Should I move to the national Judo training centre?

Here in the UK as in some other countries we have a centralised national training centre. In this article we explore as an aspiring athlete the benefits, risks and considerations surrounding centralised training.

Here in the UK, as in nations like the Netherlands, there is a centralised performance programme and central training centre (or centres). The idea being to bring the best athletes together with the best coaches and support staff and facilities.

In the UK this is the “Centre of excellence” in Walsall, nerlar the city of Birmingham. Here the national governing body has invested in a permanent Dojo, gym and other facilities. It is designed to be a base from which athletes develop and perform from.

The issue however is that, as is very publically the case in the UK, athletes are choosing not to move to the central location and programme. The reasons for this are complex and outside the scope of a blog post, but the simplified answer is that some athletes feel that there existing support structures are better suited their objectives than the national support structures.

There is always a tension between an athletes desires and a national programmes desires. The national programme has to try and deliver results beyond an individual.

For you as an athlete, you need to care about the strength of the national programme. But you also need to care about that less than you care about your own programme.

Judo is a individual sport, not a team sport. A team structure is important and can be potentially a key factor in your success. However, team structures can also be restricting to the individual. A team structure can gain and share funding, but equally it has to share it; so the individual gets less.

As an athlete you may have to decide what is best for you. Perhaps the strength and conditioning and other support services at your national centre are superior to what you have at your home club. Or perhaps, the opposite is true.

It could also be a matter of the relationship between you and your coach. This is a key factor in any athletes success. You may decide that the player/coach relationship is the most important factor. Alternatively, the relationships you have at the national centre may be stronger than your home club.

You may also want to consider the social situations. A national centre may have more people to support you. The physiotherapist, strength coach, etc. Not forgetting other athletes on the same journey as you. Your personal needs might be a big factor; if you need/like people then a bigger center. Alternatively, having space might be what you need.

You should discuss the merits of the training opportunities you have on offer with a wide variety of people. So your club coach, your national coach, your parents, friends, etc.

You need to look carefully and understand what is on offer and the pros and cons of training at the central location and your home location.

Often, the decision will be influenced by national policies. For example funding and selection is often associated with attendance at national programmes. So a sensible decision may be to take advantage of the centralised training which comes with easier selection and access to funding etc.

You also need to consider that your relationship with your home coach may cloud your perception of the national programme. If your coach is not a fan of the national system you may find your opinion matching their view. So you need to consider as impartially as you can the merits of your home structures and the national structures.

The advice of impartial friends, family or judo colleagues might be helpful in making your decision. They might be able to give a view on if your current setup is as good as the national programme. Importantly they might be able to balance political ramifications of your decisions. Sometimes you might need to go with the national system to get the selections and support you need; even if you don’t fully believe in teh setup. Equally, sometimes you might need to go against the flow as selection and support might not balance out what you can get outside the national system.

You can see from the above that this is not an easy decision. If I were advising an athlete my default answer would be to go with the national programme.

Not only because you are improving your chances for funding, selection, support from your governing body; but you might also find that the national coaches and experts are the best the nation could find with all it’s resources.

But, most importantly; the decision should be yours. No good programme will bully or coerce athletes into moving to a national programme. A good programme won’t need to.


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