Last Updated: 09:26am 11/06/2009

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26 / 05 / 2009
The largest ever conference gathering of athletics coaches assembled in Glasgow over the weekend of 1st and 2nd November 2008 to hear that Scotland had been selected to host the annual European Athletics Coaches Association (EACA) conference through to 2012 - and potentially through to 2014.

Stewart Maxwell, Scottish Minister for Communities and Sport officially opened proceedings held at the Glasgow Marriott Hotel underlining the importance of this truly global coaching event with "Over 300 delegates descending on Glasgow from every continent of the world (with the exception of Antarctica) for this 2008 EACA Conference."

An opening address from Dr Frank Dick OBE, EACA President, outlined the conference theme of 'Learning Faster' and highlighted three main lessons for Europe from the 2008 Beijing Olympics in terms of 'beyond winning', 'the reality of the journey' and 'the winning difference.'

Clyde Hart, coach to the 400m legend Michael Johnson, launched a series of four keynote presentations throughout the weekend.

He explained how his coaching philosophy had been shaped by his experiences visiting Europe: "The coach always strives to be better through using what works, by taking on board the ideas of others and shaping them to develop these on the track, while using the athlete as the 'number one learning tool'," he said. Adding, "You don't get to be a good coach without being a good thief" and in answer to his own question "Are we coaching any smarter than we were 25 years ago...? Well...we only have a bigger vocabulary!"

He finished with a challenge to all delegates: "There's no such thing as peaking - if you can't see the top (of the performance), how do you know where the peak is?"

Yannick Tregaro, coach to Swedish jumps stars Christian Olson, Kajsa Bergqvist and Emma Green, outlined the importance of the carefully structured Swedish athlete and coach squad approach from 1996 in developing inspired and motivated athletes to underpin subsequent international medal success.

He stressed the importance of creating the best environment and culture possible among athletes and coaches.

He highlighted the importance of the athlete gaining a true 'feel' for their event before they start to train too hard for it. "With every new athlete I start to coach," he concluded, "it is the start of a long journey to find out how best to coach that athlete."

Fresh from huge success in directing the development of the new coach education framework in China and leading towards huge success for his country in Beijing, Bingshu Zhong reviewed the 18 years of actions and resultant structures that underpin Chinese coaching today.

A hugely evocative and educative presentation identified the crucial and bold steps to success in professionalising the coaching role including key themes of "training before employment, training before promotion and training before attending competition."

A fundamental vehicle for an effective programme delivery was identified as the establishment of teaching centres and networks for high-level coach training.

The final keynote given by Ken Porter, former Oxford University Head Coach and now a Director with the Ottawa Lions in Canada, reviewed a truly practical example of how learning from what you are doing and making appropriate changes has a huge impact on club and coaching success.

Key interventions over a period have led to the 'Lions' becoming the foremost track and field club in Canada - all based on the '4-C's' philosophy of:

Collegiality: anything is possible if no-one cares who gets credit
Community: all those who could be, should be and might be involved in the club
Coaching: coaches are valued and only coach (in pairs)
Competition: "any sport worth doing is still worth doing even if badly!"

In conclusion, he stated: "Clubs need to look at themselves and firstly identify their role with the sport and secondly with their members." 

The success of the conference was recognised by EACA in making a special award to conference organiser, Ewen Cameron, scottishathletics Education and Development Manager.

Reflecting on the whole event, Cameron commented: "scottishathletics firmly believes that coaching underpins everything in athletics and the fact that Scotland will be the home of the EACA annual conference for next few years is a clear statement of our intent."