Coaches, develop young students, don't use them!
Those that know me well know that I have great concerns about the High School and Collegiate running programs across the USA. That is not to say that there are not some very good programs, well meaning programs and very good coaches that work within those programs. There are however, some terrible coaches that have absolutely no business being in charge of any runner be they novice or developing elite. By default there is potential conflict of interest, in particular at the Collegiate level where pressure on coaches to get results within their Conference is at a very high level and the cause and effect of that pressure is the retention of the coach- meaning his or her job is on the line..
I totally understand the concept of being judged on performance, in fact I think in the world of teaching, there is too much tenure, too much apathy and there should be accountability but it should be measured with common sense and trends over time...the same with the High School & Collegiate Coach. If this policy was adopted across the board it would allow for the coach to breathe, to work within a less pressurized environment (not to be mistaken for an apathetic 'Grandfathered in' environment) allowing the coach to take a four year athlete and develop the athlete appropriately to be passed on to the next level- to develop the athlete, not use the athlete. For the high school coach, this means development during crucial maturing years preparing the runner for the Collegiate arena and for the Collegiate coach, to prepare the more mature student (but still developing) for a career of health & fitness and competitive post Collegiate athletics be it age group competitive or aspiring professional or developmental elite or Club runner.
However the reality that the need to push for results or just plain coaching ego does not allow for this to happen across the board. Coaches at this level simply do not understand the concept of optimal stress followed by optimal recovery = optimal performance- they do not understand that it takes a student from puberty to eighteen years old seven times longer for their central nervous systems to recover from a bout of stress than an adult which immensely impacts their ability to train and race- they simply do not understand the how or why of teaching proper running technique. A major reason why I am called upon so regularly by Orthopedic Surgeons and Podiatrists to fix the dire straits a young student is in who has fallen victim to a high school coach that has no clue as to what they are doing.
A few years ago I had an audience with legendary running coach Dick Brown- at the time his role was to fund post Collegiate American Women for a program associated with the University of Oregon.... at that time the Sydney Olympics was six years prior. He asked me how many opportunities there were in that six year span for an American woman to compete in a major Championship final- the answer was in excess of 100 opportunities and yet the reality was that in six years only five had done so and it was in his expert opinion that this directly related back to the high school and College coaches complete inability to keep their ego in check and develop talent instead of using it...
Don't be that coach; take the time to get to know your student, to offer them a voice, to bring flexibility, intelligence and common sense to their training and racing, be sensitive to their needs and see the big picture for them- do this and you will provide for a much better service for the athlete and their families and indeed you will reflect much better on your program and you will have earned the right to call yourself a coach in the real world not just because you managed to pass a credential in a class room !
Develop, do NOT use !
Walk in peace and let the good times roll !