The Challenges of Elite Performance
For those who are sports anoraks the week has been notable for the ignition of the debate regarding the funding of elite sport, specifically of sports which are unlikely to win Olympic medals.
Basketball is one of the few really mass participation sports in the UK. Additionally, it is the sport with by far the greatest diversity and which is played by more young people from underprivileged backgrounds. However, the participation levels are not reflected in the accomplishments of the national teams. GB Basketball is ranked around 20th in the world and because that hardly suggests they are going to win Olympic medals they do not qualify for elite funding. To run the GB elite squads costs more than £1m per year. This is an enormous amount of money for a sport whose demographic is the under privileged. UK Sport does not consider that they qualify for support funding. Currently the NGB are suggesting that they will be unable to field national teams.
If Basketball has a problem, then Lacrosse certainly does. To represent your country in international competition is a fantastic privilege. One that is life shaping. However, when you are selected to play for England then you have to be prepared to pay the price. I always felt that when selection letters were sent out they should include an invoice for several thousand pounds!
If Basketball cannot qualify for funding then lacrosse certainly cannot expect much help. So if the NGB does not have the funds then it has to be the players who pay the majority of the cost.
Perhaps also worth thinking about is that there would seem to be a significant change in the English Lacrosse priorities recently with performance through the academy system and professional staff support of national teams becoming the priority at the expense of the grass roots game.
Comments on this strategy are;
• The grass roots game is the source of international players. For England Men that essentially means the Manchester club game. As far as I am aware no players from the south have played for England since 1974. The very successful University programme produces lots of players but as far as I am also aware none who have reached the very peak of the game. (the best I have seen is Timperley’s Rory Norris and he is not English)
• The standards in England have improved over the years but the standards in North America have become much, much higher. Only 20 years ago Lacrosse was really only an east coast sport but now it is truly nationwide. Only this weekend I was told that there are over 100 high schools playing in the Seattle area in Washington State. Lacrosse in Seattle!!
• The huge growth in grass roots numbers in US is feeding through into the college system with a rise in the quality of athlete now playing Lacrosse. In its turn this is increasing the quality of the US team. US colleges are now taking the pick of Canadian and Native American players with the inevitable result that both these nations are pushing to upset the powerhouse US, which the Canadians have done several times. The top two have fought for the Championship in most of the recent events, though the Iroquois with impact players like the Thompsons and the latest phenomenon Tahuka Nanticoke think they can cause upsets. One thing that is certain is that in the men’s game England are not going to win medals in World Championships. They currently manage to remain competitive amongst the top ten or so nations by drawing on the ever-expanding North American well of talent recruiting players with England qualifications. However, if the Manchester talent pool dries up we will struggle to be also-rans.
• The next World Championships in Israel this summer has a record 48 teams entered. It would be a surprise if some teams, particularly hosts Israel, do not lean heavily on qualified US college players.
• For England, retaining a place in the top ranked Blue Division may be the best we can hope for. To do that is it worth devoting the resources and worth the players to make the bigger and bigger time commitment which is being asked? Japan and Australia have resisted the temptation of taking on board US College players and have remained sort of competitive.
The thing would seem to me to make sure that grass roots Lacrosse does not implode.
Many parts of the Timperley programme are functioning better than they have done, probably ever.
Certainly our Junior girls programme has never enjoyed the strength in numbers or produced young players of such quality than it has at the moment.
Our senior Men’s programme has greater strength in depth than it has ever had. The 1st team is as competitive as it has been for the last 15-20 years.
Last Saturday we faced a Cheadle A team which included a handful of recent England internationals and with a young A team took them into overtime.
Despite missing at least 10 players we managed to field 15 players on the B team and took a good win over Stockport.
Our Boy’s programme has not had a stellar year. The U16 has produced some top class performances but has lacked consistency. Our U14 has had a real struggle for numbers and despite have some excellent players has had a losing season. The U12A has on paper had decent results but has not played Lacrosse of the quality we had hoped. After a stuttering start the U12B has made great strides in recent weeks, which at least gives some optimism for the future.
