Opinion: Is rugby heading towards a hire and fire culture?

first_img It is human nature that the flaws we see most commonly in others are simply reflections of our own failings. In no regard is this more relevant than in how we, as rugby fans, writers and players, often see football.Rugby’s self-appointed moral guardians will boo and hiss when their beloved sport takes a perceived step towards it’s sinister round-balled cousin and though they will treat football like a spectre looming over the honourable and dignified sport of rugby union, it’s often little more than a manifestation of rugby’s own inadequacy complex.Football dominates the sporting landscape and boasts commercial appeal and popularity that rugby cannot even begin to dream of matching and as such, any contrasts or comparisons made with derision towards football are, more often than not, negligible. There is, however, one aspect of football that rugby should be treading lightly around. It is something which seems to be in vogue within the Aviva Premiership currently and that is a hiring and firing culture with coaches.Backs against the wall: Andy Robinson was shown the door by BristolSwansea City recently made the headlines, dispensing with the services of manager Bob Bradley after just 85 days in charge and whilst this represents the more radical and reactionary of approaches within football, it is something regularly seen throughout the season, with owners demanding instant results and lacking the patience – or willingness to underwrite financial losses – to allow managers to develop long-term plans.The 2016-17 Premiership season has already seen Bristol part ways with their director of rugby Andy Robinson after just 10 games, Northampton Saints showed backs coach Alex King the door and, most recently, Leicester Tigers sacked Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill, who had been in-post since 2009. Let’s not also forget Mike Ford’s dismissal from Bath in the past close season, coming just one season removed from Ford having guided the club to a Premiership final.Fear of relegation back to the Greene King IPA Championship, a competition they have less than fond memories of, spurred Bristol into action, whilst the rising and ever-more difficult to achieve standards of excellence within the Premiership prompted the two East Midlands clubs to make their respective moves.Leicester, the long-time poster boys of English rugby, are not accustomed to being second, third or even fourth best in the Premiership and with the rises to prominence of Saracens, Bath and Exeter and a resurgent Wasps, it can be argued that they have gone a step further and fallen completely out of that top third of the league.Under pressure: Jim Mallinder knows results need to pick up at Franklin’s GardensAs for Northampton, they may not have the pedigree at the very top that Leicester do, but they have enjoyed fruitful years since their return to the Premiership in 2008 and being rooted in the bottom half of the table clearly doesn’t appease the fans or board alike.The fact is, the Premiership only has space for 12 teams. Ten years ago, the competition was, largely, a two-horse race between Leicester and Wasps. Sale Sharks, Harlequins and Northampton have all had their moments but there was an established status-quo in the league and the ambition of the owners was in line with the financial realities of Premiership as it was then.Times change, however. Increased funding, via owners, club-country agreements and television deals, have seen clubs that couldn’t previously match the depth of the Leicester squad able to compete in that area and Tigers’ ability to sell-out the 26,000-capacity Welford Road no longer equates to a divine right to sit among the top four in the Premiership.Only four teams can make the playoffs. Only six teams can qualify for the European Rugby Champions Cup.Top of the class: Not every side can replicate Saracens’ successful templateThe unfortunate truth is that the top eight or nine clubs in the Premiership will all see themselves as clubs that should be competing at the very top and whilst that ambition is to be applauded, it needs to be tempered with realism. The demand for instant success in the Premier League – as well as most other top-flight European football leagues – is unquenchable and rugby cannot afford to walk down that same path. The pool of coaches isn’t big enough, for one.If the owners of the bigger, more established Premiership clubs begin to get itchy trigger fingers every time their club strays outside of the top four or top six, the long-term damage dealt to the players and the clubs could well outweigh the positives of bringing in a new face. Of course, clubs have the right to be unhappy with the direction they are heading in and look to someone else to provide fresh impetus and a new philosophy, but they cannot afford to be reactionary and that is what this current season has bordered upon. And let’s not fool ourselves that Cockerill is likely the last coaching casualty of the season.Northampton have already issued a