Tag Archives: World Judo Championships 2011

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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Great Britain at the World Judo Champs 2011 Pt 1 – How bad is bad?

After much consideration I have decided to split this post into several shorter posts. It is no secret that I am hugely disappointed with the performance of the British Judo team over the 2011 world championships in Paris. With only 332 days to go until our u60kg player steps on the mat in the London 2012 Olympic games how can we have our worst world championships since 1969? Who is to blame?

Firstly I want to consider how badly we performed this year, was it really worse than previous years? I have made a table to show how bad our performance was (see below) in comparison to previous world championships.

Championships Gold Silver Bronze 5th 7th
2011, Paris 1 1
2010, Tokyo 1 1
2009, Rotterdam 1 1
2007, Rio 1 1 1 3
2005, Cairo 1 2 1
2003, Osaka 2 1 2
2001, Munich 2 1 2 1
1999, Birmingham 1 3 1 2
1997, Paris 1 3 2
1995, Tokyo 1 2 2
1993, Hamilton 1 1 2 2 3
1991, Barcelona 3 2 3
1989, Belgrade 2 2 5 1
1987, Essen 2 1 3 1 4
1986, Maastrict 3 1 Women Only
1985, Seoul 2 1 Men Only
1984, Vienna 1 1 Women Only
1983, Moscow 1 Men Only
1982, Paris 2 1 Women Only
1981, Maastricht 1 Men Only
1980, New York 1 1 3 Women Only
1979, Paris 1 2 7 Men Only
1975, Vienna 2 Men Only
1973, Lausanne 2 Men Only
1971, Ludwigshafen 2 Men Only
1969, Mexico City 1 Men Only
1967, Salt Lake City 1 Men Only
1965, Rio


This table clearly shows that the last time we didn’t medal in a world championships was 1975 but in 1975 we did secure two 5th places. In 2011 we got one 5th and one 7th place, to find a result this bad by British Judo at the world championships you would need to go back to Mexico City, 1969! That’s 42 years ago! So here we are 332 days away from a home Olympic games with our worst performance in 42 years.

Over the next few posts I am going to analyse this performance and where appropriate I will attribute blame, I don’t like pointing the finger and blaming people but enough is enough! In separate posts I will consider the players, the staff, the BJA, UK sport and the culture of judo in Great Britain.

The next post will be on the players, see you then and please add you comments….

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Great Britain at the World Judo Champs 2011 Pt 2 – The players

My first post on the World Judo Championships in Paris described pretty clearly how our results at this years world championships were below par in terms of comparison to previous results from GB judo. It should also be pointed out that the goals set by UK sport were a minimum of one medal and a maximum of three medals and considering this is what we have consistently achieved in the past I do not think they were asking for too much, especially considering their £7.5m investment of tax payers money/lottery money for this Olympic cycle. But if UK sport are going to improve British judo they need to target their efforts in the correct place, make the correct changes etc so over the next few posts I will consider this from different perspectives.

A good place to start the analysis of our performance is the players. So lets look at the team that was taken and their past achievements according to a brief look at judo inside.

– 60 Ashley McKenzie (u23 European champions 2010, World cup gold, 2011 (Warsaw) and some European cup golds 2010/11)

-60 James Millar  (7 world cup medals, most recent 2011)

-66 Colin Oates (Bronze European Champs 2011, 3 world cup medals)

-66 Craig Fallon (European Champion 2006, World Champion 2005, World silver 2003, 8 world cup medals)

-73 Danny Williams (European cup gold, 2011)

-81 Euan Burton (World Bronze 2010, World Bronze 2007, 3 x European Bronze, 6 world cup medals)

-90 Winston Gordon (5th Athens Olympics, Bronze Europeans 2006, 11 world cup medals)

-100 Jame Austin (3 European cup silvers in 2010/11)

-52 Sophie Cox (2 European Silvers & 2 European Bronze, 10 world cup medals)

-57 Gemma Howell (1 world cup bronze, 3 European cup golds in 2010, 2 u23 European Championships Bronze)

-63 Faith Pitman (2 world cup medals, 7th in world championships 2007)

-63 Sarah Clarke (15 world cup medals, European Gold, silver and bronze)

-70 Sally Conway (3 world cup medals, 5th in World Championships 2009, 2 European cup golds in 2011)

+78 Karina Bryant (7 times world medallist, 4 x European champion, 16 world cup medals)

+78 Sarah Adlington (7 world cup medals, 2 European cup medals in 2011)

Just to summarise, this team had a world champion and 10 other world championship medals, 5 European championship golds & 12 other European medals as well as around 90 world cup medals. I haven’t compared this to other teams but to me it seems like the players are, or at least were capable of medalling at a world level.

