The Sport Performance Director for USAT, Scott Schnitzspahn, was kind enough to comment on two of my posts. I thought that since most of the readers of the blog don't follow the comments on the blog, it would be a good idea to publish Mr. Schnitzspahn's comments here. I will address his comments in my next post.
In response to this post, this is what Mr. Schnitzspahn had to say:
"Paulo- You've got my attention. I'm the high performance director for USAT. You make some great points, but are missing a few facts I would like to point out.
Starting with this post, TriNZ is advertising to fill Stephen Farrell's old position of High Performance Director but renamed it national coach. If you read the job description you should note two important points that indicate that TriNZ is not going to a true National Coach model-
• Build on the existing culture of excellence and inclusiveness with personal coaches involved in coaching our high performance athletes.
• Ensure that personal coaches of athletes in the programme are fostered and developed alongside their athletes in accordance with the coaching pathway
I can argue for the USAT decentralizing model all day if you want, but I'll keep it to this comment on your post for now and address the BT one separately."
In response to this blog, there were his comments:
"Hi Paulo- you bring up some of my concerns as well- a very limited number of high performance coaches in the USA and a to of age-group focused coaches who do not care for high performance athletes. However, I do not believe that a true national coach model is the best model for the USA. You can read all about it in our High Performance Plan if you like or I can debate it with you sometime. I would like to comment on a few things about your post though.
First, the you reference the success of British Triathlon who is looking for a new national coach. The fact of the matter is that USA has 1 more medal in Olympic Games history than BT, and BT has none. Since Worlds for elites went draft legal in 1995, both countries have won 11 medals each. Here’s the scorecard:
Year BT USAT
2008 1 1
2007 0 1
2006 1 0
2005 0 1
2004 0 2
2003 0 1
2002 3 1
2001 0 2
2000 0 0
1999 1 0
1998 2 0
1997 1 0
1996 1 0
1995 1 2
Total 11 11
If you look at the names of those athletes and you know who their coach is, you’ll see that most, if not all of them, are products of their own will and determination and a personal coach, not a national coach (Simon Lessing, Tim Don, Sheila Taormina, Siri Lindley, Laura Bennett to name a few). So, I would not use BT as the model of success for a national coach. Our top athletes who have been Worlds and Olympic medalists have all had personal coaches. I believe most if not all of the BT athletes have worked with a personal coach as well, instead of the national coach. I would add that all of these athletes benefited from coaching support and other sport science resources from their federation coaching staff though.
Second, you contradict yourself saying that the best coaches in the world are unknowns because they aren’t out there marketing themselves, then says the fact you can’t name a high level USA coach is concerning. I will admit that it also makes me sad that 99 percent of our certified coaches do not work with high performance athletes. But, this is a problem in all individual Olympic sports that do not have a strong university program. Without a salary, there is no way to make a living for a high performance coach in Olympic sport. It’s either private or university. Since there is no such thing as a university triathlon coach (salaried), our top coaches make a living with other jobs, many of them coaching age-groupers, including you. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Just because you coach a few age-groupers does not make you a “hack.” And, I believe we do need a Level I coaching program that is introductory in nature to give some guidance to those coaches servicing our 115,000 age group members and 200k+ non-members. Level III is for elite focused coaches and will continue to be. We are going to be revamping Level II this year to be more focused on developing those coaching pursuing Level III.
Finally, to imply that the staff at the OTC is limited in knowledge is insulting. Cliff is a great coach and very knowledgeable, but Cliff was so busy with the day to day coaching that he was not able to coach the coaches. A true national coach that is doing their job really can’t be that available to develop future coaches. Additionally, when a coach does a mentorship program at the OTC, they are spending time with other top notch individuals at the OTC, not just USAT staff. These people are some of the best in the world at what they do. I’m sure you have never even spoken to any of our current staff.
So, in closing, I’ll just say that you make some good points about the limited number of high-performance coaches in the sport in general and the proliferation of age-group coaches who do not have high-performance experience. However, you are uninformed about the staff and athletes succeeding at the international level in the USA and Great Britain, and you do not offer a plan to improve, other than re-hiring a national coach. I think if one is to really get to know the athletes winning medals in the various triathlon nations they will find a very mixed rate of success for both national coach and personal coach models."