statement on their poor run of form this season – never a good sign for a coach – and there is clearly heat on Jim Mallinder at Franklin’s Gardens, whilst speculation is rife that Gloucester could be looking for a new Director of Rugby should Mohed Altrad complete his takeover of the club. As for now relegation-threatened Sale, head honcho Steve Diamond’s position on the club’s board offers him a little more job security than most, but that has not stopped the rumour mill from mooting his successor.Ready for a scrap: Steve Diamond knows Sale are in a relegation dogfightThe likes of Saracens, Wasps and Exeter have all deferred instant gratification in the recent history and are enjoying their fair share of long-term satisfaction as a result. They have proven to be coaching models that other clubs should aspire to, whilst Gloucester’s form in the post-Dean Ryan era has proven a strong case study that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.Maybe Bristol needed to shake things up to ensure Premiership survival, rather than giving Robinson more time with a squad still adapting to new arrivals. Maybe Northampton’s lacklustre back play was a result of King – a man linked with an England role not 12 months ago – and not a lack of investment in recent seasons. Maybe Cockerill’s credit in the bank was all spent, despite having guided the club to three Premiership titles, two further finals and playoff appearances in all eight of his seasons in charge, not to mention a Heineken Cup final.It’s not endemic to England, either, but with the constant threat of relegation and ever-improving standards across the league making it harder to fulfil all clubs’ trophy and European ambitions, it is potentially the beginning of a worrying trend. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS In the line of fire: Richard Cockerill has paid for his side’s poor form center_img With Leicester Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill shown the door at Welford Road and a number of big-name coaches under pressure, is rugby’s culture changing irrevocably? Rugby club owners have the final say and given it’s their money on the line, no one would begrudge them that but unless there’s a clear plan in place as to how the team will improve following the firing of the coach, it’s simply adding fuel to the fire. Football isn’t the enemy, but it’s impatient attitude towards coaches could be.last_img read more

Olympic hopeful trades sneakers for Army fatigues, all in the name of country and giving back

first_img Written by September 24, 2018 /Sports News – National Olympic hopeful trades sneakers for Army fatigues, all in the name of country and giving back FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailABC News(NEW YORK) — Sam Chelanga did not want to be a runner; it just happens to be his life story.“When I’m running, I feel relaxed and I feel appreciative of where I’ve gone so far and it’s a way for me to remind myself to not forget how far I have come,” he said.Sam Chelanga said that life was tough and that he wanted to get out of his poor, rural village in Kenya. His mother passed away when he was young and then his father fell ill. One of 12 children, Sam Chelanga said he had to look for ways to survive. Opportunity was scarce and he wanted to go to college.“I thought maybe I could get like a law degree and then go back and help my family,” he said.But, college seemed out of reach. Then, he met a friend through his brother who told him about running and getting a scholarship in the U.S. Sam Chelanga’s older brother Josh Chelanga was a marathoner. His friend was professional Kenyan runner Paul Tergat. Tergat saw something special in Sam Chelanga and offered him the chance of a lifetime.“I looked at him and I said, ‘I don’t think I can run. I’ve never run. And, I’m not even good,’” Sam Chelanga said. He didn’t want to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He didn’t enjoy running. Yet, Tergat persuaded him to come to Nairobi for a camp with world-class runners.So, off Sam Chelanga went to the running camp, where he trained for about a year and a half. He won a scholarship and a one-way plane ticket to the U.S. He boarded the plane determined, he said, to use his good fortune to help his community.For a year, he attended and ran track for Fairleigh Dickinson, a private and nonsectarian university in Teaneck, New Jersey.“I did very well,” Sam Chelanga said, “(but) I just wasn’t true to myself because I never went to church. I wanted to go to Christian school.”In the fall of 2007, he transferred to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia; however, because he’d left Fairleigh Dickinson before his scholarship allowed — to the university’s distaste — he had to sit out a year at Liberty before he could run on its team.“It was the first decision I ever made by myself in my life and the best one,” he said. “My life took off at Liberty. … I started getting better in running. That’s when I started winning like NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) nationals.”At Liberty, he quickly became a legend, holding the NCAA record in the 10,000 meter. He won several national titles and was responsible for Liberty’s winning four of its six national titles in its history of track and field.