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UK Athletics

Technical Leads to Lead the Way Forward

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Dave Collins





28 May 2008



 Article as seen in Athletics Weekly Magazine




One of the most recent recruitment drives we’ve made at UK Athletics has been for the appointment of five technical event leads, who will be based at our High Performance Centres (HiPACs) throughout the UK.


This is an exciting period for the Performance department, and the eventual appointment of these roles marks the conclusion of three years work by the Senior Performance Managers (SPM).


As the role of the SPM comes to an end with this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, the next quadrennial will see a change in structure as we can now focus our efforts increasingly on the use of HiPACs and move from SPMs to technical event leads


Back in 2005 when I first took up the post of Performance Director I appointed four individuals to Senior Performance Manager roles, the aim being to push forwards the levels of accountability and professionalism of our top athletes and coaches. I remember there being something of an outcry at the time, on a number of fronts! Some could not see the importance of performance management compared to coaching, or how a throws coach could effectively performance manage sprinters. I would have to say that the skills Tim Jones, Aston Moore, Alan Storey and John Trower bought to performance management played a massive part in driving the progress which has been apparent over the last few years, most notably at the recent World Championships in Osaka and Assen.


The immediate requirement in 2005 was that with many of our athletes spread across the country – pushing the support resources to the limit - we needed to ensure athletes could access this essential world class back up more effectively and that the support network around them was managed. Until new talent came through the ranks we had to immediately improve conversion rates with our existing elite athletes.


In the longer term, our aim was to consolidate world-class support so that we had centres of excellence based around athletes being able to access this back up in one location – ideally at their training venue – and to enjoy all the other benefits of being part of a larger, mutually supportive training environment.


With the launch of our HiPACs in the last year, the necessary structures are in place, and with 80% of our World Class program athletes based at or near a HiPAC, the coordination and management baton is being handed over to the HiPAC Directors and other performance management staff. I am absolutely certain that this system will bring increasing benefits; a case of light the blue touch paper and retire immediately. Fireworks are certain to result, albeit that the fuse may be slightly longer than the time lag to Beijing!


So to the Tech Leads; these roles will span endurance, jumps and combined events, sprints, disability and throws. As Niels de Vos has outlined, UKA will provide the national strategy for the sport, whilst the technical event lead will provide the strategic lead on the technical development in each of the disciplines. They will “own” the pathway and provide the guidelines and specification for the talent that needs to be produced at home country level. Crucially however, their focus will be clearly on the development of talent towards the highest levels of achievement, with responsibility to support earlier levels of the pathway moving to Home Country Federations, albeit with some guidance and input from the Tech Leads.


As well as this strategic lead, they will develop the resources based around the five rings model in each of their event areas, and ensure their leadership filters through to all levels in other essential areas, such as coach education.


But ultimately they will be leaders, who will know everything about their event and will drive the development of both athlete and coaches. With the next Olympic and Paralympic cycle leading towards London, these appointments will be some of the most essential for the sport and ones we are looking forward to making very soon