Do you know how to get selected?

As a Judo athlete not everything is under your control. One thing that fits into the “not under your control” category is the selection of players to compete in events. We are fortunate in Judo that many events are open to anyone, but especially once you hit the international level you need to be selected by your national governing body. In this article we shall explore the selection process and how you as a Judo athlete need to operate to ensure you are selected.

Girl Power!One of the problems you will encounter when it comes to selection is that everybody has a different system. Your club may select one way, your area another, your nation a third and of course Olympic selection involves people outside of Judo in the process.

For example within the BJA and example of selection policy can be found at This document outlines the selection criteria and process used by the British Judo Association to select athletes to compete in the 2008 Under 23 European Championships. (please not that this document has the suffix “Draft” so actual selection methods may have varied). This is very Britain specific, but the principles apply to all nations.

As a Judo athlete there are some key points for you to understand.

1.The BJA Board of Directors is ultimately responsible for selections. If push came to shove, they decide who gets selected. At present the BJA board is nine men ( no women. These nine people hold in their hands the power of selection. If you are loved by one of these people your selection process is going to be easier than if one (or more) hates you!
2.The Board delegates selection to the selection panel. The selection panel is less easy to identify. It is not listed easily on the BJA website. So as a Judo athlete you will need to ask around to find out who the panel members are. These people have been given the responsibility of selecting players by the Board of directors, so again you want to know who they are and make sure you have an understanding of how they select players and if any of them have strong feelings towards you.
3.Eligibility. Not all Judo athletes are eligible for a specific event. In this example there is an age restriction, also the document outlines that you must have a full British Passport and be a current member of the BJA and of the BJA national squad. This highlights some of the issues of an international society, you may be from another country and not have a British passport (like myself). You may have let your membership lapse.
The requirement to be a squad player is an interesting one, as the squad itself will have selection criteria you must meet.
4.Selection. The BJA system uses a common method, they choose “The player with the most potential to win a medal.”. They also specify that they will look at “all the player’s competition results within the 12 months immediately prior to time of selection will be taken into consideration.” They go on to list the events they will consider and that they will factor in other variables such as the draw and injuries.
Another important selection criteria listed is “attendance record at training sessions and competitions. In considering ‘attendance’, factors such as performance, attitude and behaviour will also be taken into account.”. what this basically means is that you need to attend national training and be a good team player, you had better not just show up to get a tick in the box.

As you can see, there is a mix of subjective and objective criteria here. I would argue more subjective than objective. As a Judo athlete what this means is that people are going to make judgment calls about you, based on their opinion of you and the other athletes wanting your spot on the team. As such you need not only to perform well in competition but also ensure that the board of directors and selection panel members think you are the best darn player around.

Simply being able to (or even winning) every fight is not enough, although an undefeated streak is always going to carry a lot of weight. If, like most athletes there is genuine competition for your “spot”, then you need to ensure that you look like the athlete who has the best attitude, best training, best chance of winning medals.

The best way of achieving this is to be the best player, the hardest trainer, the nicest guy or girl. But even then, you need to ensure that the specific individuals who are involved in the selections know about how great you are. How many of the selectors (and board of directors) would recognise you walking down the street? How many would know where you train, how hard you train, etc?
How many know what the last fight you had was? How many know who the last “big name” you beat was? How many like you as a person? How many hate you? How many thing you are not the best person to choose?

If you don’t know the answer then you have a problem. If you have negative answers you have a problem. But, as a Judo athlete you will tackle these “problems” just as you would any challenge. You can plan out a strategy to ensure you know the selectors and they know you.

The single most important thing you can do is identify the people who make the decisions and speak with them about how the process works and about what they think you as a player should be doing. This is entirely ethical if you are genuinely just trying to learn from them.

Another important issue is to consider who you train with and their relationship with the selectors. If you have a friend who is not popular with selectors, is it wise for you to “hang out” with them? Is you club coach popular or unpopular with the selectors? Again, if so you have some thinking to do about how to deal with this.

Having said all the above, and got you worried, I need to point out that in the grand scheme of things, selection “should” be the least of your worries. I would hope that someone reading this is a dedicated and talented Judo athlete who would be a natural choice for any spot on a team. However, sometimes selections are difficult and often controversial as you may have a fellow athlete at the same level as you. In this situation having explored how selection works and who makes the selections and perhaps worked on ensuring that all the relevant people know you are the best choice might swing the balance in your favour. And if that does happen and you get a fellow athletes spot, you had better make good use of it and win gold!

I hope the above has given you some food for thought about selection, the BJA u23 example I think shows just how complicated it can be. The rules change based on event, personnel, policy and many other elements. As a Judo athlete you need to ensure you understand the process and stay current.

Managing your selection chances is like all things in sport, 100% your responsibility as a Judo athlete. You can’t complain you were not selected if you did not take the time to understand the selection process and do what was required to get selected.

As always, you should always discuss with your coaches (club, area and national) and you can always ask me ( ) if you want some advice.

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