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Looking Forward

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from Athletics Association of Ireland Website “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”
– Vincent T Lombardi
When I started as CEO almost a year ago, I felt strongly that the principles of communication, consultation and collaboration would be key to the prosperity of the Irish Athletics family in the years ahead.

These three principles are served in no small way by the re-launch of our website – a key tool for communication which will be built on in the coming weeks and months. As you can see also, we have refreshed the logo and this has been gradually introduced at events and in publications. This refreshed logo shares the same elements as the old edition, but reflects a more vibrant, dynamic and contemporary image.

For us as a sport, I believe that the prosperity referred to above will be defined by increased participation at all levels and by the provision of a constantly evolving supporting framework to volunteers and clubs which is aligned with their needs; it will enable the identification and development of athletic talent through the creation of a world class coaching system, the delivery of appropriate competitive options and ultimately the maximisation of elite performance. We should be proud to be members of this family and should promote its value to its full potential.

In delivering on this, the most important asset we have is the Athletics Family – the people who enable the sport to function on a day to day basis: the athletes, the coaches, the officials, the committees and the volunteers. The role of the Executive of the Association is part of this in facilitating and supporting the family. We aspire to be world class in competition, development, coaching and high performance programmes and we need to ensure that we have an attitude of excellence in everything we do.

This Association has a membership which can be counted in the tens of thousands. In order to meet the needs of our membership we need to understand the absolute necessity to be focused on structures and systems and transparency and accountability; otherwise known as good governance.

We need structures and systems that enable athletes to choose an Irish base and succeed at the highest level. Equally, we need to be able to embrace the opportunities opened to those athletes who choose to base themselves in the USA and elsewhere where we have a rich tradition of achievement. We need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each system so that we can lead our young stars of the future to an informed decision-making process, as is our duty and responsibility. These structures and systems should be integrated closely with our coaching pathways so that Irish coaches can flourish and ultimately aspire to coach Olympic Champions.
To our athletes, it means that they will understand exactly what they need to achieve in order to get a grant or to qualify for a major championship.

To our coaches, it means that they will understand the pathway they need to embark on in order to gain world class credentials. To our clubs, it means they will fully understand the infrastructure they need to put in place so that their athletes and coaches will prosper.

There are almost 300 clubs in the country. Our Development Team works closely with many of these clubs providing them with support and I intend to devote a particular amount of time in the coming months to personally visiting these clubs to help me fully understand their needs in implementing a comprehensive club development policy that caters for all shapes and sizes of club. Every Irish athlete who has competed at a major championships has been a member of a club. The club has played a role to a greater or lesser extent in the participation and success of these athletes and along with the Juvenile and Irish School’s competition programmes. More fundamentally, it is the foundation of all we do. The energy and expertise and passion that exists within our clubs is amazing and should be continually harnessed – more about this in the future!

I’ve talked a bit about high level, long term goals and in future editions of this blog, I hope to talk a bit more about specific areas and invite feedback on these. Of course, the reality is that the ability to achieve the high level long term objectives is all about showing up day after day, week after week and troubleshooting the obstacles that fall in the way of advancement. We have made good progress in developing the plans – we now need to match that progress with high quality implementation. Key to this will be the ability to attract the highest calibre people into key positions within the Association. These will help build the already strong team which is in place. As an Association, I believe we have a duty of care to our membership to conduct ourselves in a manner that means that we do in fact attract the highest calibre to within our ranks.

Going forward, we have a huge opportunity to move past our current difficulties in the most positive way. In fact, we have an opportunity to use the experience of those difficulties to enhance the character of the organisation and those to whom its care falls. One thing is for sure, we have to look forward – to solutions, not problems and to positive action rather than negative retrospection. The need for communication, consultation and collaboration that I mentioned at the start are all the more resonant now, nearly 12 months on!

Mary Coghlan

[email protected]