CAMPO: Under valuing coaching costs us medals and matches
As an Australian living in South Africa, it has been interesting watching the Olympics, when so far the South Africans have three gold medals and the Australians, who finished 6th overall in 2008, have the same number.
The expectations of the majority of our ‘elite’ athletes have been shattered with their performance at these Games.
And then to read that some 14 medals have already been won by athletes from other countries who have Australian coaches. Why is that?
That is a very sad indictment on the state of sports funding in Australia.
About a year ago, before heading back to South Africa in December, my wife and I met with someone of influence in the sporting area.
He mentioned his concern with the Australian Government cutting funding for elite sports some 10-15 years ago. He warned us of the consequences of this and predicted a disappointing 2012 Games.
And look what has happened as a result.
On the other-hand, the English took advantage of this, and amongst other nations, recruited our top performing coaches. One of the Australian coaches was even helping Chinese swimmers, and reportedly being paid $500,000 to do so.
Once a upon a time we had enormous confidence and faith in our coaches. But funding was slashed and the overall performance of our sporting sides has suffered as a result.
Which all raises the question: why, if our coaches are in such demand, do we have a Kiwi coaching the Wallabies?
Australia produces wonderful coaches across a variety of sports. Surely there would have been a better local option (Mckenzie? Cheika?)
Our best coaches – in all sports, including rugby – are just not getting the support and financial backing they need to stay at home. So they leave for greener pastures overseas.
I don’t blame them.
And the ones that are left behind get the pick of all the local assignments, regardless of how qualified they may be for the job. We have won 2 RWC’s and made the final in 2003.
With a record that good, why are we recruiting foreigners?
I have also been told that, over the years, many junior schools have been instructed by higher powers to introduce the philosophy in sport that ‘everybody is a winner’.
Mediocracy is rewarded and there is no incentive to win.
So I am wondering whether this may have had an influence on the poor performance of the Australian teams at the London Games and has just reinforced many of the problems facing sport in our country.
The biggest problem is the government not putting enough money into grassroots, clubs and university sport. If they don’t change, and quickly, Australia will struggle for years to come.
But there are also issues around the mental toughness and commitment of the athletes themselves. Some off-field behaviour is disturbing and leaves me scratching my head.
Someone blamed the social media for losing. And someone hurt her shoulder in the lead-up to the Games whilst pole dancing in her house.
Pole dancing! Seriously? What next?
There are just so many things that have gone wrong, by all reports.
Leisel Jones also didn’t live up to her reputation. Also, I heard and read that James Magnussem was far too cocky and talked too much, while, for reasons known only by himself, Ian Thorpe attempted an ill-fated comeback.
Did all this hype about the return of ex-swimmers take the focus off the actual team?
Sometimes sportsmen don’t understand what influence their performance has on the up-and-coming juniors, on and off the field.
Perhaps it’s just this generation. They think they’re better than everyone else. And it gets reinforced via all the social networking they indulge in: everyone these days tells them how good they are.
Preparation for Olympic athletes is a long and stressful journey. You are competing with the world, not just your country, and competition is at its highest.
Unless you have the track record and talent of someone like Usain Bolt, you should not be shooting your mouth off. Or at least be assured you can back it up with a world-class performance.
This mentality carries over to all sports.
Rugby, for instance.
When teams start winning, I notice young guys start making more noise off the field than on the field. And the cherry on the top for me is the lack of consequences for bad behaviour.
Respect is a thing of past that seems to only be important for old farts like me!
This year we beat Wales. Fantastic. But we lost to Scotland. How could that be? Yes, let’s blame the weather. Two teams play the same game.
What we’ve got to do is get the old values back into Australian rugby: passion, pride, commitment, toughness, respect and a take no prisoners attitude.
And an Aussie coach.
That’s what we need if Australian rugby wants to get up on top again, and stay there this time.
Let’s hope that none of us underestimate the seriousness of the issues in Australian sport.
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