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Former triathlon CEO Norman Brook a teacher first

27 November 2012 by Erin Greene
Former triathlon CEO Norman Brook a teacher first

Norman Brook coaches coaches, facilitates facilitating, and teaches teaching. A trained educator, Brook built his career on the foundations of learning. He began briefly as a secondary school teacher before enjoying a storied career of sports coaching, which now includes teaching ITU facilitators how to better educate coaches and officials at conferences.

Brook has touched every area of sport from grassroots growth to senior leadership positions with Olympic entities. During a decade-long stint as a British National Athletics Coach, Brook inspired individuals and teams to heights as great as the Olympics.

In 1993, he left elite athletics in lieu of consulting on development projects such as the UK – South Africa Sports Initiative. This project aimed to transform sport in South Africa and empower previously disadvantaged individuals to become involved in coaching and officiating. Brook was appointed on the basis of his expertise in coach education and training coach educators.

Prior to joining the project, Brook was required to complete a tutor training course. Despite an already successful career fostering education, it wasn’t until he went to the facilitator’s course that he discovered he still had much to learn.

“I was already an experienced teacher, coach educator, lecture,” Brook said. “Before I could join the tutor trainer’s faculty, I first had to complete the tutor training course. This was the light bulb moment when I realised that despite all my experience as an educator, there was so much more I could do to become a better facilitator of learning and development.”

Four years later, Brook returned to UK Athletes where he managed a world class performance programme to assist endurance athletes through the 2000 Olympic Games. His work made him a highly sought commodity in triathlon, which had just made its debut entry into the Olympics.

The British Triathlon Federation snagged Brook following the Sydney Games, charging him with the tasks of growing triathlon in Great Britain, as well as improving elite performance.

“Being an Olympic sport opened the profile of the sport and created new funding opportunities,” Brook said. “At the British Triathlon Federation, we positioned the sport as one everyone could do, not this endurance sport where you had to be ultra-fit. Once that happened, people wanted to participate at mass events.”

Though he is quick to attribute Great Britain’s triathlon success to a multitude of factors and people, given their recent Olympic supremacy, the federation has reaped the benefits of Brook’s seven years as its CEO.

“Growing a sport and sport federations is a relatively simple idea,” Brook advised. “You have to find a way to increase overall participation, as well as improve performance. The great thing about triathlon is you can make it easily accessible. You can do them in swimming pools, you can make it into shorter distances, you can have relay teams.”

Former ITU Development Team director Libby Burrell recognized the value of Brook’s point of view. In 2010, she asked Brook to assist her in training coaches and officials from emerging National Federations, who would then train their own country’s coaches and officials.

Brook prescribes to a Chinese proverb as the foundation of his teaching style, which says, “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.”

“There are two things that provide consistency in the deliverance of sports federation education programmes,” Brook said. “One is the actual curriculum. The second thing is the methodology the trainers use to train. We try to produce competent coaches and officials. We don’t just want people who know about coaching or officiating, we need people who are able to competently perform the duties of the coaching and officiating.”

When Brook is not using his skills to train community-based sport coaches in the sport for social change sector as the manager of Coaching for Hope in South Africa, he continues to assist ITU in its development of competent facilitators. Most recently, he joined ITU’s Zita Csovelyak and Thanos Nikopoulos in Malaysia to deliver a three-day course, which prepared ITU education facilitators for the Asian Triathlon Confederation.

“The people who are training need to be able to facilitate the learning and development of coaches or officials,” Brook explained. “It’s all about the trainers looking at their own style of teaching and to be able to facilitate learning and development rather than just telling people what to do.”

But it’s not just the attendees who do a great deal of learning.

“I have worked in many countries training coach and technical official educators and at every workshop I conduct, I learn as much as I hope the workshop participants do,” he said.

If the overwhelming positive feedback was any indicator, Brook need not worry.

“The ITU Facilitator’s Course challenged the participants to make a paradigm shift away from the usual education methodology,” said Eugene Lee Level 2 coach from Singapore. “In the near future this will drive the ITU education pathway towards developing more creative and inspiring coaches for the sport. I am truly grateful and honored to be part of this development initiative.”

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