Rodger Harkins – photo credit: Rebecca Lee
scottishathletics are delighted to announce Rodger Harkins as our new Director of Coaching.
The 54-year-old Scot, who built his reputation as coach to triple Olympian Lee McConnell over a number of years, will start in post early in October.
Harkins has been appointed following the impending departure of Northern Irishman, Stephen Maguire. Maguire is moving to a new position with UK Athletics as their ‘Head of Power’ with responsibility for sprints and relays.
It is an exciting time for the sport in Scotland following the best performance in medal terms at the Commonwealth Games since 1990 and no fewer than 67 medals collected in British Championships at U20/U23 and Senior level (outdoor) during the past two summers.
Harkins has already been employed by scottishathletics on a part-time basis working on relays and handled the Hampden build-up for Scotland’s 4 x 400m relay teams, as the men set a new National Record and finished fifth in the final and the women set a Native Record.
So there is continuity in the approach with Maguire maintaining a link to scottishathletics and Scottish athletes via his UK Athletics role. Harkins is also the first Scot in the role in recent years following Laurier Primeau, Steve Rippon and Maguire.
Nigel Holl, the scottishathletics chief exectuive said: ‘The process of replacing Stephen was a good challenge. Some excellent coaches applied, but this role is more than just about coaching – the leadership to the performance coaching arena is vital, and I am delighted that Rodger has agreed to take this role on.
‘He has excellent coaching pedigree of course, has strong links himself to UK Athletics (through his support to Lee over the years), and he has a vision, a passion, and a determination to see Scottish coaches and Scottish athletes succeed – on the biggest stages possible.’
Harkins arrives with vast experience of athletics having competed himself at international level in triple jump and 400m hurdles.
He has coached athletes to the last eight Commonwealth Games and been involved in coaching with Team GB and NI at junior level in long sprints and relays.
‘I am delighted to accept the Director of Coaching post with scottishathletics and look forward to starting in the role soon,’ said Rodger.
‘I think it is a very exciting time for the sport in Scotland. We have had a home Games which captured the imagination and a number of athletes proved they could perform at that level.
‘It was a large Scotland team and there is a lot of promise there for the Gold Coast in 2018 with 29 of those involved at Glasgow 2014 having been aged 23 or under. Many will have learned from their first Commonwealth Games experience.
‘When you couple that with huge entry numbers at the Scottish age group championships in Aberdeen recently, then it is clear to me there’s an up-and-coming generation who, with the help of their coaches, have the potential to grow and improve.
‘Coaching and coach education is vital as part of that package. We’ve had increasing ‘buy-in’ over the past couple of years into Coaching Weekends and on-going courses held by scottishathletics and I want to carry on that part of Stephen Maguire’s work.
‘If you look at our scheduled Coach Education programme, there are courses in almost every part of the country. With those courses and with the Coach Mentor Scheme we have brought in – free visits to clubs – then there is guidance available there if someone wants to learn and wants to improve.’
Chief executive Holl feels that Maguire’s move south actually strengthens Scotland’s voice at UK level and wants the focus on coach education to continue.
This was a factor when Maguire arrived as he immediately insisted he would not coach individual athletes but work on ‘upskilling’ their coaches as a more pressing priority. This remains a key issue.
Holl added: ‘I believe that the shared vision Rodger and Stephen have – and with the benefit of Stephen remaining slightly involved (as much as the UKA link to the Scottish programmes) – mean we can continue the emphasis on coach development as the central aspect of our ‘performance development’ work.
‘Our role is clear – to assist coaches and athletes to progress to the point where UK Athletics/UKSport support enables them to progress even further. That is a partnership with UKA, but (at the moment) in reality we deal in true performance in Scottish terms once every four years – at the Commonwealth Games.
‘I know that Rodger has so much to offer in terms of leadership, experience, and understanding of that environment we seek to assist Scottish athletes to reach. I’m delighted he is joining the team – it’s a strong team already, and Rodger will add much to that team overall.’
Harkins takes up his post fulltime in October, but will begin a phased level of involvement using the time available through his Sprint and Relay lead role.
Stephen Maguire will commence his role with UKA in the next week, and will then return in short order to Scotland for the National Coaching Conference at the Emirates Arena on September 20/21 – the first demonstration of the ongoing integration and mutual support with UKA moving forward.
More than 180 Scottish coaches have already signed-up for that weekend with other courses on-going throughout the 2014-15 winter.
Mike Johnston has retired from his role as Performance Manager following 10 years with scottishathletics. With the appointment of Rodger, replacement roles and functions are being closely considered with further announcements in due course.