Monthly Archives: September 2011

a public thank you….

Just a short thank you to the Arches road garage in Rugby.

On my way to a commission meeting in Walsall today my oil light came on so I did what i thought you’re supposed to do and put oil in. Then my car died! It appears your oil light also comes on when there is too much oil 😦 So not only did my car have too much oil in it I added some lol

Anyway, I google searched local garages and the third one I rang was Arches road garage who said it sounded like a head gasket but if I could get the car there they’d try and find time to have a look. When I got there they were very busy but noticing my judo t-shirt he made room for me, his brother does judo 🙂

They drained the oil for me and only charged £10 🙂

So the moral of this story, is that the oil light doesn’t always mean it needs more oil and wear judo stash to make friends !


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Great Britain at the World Judo Champs 2011 Pt 5 – Where now & Transparency

Here it is, the last post on the subject of Great Britain’s performance in the 2011 World championships. Over the past 4 posts I have discussed our performance, the players, the system and the role of UK sport, now I will briefly discuss what we could do now and transparency.

So what now? Well I want to try and avoid any rumours and will offer a couple of solutions, I am only considering from now until London. Of course I have opinions on a longer term strategy, and I have presented these at conference, but it is beyond the scope of this post.

1 Possibly the easiest and most cost affective would be to remove the current high performance directorate and allow players to train in the location of their choice, Camberley, Bath, Ratho, Dartford etc I would leave Darren and Kate and Dartford. Players have been asking to be left alone to train where they are for a long time, with only 317 days to go could we realistically find and employ a new coach and get all the players to move?

2 Thinking outside the box, you could just move the whole team with selected coaches to one of the IJF training camps and stay there until London, Tunisia for example. This might sound harsh and drastic but imagine the whole squad in one place, no distractions, nothing to do but train for the next 10 months. Soldiers have to do it, I am sure it wouldn’t be popular with players initially but once they are there and have nothing to do but train they might be more positive.

3 Of course you could leave things as they are? Lets be honest the damage is done, if we let the current high performance directorate see out until London at least we won’t get the “if we had stayed it would have been fine” or the “if the BJA/membership/board had been more patient…” but lets be honest, we have probably been too patient!

I am sure there are many other options, these are just three of the top of my head but my point is quite simple. The majority of people will have read the above and thought “that won’t work” or ‘that is stupid” or “Bob has lost the plot” but what you have to consider is that every option has pro’s and con’s and there is now a small group of people (the BJA board of directors and possibly some UK sport people) who will have to decide where we go now. Their solution will also have flaws, some of us will 100% disagree with, other might think it is okay and some will hate it.

Two things soldiers are very good at (obviously there are more!) is complaining and “getting on board”. There is a time and place to complain and there is a time and a place to “get on board” or as it was described to me the day we invaded Iraq – “We have had our chances discuss and complain, now we must stop dicking around and make change happen” whilst not the most eloquent of statements he had a point. I think we have reached this point now in British Judo. It is well and truly time to stop dicking around! A decision will be made by British judo soon, when it is made, regardless of whether we agree or not, now is the time to make change happen! We know there is a shortage of partners so if you’re a dan grade get to every randori session you can to support the team, if you’re rich help players get to world cups, if you’re a physio get to one of the main training centres and volunteer to help, if you can use a camera help Nigel, there is so much help needed that pretty much whatever skill you have you can help. ‘They’ are not British judo ‘we’ are British judo and we all have a chance now, entering the final phase, to make things happen (Bath, Camberley and Dartford (not sure about Ratho) all publish there their training programs so get down there and help).

In my opinion one of the main issues here has been transparency. Players feel many of the selections (or non-selections) were unjust, they also feel if they speak out they will have less chance of selection and many feel speaking out will be the end of their career as an athlete altogether. I think the new system should have a system where athletes, coaches and even parents feel they can voice concern (I am not talking about day to day whinging) and that their concern will be heard by the appropriate people with retribution. Ideally players would feel they could go to the performance director but I think we are a way of that kind of trust at the moment, maybe we could  use a middle person? Maybe one of the board is assigned tot his issue? I don’t know but I am sure the two main issues here have been transparency and coaching philosophy.

The average hit on this blog per month is between 4-500. Already this month I have over 2000 hits and it is only the 15th. I would like to thank the people who have supported me in writing this blog and I would especially like to thank the eight British squad players, three parents of British squad players and six coaches who have gone out of their way to find me at competition or email me to thank me for writing these posts, many of whom I hadn’t met before.



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Great Britain at the World Judo Champs 2011 Pt 4 – UK sport…

I am sure the majority of people don’t understand how sport is funded in the UK, the complexity of sports structures in the UK is a large topic and for another post. This post is focussing on high performance sport and therefore the role of UK sport in funding and supporting high performance judo.

