Anthony Clark, the former world and Commonwealth silver medallist, has credited his development under Badminton England’s groundbreaking Elite Coach Programme for the chance to undertake a coaching role with the Polish national team.
Clark was one of five candidates who joined BE’s inaugural programme last year, giving the former doubles specialist first-hand experience of working alongside head coach Jabob Hoi and the GB Badminton World Class Performance Programme at Milton Keynes.
“At the beginning it was getting to know Jakob, understanding the role, how the programme was going to move forwards and gaining the experience of coaching players at Milton Keynes at the highest level," he said.
“I got together with Jakob a number of times as to how I was going to improve my coaching and perhaps set up my own academy in the future. That was the long-term plan.”
Clark says he was given “100 per cent faith” as a coach in a programme that allowed him to work free-rein with the players.
He said: “Afterwards we discussed how the sessions went and in all it was a real confidence-booster. For me that was the biggest part of the programme, being able to talk to someone of the calibre of Jakob and being able to implement that in my coaching.
"The open door policy of the programme allowed me to get contact whenever I needed it and has also allowed me to experience international tournaments, travelling alongside the coaches we were being mentored by.”
Along with the other coaches on the programme, the 38-year-old was given the opportunity to go to events in France, Spain and the Superseries in Denmark with Hoi.
The latter event in Copenhagen led to Clark first making contact with Polish officials.
“If I hadn’t been on the elite programme, it wouldn’t have given me the chance to meet with the Polish team,” he admitted.
The Polish Badminton Federation initially asked Clark to work full-time, until a compromise was sought and he was given a part-time role which will see him travel to Warsaw for up to 10 days per month as national doubles coach.
His first task is to qualify players for the Rio 2016 Olympics. “If that is accomplished I will be going to Rio with the players and coaches,” he said.
“If someone says that they want you to coach our players and go to the Olympics, I couldn’t say no to that.
“They are a great bunch of players to work with. As with every new challenge, there are some initially worrying times when you don’t know what to expect.
“But I got to know the players in my first visit in December and it’s a pleasure to work with them.
“It’s amazing how things have turned out – and that’s all down to first being on the elite programme.”
Hoi and Jon Austin, Badminton England’s performance director, were “very positive” in regards to Clark working with the Polish team.
The 2006 world silver medallist said: "They understood that it was invaluable experience for me to gain coaching confidence and the knowledge of working in a national set-up. There’s no better training for me and I have to thank them for that.
“The Elite Coach programme is all about that, trying to get coaches to international level coaching and the programme has allowed me to do that.”
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