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Who is responsible for athlete performance: Athletes, coaches, or committees?
The chairman of the Coaching and Training committee for the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) resigned recently after their squads failed to make it past the quarter-finals in the recent Uber Cup or past the semi-finals in the Thomas Cup tournaments. The resignation implied that the committee is responsible for the athlete's performance in competition. In practice this committee may oversee various aspects of training but it's doubtful that it is foremost among factors affecting performance. So why did the chairman feel he needed to resign? What about the coaches and the athletes themselves? Aren't they more responsible for performance, good or bad?
An important part of any athletic performance chain is the coach and the environment he is able to construct in which his relationship with the athletes he coaches is strengthened. It is this environment that is crucial for developing transformational relationships where the coach is able to offer something the athlete views as significant, and where the unique athlete/coach relationship is allowed to flourish. And while there are certainly instances where other training assistance is necessary these should all be secondary to the control the coach has over the entire process.
This is why the resignation of the Coaching and Training committee chair is puzzling. Does this committee have such control over the coaches and players, and the training environment itself, to actually have a direct effect on match performance? BAM may support this kind of setup arguing that this is the way they attempt to assure their association goals are met. If the coach/athlete relationship were merely transactional this amount of control might make sense. However, athletes are drawn into the BAM program as members of the various training squads with long-term intentions. Success thus requires a transformational relationship between athletes and coaches and setting up any kind of structure that interferes with this harms the process no matter how well intentioned it may be.
This does not suggest that the Coaching and Training committee is unnecessary, just that the scope of their authority needs to be examined. Does the committee make decisions about things that should really be left to the coaches? Is the committee inserting itself between the coaches and athletes to the point where the athletes see the coach as performing minor functional duties, and the coach seeing his role as simply transactional?
Coaches and athletes in any long-term, transformational relationship need to be able to see the big picture of what their sport offers and their role in it. More importantly though they need to be able to make decisions about how they will achieve their big picture goals.
BAM players are already at the elite level in Malaysia, some are world-class. The big picture for those players includes not only how they are going to improve skills and training (simple coaching transactions at any performance level) but how those players are going to continue improving from their current level to whatever the next level may be. This is what transformational coaching is about. It's a coach/athlete process, not one for a committee.
Bill Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the owner and Chief Data Scientist at Sportkid Metrics.