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A Message from the President/Chair

In recent weeks, a number of opinions have appeared on the Internet about USATF’s Coaches Registry, which we announced on May 18. (To read the complete press release with details about the Coaches Registry, click here.) Some people love it, some do not. I wanted to take an opportunity to explain the genesis behind the program and how it will help make our sport and service to athletes more effective.

The Coaches Registry is part of our commitment to implementing "best practices" that are on a par with the best-run sports in America. It was designed for very simple and important purposes:

  1. To provide an easily accessible system that will enable coaches in good standing to be publicly recognized as such.
  2. To provide a mechanism for athletes, their parents and others to know if a coach they are considering has met certain basic professional and ethical standards.
  3. To ensure that USATF benefits and privileges are going to individuals who do not pose a risk to the reputation of coaches, athletes, the sport and/or the organization. For USATF to distribute funds, credentials and team staff positions without any vetting process is at best ill-advised and at worst legally risky.

The two key elements of the Coaches registry are having coaches undergo a criminal background check and agreeing to abide by a Code of Conduct that states, among other basic points, that a coach shall not advocate the use of performance-enhancing drugs, have inappropriate contact with athletes, or exploit a conflict of interest to financially benefit from an athlete.

USA Track & Field’s Coaches Registry is a directive of USATF’s Board of Directors and has been in the works for more than three years. The first call came at the 2006 USATF Annual Meeting when the Coaches Advisory Committee called on USATF to come up with a system that would keep coaches in good standing from being lumped in with the “bad actors”. Specifically, the role of coaches in the lives of athletes had become a national focus in the wake of Justin Gatlin’s positive drug test, and the sanctioning of coaches such as Remy Korchemny and Trevor Graham by USADA was another blow.

One of the reasons for hiring a Director of Coaching was to give American coaches the voice in the organization that they often felt they lacked. With proper staffing in place, our Board of Directors issued a directive to the National Office to devise a “certification” plan for coaches.

In recent months, USATF has engaged the leaders of the coaching community via email, phone and in person, asking for their opinion on the Code of Conduct and the Registry as a whole.

Coaches must Register in order to be eligible for USATF benefits, including obtaining credentials for the 2010 USA Outdoor Championships next week in Des Moines. Having more than five weeks to register would have been ideal, but recent events have provided a Call to Action. One NGB, whose vetting system had previously been more substantive than ours, has come under intense media scrutiny and faces litigation for not doing more to keep pedophiles from their athletes. As a result, the U.S. Olympic Committee has made clear it will be instituting minimal standards to NGBs for “athlete protection.” Rather than playing defense, USATF sought to do the right thing proactively by developing a system our coaches have asked for since 2006.

Of course there are those who don’t like the system, but we have received feedback from scores of prominent coaches saying this is long overdue.

In the end, this is everybody doing what is best for athletes, coaches and our sport.  It is our intent to work together with coaches in a positive and productive way to make sure we are serving them as well as our athletes.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts about the Coaches Registry. Please contact me at President@usatf.org or Terry Crawford, USATF Director of Coaching, at terry.crawford@usatf.org; 317-713-4671.
 

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