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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Coach Max Debnam retires. With Tony Fairweather - two Newcastle coaches gone.

Coach Max Debnam retires. With Tony Fairweather - two Newcastle coaches gone.

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Finish line in sight but Max Debnam turns to coaching coaches

Newcastle Herald
27 Jun, 2012

MAX Debnam has reached the finish line after 52 years of coaching track and field in Newcastle.

But for the region’s most accomplished athletics mentor, there is now another race to be run and won.

The 74-year-old grandfather of five has this week stepped away from a coaching career that has taken in Olympic and Commonwealth Games and more than 30 Australian representatives at junior and senior level.

The proud Novocastrian is now keen to help foster the next generation of coaches in the region, which he believes has ground to make up in track and field development.

‘‘It’s not in the shape that I’d like to see it in,’’ Debnam said of athletics in the Hunter.

‘‘Things sort of go in cycles and that’s why I want to stay involved with coaching education.

‘‘We need more younger coaches coming through. That’s got to happen.

‘‘We’ve still got quite a few very talented athletes, but we need to build up more depth, I think.

‘‘Hopefully that will happen. I’m sure it will.’’

Debnam, a life member of the Hunter Academy of Sport, Athletics NSW and Athletics Australia, is the only athletics coach from the region to be appointed a national coach.

In recent years he has lessened his workload in readiness for retirement and now has only a small squad, including world junior championship representative sprinter Emily Coppins and Shaun Fletcher, who finished runner-up in the long jump at the national titles in April.

‘‘After all that time I thought it was about now to make the move,’’ he said of finally calling it quits.

‘‘I’ve been saying I was going to do it each year and people kept telling me, ‘You won’t retire,’ so I thought I’ll let them know I am.’’

His remarkable career has included many highlights but one of his greatest came in only his second year of coaching.

‘‘I’ve been lucky over the years, I’ve had a lot of good athletes to help and coach and share their talents,’’ he said.

‘‘Probably Linda Garden making the long jump finals at the Olympics in ’84. That was a big highlight.

‘‘Also one of the first girls I ever coached, Janet Knee, I’d only been coaching a year or so and she won bronze in the long jump at the Commonwealth Games in ’62 in Perth.’’

The Adamstown Heights resident has also worked as a Newcastle Herald columnist and as a trainer with the Newcastle Knights.

He also served at international level as a manager and lecturer.

But of all his accomplishments, Debnam said getting the best out of every athlete under his care and helping them grow on and off the track were perhaps his greatest sources of pride.

‘‘I’ve had a heck of a lot of athletes who’ve been keen and dedicated and haven’t made it to that level, but they’ve all reached their potential, I’ve thought, and that’s given a great deal of pleasure as well to see that happen,’’ he said.

‘‘I often say to coaches that we’ve got a lot of responsibility in that you’ve got to earn respect, you can’t just say I’m a level-five coach and you’ve got to respect me.

‘‘You’ve got to earn it and you realise that you are not just someone who is trying to improve their fitness and skills, whether you like it or not, you become a counsellor, a father figure and those things, and that keeps the passion going as well.

‘‘You feel like you are contributing something.’’

He said he made many lifelong friends out of the sport and admitted it would be difficult getting used to not heading to the track six days a week.

‘‘You’ve got to have the passion for it to go that long, and I’ve had that and it’s been very rewarding,’’ he said.

Last edited by Admin on Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:46 am; edited 1 time in total



Coaching legend Debnam retires

Maitland Mercury
27 Jun, 2012

A leading athletics coach in the Hunter Valley has announced his retirement after more than half a century in the business.
Max Debnam, who has coached 30 Australian representatives since starting out 52 years ago, has decided to finish up his career trackside.

Debnam becomes the second athletics coach to call it a day in the Hunter following the pending departure of Gillieston Heights- based Tony Fairweather to the Gold Coast ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

This leaves a massive hole for athletics in the region but Debnam has provided a lifetime of dedication to the sport.

In 1960, while still a track and field competitor, he started coaching in a golden age of Australian sport with a small group of athletes.

Two years later he took Janet Knee to the Commonwealth Games in Perth where she won bronze in the women’s long jump.

Olympic Games were also on the agenda for another women’s long jumper in Linda Garden (1984) and Glen Carroll from the same discipline while under Debnam’s care.

He also helped Eliza Stankovic to a Paralympic appearance.

One of Debnam’s current charges, Thornton’s Emily Coppins, is travelling in Europe with the Australian team preparing for the World Junior Championship being held in Barcelona next month.

On a wider scale the 2000 Australian Sports Medal recipient has been involved in all facets of track and field, as a coach, manager and lecturer at an international level.

Debnam is a life member of the Hunter Academy of Sport, Athletics NSW and Athletics Australia and in 2005 he received the Henry Schubert Memorial Award fordistinguished services to the sport.

And Debnam, who has had years of involvement with the Newcastle Knights, is the only person from the region to have been appointed a national coach.

“All this from his coaching base in Newcastle, his lifetime home,” Hunter Academy of Sport chief executive officer Ken Clifford said.

“He is a very proud Novacastrian.”

In 1982 and 2006 Debnam returned to the Commonwealth Games, first with Garden and followed by Michael Perry (triple jump) and Mark Taylor (high jump) in Melbourne more recently.

Along the way there have been world championship, world cup and world university carnivals with the likes of Paul Henderson, Chad Stephenson, Kerrie Waite and Shaun Fletcher.

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