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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To have rankings or not to have rankings that is the question?

I have been involved in a few conversations recently about the worthiness of the GB ranking system so I thought I would put my thoughts into a blog post. As some who lectures in talent develop and identification this is an area I know a little about.

Firstly what is the GB ranking system? Well figure 1 below shows the current GB system as it stands for 2015 for seniors. Basically you accumulate points for placing or winning a medal at a variety of events and those points vary depending upon the  level of the competition.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 14.09.34Its a very simple system in my opinion and to be honest I think it works pretty well, below I have outlined what I feel are the advantages and disadvantages. We have to remember that the ranking system is ultimately about two things – Talent Identification and Talent Selection.

Advantages

  • It means selection in not based on a single event – single event are well known for “missing talented athletes” often because they miss an event, have one poor day performing or a ill and sometime because of relative age affect
  • If we consider it from a domestic perspective it can be argued that travel is split around the country with each area represented evenly and all four home country represented
  • The system is tiered, what I mean by this is a younger or less experienced athlete can gain ranking points at area event; more experience athletes can decided to only look at home country events to secure points (because you get more points) while taking chances at European cups. Furthermore international athletes can focus on international events and still remain top of the domestic rankings. They do not need to attend these events although they may decided to do one or two home country one. What this means in effect is that athletes 8-10yrs from podium can focus on area events and home country events, athletes who are 8-5 year from podium can focus on home country and European cups whilst those likely to hit podium in this Olympic cycle can focus on world ranking events (these years boundaries a rough and off the top of my head! I appreciate many athletes need long at world ranking level and appreciate many have already come through the cadet and junior system)
  • It is great for marketing and promoting judo. If someone is 10th in the +78kg in GB for example we might not think about it but going to that athletes college, university and local press they see this as a big thing and that really helps promote judo and support the athlete
  • It allows athletes and coaches to start appreciating a ranking system and how to “work it” and this is very helpful when athletes progress through to world ranking events
  • You’re still testing an athletes ability to “perform on the day” because of the weighting of points in relation to the British champs

Disadvantages

  • Arguably it can be expensive, especially if “chasing points” or you’re injured when the ones nearer to you are running. My personal opinion is if you’re “chasing points” you’re better off spending the money on some training camps or an extra nights randori a week and think about ranking the following year. of course everyones situation is different though
  • A ranking system needs depth to work and unfortunately many, if not all, of our ranking events are lacking depth at the moment, below I have outlined why I think this might be. without depth the wrong players can end up ranked, in theory this should sort itself out at the British champs but not always
  • You can end up with too many events if you’re not careful, I think in GB at the moment the issue is more around the somewhat horrendous calendar control though and this is quite frankly because of some areas poor understanding of the affect they’re having with the petty, mindless, bullshit politics
  • I will talk more about quality control below but lets be honest, the way many of these are run is nothing short of appalling. People have to understand that this is our talent identification system and talent selection system, it does matter how good our centralised programme is if this system is wrong. We have a £7.4m budget for producing medals but we cannot do this is the wrong players are being selected or if the real talent is leaving the sport

Why are people not attending?

  • Quality of the events – No care system, poor mats, manual score boards, awful venues, rood staff/officials, no warm up area… the list goes on. If we want a decent ranking system we need to change how we think about it.
  • Quality of refereeing – of course referees make mistakes, no problem. With the CARE system there should be very few though. The level of referees at these events often need to be considered more closely and some areas are going to have to invest in paying for referees to travel and stay over because you haven’t got enough decent ones in your area – this is the price of neglecting referee education and training over the years i’m afraid. I love the comment we always get when we complain about refereeing… we’re all volunteers! Yes we know that but your travel and food is paid! Most of the coaches are volunteers to and their travel and food isn’t paid. And guess what? The athletes are paying customers and they don’t give a shit if you’re a volunteer or not, they have paid for a service. Like I said at the start, of course referees make mistakes, everyone does, no problem but for referees to not be using the CARE system properly or to have two kids sat there who don’t dare to overrule the IJF in the middle is not right and you know it!
  • Calendar control – This weekend we have the Great North and the Southern area – how? Who let this happen? One was a cadet ranking and now isn’t…. come on!
  • Centralisation – lets be honest, it has an affect and we all know it
  • Online calendar – OMG!! Seriously no entry form the Welsh on the BJA site yet! BJA site still say no date for the Easter area ranking event that was in August. We cannot generate depth with such awful communication!!

Some ideas for improving the ranking events/system…

  • Quality control similar to that of the EJU and IJF. Areas and home countries can still run the event but these are monitored by either the BJA events team or a bespoke team that is designed to manage British ranking events (PMG maybe!?!?!)
  • Should the BJA have a set of mats, a CARE system (with two cameras per mat), score boards and TVs for the draw etc in a truck that goes around to every ranking event? Personally I think it has got to that stage or they should invest in this for each area
  • If we sort this out, banners, decent mats, online registration, good referees etc etc could we attract sponsorship? I think we could argue it is pretty much a national league, maybe we could attract prize money or maybe they just pay for some of things we need to make it all more professional? The British champs are run well so we have a model already
  • You know what I would really like to see, it would take some work but I think each home country event should be run on the first weekend of a school holiday or half term and they should all be followed by a hard training compound this camp should be part of our talent ID system
  • The calendar needs aligning, British champs first, then Home country and then are and ideally they’ll alternate what end of the country the area ones are in to help travel

To be honest this little rant has gone on much longer than I thought and I need to get to training so i’ll call soremade!

