"We want to encourage a more fluid system whereby athletes can move on and off the pathway more regularly according to development and application.” This is the ethos new coach Graham Hurrell is looking to implement with the new Junior Performance Programme.
As the new Pathway Coach, Hurrell has been on a fact-finding mission over the last two months alongside Assistant Pathway Coach Dave Lindley.
The pair have been visiting many of England’s best junior training centres across the country to gain further feedback and insight into the current junior programme. This information has helped to inform where the key areas of investment should be in the new England Junior pathway which will be implemented at the start of next year.
Their research has also involved looking at junior performances in major events over the last 10 years, how many players have come through Badminton England’s Elite Programmes and into the Senior England or GB Programmes and studying the current make-up of programme players and their achievements.
The new pathway will start in January 2018. This will allow more time for the new coaches working within the pathway to get to know the current group of players and to ensure that when a review takes place in December there is sufficient knowledge to make informed decisions of those currently on the programme.
A clear vision has been set out by the coaches, with the purpose of the pathway - “To consistently produce athletes who have a winning mentality with the technical and physical capabilities to become world class.”
This has led to inevitable changes, which include a new Athlete Pathway Model which has age groups removed as barriers or restrictions to enable athletes to progress according to level of ability rather than age.
The new Athlete Pathway Model consists of five stages – Discovery, Nurture, Evolve, Apprenticeship and Perform.
Another significant change will be the way in which athletes are identified and supported at the beginning of the performance pathway.
With athletes being identified at the U11 and U13 nationals, the Discovery stage of the Pathway will place more emphasis on supporting the coaches within individual training centres to develop athletes rather than a direct investment into the athlete’s programmes. This will place the responsibility for the coordination of training programmes, camps and international tournament exposure on these training environments under the guidance of Badminton England.
As an athlete moves upwards through the pathway this will lead to progressive involvement and investment directly into the athlete’s development including, individually designed training programmes, funded international tournament opportunities, athlete profiling, educational workshops and introducing them to the environment at the National Badminton Centre (NBC).
Another key focus area of the England Junior Performance Programme will be a closer engagement with coaches and parents to ensure that all parties involved with young athletes are aligned on the direction of the pathway and where each can positively influence the development of the athletes.
When an athlete reaches the ‘Perform’ stage of the pathway, they would be considered to have entered into the England senior squad, gaining access to a full time training programme at the NBC on top of a full tournament programme.
Hurrell said: “The new system focuses on the long term development of the athlete and widens the range of players who could access the pathway. This approach will remove some of the complacency seen with the current programme of once you’re on you’re on.
“We want to work closely with coaches to provide exposure to the highest level, increase their knowledge of world class badminton and how this relates back to the fundamental skills which need to be developed to enable an athlete to become a world class player of the future. By focusing on the development of the coaches and the training environments we will inevitably see a knock-on effect in the quality of the athletes coming out of these environments.”
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Badminton England is set to launch a new initiative designed to promote, support and engage women in coaching across all levels of the sport, from grassroots and talent right through to performance.