I’m not sure if there is any sport like track and field where the presence of Vulture Coaches is ubiquitous. A Vulture Coach is the Messiah Coach meets Athlete-Knapping. To refresh your memory, the Messiah Coach is the know it all. The coach that feels he holds the answer to making any athlete go from good to great. When this Messiah Coach begins to make his move of claiming an athlete, who is already training with another coach he becomes a Vulture Coach. (None of these terms have been officially accepted by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, but they should be.)
At any track meet, you can catch a Vulture or Messiah Coach on the sidelines, critiquing the technique of another coach’s athlete, while knowing NOTHING about that athlete personally, including their yearly training plan.
The thing about coaching is it isn’t just a matter of technique and a periodization plan. Coaching involves being a parent, a counselor, and a friend at times. It involves providing the right motivational climate for an athlete. It is completely dependent on the coach and athlete interaction. So, just because a coach may be successful with one athlete or is presumed to be exceptional it DOES NOT mean that that coach will work well for every athlete.
Moreover, such assessments by the Vulture Coach only reveal the lack of knowledge he poses as a coach. Indeed, to look at a snap shot of what an athlete is doing and to critique and presume you know better than what their current coach is doing shows naivety. The really amazing coaches in track and field do not have to poach athletes; the athletes will come to them. It’s that simple. I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes:
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." ~ Theodore Roosevelt
In my opinion, what makes a great coach is someone who is humble enough to realize, just maybe they don’t know all that it takes for an athlete to be great… Why? Well if you don’t know all the answers you are open to learning more.
P.S: The same holds true in all walks in life. Truly the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.
Saying Poof! Be Gone! to Vulture Coaches,