Tag Archives: Margaret Hicks

Great Britain at the World Judo Champs 2011 Pt 5 – Where now & Transparency

Here it is, the last post on the subject of Great Britain’s performance in the 2011 World championships. Over the past 4 posts I have discussed our performance, the players, the system and the role of UK sport, now I will briefly discuss what we could do now and transparency.

So what now? Well I want to try and avoid any rumours and will offer a couple of solutions, I am only considering from now until London. Of course I have opinions on a longer term strategy, and I have presented these at conference, but it is beyond the scope of this post.

1 Possibly the easiest and most cost affective would be to remove the current high performance directorate and allow players to train in the location of their choice, Camberley, Bath, Ratho, Dartford etc I would leave Darren and Kate and Dartford. Players have been asking to be left alone to train where they are for a long time, with only 317 days to go could we realistically find and employ a new coach and get all the players to move?

2 Thinking outside the box, you could just move the whole team with selected coaches to one of the IJF training camps and stay there until London, Tunisia for example. This might sound harsh and drastic but imagine the whole squad in one place, no distractions, nothing to do but train for the next 10 months. Soldiers have to do it, I am sure it wouldn’t be popular with players initially but once they are there and have nothing to do but train they might be more positive.

3 Of course you could leave things as they are? Lets be honest the damage is done, if we let the current high performance directorate see out until London at least we won’t get the “if we had stayed it would have been fine” or the “if the BJA/membership/board had been more patient…” but lets be honest, we have probably been too patient!

I am sure there are many other options, these are just three of the top of my head but my point is quite simple. The majority of people will have read the above and thought “that won’t work” or ‘that is stupid” or “Bob has lost the plot” but what you have to consider is that every option has pro’s and con’s and there is now a small group of people (the BJA board of directors and possibly some UK sport people) who will have to decide where we go now. Their solution will also have flaws, some of us will 100% disagree with, other might think it is okay and some will hate it.

Two things soldiers are very good at (obviously there are more!) is complaining and “getting on board”. There is a time and place to complain and there is a time and a place to “get on board” or as it was described to me the day we invaded Iraq – “We have had our chances discuss and complain, now we must stop dicking around and make change happen” whilst not the most eloquent of statements he had a point. I think we have reached this point now in British Judo. It is well and truly time to stop dicking around! A decision will be made by British judo soon, when it is made, regardless of whether we agree or not, now is the time to make change happen! We know there is a shortage of partners so if you’re a dan grade get to every randori session you can to support the team, if you’re rich help players get to world cups, if you’re a physio get to one of the main training centres and volunteer to help, if you can use a camera help Nigel, there is so much help needed that pretty much whatever skill you have you can help. ‘They’ are not British judo ‘we’ are British judo and we all have a chance now, entering the final phase, to make things happen (Bath, Camberley and Dartford (not sure about Ratho) all publish there their training programs so get down there and help).

In my opinion one of the main issues here has been transparency. Players feel many of the selections (or non-selections) were unjust, they also feel if they speak out they will have less chance of selection and many feel speaking out will be the end of their career as an athlete altogether. I think the new system should have a system where athletes, coaches and even parents feel they can voice concern (I am not talking about day to day whinging) and that their concern will be heard by the appropriate people with retribution. Ideally players would feel they could go to the performance director but I think we are a way of that kind of trust at the moment, maybe we could  use a middle person? Maybe one of the board is assigned tot his issue? I don’t know but I am sure the two main issues here have been transparency and coaching philosophy.

The average hit on this blog per month is between 4-500. Already this month I have over 2000 hits and it is only the 15th. I would like to thank the people who have supported me in writing this blog and I would especially like to thank the eight British squad players, three parents of British squad players and six coaches who have gone out of their way to find me at competition or email me to thank me for writing these posts, many of whom I hadn’t met before.

Soremade!

