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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4 Comments

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

  1. Judoker

    Very interesting posts.

    On reflection I think the medal haul is less relevant than the number of athletes ‘in the mix’ – close to the podium. On this criteria UK athletics underperformed against its target. There’s an interesting blog here (its gets interesting below the picture of Mo): http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tomfordyce/2011/09/gb_athletes_on_target.html

    You haven’t (I don’t think, maybe I missed it) talked about increasing the base and the quality of the base: more people doing it, better elite players surely? Take British cycling which along with rowing is one of the best examples of recent medal success, building from a relatively small base into a world force. This is rather stunning:
    http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/go-ride/article/goridest-Regional-Development-Staff

    How many development staff have they listed?

    And at elite level you say: “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.”
    David Brailsford has a degree in sports science, is an ex professional in his sport and has an MBA…

    • Hi Judoker,

      I haven’t mentioned the base for two reasons. Firstly my final post in the next few days will look at possible solutions and secondly I do not believe the base reflects high performance. Our largest base is in football and they haven’t won a world cup since 1966, our best Olympic sports have no base (or very little), cycling, rowing and sailing. What we must also consider is that these are ‘engine sport’ and not as technically demanding as many of the sports we are poor at.

      David Brailsford has a BSc, I would say that supports what I am saying, enough knowledge to challenge those who are experts but not an expert. I want my support staff to have a PhD in their particular area and degree does not show expertise.

  2. Judoker

    Grrr, my brower deleted my first go. I take the point about the engine sports; and also the point about degree vs PhD.

    Less convincing is what I think you may be getting at (look forward to the post) about the base. In football according to 06 stats, Germany, Brazil, the USA, and Italy all have a larger base than England. The base then (with the exception of the USA where the base and the coaching if less exerienced)pretty much reflects performance. I suspect when you compare numbers of athletes competing in rowing, cycling and sailing, England is probably up there with the other countries even though they are relatively niche activities. It’s just that they are more niche than in England.

    Whilst it’s possible I guess to have elite performance in the absence of a strong base – and there are always going to be iconoclasts in individual sports – it’s going to be hard to maintain success with a low base over any period of time. Wikipedia (the font of all truth, natch) indicated GB comes 4th in the all time medal haul for Judo World Championships – which shows that someone was doing something right at some point. It might be worth arguing that looking at what we were doing when we were winning is just as important as looking at what we’re doing wrong now (though I accept that things move on). Unsurprisingly, Japan and France top the all time medals haul – but then they’ve got bigger bases.

  3. Lets take Cuba for example, around 1000 judo players and exceptionally successful in term of high performance women.
    I don’t know Mongolia’s but do you think they have the 28,000 players we have? Up until this worlds they were exceptionally successful.
    Belgiums most successful year (92 I think) they focusses on just 4 players and travelled the world using everyone else as bodies.
    A large base often just means more drop out, you need a system and a structure that provide the numbers of hours of quality practices needed. We don’t have that system, you could probably count on your fingers the number of places in the UK you can train fro 20hrs per week.

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