The opening of the GB High Performance Centre, at the EIS in Sheffield, marked 1000 days to go until Tokyo 2020. Although both senior teams, and a ix of junior players, had been training there since the move from Worcester in September, this milestone seemed an appropriate time to officially open the Centre.
‘1000 days to go’ was a central theme throughout the opening day, where media, members of BWB and UK Sport, and several other organisations were present. The ‘1000 days’ mantra gave a sense of purpose to the new home of high performance wheelchair basketball in the UK, creating a specific goal, albeit one that’s quite far away.
On arrival we were given a tour of the EIS facilities. The players based in Sheffield have access to a court dedicated to wheelchair basketball, personalised with the BWB logo, and ample storage space for sports chairs. The coaches office overlooks the court, which GB Womens Assistant Coach, Dan Price, believes can only help: ‘I can look out of my window and see players working hard on the court, go out there if I need to y’know. It’s great, I really value that’.
Catching up with Paul Davies, Performance Director at BWB, towards the end of the day, he believes the space that GB have being their ‘own’, with the branded court and office right next to each other, will play an important part in the athlete’s feeling ‘at home’ in their new training centre.
The players also have full use of the S&C gym, used by GB Boxing, as well as sports therapists and psychologists, and performance analysis technology. These facilities and staff are just down the corridor, meaning any issues can be addressed quickly.
During the presentations, speakers emphasised how the environment at the EIS has the potential to inspire and motivate the athletes training here. UK Sport Chair Katherine Granger spoke about the effect it had on her while she was working towards becoming the most decorated female Olympian in GB’s history: ‘Training in the same environment as other elite athletes drives you to perform.’ This statement was echoed by players as well. In a Q&A after the presentations, Robyn Love, member of the GB Womens Senior team, said ‘How can you not be inspired walking in and training here?’.
The centralisation of members of both squads has also seemed to impact players motivations to train and work hard. Similarly to the last few years, all players in the Senior Womens Squad are centralised, working on the court for between 18-22 hours a week. New from September of this year, members from the Mens Senior team are centralised as well, alongside some of the group that won the U23 World Championships in Canada this year. They train on court for around the same amount of time as the Women, meaning that over each week GB have nearly 50 hours of guaranteed court time, a vast improvement from previous years.
Peter Cusack, one of the additions to the centralised programme, and member of the U23 squad, really values the addition of a centralised programme to the Mens training ‘It’s good having all the boys here…having everyone back, I’m really enjoying it.’
Overall, the EIS is a fantastic facility, and the commitment that has been shown to the GB Programme will hopefully spur the coaches and players on to success. However, there are some questions that come from the day. Firstly, with the amount of court time and gym facilities available, will overtraining play a detrimental factor in GB’s development? Secondly, how will the physical move of the programme challenge the players? Most have moved homes, and some travel considerable distances to train, will this have an effect?
These questions certainly can’t be answered now, but time will tell, with the first challenge for both squads being the World Championships 2018, in Frankfurt.
Thanks to all those that spoke to me and helped to contribute to this post.
All quotes were taken verbatim, as close to the original statements as possible.