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Big changes……

Lots of people have asked me what is going on with “my job” at Anglia Ruskin so I thought it best to clarify my current position. I am a senior lecturer at Anglia Ruskin and was not employed for the judo at all, this was all something I did “as extra”.

In 2009 I started a judo club at Anglia Ruskin University, I remember telling the SU staff that I wanted it to be the best university judo team in the country and being laughed at. In 2010 the European judo union moved the performance coach awards to Anglia Ruskin with me as the course leader and this was the start of a “judo programme” that consisted of a high performance coach education pathway, full-time athletes, a community programme, the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence, recreational judo and a judo research group. I am quite proud of what was achieved here, predominately in my own time and with no extra pay. As much as I enjoy research and coach education my real passion is in athlete development and ironically it was this part of the judo programme that would prove its eventual downfall.

I set the target of providing 20hrs of training a week and we managed this with the same support as other clubs had (often less) for a sustained period of time but eventually things change. In my time managing and coaching the athletes at Anglia Ruskin they have performed very well in the British University and Colleges Championships, the results are shown below for this –

  • 4 x mens team champions at BUCS (the only Anglia Ruskin University team to win BUCS) plus one bronze
  • Women’s team bronze
  • 10 individual dan grade gold medals
  • 3 individual dan grade silvers medals
  • 10 individual dan grade bronzes medals

Over the years thats is 288 BUCS points for Anglia Ruskin University. Add to that around 15 peer reviewed journal articles specific to judo, three judo PhD students, countless students who have attended the university because of judo, income generated and the marketing i’d say it’s not a bad job.  Still the head of sport decided he didn’t want me involved in the judo anymore, this is his choice to make and I accept that decision.

So I move on! I will stay at Anglia Ruskin as a senior lecturer, a job I have enjoyed very much over the years to be honest and the one I am actually paid for. I think it is fair to say that my club that I have run for 18 years, Comberton Judo club, has suffered over the past 5-6 years with my main focus being on the Anglia Ruskin Judo Programme and the good news is that is changing and it is changing fast! Very fast! Comberton Judo club will now provide full-time training and many of the students who previously trained within the Anglia Ruskin Judo programme have moved to train with us.

I am now more positive and more confident in the judo I can deliver than I have been for a very long time, this might be a forced change but in many ways I feel it will be for the best. I would really like to thank the coaches and athletes who have stood by me throughout this two year period – Natasha Collins, Alex Hemming, Holly Newton, Ben Caldwell and Tara Fitzjohn have been particularly affected by all of this and have been strong throughout.

I will follow this post with another one about all the changes coming on board at Comberton Judo Club in the very near future (to be honest it might take more than one post!). In the mean time I wish the Head of Active Anglia and his new Head Coach, Michael Stewart, all the best for their venture into running a full-time training programme and we’ll see you on the mat!

Soremade!

 

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Leadership

Firstly, I am sorry this is not a judo post!

I am seeing lots of posts on my facebook page at the moment about how intollerable Trump is. I don’t really read them to be honest, not because i don’t care but because in the main most of the people posting know little about leadership. Over the last nine days I have read some facebook posts that show true leadership though and it is those I want to write about. Before I get to them though a little background.

I joined the army at 15yo as a junior leader, probably one of the best decisions of my life, if not the best decision. As someone that joins the army as a soldier you nearly always have the ambition of becoming the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of your Battalion, this is, for the purpose of this post ‘the boss man!’ The RSM is the Sergeant Major of the Seareant Majors, he is in charge of discpline, is generally feared and is usually considered the top soldier of the battalian, he represents the fighting men. As a young soldier you often imagine what sort of RSM you would be, would you be the streotypical screaming, shouting man of discipline or would you be the war hardened man of few words? There are examples of both across the movie world. There are some examples below.

Now we’re clear on what an RSM is like I want to be clear about something else, some of them are shit leaders! They just want to tick boxes, kiss arse and move on. They’re in camp, pacestick waiving, crayon eating spunktrumpets who got to where they are by kissing arse and doing a few courses. Some however inspire soldiers, these are the men who win battles and it is one of these I would like to introduce today.

WO1 (RSM) Steve (Spud) Armon is the RSM of the first Battalian the Royal Anglian Regiment. Over the last 9 days (the same amount of time Donald Trump has been president) Steve has walked the 9 highest mountains in the UK to rememebr the 9 members of the Battalian lost in Afghanistan on Op Herrick 6 10 years ago.

Steve is posting his journay each day on his facebook page in order to raise money for the army benevolent fund with the story of how each soldier died. I have screenshot some of the posts here:

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Steve is without a doubt a soldiers soldier, he leads from the front and is the epitomy of leadership. He has an empathy with the soldiers and commands their respect from years of war fighting, most importantly he sees himself as a servant of the soldiers, a leader who is there to support, guide, mentor and inspire.

Maybe Donald Trump could learn a thing or two!