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Great Britain at the World Judo Champs 2011 Pt 3 – The system

The structure of high performance judo in the UK has been in turmoil for quite some time. We have only won one Olympic medal in the last four Olympic games – almost 20 years with only one medal. I think this lack of Olympic medals has in some ways caused the constant changes in the structure of high performance judo in the UK. I cannot remember the years exactly but we had a structure that included high performance centres at Sheffield, Walsall and Bath, this was then to be further developed to include high performance centres in Scotland, NI and Wales. My personal opinion is that this is actually an excellent structure and could have worked fantastically but was very poorly implemented and managed. You cannot just build a facility, put a coach there and expect players to just turn up ready to train. The Sheffield centre is now a snooker hall, Walsall is doing well and is an England Excell centre but it is far from what was intended at the original inception. Bath was the most successful of the three. This was because there was someone there who focussed on the development and not just coaching. Dr Mike Callan understood a more holistic approach to the development of a daily training environment and it can be argued that the only reason Bath was successful when the others were not (although as I said Walsall is doing well now) is because of Dr Mike Callan.

Inevitably with no Olympic medals staff were changed around, we had Bisham Abbey for a while under one performance director, this was closed. We went into a structure of each “performance club” doing their own thing – Camberley, Ratho, Bath mainly.

But now, under Margaret Hicks, we have a centralised programme with the BPJI at Dartford, or do we? I think the concept of a centralised programme is actually a very good idea, one centre of excellence with all the facilities and all the players. But, in my opinion, what we see with the creation of the BJPI is yet another good idea opposed to and destroyed because of exceptionally poor implementation and management. Let me explain why…

1) If you create a new system and you want players to buy into it then it has to be better than what they already have. It must have better coaches (by better I mean more suitable to the specific clientele), you must have better sports science support, it must be an environment where the athletes feel that they can work harder/more efficiently than they currently do and where they feel the staff actually care about them as players and people.

2) You cannot order people to move, athletes compete because they want to win an Olympic medal and they train in the place they feel gives them the best chance to do that. Getting a player to move is about negotiation. You have to convince them them the environment you want them in is better for them. If you don’t they might move but they will never fully commit and believe in the system.

3) You have to implement it gradually. If they had created the BPJI and had made is “all singing, all dancing” then they should have worked on convincing junior players (and their parents) that they should go to the BPJI and not one of the other centres. This would have taken two Olympic cycles and would have meant the BPJI would have been the number one centre of excellence for Rio 2016 but at least it would still be there in 2016, it probably won’t be now.

4) Our athletes need some sort of distraction. This might be some sort of part-time job, probably best is education,this could be higher education but could equally be some sort of apprenticeship or internship. This is part of athletes feeling you care about developing them as individuals but it is also about a longer term understanding of developing British judo. When we went to Beijing we took three coaches (arguably the best in the country) who didn’t even have a degree amongst them, they were all ex players. In Germany you’d be hard pushed to get a high performance coaching role without at least a Masters degree, in Russia you would probably need a PhD and this is the same in many countries around the world. Coaching is complex and coaching is a science, it is applied by an artist but it is a science.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. We are likely yo keep employing ex players as coaches so we need to educate them.

5) We must embed research into our high performance programme. Is it okay to spend our £7.5m budget the say so of a performance director or a head coach? £7.5m on spent on opinion! The opinion of 2-5 people! Could you imagine this in the NHS, social work, the military, government etc? No, spending on this level should be based upon research, our players should be prepared using the most up to date research we can generate.

So going back to my original question, is the programme really centralised? Well Ratho is now deemed a centre of excellence or BPJI 2 or whatever it is being called. This came about quite simply because they have the a very high number of the best players in the country and basically they refused to move. We have a large number of players a Camberley, they are forced to attend the BPJI regularly, possibly victims of the proximity to Dartford. There is no doubt in my mind the majority feel they have to do extra hours at Camberley to make up for the time they feel they waste at the BPJI. Then we have Bath, I will discuss coaching philosophy in a later post, but the head coach at Bath and the GB head coach have very opposing philosophies to coaching and this means Bath players are often victims of politics despite being some of the best players in the country.

I had some other things I want to write but this post is getting too long so I will end here, I would like to point out the the BPJI has actually been very good for me personally. I live only 1hr away, I can take players from my club there to train for free, I am sent the program and can turn up whenever I want with my players for a session, I think this is excellent.

Next post I will consider the role of UK sport, transparency and general mood within British Judo.

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