By Jason Sulligoi | Photo via


The recent bust up between Commonwealth Games golden girl Sally Pearson and athletics Head Coach Eric Hollingsworth (resulting in Hollingsworth being stood down and sent home in disgrace), provided us with a perfect example of how important it is for a coach to maintain the confidence and respect of his/her athletes, while providing the necessary motivational and strategic tools to compete at the highest professional level.


The rift reached boiling point when Hollingsworth openly criticised Pearson for choosing to do a warm-up race in London instead of attending a team camp. As Hollingsworth said in a press release, “What’s lost here is she’s the team captain and there’s a reasonable expectation she’d be in the camp ahead of something as major as the Commonwealth Games. Her no-show sets a bad example to the entire national team.”


…if you are going to treat me like that you’re not going to get much respect after it.”


It sounds fair enough to raise that concern, but the national team that was supposedly let down by Pearson didn’t have a problem with her different choice of preparation. Thus, this was the perfect time for the coach to shut his gob and let it go. But no, it continued to cause a negative vibe within the team. Athletics Australia finally stepped in and gave Hollingsworth his marching orders, and rightfully so.


Pearson waited until after she successfully defended her gold in the 100m hurdles (in 12.67 seconds) to give her version of events, and wasted no time ripping into Hollingsworth, “It is really disappointing for a high performance coach to give so much relief to athletes when you walk out the door. Actually, our whole room was very excited.” She added, “It is sad because I guess I was probably the last supporter that he had on the Australian team and he messed that up himself, but I felt really put down and he spoke down to me very harshly. I thought at the time and I am the sort of person that if you are going to treat me like that you’re not going to get much respect after it.”


sally_pearson_olymipc-uniform2She spoke warmly about her gold medal win and the feeling that came after crossing the finish line, “I think I ran faster after the finish line than I did in the race. The Olympics and then this one, crossing the finish line – the feeling is pure relief more than anything,” she said.


She also described the difficulty of dealing with the added pressure leading up to the race, “I always thought that I could do it but it was a bit of a burden – a bit of negative energy that I did not need the day before my race especially.”


Pearson admitted she understood and accepted being fined for not being with the team in the lead up but also defended her position, “For a sport that is very individual, it is very important for that athlete to get the best out of themselves and their preparation.”


It obviously had no negative impact on the national team with Australia finishing second behind England with 137 medals in total, including 49 gold, 19 of which came from the swimming team.


Coaching is a psychological art form and as Melbourne Coach Paul Roos recently said in an interview on Chanel 9’s Footy Classified, “You’ve got to know when to be hard on them and when to give them a cuddle. Hollingsworth would’ve been smarter to do some cuddling.


Jason Sulligoi is an experienced sports writer and professional drum teacher.  Contact:


Something to say..? Leave your comments here.

Stay up to date via TwitterStay up to date via TwitterStay up to date via TwitterStay up to date via Twitter