RODGER Harkins, best known as coach to former 400-metre international Lee McConnell, has been appointed Scottish Athletics’ new director of coaching in succession to Stephen Maguire. The 54-year-old, who has already been involved with the national governing body as a part-time relay coach, will take up his post early next month.
Maguire, who presided over a significant improvement in Scottish track and field during his time at the helm, is about to begin his new role as UK Athletics’ head of power with responsibility for sprints and relays. He will stay in regular touch with his successor, who is eager to maintain the progress achieved over the last two years.
“I am delighted to accept the director of coaching post with Scottish Athletics and look forward to starting in the role soon,” Harkins said.
“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 [next Commonwealth Games in the] Gold Coast in 2018, with 29 of those involved at Glasgow 2014 having been aged 23 or under. Many will have learned significantly 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 ongoing courses held by Scottish Athletics, and I want to carry on that part of Stephen Maguire’s work.”
The first Scot to take up the post for a number of years – Maguire is from Northern Ireland and his forerunners were from Canada and England – Harkins is expected to maintain some continuity in a position which has recently changed too often for the good of the sport.
He has been heavily involved with Scottish Athletics for decades, initially as a triple-jumper and 400m hurdler in his own right before he turned to coaching. Under his guidance, McConnell, who retired earlier this year, won Commonwealth medals at both 400m and 400m hurdles and competed at three Olympic Games.
“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,” Scottish Athletics chief executive Nigel Holl said.
“He has excellent coaching pedigree, of course, has strong links himself to UK Athletics, and he has a vision, a passion, and a determination to see Scottish coaches and Scottish athletes succeed – on the biggest stages possible.
“I believe that the shared vision Rodger and Stephen have – and with the benefit of Stephen remaining slightly involved – means we can continue the emphasis on coach development as the central aspect of our performance-development work. 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.”
• Rob Denmark, a Commonwealth 5,000m gold medallist for England in 1994, has joined the British Athletics endurance programme as a National Institute coach. Denmark will continue to coach middle-distance runner Jessica Judd, who is moving to Loughborough University in order to be more integrated into the national programme.
Steve Cram and Paula Radcliffe are already mentors on the endurance programme, which is headed by Barry Fudge.
“I’m delighted to have been given this opportunity and it’s one that I’m really looking forward to,” Denmark said. “This summer we have seen British athletes reaping the rewards of the British Athletics Endurance Programme which certainly bodes well for the next few years.”