Sport (Coaching Facilities)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th July 1963.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian 12:00 am, 16th July 1963

The proposition which I wish to state is this: that Sir Patrick Renison, Co-ordinator of Sport, be asked to draw up a report on the possibility of a vastly extended hierarchy of regional and national coaches to be paid out of the Vote of the Minister responsible for sport and organised either by the Central Council of Physical Recreation or by a sports council. What I am asking for is the creation of a recognised coaching profession with that security and promotion opportunity which provides that elusive thing which we call "status". A coaching profession would help my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to attain his object of which he told the Sports Writers Association yesterday: I believe in giving every lad and girl a chance to reach the top. I shall define the functions of the ordinary area coach as I see them.

First, he should have responsibility for a sport or group of sports in a manageable geographical area. For example, one man could be responsible for cricket and rugby in East Sussex, another specialist in tennis, badminton and squash in Luton, a woman might be responsible for swimming in Flint, and a man could be concerned wholly with athletics in an area such as the Lothians.

The second function of an area coach should be to seek out others who should be honorary amateur coaches, encourage them, help to train them and keep them up-to-date. This point was emphasised to me by Dennis Fallowes, the secretary of the Football Association.

The third function should be that in school holiday time the coach should organise courses of a week or a fortnight, perhaps, at a camping centre or a centre such as that of Lillieshall at Largs, for intensive coaching of pupils in their chosen sport, with the reservation that if he had to do this coaching the chores of secretarial work should be done for him, perhaps in some existing educational establishment.

His fourth function is that in term time he should have arrangements with schools in his area, particularly primary schools where boys in particular are thirsting for knowledge of sport, have an appetite for first-class instruction, and are amenable to coaching. In many primary schools there is no games master, or indeed, any male member of staff. If a 12-year-old cannot play football, this often leads to personality restrictions and disadvantages when he goes to secondary school and manifests itself in certain traits centred on lack of confidence.

The fifth function of the coach is to do everything possible to tide pupils over the critical gap if they leave school at 15 until such time as they are acceptable to adult clubs. In this context floodlight facilities multiply the value of equipment for those who finish work at half-past 5 or 6 o'clock.

The sixth function of the coach is to keep in close personal touch with all potential international athletes in his area.

May I make the best use of my limited time by deploying the objections to these sorts of arguments.

The first objection is that perhaps this would be a certain un-British professionalisation. Is it not legitimate to formulate the equation "that playing a game better equals enjoying it more?" Merely on the grounds of a calculus of happiness it follows that coaching should be as widely available as possible because sports well done are infinitely more worth while than the efforts of untrained, uncoached all-rounders. Yet the techniques of sports cannot be learned by individual intuition any more than French grammar or chemistry can be learned by individual intuition.

The second objection to this sort of theme centres round expenditure. If the scheme could be gradually built up to 2,500 coaches their salaries would come eventually to something of the order of£5 million a year. I emphasise that it would have to be built up gradually. This in no sense contradicts what the Leader of the Opposition said about the promise of the Labour Party, if elected, to give£5 million to sport. I remind the Minister that last year the Chancellor took from the football pools some£29,724,000, and surely some of this money could be returned to where it came from. Enough money is taken out of sport, and some, at least, should be put back.

This brings me to the question of taxation. I quote from the honorary secretary of the A.A.A., Mr. E. H. L. Clynes, who writes to me: This is a question that we have been pursuing through official quarters for many years but without any success apart from the fact that income tax inspectors have always dealt with our Association with every consideration within their powers of discretion within the existing law. The income tax authorities have refused our plea that our organisation and the work it does is charitable and therefore entitled to exemption, although a major part of the Association's work is in teaching teachers and other persons how to become honorary coaches as well as teaching athletes for which work we are grant-aided by the Ministry of Education authorities. The third objection to a coaching scheme of the size which I have indicated is that perhaps it may be argued that physical education teachers are already doing the job. I yield to none in paying tribute to many physical education teachers, who give up hours of their time in the evenings and on Saturdays for no extra remuneration at all. Yet there is ample scope for visiting specialist coaches. In secondary schools, in football alone, a start has been made; through the good work of the English F.A.—not the Scottish F.A.—six visits a year are given by expert coaches to many secondary schools. This is good as far as it goes. But in almost all primary schools and in helping school leavers hopefully at multi-sports centres, which should be erected up and down the country during the next two decades on the lines of that being put up at Crystal Palace, there is ample scope for coaching.

