It’s really pleasing to see our talent system coming to life and for the young athletes in the squad to have the opportunity to travel abroad and to experience what it is like to take part in an international competition. The last weekend of April saw the talent team fly out to Frankfurt, Germany to play in their first overseas tournament where they got to compete against Israel, the Czech Republic, Finland and a development team from Germany. After a nervous start in their first game against Israel which they lost 50-43, the team stayed focused and worked hard, improving in every game and winning their final match against Finland 51-33. Most importantly the athletes had fun! as well as gaining a huge amount from the experience. They will have started to understand that dealing with travel, nutrition, time management, opposition-analysis and self-analysis, are all part of the elite journey. The average age of the squad is 22-23, so there is plenty of time to learn and to develop the individual and team skills necessary both on and off court to give them the opportunity to challenge for a place in a future GB team.
Over the past months, the 12 athletes selected for the squad have been working on their individual development plans and attending training camps. They are aware that they still have a great deal to do if they are to realise their ambition to be in the GB squad, but they are showing huge commitment and are excited to be part of the elite journey. There is still much more we as a performance team can do to support them, and together with the GB Head Coach and all those involved with the talent squad, I will be leading a workshop in early June to really focus on our talent pathway and to ensure we put in place all we can to give our athletes the best opportunity to realise their ambitions. This is as important for the future of our national team as it is for the individuals themselves.
Meanwhile those already selected for the GB team are preparing for the Four Nations Invitational Tournament taking place at the Lakeshore Foundation in Alabama USA. It promises to be a fantastic performance opportunity for the athletes who will be playing the top three nations in the world – great preparation for the European Championship this summer and for WWRC19 later in the year.
As with most organisations our business year ends on 31 March each year so there is always a fair amount of paperwork around this time as we prepare all of our end of year reports and set out the business plan for the new year which starts 1 April. This may be the less glamorous and exciting part of the job but it is nonetheless a critical one. It is fundamental to ensuring the organisation remains focused on delivering the best it can for Members as well as ensuring our compliance against the Code for Sports Governance, Charity Commission, Companies House and those who fund us. Our Board also play an important part in this process and challenge me in areas they feel are important as well as helping to set the direction for the organisation in the year ahead. Julie Bunnage has done a great job in leading the work to put together our end of year report for Sport England. This is an important document as it details our performance against the things we are contracted to deliver for the money we get from the Lottery and Sport England. Our results again look pretty good but I will save them for my Annual Report and for the AGM which should already be in your diary for 18 September, this year to be held at Twickenham.
One of the statistics that has come out of our review and which has pleased me is the number of new classifiable members who have joined us this year – a total of 21. This is really good news because we all face a real challenge in finding new classifiable players even though we continue to work with the Spinal Injury Units and introduce our game to those newly injured as part of the Spinal Injury Games. Of course we all know that there are many more individuals with a range of different impairments that are classifiable and we all need to be alert to the ways in which we can identify and attract them to our sport. Clubs are often best placed to do this because they are the centre of the sport in the areas where these individuals live. Our RDOs have a role in supporting clubs to do this and we will also continue to look for opportunities for national initiatives. Our commitment to the Paralympic classifiable discipline is key to the future of the sport and we have made the recruitment of classifiable players one of our top 5 priorities for our 2019/20 Business Plan.
Finally congratulations and a big thank you to Ben who ran the London Marathon for us last weekend. He managed a time of 4.19 hours and has raised around £3000 which is fantastic.