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.
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.
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.