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Sport

Trust is the key to great coaching

Tom Daley at the diving world championships in South Korea, 2019. Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

The relationship between Britain’s athletes and coaches is at a crisis point, says Matthew Syed in The Times. Olympic diving champion Tom Daley says he went for weeks without eating after a team doctor told him to lose weight. Premier League stars talk of young dreams “shattered” by hurtful coaches. No wonder my inbox is full of emails from paranoid coaches who feel they can’t criticise tardiness or “point out that an athlete didn’t put in a shift during practice”.

The secret is trust. My first table-tennis coach was not averse to offering “a sharp rebuke”. But because he had taken the time to get to know us as individuals, to understand our aspirations, to gauge our personalities, we trusted him. This isn’t limited to sport, of course. As John Cleese has said: “Trust changes the meaning of words.” When a really close friend tells you not to wear a jumper because it’s “awful”, you’re grateful for the honest critique; coming from someone else, it’s an insult. In sport, as in life, young people need protection. Only when trust has been established does candour becomes an asset rather than a liability.

Rugby tackles fans’ colour-blindness

Wales (in red) against Ireland last November. Brian Lawless/AFP/Getty Images

For decades sport hasn’t cared about the colour-blind, says Ralph Jones in the I newspaper. But that’s set to change at the 2027 Rugby World Cup. To cater for people who can’t tell the difference between red and green, teams will not be allowed to play each other in those colours.

It’s a bigger problem that you might think: one in 12 men find it hard to differentiate between red and green. (Oddly, the condition is much rarer in women.) So when Wales play Ireland, thousands of fans can’t see who’s tackling who.

Other sports, including football, are yet to catch up, former midfielder Matt Holland told Radio 4’s Today. Shortly after joining Charlton Athletic (red), he found himself playing Plymouth (dark green). “Five minutes into the game I ran over to the assistant manager and said, ‘I’ve got a real problem here, I can’t tell the difference!’ And he just looked at me like, ‘What on earth have we signed?’”