20 Mar Interview with Vicente Modahl
Vicente Modahl, husband to Diane Modahl, was one of the co-founders of the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation and since its inception has worked on every aspect of the Foundation, from paperwork to working with the development and performance squads.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I’m an international coach. In my younger days I was the Norwegian champion of cross country and steeple chase. Back in the day I used to be a training partner and manager of Moroccan Olympic Champion Said Aouita. I met Diane through him and moved to Manchester England in 1990. As a sports agent I represented a number of British athletes and during that time I have been involved with a number of athletes competing in the Olympics from all over the world including from USA, England, Morocco, Uganda and Scandinavia.. I have worked with 23 Olympians including Diane.
Why did you and Diane start DMSF?
Initially we wanted to identify and support athletes that could make it to an Olympic Games without necessarily having the support of the governing bodies or anything like that. I come from Norway and with my background and Diane’s background we decided we had the skills and passion to do it. In 2016, I coached Aimee Pratt who went on to compete in the World Junior Championship, in 2017 she represented Great Britain in the Under 23 European Championships, qualifying for the final in her specialist distance of 3000m steeple chase. Even more amazingly, she was only 15 seconds from the qualification to go to the Olympic Games in 2020. We hope and believe that she will be able to reach the Olympic qualifying time by the time she is 23 in three years’ time. We believe that there are at least three other athletes within DMSF who also have the potential to become international athletes; all have been discovered by DMSF.
Since setting up, the charity has evolved from sport to develop programmes in education and enterprise.
What is your role within the foundation?
I’m the co-founder but my role has changed a lot since then. My role now within the foundation as head coach is to make sure I coach the athletes that we identify in different schools, to develop their potential and to bring them through to the highest international level. I used to do a lot of admin, business plans and was a board member. I left the board because I found I’m not the right person to do the nitty gritty side of the charity. I didn’t have time to do that and also coach athletes such as Aimee [Pratt]. International athletes require around 20 hours of coaching a week, so it’s not possible to coach the next generation, sit on the board, attend meetings as well travel to all the competitions. Diane does the strategic and corporate governance side and I stick with trying to get athletes from Manchester to an international level.
Where do you see the Foundation in a years’ time?
I’m a bit disappointed that the charity has had to fight so hard to find funding when 1000 kids a week are being coached and mentored by our coaches in Manchester. We are doing such good work and we are positively structuring lives for the future. I’m surprised that we are still struggling to get headline funding because the work that we are doing with DMSF is astonishing. If we stopped today, that would be 33 projects grinding to a halt and we know that we are making a difference. Hopefully within two-three years that will change and attract sponsors to bring in hard currency that will also allow the sponsors to generate positive headlines themselves, which will activate their brands. We are a unique charity, because we bring aspiration all the way through to international level, as well a supporting the educational journey. We hope that for every life we touch, those young people themselves will in turn make a difference to another life simply by the way they behave – the young people that we are helping are inspirational in their communities. Manchester could do a lot better in athletics and I think through Foundation’s such as ours we are definitely on our way.
What would you say to any potential sponsors reading this?
I would say to them that being involved with DMSF could benefit their business greatly because it will give them the social profile that all companies want to access, especially with the number of high profile ambassadors that DMSF have. It also gives businesses access to future athletes coming through that could benefit their businesses. Many people say international athletes don’t belong in a charity, but the kids that we are bringing through can’t access this high level, committed and professional coaching at a grass roots level anywhere else. We are taking young people from disadvantaged areas into the privileged world of athletics and that should be celebrated and shouldn’t be looked at in a negative way. We started the charity for many, but we should cherish and look after and support the athletes coming through that can reach the top if that is where their potential lays. Or simply, our volunteers and young coaches who have become a beacon of light across the city should also get the recognition they deserve.