Lions Led By Donkeys

Now that the Judo at the Rio Olympics is finished, and realising I haven’t posted anything on this blog for quite sometime, here I sit in the Shropshire sunshine (home for a few days for some good friends wedding) on a day of fasting typing out a few ideas and thoughts I’ve had lately. I was initially sat in my mums back garden enjoying Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and reading a few posts on a couple of social media forums regarding the British Judo teams performance at the Olympics. This led to the music getting turned down slightly, which does NOT happen very often in this household, and the laptop came out!I shall make a few posts on this theme over the next couple of weeks as there is far too much to do at once!

I was annoyed by an ignorant post about why the mens team doesn’t achieve the results it did in the seventies and eighties; I don’t want to spend a lot of time here but anyone with half a brain that understands a fraction about competitive Judo will tell you that after the break up of the Soviet Union Judo became a different and immensely harder sport. I am not trying to take away what those players achieved before the USSR break up, they could only fight who was in front of them, and a number of them were and still are sources of inspiration for myself. But Judo only ever gets harder, I also recognise that if I ever become a coach of senior competitive players that they will have it harder than I did regarding international competitiveness. Even the african nations etc are beginning to come through, imagine what they will be like in ten to twenty years time. Judo only ever gets harder.

I personally thought that the team performed very well. With a number of spirited, passionate and experienced efforts. I’d like to take the opportunity to congratulate Sally on her well deserved bronze, as my coach Luke tweeted ‘couldn’t have happened to a more hard working or nicer person’. As most people know though elite sport can come down to an inch difference between winning and losing. I personally love Al Pachino’s speech in the film Any Given Sunday where he talks to a group of american football players about life being a game of inches, clawing with your fingernails to get to where you want if that’s what it takes. On that point, I thought some of the matside coaching (especially during Ashley and Colin’s fights) was abysmal. Judo is about winning the day, with one shido or one small score sometimes being the difference between an early shower or a place on the rostrum. I am certainly not condoning cheating here, but if a decision is missed or called wrongly by the referee then it MUST be contested by the mat side coach. For results benefit and remembering that this is a fighting sport, the players on the mat need to know that the person sat in their chair is passionate and ‘has their back’. I don’t think the team have that from the coaches or staff at the moment. Actually, I don’t think, I know. The majority of the team has expressed their dislikes at one point or another to myself and others. I feel the effort, passion and understanding of the senior players is not matched by the majority of coaches or staff, although there are one or two exceptions. The one tournament I was at as part of the team this Olympic cycle was the European Championships this year, the atmosphere between the majority of the team and staff was how I imagine a snooker tournament to be. It still pains me to walk into the Centre of Excellence (the most arrogant name imaginable) and see coaches, managers staff that have never either competed at senior international level for a sustained period of time nor ever coached players to that level in some of the highest positions in Judo coaching in the country. ‘Lions led by donkeys’ is an old quote that comes to me sometimes when I think about it.