A sweeping revamp of the way Australian athletes are identified and coached has resulted in a major shake-up of the WA Institute of Sport.
The institute’s athletics program will now become a centre of excellence for the technical events – the pole vault and the throws (javelin, discus and shot put).
Long-time WAIS head track coach Lyn Foreman has been made redundant but will take up a new role leading a “targeted talent program” under Athletics WA.
Foreman has signed a two-year contract which will see her working with local coaches and in talent identification along a pathway to a national program under Athletics Australia.
The national shake-up is due to a lack of retention of young athletes at elite level and recognises that Australia’s best chances of gold medals in the 47 track and field events are in the technical disciplines.
“This is a very significant change,” WAIS director Steve Lawrence said. “We have struggled to get athletes for professional coaches. The numbers have been decreasing and so have the performances. There’s no point having a top-heavy approach if we don’t get the base right.”
After 20 years full time, Foreman said she was disappointed to leave WAIS, of which her late husband Wally Foreman was the driving force and first director in 1984.
“I’m so proud to have been part of WAIS for so many years and I only wish I was doing this job at the institute,” she said.
Lawrence called Foreman “the most successful athletics coach in WA over the last 20 years” and said her input had been crucial in helping WAIS achieve its directives.
But the new direction offered the “best chance of success” for Australian athletes at an international and Olympic level, Lawrence said.
“If this new program works we will be able to offer other national training programs through the next Olympiad,” he said.
“In four to six years time, we hope we can justify putting back a high performance coach in track.”
It was also “fantastic recognition” of WAIS, especially its pole vault program under Alex Parnov and the success in javelin under Grant Ward, who coached national champion Kim Mickle to sixth at last year’s world titles.
Athletics Australia high performance manager Eric Hollingsworth is behind the program.
He said it was a strategic plan which had been in development for three or four years and was part of a world-best scenario for talent identification and coaching.
“There are not enough high-level coaches to cover every sport across Australia,” Hollingsworth said.
Foreman and other coaches in similar roles throughout the country would become “drivers” of talent identification.
The new approach was welcomed by Athletics WA chief executive Wayne Loxley.
“It is the first time in my 16 years at AWA that we have been given the resources to work in the talent identification area,” he said.
Money will come from the Australian Sports Commission, after the plan was presented by Athletics Australia.
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