GBR Selection – Advice and Guidance for Parents and Personal Coaches

Navigating GBR selection is often one of the hardest areas for parents of young fencers to understand. As parents, the best person to help you through this is your child’s personal coach who should be able to explain how selection works, advise you about your child’s development and help set and manage appropriate expectations.

Whether you are a parent or a personal coach there are several things that you can do to help your child/young athlete as they seek GBR selection:

1. Read Selection Policies

Please read selection policies as early as possible and help your child/athlete understand them.  Further clarity can be sought from ADP coaches at ADP camps. This is the most important piece of advice as every year BF deal with a large number of selection complaints because coaches and parents do not read the policy and assume selection operates in a different way. By the time selections are made it is too late to help your child/athlete.

Examples of *incorrect* assumptions include:

  • all places will be filled irrespective of performance standards
  • rankings will be followed even if athletes don’t meet a minimum performance standard.


2. Input into Consultations

If you want to change selection policies please engage with the annual consultation process. This is the opportunity for parents and coaches to feedback on policies in advance of the season start and before the Board approve the policies. Once the Board has approved selection policies it is extremely unlikely that material changes will be made, and changes will not be made at the point of European and World Selection.


3. Don’t make assumptions about international competitions and recognise they are subject to change outside the control of BF

The FIE/EFC and event organisers do change competitions at late notice. BF will do their best that we can to communicate changes but there is always a risk that competition locations (venue and country!), dates and composition (eg numbers of teams allowed in EFC U17) can change.


4. Prepare for Non Selection

Please work with your athlete/child to prepare them for non selection, especially in cases where they have not met qualification standards. Whilst we respect the fact that parents and coaches want to keep messaging positive and supportive it is not good practice to tell young athletes they are going to get selected when they have not yet met the criteria in the policy which guarantees selection.  Non selection can be an opportunity for self reflection and to improve resilience. If you are concerned that your child/athlete does not have the resilience to cope with non selection please reach out to your club welfare officer or the BF Safeguarding Officer for further advice and support in this area.


5. Don’t Make ‘Supporter’ Travel Plans too Early

In some cases parents can save significant amounts of money by booking fully refundable travel or transferable flights. But unless you are prepared to lose the money please don’t book non refundable flights to support your athlete/child in competitions before they have been selected, and ideally (in the case of personal coaches who wish to accompany their athletes) wait until the athlete/parent has accepted selection and paid. For major events, coaches should not assume that all personal coaches will be accredited (there are very often limitations on the number of accreditations for major events) so you may want to make sure that you will be able to get an accreditation before you book travel.


6. Prepare for Selection  – do talk about money!

Please have the conversation about money early on in the season. The costs to attend major events (eg Cadet and Junior Europeans and Worlds) can rise to well over £1000 per event – depending on the location.  BF (the organisation, staff or volunteers) will not loan money or provide direct grants to athletes who are unable to pay their costs. For athletes struggling financially there are various external grants that can be applied for directly but this requires advance planning.  Look out for opportunities to apply for some of these grants which will be posted on the BF website and BF facebook page and communicated to the ADP programme athletes. Please note that unless stated otherwise BF do not make the decisions regarding who is awarded funding and often fencers will be competing with other athletes from other sports for these opportunities. For information about what funding is available please see here.  And to understand a bit more about why BF doesn’t/can’t pay all the costs for athletes that represent GBR please see here.


7. ‘Check-in’ just after mid season

If you get to the latter half of the season and you still believe your child/athlete is going to be selected for Cadet/Junior Euros or Worlds despite failing to meet qualification criteria we strongly advise parents to talk to the personal coach about whether this is realistic. If the personal coach agrees that the athlete might still be on track for selection, the next step is for the personal coaches and athletes to have a conversation early with the ADP coaches. This is to ‘check-in’ around what they think the athlete might need to do to be in a position to be selected.  Regular check-ins (especially in the context of an up-to-date athlete profile) will help manage expectations over selection and lessen the chances that any non selection comes as a surprise. As a parent you should be working with the personal coach to manage your child’s expectations based on their likelihood achieving the actual qualification standard.


