Tag Archives: Coaching

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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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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Do judo coaches need to know about physiology?

On the next block of the EJU level 4 performance coach award the first year group will study physiology. When I was writing this course I constantly asked myself what do coaches need to know? Based upon my previous experiences as a coach, my academic knowledge and the literature on coaching knowledge I developed the model below, I probably read it somewhere and adapted it or maybe put several things I’d read together, I really can’t remember.

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 20.56.32

Image taken from one of my powerpoint lectures

I think coaches can learn a lot from experience and reflection but I also think if they have an underpinning knowledge of the science this reflective process of learning can be much faster and more economical. As you can see in the figure above I have added sources to the types of knowledge a coach needs and the sciences generally come from universities.

When I did my first degree, which was in sports science, I had a biomechanics lecturer who always used to say “you cannot change the laws of the universe” and of course he is correct, for example we cannot change gravity but we can manipulate it’s affect if we understand it, take the fosbery flop for example!

So do judo coaches need to understand physiology? Well just like the “laws of the universe” you cannot change physiology but you can manipulate and you can gain huge advantages. In his speech in the film ‘any given Sunday’ Al Pacino says the game is “all about inches” and “taking the inches”. I think judo is the same, every inch matters and you can gain these performance inches in many ways – technical, tactical, psychological etc but also physiologically.

I am not suggesting coaches should be physiologist but lets be honest – they write the “periodised year plan” and most have no idea about the underlying physiology. In some countries they do, Germany, Russia, China and France for example. So if coaches don’t need to be physiologist how much physiology do they need to know? Well, in my opinion, they need to be able to understand physiological test results and apply them to their year plan, they need to be able to interact with the S&C coaches/doctor/physio etc but most importantly they need to understand the physiological demands of the sport so they can apply them to their mat sessions!

Can you honestly say you fully understand the physiological demands of judo? How much lactate would you expect your players to produce in randori? In shiai? How can you test recovery in the taper? Do you sessions mimic the physiological demands of shiai? How can you improve your athletes recovery?

Here are some pictures of our coaches developing their physiology knowledge so that their players can win their fights inch by inch.

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45 sec rule….

Just a quick post, following on from my last one really. Whilst teaching undergrad sports students to teach in schools I made a rule – you can only talk for 45 seconds at a time!

We timed people talking/demonstrating and observed the children to see when the lost interest, 45sec was about the max time. Last week when I spoke to my coaches about the session I mentioned this, the idea is the children spend more time doing and less time pretending to listen!

 

I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

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European Judo Union level 4 and 5 coaching award – week 1

It is the end of week one of our physiology for judo block on the European Judo Union level 4 and 5 coaching awards. It has been a very demanding week that has included learning about the energy systems, the neuromuscular system and relating these to judo. The students have enjoyed the block so far but rather than waffle I will leave you with some pictures.

 

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There is more information about this two week block on Facebook at the judo knowledge page and there is more information on joining the course at www.anglia.ac.uk/judo. We are also on twitter @EJUCoach.

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EJU Level 4 & 5 – Week one

29/08/2010

This week has seen the first week of the new European Judo Union Level 4 and 5 coaching awards being held at Anglia Ruskin University

This course differs from any other course in the world. It is academic in the sense that it is a FdSc or BSc in sports coaching, it is also practical int he sense that we are teaching people to coach in an applied environment. The real differences lie in the students though, the students are either experienced coaches to very experienced athletes. Most attend this course because they have a passion for development as a coach and almost all of them are mature students. The students have a wealth of knowledge already and therefore they learn as much from each other as they do from the course.

Our task [as staff]is to develop this experience and teach the students to apply research and academic knowledge to their experiences and future coaching. You could think of it like this, most coaches will take an athlete and develop that athlete based upon their experience of the technique and the athlete. But what is their knowledge of that technique isn’t vast enough? What if it is wrong? What we’re trying to do is teach the student to also use the wide variety of research in this area, so in this example biomechanical research.

On this two week block the first years have been learning about coaching pedagogy. They have learnt how people learn, how people understand and how to lead/manage athletes, how to adapt your coaching for different learning styles. One of the things they discovered is that they already use many of the recommended strategies they just didn’t know why they did it. Now, by understanding why they do it, they can develop themselves as coaches.

Another difference with this course is the staff, of course we use all the regular Anglia Ruskin staff but there are also many judo specific members of staff brought in such as Dr Mike Callan, Dr Andrew Moshanov, Emanuela Pierantozzi, and Roy Inman. Staff profiles for all the members of staff teaching on this block can be downloaded here.

For more information on the range of EJU coaching awards please go to www.judoknowledge.org

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