Laurie Foster | Who is more important, the coach or the athlete?
There is an avid supporter of track and field named Teddy who lives in New York City. Teddy is a product of the Camperdown High School sprint factory, but his activities and experience did not take him much further than the stands. However, his view should always be respected.
One of his most strident positions is that, and he is quoted, "Coaches do not make athletes, it is athletes who make coaches." More and more Foster's Fairplay is beginning to appreciate the thoughts of Teddy, at least on this particular subject. That, however, is merely an appreciation. It should never be an agreement until the facts are closely examined.
Glen Mills, OJ, has received much commendation and worldwide acclaim for the work he has put in to make Usain Bolt the legend that he undoubtedly is. Bolt's journey to greatness started under Mills at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He was already the world record holder in the 100m, but chopped off chunks in both that and his favourite distance, the 200m. This went up to the Berlin World Champs the following year. It did not stop there. The double triumphs at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in London and Rio, respectively, underlined this. Mills it was who carried him all the way.
The question is which of the two has derived most benefit from the union. To answer that, a determination should be made regarding what would each one have been if the two had not come together.
There will always be those who argue that Bolt, with all the talent with which he is blessed, would have been a superstar, regardless of the entry of Mills into his life. Say it as much as is possible, that answer will never be confirmed. What we do know is that Mills is able to command the respect of stakeholders in the sport, mainly, if not solely, because of what he has accomplished with Bolt.
When Bolt decided to take coaching directions from Mills, it was a sound decision. It has been proven to be so, by the acid test of the passage of time. The same should be said of Mills accepting the role to guide the greatest sprinter of all time. His reputation has soared for the exposure. They both came to conclusions about their future by taking a gamble. Bolt had the experience of being instructed by Fitz Coleman, another highly regarded coach. Mills had produced Raymond Stewart, a many-time global sprint finalist.
The spotlight is always going to be on the performer and less so on the forces behind the scenes. With that in mind, Foster's Fairplay is pleased to declare a dead heat. This is to say that Bolt and Mills benefited equally from the association. It will not be the result that will make Teddy happy. But satisfaction comes from the intensity of the effort and the fact that the debate will go on.