This article forms part of a series of reports which accompany the 2022-23 BF Annual Report.
In this report:
The BF Athlete Development Programme (ADP) is a six weapon programme, based on the BF Fencer Pathway Model, that exists to support athletes in achieving GBR Olympic success and inspiring others. It covers athletes from ages 15 to 35 (and beyond for those performing at Olympic level) who are moving through a defined development pathway to success at the highest level of fencing.
The ADP objectives for 2022-23 were:
1. Restart – Restarting international the competition season.
2. World Class Ready – Start of the system development of an integrated pathway.
The international competitions were impacted by a number of changes to the international calendars often at short notice. This expected to continue into the 2023-24 season. The fencers, coaches and parents showed great adaptability and overall significant numbers of fencers still met the qualification standard for selection for the Major Championships.
2. World Class Ready
People & Culture – the ‘Call It Attitude’ commitment created by the fencers is coming to life through their behaviours and attitude at various events and competitions (e.g. this reflections and report post from the U23 European Championships).
Peer to peer review and coach observation at camps and competition is supporting the development of the psychological safe space for athletes and coaches, increasing connectivity across the pathway.
Connections with other sports governing bodies (Judo, Boxing, Wrestling, Modern Pentathlon) and other organisations (UK Coaching, TAP) has enabled the sharing of learning in coaching and coach development.
System & Process Development continues to focus on driving efficiencies and improvements within existing operational processes, for example online trip risk assessments and the publication of live performance data.
Analysis of the changing development needs of athletes in age groups and weapons continues to guide the implementation of different competition formats within the cadet and junior domestic competitions creating appropriate time on task opportunities to accelerate performance.
Trajectory modelling on international performance data is now being used to support the season competition planning. This includes planning for transition opportunities (Juniors to Seniors) and milestone Major events.
The introduction of the individual athlete development plans, together with the emphasis of time on task and appropriate competition, continue to build the “fencers’ experiences” with the aim to accelerate a fencer’s progression through the pathway.
Looking ahead to 2023-24, the ADP programme will:
ADP camps have continued to focus on performance simulation, incorporating FIE referees, call room processes , DT running competition formats with poules, DE and team match structures. The psychological aspect was moved from “in the moment” to a focus on “managing the moment” and the use of the arousal curve and when to move up and down that curve. This work was supported by the True Athlete Project (TAP).
There is also a focus on the “things that require no talent”. These include the RAMP Warm up, and rest, refuel and rehabilitate processes and other aspects that can be used to improve the probability of delivering performance success at Major Events . These will continue into 2023-24.
Through the Cohort 32 initiative (funded by UK Sport Progression), a group of Cadet (U17) fencers and first year Juniors have additional support with performance planning which helps define and shape their bespoke individual athlete development plans (IADP). Focus areas included detailed competition planning and clarity of goals and identified opportunities to accelerate improvements. Into 2023-24 we will be offering drop-in sessions to all ADP athletes and personal coaches to support embedding of IADPs.
Maintaining a psychologically safe space remained a high priority for the ADP. Continued work with the True Athlete Project (TAP) increasingly embedded the four stages of psychological safety: inclusion, learner, contributor and challenger in all aspects of athlete engagement. As part of this work, TAP staff supported athletes and staff at the Cadet and Junior Europeans.
Online workshops continued with the annual athlete and parent conversation sessions. In November, workshops on Female Health and Performance were delivered to female athletes and parents and then to coaches. The subjects covered were the Menstruation Cycle and Body Image/Red- S. These workshops will run again in 2023-24.
The BF/TAP Mentoring programme, where senior athletes and coaches mentor younger athletes continued with six pairings successfully completing the programme. The pairings included one mentee from a previous becoming a mentor. Information on the The True Athlete Project can be found here.
Over the course of the past 12 months ADP and Personal coaches have accessed learning and development in a variety of ways. In May, an innovative coaching development session was held at Hartpury University. The aim of this session was to socialise the ‘Fencer Centred, Development Driven, Competition Supported’ philosophy which is at the centre of our strategy for the development of athletes for 2028 and 2032 Olympic cycles, and importantly the coach’s role in supporting it. The second day was centred on exploring the notion of performance through the lens of theatrical performance.
Foil – Coaching Health Checks (CHC) are embedded within the Senior Coaches practise with three of the six coaches receiving bespoke external 1:1 Coach Development support. Alongside this, group support is being provided by Jonathan Katz under the direction of the Head of People and Culture.
Epee – Support has been offered via the Weapon Lead. ADP coaches attended the Coach Development Day in Cheltenham and accessed learning via Learning Week. Epee will be the focus area for the beginning of season 23/24.
Sabre – Support has been offered via the Weapon Lead and in the early part of the season external support was provided by Jonathan Katz which saw a sense of community and togetherness in planning and delivery for ADP Camps in place. The HoPC is currently working with three Sabre coaches on a 1:1 basis with a fourth being supported by an external Coach Developer
All coaches with fencers involved with the Athlete Development Programmes (ADP) were invited to attend zoom workshops to learn more about the topics that athletes were covering in the programme. These included:
In 2023-24 this work will progress with:
The DiSE programme was taken over by Sport England and is part of the England Talent Pathway (see here).
2021 – 26 starters, 21 completed
2022 – 29 starters, 28 on track
2023 – recruitment in progress, potentially 29 starters.
Part of the DiSE integration with the ADP is the curriculum deliverables and some of the content has been reworked to cover learning set such as Performance Planning and Values, Beliefs, Attitudes and Behaviours
We will complete an application to be part of the programme again in 2024
BF would like to thank:
And finally, we would like to thank all the athletes who continue to dedicate themselves to developing and achieving excellence in and through fencing.
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