In the first of a monthly series of blogs, British Judo Performance Director Nigel Donohue looks back on the first month of 2017 including World-Class Performance Programme players returning to training and the new rules from the IJF.   

Hello everyone!

Post 2016 British Championships, all players on the World Class Performance Programme (WCPP) went through an end of year physical screening in readiness to hit the ground running at the start of 2017. This involved all players taking part in testing the first week of the New Year to blow out the cobwebs with some intense sessions both on the mat and in the gym (including a 2km row!).

It is always expected that over the Christmas period, though we know that the players need to have a break, they return at a suitable level of fitness to hit the ground running straight away and it was very encouraging to see the improvement in the post-New Year training scores compared to previous years.

Of course, in that first week it was great to welcome Sally Conway and Natalie Powell back to the British Judo Centre of Excellence. They are both familiar with the Centre having been here for numerous ONSTs and pre-Championship training camps over the last 3 years. But as we move to a fully centralised World Class Performance Programme, we went through a comprehensive induction process with them both, which included a full laboratory physical screening including a DEXA Scan, skinfolds, skeletal assessment and movement and balance tests. They also had the opportunity to meet all of the staff onsite and discuss their ongoing Individual Athlete Plan for 2017 with their responsible coach.

The physical screenings play a big role in determining an athlete’s plans for the years and gives both the coaching and sport science and medical teams data to inform their pre-hab, S&C and preparation programmes.

Sally and Natalie were also among a team of 12 GB judoka selected to go to the Mittersill EJU Olympic Training Camp which is one the best training camps on the World circuit.

The training camp in Mittersill is a key component of our Global Randori Programme and is aligned to our ‘What It Takes To Win’ model. We believe that for our athletes to succeed at the highest level, they need constant exposure to train with world-class judoka and also experience the different styles of judo you find around the world.

There were over 700 judoka on the mat in Austria and it was a brilliant opportunity for some of our players to experience the volume and intensity of Randori with some of the best in the World. Our -52kg girls Kelly Edwards and Chelsie Giles both had the chance to practice with each of Rio 2016 Olympic medallists including Majlinda Kelmendi. That sort of experience is invaluable and will set our players in good stead as we move forward in 2017.

One of the key talking points from the start of 2017 has been new rules implemented by the IJF. We were aware that the IJF were going to trial some changes to the rules through to this year’s World Championships, but feel the new rules around gripping and scoring don’t affect our technical philosophies and our five British Judo Trademarks. In fact, we feel that they reinforce them and look forward as to how the rule changes are implemented over the next couple of months.

As well as Mittersill, we also held our first Open National Squad Training (ONST) of the year from 20 – 22 January at the Centre with the GB Squad formulated after the 2016 British Championships. There was over 150 judoka on the mat including players from Norway and Australia as well as our 2005 World Champion Craig Fallon. It was a fantastic weekend and really encouraging to see the level of judo in every session. The quality and intensity never seemed to drop and feel that ONST’s are of great benefit to our GB Squad programme.

During that weekend we also invited double Olympic silver medallist Neil Adams MBE and one of our top international referees Keith Merrick to deliver a technical session and Q&A on the new rules with the GB Squad players. Both Neil and Keith were in attendance at the recent IJF Refereeing and Coach seminar in Baku at the start of the year and Neil is a very well respected member of the IJF organisation who has a greater insight as to the thinking behind the rule changes.

It was a very useful to utilise their expertise and I’d like to thank them very much for taking the time out to give our players a greater understanding of the rule changes as they step out onto the mat in international competition.

I’d also like to thank the Home Nations and Performance Pathway coaches for attending over the weekend. It was really good to see the coaches from across the UK working together and exchanging ideas throughout ONST.

As always it’s been a busy start to 2017 and the next month promises more of the same with GB judoka in action across Europe including this weekend’s Paris Grand Slam. I’m looking forward to seeing how our players perform and if you’re in the crowd at the Bercy this weekend, I know the team will appreciate your support in one of the most prestigious events in World Judo.

Thanks all and see you again in March!