I am the last person to want to Iron-Curtainise British sport. But the fact is that a school has been formed in Budapest for 200 outstanding 10-year-olds—outstanding at football; and these lads are boarded together in hostels and apprenticed to the six top clubs, Honved, M.T.K., Vasas, Ferencvaros, Upjest and Tatabanya, Hungary's leading coaches, including a former international goalkeeper, Grosics, Sandor and Bosik, who was captain at Wembley in 1953, and incidentally a Hungarian Member of Parliament, improve their soccer education between their normal schooling.

I am not asking for a soccer school. I am asking that attention should be paid to the F.A.'s chief coach, Alan Wade, when he says that boys of seven years old should get specialised coaching. If this sort of argument seems objectionable in a football context, why is it that we all approved of Dame Ninette de Valois' efforts in ballet coaching of children younger than seven?

The fourth objection is in the question, where are the coaches to come from? The fact is that the Lawn Tennis Association has 4,000 to 5,000 honorary coaches, and it is doubtful whether 10per cent. are usefully employed in coaching lawn tennis. There is an adequate pool for schools to draw from.

Finally, the fifth objection is that all this is too far biased towards producing stars. I can only say that I wish that coaches should be particularly asked to do their best for the enthusiastic "rabbit" to bring out such abilities as he has, even, if those abilities are rather sparse. Here I should stress the importance of individual games, because in individual games the "rabbit" can find his level without embarrassment. If this seems almost grotesque I would remind the Minister that in the public schools it is taken for granted. The coach in tennis, racquets or squash is usually of a high standard, a champion, and, similarly, they have a county cricketer to look after the cricket. What the public schools in this way seem to deem important should be extended as far as possible.

The sixth objection—and this is the one that I think the Minister may well raise—is that it should all be left to the governing bodies. But this simply will not do. One concrete example, which could be repeated, over all areas is better than a generalisation. The Scottish Amateur Athletic Association had one distinguished over-worked, under-paid national coach. He resigned in December, 1961, and for him there was no replacement. I quote from the recent debate in the Scottish Grand Committee on Thursday, 11th July. The Minister, the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), said: The hon. Member for West Lothian asked about the amount of salary given by the Department to the national coach. In 1961 it was 80 per cent. of the salary and superannuation. He also asked about the replacement of the national athletics coach. The S.C.P.R. decided in 1961 to cense running the athletics coaching scheme, and the coach was transferred to other work where, I understand, his experience has been of great help. The responsibility fell back upon die Scottish Athletics Association. The Scottish Education Department met this Association and urged that, possibly, they could, together, with the Scottish Women's Athletics Association, set up their own scheme and employ a full-time coach. Apparently, they decided to rely instead on part-time coaches, and both of these organisations receive grants for their schemes. If either organisation or both wanted again to come to the Department to put further proposals regarding the employment of a coach, they would be considered as sympathetically as before."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 11th July 1961; c. 221.] That is what the Minister had to say on this occasion; we may ask why no one has been appointed.

The question arises as to whether the sport can be left in the hands often of rather haphazard organisations. I believe that in this instance it is not the fault of the Ministry which would like a coach appointed and which pays 80 per cent. of the salary. It is fairly and squarely the fault of the amateur body. I think that one has to ask, who are the losers in this situation? Not the hierarchy of the Scottish Amateur Athletics Association. Its officials can still go to the championships with the British party regardless of the percentage of Scottish representatives.

The young people of Britain are really the losers. Sport is for most people an essential part of the whole business of growing up, and it is far too important to be left entirely to amateur organisations, which may be alive, like, for instance, the Scottish Lawn Tennis Association, or asleep like the Scottish Amateur Athletics Association. I use this just as an example. It can be repeated many times over.

I have not set up a series of Aunt Sallies. These are the objections of substance to the proposals that I have made. I find these objections not overwhelming. At least they are worthy of a full investigation.