“I definitely felt like he had a chance to be an Olympian someday,” said Liberty coach Brant Tolsma.Sam Chelanga said he wanted to race in the Olympics for the U.S. but learned that he’d need a green card, making him a permanent resident. He started the process for U.S. citizenship but, before he could get a green card, he found love with college sweetheart Marybeth Carlson, a member of his cross-country team. The two eventually married. Marybeth Chelanga said she’d grown up in love with Africa, plastering her walls with maps and pictures of people in remote villages.“She was really nice and she wanted to know about my village,” Sam Chelanga said.Marybeth Chelanga helped him stay the course with running and giving back. In 2011, he graduated from Liberty and soon afterward was offered a contract and salary from Nike. The company paid for his travel and training.“Everybody in the track and field world realizes that Sam signing with Nike was, was a big deal,” said Liberty coach Clendon Henderson.“There (were) moments that I looked at myself and I said, ‘There must be a reason why I’m being blessed like this,’” Sam Chelanga said. Sam Chelanga said that every Christmas, he’d pick 10 struggling families to sponsor but felt inspired and motivated to do more. Marybeth Chelanga said that people in his village were getting sick, specifically from typhoid because of the water, so they started brainstorming ways to help.“We wanted to drill a well. … It’s a lotta money,” Sam Chelanga said.So instead, with the help of Marybeth Chelanga’s father, he came up with different plan: water filters.“It’s like a giant Brita filter and it works,” Sam Chelanga said.“Each one serves three to four families. And, right now, we have about 100 filters,” Marybeth Chelanga said. “We’ve heard reports that typhoid is no longer in their community.”Marybeth Chelanga said becoming a U.S. citizen was always in view for her husband.“I knew how hard I worked in Kenya and how hard I worked here,” he said. “It’s not that I was special or anything. It’s just the U.S. system worked really well to nurture my talents. … That’s why I wanted to become a part of it.”In 2015, Sam Chelanga crossed a different type of finish line: He was approved to become a U.S. citizen. When the Olympic trials came along, he ran and finished sixth in the 10,000 meter.But an Olympic uniform wasn’t the only uniform that Sam Chelanga had in mind.“I said, ‘You know, I wanna go to the Olympics but if I didn’t do the running, I would go to the Army. I really wanna go to the Army,’” Sam Chelanga said that he’d told his wife. “And she was like, ‘Wow. Really?’ I say, ‘I do.’”Marybeth Chelanga said the two planned for him to run two more races before he joined the Army.“It literally all happened this summer,” she said. “Now, he’s in basic training.”  After seven years at Nike and at the height of his career — and some of his best years still ahead of him — Sam Chelanga reported to Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. He was met with a lot of blank stares, he said.“People thought it was crazy,” he said.“What he’s giving up is, you know, a lotta fame and glory and money and success and comfort. And to give up all of that is pretty hard to understand,” Henderson said.Sam Chelanga said Nike had even offered to renew his contract and a friend had offered him a job.“I just really wanted to do this (join the Army),” he said.So at the age of 33 — more than a decade older than the average trainee — Sam Chelanga started basic training at Fort Jackson.“Age is just a number. If you wanna do something, (you) just have to do it. I don’t even think about (it) every day. I don’t even know how young those guys (are). … Nothing really with basic training comes easy,” he said. “It’s just like running. It’s not supposed to be fun.” Sam Chelanga said the only hard part was missing his family.Marybeth Chelanga, who moved in with her parents temporarily for extra support in Georgia, said their oldest son misses Sam Chelanga a lot. She is now expecting their third son.“I think, in the long run, that’s the whole point of sacrifice,” she said. “I’m willing to miss him, even though it’s super painful. … My parents are super helpful. It’s nice having grandparents around.”The family will be reuniting soon after Sam Chelanga completes basic training. He will begin officer school in Georgia in October.Sam Chelanga said without the U.S., he would not be where he is today. And as thankful as he is to be an American, he said he still cherishes his homeland. He hopes to serve both countries as well as he can.“The reason Sam wanted to go to a university, or then become a runner, was always to help his family,” his wife said. “So the more he’s (been) given, the more he tries to find ways to give to others.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.center_img Beau Lundlast_img read more