UK sport describes itself as “responsible for investing around £100 million of public funds each year – from both the National Lottery and the Exchequer – in high performance sport. This money is now supplemented by the income from a private sponsorship scheme ‘Team 2012’.” Its core responsibilities are performance, major events and building international relations with federations and organisations. According to the UK Sport website:

“UK Sport has developed Mission 2012 – a project designed to keep eyes firmly focused on every element of the performance system, help sports to identify the issues and challenges they face in hitting their respective performance ambitions and find ways of dealing with them quickly and effectively.”

So has UK sport kept its eyes firmly on every element of British Judo’s performance system? Well I am sure they receive reports from the performance director regularly. I wonder if they have spoken to the players, or the coaches at any of the clubs providing players? Have they spoken to researchers who work specifically in judo? I think this would be interesting to know. I know they publish their mission 2012 report, although I haven’t seen it, and that according to their website no sport is classed as red (they use a traffic light system).

In fairness to UK Sport heir website also states:

“Mission 2012 also represents a cultural move away from the traditional relationship between funding body and sport. It encourages sports to conduct their own assessments of how their system is performing and to bring additional expertise to bear in finding creative solutions to problems.”

I wonder what creative solutions British judo will find, the 2010 world championships (one Bronze & one 7th) was our worst since 1969 and we were told not to worry, Patrick Roux’s statement was that he was confident and he explained this was the “end of the foundation phase” some of the other quotes are:

” we have the right clues and we start to have players regularly in the top five, some of them deliver medals.”

“So everything is starting to come together and now we will start to narrow the expertise around the key players.”

“Progressively, we expect the core players will then stabilise their performance close to where we need to be.”

At this point many coaches int he UK raised their concerns about the excessively long “foundation phase” and our increasingly poor results, even at the British Judo technical conference were questions raised but we were asked to stay on board with the program, not to worry, everything will fall into place. Yet now, one year later, we see an even worse performance by team GB in the world championships. Just to be clear, Patrick Roux took over in 2009 as head coach, Margaret Hicks was slightly before this and appointed him. 2009 was our worst worlds since 1983, we then had a worse performance in 2010 (our worst since 1969) and a worse performance in 2011.

I am not suggesting this is directly related to Patrick, in fact I think that would be unfair but is is relating to the system created but the current regime.

Mission 2012, requires sports to think about their performance plans in three dimensions based around:

  • Athletes – their performance, development, health and well-being
  • System – the places, structures, processes, people and expertise that deliver the programme
  • Climate – the feel, functionality and culture experienced by athletes and staff
So lets do this.
  • Athletes – I spoke about this in a previous post, I do not think you can blame the current podium squad for their performance. Our development process (in terms of cadet) is much better than it used to be and in my opinion, although there is obviously room for improvement, Matt Divall and Nigel Donoghue are doing a fantastic job and the cadet squads system is constantly improving. I think there is a lot of distrust and confusion at both junior and senior level though, the systems is in chaos in many places (sorry butt hat is my opinion). Health and well-being I will talk about below.
  • Systems – I discuss this in detail in a previous post so will not discuss it again here.
  • Climate – well…. what can I say…. I think I have never known such a down trodden and depressed British team. I am going to post later about coaching philosophy but there are some other thought here:

Transparency – this is important, I think many of the players do not del the process is transparent and they are disgruntled about that. I spoke to a player who told me there were medal targets for the worlds and there were players fighting who hadn’t met them yet other players were told they weren’t selected because they hadn’t met the medal target. I could look this up and check maybe but then maybe UK sport or the BJA board should? Many players do complain about the section process and perceive a political element to selections (priority given to BPJI, Ratho, Camberley, then others in that order rather than performance alone), I cannot confirm or verify this but it should be investigated, particularly in the case of Bath players.

Injury – A lot of the british team are injured constantly. I do not have specific figures on this but I do know Gemma Howell, Karina Bryant, Andy Burns, Sam Lowe, Kelly Edwards, Craig Fallon have all had long term injuries recently and the Sarah Clarke went into hospital for a shoulder operation after the worlds. I have seen a report from UK sport suggesting injury rate is highest and most severe at the BPJI but it is a very small sample size and Camberley didn’t submit data. I think this does need to be investigated more. On interesting thing in the report though is training time, the Bath players do more randori, more S & C than anywhere else and have less injuries.

Athlete experience – Many are injured, many feel their funding is poor and many feel they do not have the support services they need but above all the constant saying I hear these days is “the 9-5 coaches” they feel the coaching staff are there to do a job only (9-5) and could really care less about them as an individual. I can actually believe this, I saw one of the players completing some sort of assignment/essay after fighting at a world cup last year, I asked one of the (supposedly) 9-5 coaches what this player was studying (bearing in mind this player trains with this coach daily at the BPJI and is not at one of the other centres) and the coach told me she didn’t know. Now I am not being funny, I work with development players and I can tell you pretty much everything about them, parent name, school/university timetable, subjects, menstrual  cycle, boyfriend/girlfriends name etc. It is not just about their judo, it is about them as people.

Interestingly, as I write this there is an interview with the performance director of UK Athletics, they were set a target of a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 8 medals, they achieved 7 medals despite some pretty intense media coverage. The interview went like this-

Reporter: Exceeded expectations?

