This article is guest blogged by Lee Ness, a UKA qualified Event Group Coach for Sprints and Hurdles, the Head Coach/Sprint Coach at City of Salisbury Athletics, and Running Club and Track and Field Team Manager for Wiltshire Athletics Association.
Lee wrote the great 3 part series on How to Bounce Back from a Bad Race: the Fixed and Growth Mindset, Part 2, and Part 3.
Click here for all articles written by Lee Ness
Plastic Brits and the Postcode Lottery
I have been witness to, or involved in, a few debates on social media or forums recently with respect to athletes or coaches feeling the systems used for selection in various places is unfair. There are a few different versions but they boil down to two basic scenarios:
- British Athletes should be British (the criteria for being British varies) and so called ‘plastic Brits’ should not take the places of the ‘true Brits’. Also, the success of British Athletics and it’s subsequent funding is built on these plastic Brits and therefore it is being apportioned unfairly. Additionally, some people also believe that people like Mo Farah who choose to train and are coached outside the UK should also be seen as Plastic Brits.
- Some areas have a wealth of talent and others don’t. So it easy to qualify for the an event if your area (county, region, country) is weak in that event than to qualify in an area where the event is strong. Some see this as unfair as an athlete who may have the potential to progress to the final of an event in a national championship or even an international, doesn’t qualify for the event because there are stronger athletes from their region ahead of them. Then, a weaker athlete from another area may qualify solely on the fact that they are the best in their area.
I watch, and sometimes participate in these debates with interest. There are many proposals for rule changes to prevent the situation or for places to be allocated on performances, not on areas (qualification standards notwithstanding). The rules become more and more arcane.
My questions usually follow the same line. Would it be acceptable for an area not to have a representative, even though they have an entry standard, just because another area has an extra qualifier? Is it appropriate for a sport to override the fact that a person holds a British passport and introduce their own criteria for what constitutes being British?
The answer is of course no (for me anyway, although I accept that is controversial). More controversially, the actual criteria for selection and the answer to the problem amount to the same thing.
For someone to qualify to represent Britain (or their area) they have to be from that area (or hold a British passport) and they have to achieve the selection criteria. That is as simple or as difficult as it gets. Just because the person holds a British passport, doesn’t automatically qualify them to represent Team GB. They also have to be one of the best, and that is the crux of the matter. It can be dressed up in ‘flags of convenience’ or some other xenophobic phrase but the simple fact is that it means the incumbent athletes aren’t good enough if they are being pushed out of selection.
If you only have two places available in your area and you want to be on the team, you have to be in the top two. If an immigrant is taking your place in the national team, It means they are better than you. Everything else is just noise, excuses and whining.
The simple fact is that if you haven’t won your place in the team, you need to get better so that you can. Everything else is just distraction.
About the Author
My name is Lee Ness. I am a UKA qualified Event Group Coach for Sprints and Hurdles, the Head Coach/Sprint Coach at City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club and Track and Field Team Manager for Wiltshire Athletics Association. I’ve been coaching track and filed for around 7 years. I coach all the sprints, from 60m to 400m plus the long and sprint hurdles. In my sprint group I have 36 sprinters and 10 hurdlers of various ages, starting from 13. In my group I have three athletes in the UK top 10 rankings for their event.
I write about sports performance in general and have written a book called The Sports Motivation Masterplan which will be released on September 1, 2014 by December House. The book is a support guide for athletes and parents, helping them with the role of mentor through their journey from young aspiring athlete, to elite performer.