Anyway, the real aim of this post was to ask you to donate! So here’s the link 🙂

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/steven-armon?utm_id=1&utm_term=4j4NZVVJ3

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Just a very short post about GB’s performance in Paris 2016

I thought I would just write a quick posted as I haven’t posted for a very long time. Team GB sent 12 players to Paris this weekend to fight in the Grand slam. I think hat firstly, sending 12 players is great, it is a definite step up from previous years.

In terms of performance, well this is the first time we have won  medal since we moved to a centralised system around 2009. In fact out last medallist in the Paris Grand slam was Euan Burton in 2008. This time round Sally Conway won Bronze in the -70kg and Natalie Powell won Bronze when she beat Gemma Gibbons in the -78kg. This is a good result, two bronzes and a 5th.

Of course there is a long way to go, of the 12 players we sent most went out in the first or second fight and I think we should be pushing for most players to finish with at least 2-3 wins but if we look at where we have been for many years, think this is a great result and we should be very happy, also sometimes this is just judo, you can’t win them all and many of the players were more than capable of winning a medal on the right day.

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There is of course a little controversy! Philip Awiti being disqualified for a leg grad during transition. I am not going to say anything about this now, I am going to try and write a post later this week.

So for now that’s it, I really just wanted to say well done congratulation to all those who medalled and just a shout out to all the GB judo community really. The next Open National Squad Training is in April and this is part of the final prep for the Europeans. If you’re a dan grade that competes then I think you should be there. Our athletes need to train hard with a variety of players, at the last ONST we had maybe about 150 players which is great but we should have more.

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AASE athletes Toby and Cailean on the BJA website for World Diabetes day

Meet the judoka who use the sport to help manage their diabetes | British Judo Association

Source: Meet the judoka who use the sport to help manage their diabetes | British Judo Association

For more information on AASE at Anglia Ruskin or any of the England Performance Pathway Centres please click here

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Just how well are we doing?

Inevitably with the recent wins at IJF Grand Prix and Grand Slam event medal hauls the BJA media machine will be getting pumped to inform us all how great the British team are now doing, I thought it might be a good idea to have a none biased look at how we’re doing in this Olympic qualification period. I thought one way to consider our progress was by comparing our performance in the first year of Olympic qualification for London to the first year of Olympic qualification to Rio. We have a new regime, not every one agrees with it but it is better than before? Here are some results…

The Olympic qualification period is the two years prior the games (May to May) so we’ll be considering May 2010 to May 2011 and May 2014-May 2015 (I know, very timely!). So, just comparing Grand prix and Grand slam events this is what it looks like –

2010-2011

GP Tunisi May 2010 – nil

GP Rotterdam 2010 – nil

GP Abu Dhabi 2010 – nil

GP Quingdao 2011 – nil

GP Dusseldorf 2011 – nil

GP Baku 2011 – nil

GS Rio de Janeiro 2010 – nil

GS Moscow 2010 – nil

GS Tokyo  2010- 1 (Euan Burton, Bronze)

GS Paris 2011 – nil

2014-2015

GP Havana 2014 – 2 (McKenzie bronze, Sherrington silver)

GP Budapest 2014 – 1 (Powell bronze)

GP Ulaanbaatar 2014- nil

GP Zargreb 2014 – 2 (Powell and Howell bronze)

GP Astana 2014 – 2 (Powell gold, Davis Bronze)

GP Tashkent 2014 – 2 (Powell bronze, Adlington bronze)

GP Quindao 2014 – nil

GP Jeju 2014 – 1 (Oates, bronze)

GP Dusseldorf 2015 – 1 (Schlesinger, gold)

GP Tbilisi 2015 – nil

GP Samsun 2015 – 4 (Powell silver, Conway, Davis and Howell bronze)

GP Zargreb 2015 – 2 (Davis gold and Conway silver)

GS Baku 2014 – 2 (Oates gold, Conway, silver)

GS Tyumen 2014 – nil

GS Abu Dhabi 2014 – nil

GS Tokyo 2014 – nil

GS Baku 2015 – 3 (Oates silver, Davis silver, Conway gold, Schlesinger bronze)

For those of you frantically calculating a summary that is

2010-11 = 1 bronze
2014-15 = 12 bronzes, 5 silvers and 5 golds
I would suggest that is an outstanding improvement! I would like to add a few caveats to this before we all run out buying Rio tickets though….
  1. This is a pretty crude analysis, GP and GS events change and as you can see there are a lot more in the current Olympic cycle. It might have been fairer to include world cups/continental opens especially as under the current system athletes cannot self-fund to grand slams.
  2. If including world cups/continental opens then it might have also been fairer to analyse total world ranking points won rather than just medals
  3. I would also suggest that the truest measure of our improvement is world championship medals. We were a country that won a medal and almost every world championships up until that last Olympic cycle and we haven’t managed one yet in this Olympic cycle, however there is still Kazakstan 😉

I am sure there will still be critics of the current system, of course I have my own opinions about it, but the fact of the matter is we do seem to be improving in performance. I am sure some of those critics would also happily point out that few of these medals were won by athletes at Walsall, i’ll save you the counting…

Camberley 1 (Ashley)

Ratho 9 (Colin, Sally, Chris and Sarah)

Welsh Institute of sport 5 (Natalie)

Walsall 5 (I am assuming Nekoda and Alice are both training there but not sure, happy to be corrected)

Bath 2 (Gemma H)

I think considering the main aim of Walsall is the Tokyo 2024 games 5 of the medals is pretty good.