Sustaining progress is always a challenge as we have players leaving because of work and University at the senior end whilst recruiting and retaining young players tends to be an uneven process.
To progress we need to make sure that all parts of the pathway are functioning satisfactorily. That means that the structure of organisation, management and coaching is maintained at a high level and we do not take our eye off the ball.
Altrincham on the rise –Ghost town to boom town.
Those who are sad enough and patient enough to read my ramblings will know that I am an Altrincham person and have enjoyed the resurgence.
My view of a successful community is that it is an effective partnership between people, businesses, volunteer led organisations and the local authorities.
In the past this relationship seems to have been broken in Trafford. It became a town of empty shops and charity shops. In 2010 Altrincham town centre had one of the highest proportion of empty shops in the country. Trafford MBC seemed to me to think that their main responsibility was to keep council tax as low as possible even if that meant a desolate town centre with tumbleweed blowing down George Street- not to mention basket cases of Sale, Stretford and Urmston.
In 2018 Altrincham is thriving and the Council is at the forefront. The footfall is increasing faster than most places in the country. People are moving into the town centre to live and the social scene is vibrant. More than 20 new restaurants and cafes have opened. In my view the sea change is largely due to the greater involvement of the local authority to spearhead a new transport interchange, the new hospital and extensive public realm upgrades.
The local authority has intervened in the Altrincham town centre with the purchase and proposed upgrade of Grafton Mall. The building of a new Health Centre and housing on the site of the old hospital will add momentum to Altrincham centre.
In what seems to me to be an innovative move, the council are to make available loans of £20K to small businesses to help with PR, marketing and staff training.
The reasons for a more proactive council would seem to lie with Sean Anstee, the leader of the council.
Sean Anstee is a Trafford man who was born and raised in Partington – not exactly Hale or Bowdon (who he represents on the council). He went to Broadoak School, again not Altrincham GS for Boys. He went on to gain a degree from MMU and became successful at Bank of New York. He has made no secret that he is gay and in a same sex relationship, living in Sale with his partner. He was elected to Trafford Council at the age of 20 and has a reputation as “the socialist Tory”.)
Gary Neville –St Michael’s, Turn Moss, Sean Anstee and more.
The progress of community growth is very much geared to the influence of individuals.
Manchester is a soccer city and soccer has been the inspiration for development and innovation.
City is the most obvious example with the development of Sportcity. However, their commitment to Manchester is much larger with the investment in housing in Ancoats and in the expansion of Manchester University. On a much smaller but none the less significant level a restaurant is being fitted out on King Street (3rd refit in 2 years) which is going to be an up market Tapas restaurant owned by Pep Guardiola, Ferra Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, Catalans who are key members of City’s management team.
From the Red side of the city Gary Neville has been very active since his retirement from being a player being a successful TV pundit and a less successful manager at Valencia. He has been prominent as a developer in Manchester, first of all with Hotel Football opposite Old Trafford. He is currently turning the former Stock Exchange into a boutique hotel. His big project is however, the St Michaels development on the site of the former Bootle St police station. The scheme has raised some objections, which to me are a symptom of development. There are many advantages of enlightened despotism as a better way of government than democracy. We are blighted, in a resubmission, with the retention of the Bootle St facade which is decidedly second rate. Some people will object to everything!
As a bit of light relief the Class of 92 own half of Salford City FC with a view to making it into a League Club. The other 50% is owned by Singapore based billionaire Peter Lim. (Who is Gary Neville’s partner in many of his developments and was the owner of Valencia, which explains the less than successful managerial career.)
The club has already risen up two levels in the League structure and currently sit at the top of National League North.
The Class of 92 are also involved in the establishment of a Sports University on the site of the old Kellogs office next to Old Trafford cricket ground. This is being done in partnership with Lancaster University and Trafford MBC.
Who should turn up on TV last week but Sean Anstee promoting the partnership and in particular supporting a project to upgrade the facilities at Turn Moss playing fields to provide a training venue for Salford City and to improve the provision for the community.
There is a lot going on in Greater Manchester.
A question for next week.
Updated 10:28 - 22 Feb 2018 by Tom Slater
Who is Joanne Roney?