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100 Days In

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Charles Van Commenee
Charles van Commenee - implementing changes


02 June 2009

Article by Ed Warner as seen in Athletics Weekly Magazine

In a world impatient for change and intolerant of foot-dragging, the first 100 days for an individual in a position of power have become totemic. Already naysayers are claiming that Barack Obama has squandered his honeymoon period. By contrast, I'm not ashamed to say that UKA is more understanding of the challenges facing our new performance heads.

Peter Eriksson, Kevin Tyler and Charles van Commenee have each now had more than 100 days in their new roles heading up our elite performance and development programmes. Over the past two UKA Board meetings they have laid out for us both their initial findings and their future plans. Now, they are in the process of implementing the changes they deem necessary for success over the coming years.

Having hired three highly successful individuals from overseas to shape our performance, we are obviously keen to give Peter, Kevin and Charles full support in pursuing their plans. This is not to say, however, that the Board has simply rubber stamped their proposals. The perspective of 'outsiders' has been refreshing, but we have been careful to ensure that their's isn't simply change for change's sake and oblivious to the positive elements of their inheritance.

The work of Charles and Peter is primarily geared to success at the twin Games in 2012. To that end, they are focusing our activities on fewer high performance centres and fewer athletes. Their philosophies revolve around working intensely with athlete-coach pairs capable of high achievement in 2012.

UKA's work, though, cannot focus on London to the exclusion of the long term health of British athletics. This is why Kevin's task is so critical. It would be a dangerous over-simplification to describe his objectives as relating to 2016 and beyond while his colleagues' are shorter-term, but there is some truth in this generalisation. In practice, of course, there is much overlap in the work of the three men.

Each of the three is a coach at heart, and it is no coincidence that coaches and coaching are at the core of their strategy. I hope that this will prove welcome to the many coaches who have bent my ear in my time at UKA. This does not necessarily mean that every coach will get what they want from our new team. If the coaching infrastructure and personnel in the UKA were perfect, then we wouldn't face the stiff challenge we do face in many events.

I'm pleased that I've sensed not a ripple of discontent that we've turned abroad to hire our new head team - even though we saw a number of British candidates. In part this must be in recognition of their credentials, but also I hope it shows an acceptance of UKA's commitment to invest in the coaching environment in Britain for the very long term.