My overall opinion?? Well I am still not 100% convinced by centralisation, I hate that Camberley, Bath and Ratho players are often forced to feel like second class citizens and I personally would like to see this addressed, I think we would actually do much better for it. Having said that, the questions was “How are we doing?” and the answer has to be – a lot better than we were!

Please feel free to comment below 🙂

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Anglia Ruskin University announced as England Performance Pathway Centre

In 2015 British Judo will launch a new look Performance Pathway, how this will work in England is that there will be eight Performance Pathway Centres that will be the main hubs of activity above Club level. The Anglia Ruskin England Performance Pathway Centre will train both on campus and at the Comberton Judo Club dojo.

Each Performance Pathway Centre will run the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) programme alongside weekly Randori. AASE is a programme that combines Judo and Education, giving you the opportunity to increase the quality and quantity of training whilst achieving an NVQ Diploma in Sports Performance.

The Anglia Ruskin University England Performance Pathway Centre will run a variety of sessions throughout the year. This will include weekly randori (every Wednesday 7-930pm), regular day training sessions (technical and randori) and allow athletes to progress into full-time training either via AASE or as a university student. We also aim to work with coaches who support the England Performance Pathway Centre to develop their coaching with information from our European Judo Union coach education courses and our Judo Research group.

If you would like more information on the weekly randori sessions, AASE or training full-time and studying at Anglia Ruskin University please email judo@anglia.ac.uk

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Autonomy supportive coaching in judo…..

I haven’t posted for a while so I thought I would write a quick post about a topic I have been teaching at university this week, autonomy supportive coaching, and relate this to judo.

What is Autonomy supportive coaching?

Autonomy supportive coaching has been described by many authors including Gillet et al., 2010; Alvarez et al. 2009; Conroy & Coatsworth 2007; Amorose & Anderson-Butcher, 2007. A lighter yet informative read can be found here written by Australian Sports Commission. I would describe it as “a coaching pedagogy that is underpinned by a desire to develop athletes as self-thinking, personally motivated and innovative individuals” (Something like that anyway!)

Why is this important?

I think it is important for athletes to be autonomous for several reasons, at the end of the day when they go out to compete they’re by themselves. Their task is to win medals and if they can operate autonomously then our support is enhancing an individual who is far more advanced and therefore you can dedicate time to higher level support. Consider it this way, as coaches we have all worked with athletes who constantly need support with really basic things on competition day – nutrition, warm up, they lose their kit (especially belts), they’re always the one who has a kit that doesn’t fit etc etc Then you look across the hall and there is this uber organised athlete, he/she knows where everything is in their bag, they have appropriate food and fluids for immediately after the weigh in, they’re taped up and ready to warm up early, they have kit to stay warm after the warm up, they check the draw themselves, they know what colour  kit to where, it always passes judogi control, the back patch is always sewn on properly – you get my drift! The point is you can be checking they have their belt etc or you can be focussing on higher level support.

What can judo coaches do to make their athletes more autonomous?

I think it is important within coaching sessions to empower athletes and allow them to make mistakes and reflect upon what they’re doing. It is also important to not intervene too much and when they need support in learning or planning to turn the help into a discussion rather than a straight forward answer. This takes patients and often means they do not progress as quickly as others initially but eventually they develop a much deeper understanding. Here are some examples of the strategies I use to try and develop more autonomous athletes:

  • After competition we watch the videos, this is either done with me and the athlete so we can discuss the contest or (more often than not) the whole group. We sit as a group, watch each persons fights, the players and coaches make notes and then the player in the video is asked to make any comments, then the other athletes are asked for their opinions and then the coaches. This is very time consuming but very effective. One important point to note though is that this can be quite daunting for new players in the group so I normally do theirs one on one.
  • Have you ever been to a judo session, its coach led, he does whatever technique he wants that week, then maybe some randori and you think “I really want to practice x” We do a lot of this, I just pair the players off and let them work on whatever they want, I just walk round observing, asking questions and making suggestions. This is a kind of experimental learning and is much better for developing a deeper understanding.
  • When giving feedback `i also try to use questions….. this is not easy to begin with. So a simple example might be that you notice someone is not pulling high enough with their hike-te  grip and thus not breaking balance correctly. Rather than dive in and tell them it is wrong just ask them how it feels, they’ll probably say not strong enough or something like that and then you ask “what could you do differently?” if they don’t know ask the partner… try to always get them to find solutions rather than give them too them. It will make them much more reflective and critical in their understanding.

I think judo is a sport full of tradition and this is a good thing but equally we shouldn’t be scared to progress and develop. I often see very regimented classes, coach demonstrates, athletes copy, coach corrects etc etc and this kind of coach centred approach to developing athletes can be vastly improved.

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