Irishman Stephen Maguire has openly admitted his new job as director of coaching for scottishathletics is “scary”. But it is a challenge he is clearly relishing because he has already raised the bar for Glasgow 2014.
“I think I am right in saying that Scotland has won two medals at each of the last two Commonwealth Games in track and field,” said Maguire, referring to Chris Baillie’s 110 metres hurdles silver and Lee McConnell’s 400m hurdles bronze in Melbourne in 2006 and Eilidh Child’s 400m hurdles silver and Steph Twell’s 1500m bronze in Delhi in 2010.
“I am already telling people that we will be looking to win more than two in Glasgow in 2014.”
The 49-year-old joined up with scottishathletics, the sport’s govering body north of the border, last week following his involvement in the Paralympics as a personal coach. His athlete, Jason Smyth, won double gold in London to repeat his T13 100m and 200m success from Beijing. And Maguire, who also worked in Florida with Tyson Gay, can’t wait to introduce himself to Scottish athletes and coaches over the winter.
He said: “Hosting the Commonwealth Games is huge. I’ve only been here since a week past on Monday and everything is directed towards that.
“I’ll try and do what I did with Jason as an individual, replicating that for the Scottish Commonwealth Games squad and beyond. I’ll work with coaches and get a world-class performance structure in place. There is a serious group of talented younger athletes coming through and I have to ensure they are nurtured properly.
I’m a driven person and aim to do this new job well. It’s a real challenge, scary but exciting too.”
Green shoots of recovery in Scottish athletics are discernible for those who look closely, with 30 athletes in all having already hit the required selection standards for Glasgow 2014. Only 17 achieved the standards demanded for Delhi in 2010 with two added to the team who travelled.
Maguire has attended his first board meeting, with performance standards under discussion but he won’t have his own elite group of athletes, with the “director of coaching” title a specific move by scottishathletics.
“I am not here to be a coach, added Maguire. “I am not going to be coaching individuals directly.
“I am not going to build a squad around me. I don’t think that is appropriate for the individual coaches already here – I think I can make more of an impact by helping the coaches.
“Of course I have experience and I am lucky enough to have worked in a high-performance environment so I know what ‘good’ is, put it that way. But there is too big a job to be done elsewhere for me to get involved in individual coaching.
“To coach an athlete to Commonwealth Games level means pretty much a full-time involvement – it is 24/7 and you cannot let things slip. I am not being employed to coach one or two athletes.
“I can help the coaches and try to have the right strategies and support around them to improve standards. I also want people to reference the best practice in the world and see where we, in scottishathletics, and athletics in Scotland, can integrate.”
Such is his determination to make an immediate impact, that Maguire’s wife Georgina and son Shay will stay in Northern Ireland for the next few weeks.
“I don’t want to get sidetracked trying to help my family settle,” he said bluntly. “It is important to me to be out and about right away meeting coaches and athletes and visiting the clubs. I am expecting it to involve long hours and there will no hiding away from people by me, that is for sure.”
Maguire will address IFAC, the international coaching conference in Glasgow from 26-28 October, which coincides with the scottishathletics annual awards dinner. Paralympic idol David Weir is the guest of honour at the dinner.