Maybe now we should look at how the team did in this years world championships.

– 60 Ashley McKenzie – two wins

-60 James Millar  – two wins

-66 Colin Oates – four wins

-66 Craig Fallon – no wins

-73 Danny Williams – one win

-81 Euan Burton – one win

-90 Winston Gordon – one win

-100 James Austin – no wins

-52 Sophie Cox – one win

-57 Gemma Howell – two wins

-63 Faith Pitman – one win

-63 Sarah Clarke – one win

-70 Sally Conway – no wins

+78 Karina Bryant – two wins

+78 Sarah Adlington – no wins

This gives us 15 players with 18 wins, or an average of 1.2 wins per player. Not only that but we should consider the countries we got some of our wins against. Colin Oates had a tough draw in places (FRA & BRA) but in many respects had an easy draw beating MDA, and GHA (the GHA boy trains in the UK and only 2-3 times per week). Sarah Clark’s win was against SEN, one of Ashley’s wins was against MLT, Winston’s win was against PAN and Sophie’s win was against MAC. Please beware I am not slatting the players for this, all I am saying is that we should be beating countries like SEN, MLT, PAN, GHA and MAC with the judo history and funding of Great Britain.

Some players had some fantastic wins, Colin Oates beat former European silver medalist Zagrodnik from POL in his first fight, he also beat Larose of France in his fifth fight. Karina Bryant beat Sadkowska of POL in her second fight. For me the British player of the week was Gemma Howell, she beat the former world champion, Ribout on home ground, she then beat world bronze medallist Karakas of Hungary in her second fight before she was beaten in fight three by the infamous Isabella Fernandez of ESP in a tactical fight and lets be honest, she can play tactics with the best!

I think it is fair to say we have a fairly old team and although many of them have world and European medals some of them haven’t medalled at this level for a while. But I also think if you took Euan, Sarah C, Karina, Craig, Winston you could/should expect one or two medals. I also think Gemma, Sally, Sophie, Ashley, Sarah A, Faith could have been expected to finish 5th or 7th and Danny, James A, James M should have expected to be around 9th.

Is this a fair expectation looking at the medals they have already achieved? I would be interested to hear if I am expecting too much, please comment.

If this is what could be expected then  even  performing below expectation should have brought home a medal (maybe two) and 3-4 5th/7th places but we didn’t.

I don’t think we should make excuses, I have read that two players in each weight group causes issues (Nicola Fairbrother) and even our own performance director has said this  “We have to look positively because the Olympic tournament will be half the numbers, with only one fighter from each country, if they qualify, which will make it a much more level playing field.” (Hick’s, August 2011). I would ask this, does a confident country pray for half the numbers? Shouldn’t we be confident with our judo team and the budget we have? Also, lets be honest, every country has the same problem! They all have to compete against two French, two Japanese etc and they don’t have the budget we do, many probably can’t afford to send two players in each weight group, which brings me on to the next topic….

Why did we not send a full team? No 48kg player, no +100 player, no -78 player. We also only sent one player in many of the weight groups, what about Sophie Johnson or Siobhan O’Neil at u52kg? Why not another -73kg player – Jan Gosiewski, Owen Liversy, Lee Shinkin? At u81kg they could have sent Tom Reed, David Groom, I could go on but this post is getting long!

I know some of the excuses that will coming back, Tom, Jan and Megan were at the university world championships just before is one, well okay maybe that is fair enough but I am sure a program could have been put in place. The other excuse is money, well firstly Paris is very close, secondly if you don’t have enough money in your £7.5m budget to send a full team to the world championships then maybe we need to consider someone else managing the budget?

Last thing on this, three players were brought out at the end of the competition for the teams Siobhan O’Neil, Matt Clempner and Matt Purssey – none of their weight groups had two players in from GB so why not fight them?

For me the players aren’t to blame, sure they could have done better but I don’t believe any of them stepped on the mat thinking “I don’t want to win” or “I’d rather be on COD”  and I certainly don’t think they had been out the night before or anything like that. I think they didn’t win for other reasons. In the next post I shall continue this blog topic considering the high performance directorate in British judo and the system within the UK.

Please comment, sorry the post got so long :p

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