Charles van Commenee :   I never do expectations, we had a target and targets are set in order to get the right platform for the London  games and every time we hit it we’re coming closer to success in London.

As I stated in my first post on this topic we were set a target of 1 medal minimum and 3 medals maximum, we didn’t meet that target.

Sorry, this has become another long one! Next post will consider coaching philosophy and my ideas of what we should do now. Please comment 🙂


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Great Britain at the World Judo Champs 2011 Pt 3 – The system

The structure of high performance judo in the UK has been in turmoil for quite some time. We have only won one Olympic medal in the last four Olympic games – almost 20 years with only one medal. I think this lack of Olympic medals has in some ways caused the constant changes in the structure of high performance judo in the UK. I cannot remember the years exactly but we had a structure that included high performance centres at Sheffield, Walsall and Bath, this was then to be further developed to include high performance centres in Scotland, NI and Wales. My personal opinion is that this is actually an excellent structure and could have worked fantastically but was very poorly implemented and managed. You cannot just build a facility, put a coach there and expect players to just turn up ready to train. The Sheffield centre is now a snooker hall, Walsall is doing well and is an England Excell centre but it is far from what was intended at the original inception. Bath was the most successful of the three. This was because there was someone there who focussed on the development and not just coaching. Dr Mike Callan understood a more holistic approach to the development of a daily training environment and it can be argued that the only reason Bath was successful when the others were not (although as I said Walsall is doing well now) is because of Dr Mike Callan.

Inevitably with no Olympic medals staff were changed around, we had Bisham Abbey for a while under one performance director, this was closed. We went into a structure of each “performance club” doing their own thing – Camberley, Ratho, Bath mainly.

But now, under Margaret Hicks, we have a centralised programme with the BPJI at Dartford, or do we? I think the concept of a centralised programme is actually a very good idea, one centre of excellence with all the facilities and all the players. But, in my opinion, what we see with the creation of the BJPI is yet another good idea opposed to and destroyed because of exceptionally poor implementation and management. Let me explain why…

1) If you create a new system and you want players to buy into it then it has to be better than what they already have. It must have better coaches (by better I mean more suitable to the specific clientele), you must have better sports science support, it must be an environment where the athletes feel that they can work harder/more efficiently than they currently do and where they feel the staff actually care about them as players and people.

2) You cannot order people to move, athletes compete because they want to win an Olympic medal and they train in the place they feel gives them the best chance to do that. Getting a player to move is about negotiation. You have to convince them them the environment you want them in is better for them. If you don’t they might move but they will never fully commit and believe in the system.

3) You have to implement it gradually. If they had created the BPJI and had made is “all singing, all dancing” then they should have worked on convincing junior players (and their parents) that they should go to the BPJI and not one of the other centres. This would have taken two Olympic cycles and would have meant the BPJI would have been the number one centre of excellence for Rio 2016 but at least it would still be there in 2016, it probably won’t be now.

4) Our athletes need some sort of distraction. This might be some sort of part-time job, probably best is education,this could be higher education but could equally be some sort of apprenticeship or internship. This is part of athletes feeling you care about developing them as individuals but it is also about a longer term understanding of developing British judo. When we went to Beijing we took three coaches (arguably the best in the country) who didn’t even have a degree amongst them, they were all ex players. In Germany you’d be hard pushed to get a high performance coaching role without at least a Masters degree, in Russia you would probably need a PhD and this is the same in many countries around the world. Coaching is complex and coaching is a science, it is applied by an artist but it is a science.I am not suggesting our coaches need exceptionally detailed understanding of physiology, Biomechanics, nutrition, performance analysis, psychology etc but they need to be able to understand and discuss this intellectually with the experts in these fields. We are likely yo keep employing ex players as coaches so we need to educate them.

5) We must embed research into our high performance programme. Is it okay to spend our £7.5m budget the say so of a performance director or a head coach? £7.5m on spent on opinion! The opinion of 2-5 people! Could you imagine this in the NHS, social work, the military, government etc? No, spending on this level should be based upon research, our players should be prepared using the most up to date research we can generate.

So going back to my original question, is the programme really centralised? Well Ratho is now deemed a centre of excellence or BPJI 2 or whatever it is being called. This came about quite simply because they have the a very high number of the best players in the country and basically they refused to move. We have a large number of players a Camberley, they are forced to attend the BPJI regularly, possibly victims of the proximity to Dartford. There is no doubt in my mind the majority feel they have to do extra hours at Camberley to make up for the time they feel they waste at the BPJI. Then we have Bath, I will discuss coaching philosophy in a later post, but the head coach at Bath and the GB head coach have very opposing philosophies to coaching and this means Bath players are often victims of politics despite being some of the best players in the country.

I had some other things I want to write but this post is getting too long so I will end here, I would like to point out the the BPJI has actually been very good for me personally. I live only 1hr away, I can take players from my club there to train for free, I am sent the program and can turn up whenever I want with my players for a session, I think this is excellent.

Next post I will consider the role of UK sport, transparency and general mood within British Judo.


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