as “my athletes”.

Getting past the “my athlete phenomenon”, that myopic, small minded mentality seems as difficult as getting to the summit of Mt Everest.

So why was only one athlete from the Thomas Saunders Secondary School part of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Schools’ team to the Windward Islands School Games, which concluded in Dominica last Sunday?

After all, this is the new go to school when it comes to Athletics here. It is the first local institution to have attended the prestigious Penn Relays and to have won both the male and female divisions of this year’s Secondary Schools’ Athletics Meet.

Therefore, why did athletes from that school not turn up for training, when summoned?

Is there a rule at that institution which debars them from doing so?

Also, coaches are to be impartial in their selecting of the team and put the country’s best available talent when called upon to do so.

Every so often we hear of assigned national teams coaches favouring persons from their teams / clubs of/from their locale.

Could the latter be the cause of St. Vincent and the Grenadines failure to complete the hat trick of titles in Football in the just concluded Windwards School Games, thus robbing this country of a third lien on the Games?

We are fast getting from bad to worse as the coaches’ actions trickle down to the athletes, and the cycle continues.

So, in summary, the role of the coach will be many and varied, from instructor, assessor, friend, mentor, facilitator, chauffeur, demonstrator, adviser, supporter, fact finder, motivator, counsellor, organizer, father, mother, big brother, big sister, planner and the fountain of all knowledge.

No need to explain the role of The Mound at the Sion Hill Playing Field.