Friday, April 8, 2011

World's Best Coach?

Sometime in the early to mid 90's RW magazine set off a furor among running purists, or what I call real runners, when they named an American exercise physiologist and Division III cross-country coach as the "World's Best Coach." At the time I just sort of shrugged it off as simply a magazine that was trying to generate some interest in their cover article. However,as the years have passed, I periodically see this title being used when referring to this man. So the logical question becomes, what are the attributes needed to earn the title, "World's Best Coach," and, does this man have those attributes? I should add here what probably everyone realizes,RW was referring to running in relation to "world's best." The answer to this question is quite simple and because it is I continue to be perplexed at why this exercise physiologist is still often given the "world's best" title. To earn such an honour you have to ask this question: have you coached any world champions,world record holders and/or Olympic champions for a sustained period of time? If the answer is no, as it is with this man, then you can hardly be described as the "world's best coach." I should add here that testing certain elite American athletes on things like VO2 max,etc. as this man has done does not mean you are their coach. And even if you wanted to say you were,none of those athletes ever became world's best or Olympic champs. Some might say I am making too much out of nothing but when you love running you will be troubled when you see some aspect of the sport misrepresented. Granted,picking a "world's best" in relation to coaching is in many ways a subjective decision but you still have to apply the criteria mentioned above. In retrospect, I sometimes wonder if Arthur Lydiard or Bill Bowerman would have been comfortable with the title "World's Best Coach" being used in referring to them? Not knowing them I can only wonder but somehow I doubt it. As far as Percy Cerutty? Due to his flamboyant personality and penchant for self promotion I think that is a title he would have embraced wholeheartedly.

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