Here’s the real question though, get rid of it and what do we replace it with? Please comment below!

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World championships 2015 – Team GB

Well, it is fair to say I feel strongly about our performance in the world championship, not just this year but every year. I have attended every world championships since 1999 with the exception of this one in Kazakstan and I feel world championship performance is good indicator of our performance at the Olympic games. So where do we sit?

I have  reported in detail on our performance at previous world championships and my disappointment in no secret. In 2011 we had our worst world championships since 1969 and things have not improved. In Chelyabinsk in 2014 we took four athletes, Ashley McKenzie, Collin Oates, Sally Conway and Natalie Powell, they won four fights between them (two for Ashley and two for Colin). It is fair to say will did a little better this year – we took double the number of players which is good. We won 9 fights in total so I guess our performance hasn’t really improved (it is still roughly 1 win per athlete) but we did get a 7th place. Lets be honest though, a country with a great tradition in this sport and a great budget should not be happy with this result. So what’s wrong? Well the truth is no one knows, if they did we would fix it! But here is some options based upon my personal opinion.

Is it the athletes?

I think the athletes should and will take responsibility of their own performance but I don’t think we can blame the players at all because it is inconceivable to me that any one of them didn’t give 100% and even if one or two didn’t then that wouldn’t explain why the whole team didn’t perform. So as far as I am concerned this is not about the athletes unless you believe that it is their fault for not all moving to one central location and i’ll discuss that below.

Selection policy

There has been a lot of discussion about British Judo’s selection policy for this world championships. Many feel it was too harsh. I think there does need to be a selection process and it should be difficult to qualify, for many years we have sent teams that are too weak for this level based on the fact the player was British number one, there does need to be a balance between the money we’re prepared to spend to send people and their actual chance of medalling. That said there are players who I feel should have gone – Danny Williams, Owen Livesey, Frazer Chamberlain, Gemma Howell, Nathan Burns and Andy Burns all come to mind immediately (of course there are others). Whilst I disagree in general with self-funding maybe this would be a solution here. I think there needs to be a very different mind set in terms of selection, it should be more of a “send them if I can” rather than “send as few as possible”. I also think it is inexcusable for someone who has met the criteria to not be sent!

I certainly don’t have all the answers in terms of selection policy, I don’t think it should be a free for all but at the same time I feel there was a huge injustice in the selections for this world championships. If someone is qualified for the Olympics or within range of qualifying send them, don’t hide bullshit politics behind policy and pretend it is all transparent!

Pre-world training camp

Prior the the worlds British judo run a pre-training camp, they did the same before the Olympics. I have never attended a whole one but I have been to the odd day of some of them and I have always looked at the training programmes for them. My general impression is that they seem good and whenever asked players seem to say they feel ready for the competition and preparation was good (maybe just the standard answer!). Whilst I generally have a good impression of these we maybe should question them, after all the players we send to the world championships can compete on that level. All (most) of them we sent this time had GS and GP medals so there has to be some reason for the performance and they don’t have these pre-camps prior to GP/GS I believe they train at their own training centre.

I’m not saying it is right or wrong, just that we need to consider it.

Centralisation

Well… the premise of centralisation is that you can pool your support services (doctors, physio etc) and that there will be more training partners (because everyone is in one location). My understanding is that after Rio everyone will have to move to the British Judo centre of excellence.

Personally I am not a fan of centralisation for this country, we should remember that this is a system Nigel inherited rather than created and is enforcing what UK sport are forcing us to do (I do not know whether Nigel is a true advocate of centralisation or not but certainly in his current role he gives the impression he believes in it). We should also remember that UK sport are enforcing centralisation because this is what was sold to them in the previous Olympic cycle (maybe even the one before) by performance directors and the then CEO.

My personal opinion is that centralisation will kill British judo and arguably already is. I would be interested to know if anyone knows of a western country where centralisation is working? Please comment below if you can think of one, I would genuinely like to be proved wrong.

I do think however that one good thing to come out of centralisation is the England Performance Pathways and AASE, I wouldn’t say they have been developed because of centralisation but the fact the the BJA is now more focussed on the pathway and the pathway is led from Walsall is good (it is led from a performance environment rather than some office where no-one actually does judo).

British judo in general

Lets be honest, our issue are much bigger than only getting a 7th at the worlds, we could have an all singing all dancing centre of excellence and we’d still struggle because what is happening below that is far from excellent. Our coach education system is far from great, our competition structure lacks, well structure! and our referee education is awful, I mean we’re worried about one 7th place at the worlds, how many referees qualified? All of this needs urgent attention. Furthermore our former chair (and therefore our board) have just allowed us to embarrass ourselves and lose a European championships showing just how disjointed with are from the EJU and IJF.

I know I sound like like a constant cynic and in honesty I am not, there is some great stuff going on but it is hard to sit by and watch our “performance management group” allow this constant repetition of poor performance. It is not fair on the membership and most certainly is not fair on the athletes.

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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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