8. Help Maintain Individual Athlete Development Plans

Please support your child/athlete in the initial completion and ongoing maintenance of their individual athlete development plans. The assessment process is a great way of identifying development gaps in athletes and the earlier these are identified and addressed the more likely that an athlete will end up with the skills to perform at the highest levels. Discretionary selections will take into account these athlete documents and any discretionary application should include a copy of the latest version. For more information please see here.


9.  And if your child/athlete isn’t selected…

1) The most important thing to consider at this stage is your role in the welfare of the young athlete and supporting them through the next few weeks is your priority.  Parents and personal coaches play a vital part in positive role modelling at these crucial moments in a young athlete’s competitive career. Non selection is a part of competitive sport and helping your child/athlete to process non selection in a positive constructive way and develop resilience will help them develop into a successful elite athlete. If a child /athlete has not met a qualification standard this could be an opportunity to discuss plans for next year to increase chances of qualification.  (Please note this is not the time to try to force a BF to implement a change in qualification standards!).  If you are concerned that your child/athlete is not coping with non selection please reach out to your club welfare officer or the BF Safeguarding Officer for further advice and support.

2) Remind yourself of the selection policy. The vast majority of queries and complaints about selection are answered by pointing a parent or personal coach back to the Board approved selection policy.  Before setting out to challenge a selection please make sure you have read the policy carefully.  Parents should in the first instance seek the advice of the personal coach who are expected to be able to support the parent and athlete’s understanding of the policy and how it relates to the specific individual athlete.

3) If you wish to challenge non selection with BF, we have a Board approved appeals policy. Mistakes are sometimes made and if we make one this is the quickest way to raise the issue. Please do read the selection policy and the appeals policy carefully and follow the process.

4) The role of the CEO at selection time is to ensure the Board approved selection process is followed and appeals are dealt with/escalated as appropriate to an independent appeal panel. In order to do this effectively and efficiently the CEO will not be available for personal calls/email conversations with athletes, coaches and parents wishing to discuss/query their individual selection cases. The CEO does not have a direct role or input into individual selection decisions and (along with the rest of the Exec team) cannot change the Board approved selection policy.

5) Please do not email/phone everyone you know (staff, volunteers, Board Directors) in BF. This is more likely to result in no-one replying as they think someone else is dealing with it. Or you could end up with more than one response which could lead to more confusion. One email to [email protected] will suffice as your query will be directed appropriately and followed up.

6) Very often selection for the majors (Euros and Worlds) is an extremely busy time, when much of the resources are taken up with logistical planning. At this time of the season, the BF team (staff, coaches and volunteers) will not be available to provide deep-dive season performance analysis of why your child did not qualify and/or why they did not get discretionary selection. The mid-term check-in and active management of the child’s athlete profile (see above) provides regular opportunities for these types of discussions and proactive engagement from the athlete and personal coach with the ADP coaches will reduce the risk of unexpected surprises (both selection and non selection!).  The BF team will also not engage in debates about changing the selection policy as this opportunity will be available to all at a different time in the season.  

7) Finally, whilst we are mindful of how extremely disappointed and upset you may be, please remember our small team of staff and volunteers (including coaches, Team Managers, Board Directors) have the right to do their jobs without abuse or harassment. This includes but is not limited to repeated emails and phone calls, swearing and using threatening and intimidation tactics (this includes implied or actual threats of legal action against individual staff/volunteers or the organisation). BF reserves the right not to respond to these types of communications and will report any threats appropriately (eg to our insurers). This can mean that further communication from us would be required to be subject to legal review and will increase timescales and formality of response. We will also involve the BF Safeguarding Manager if there are any concerns that an athlete is not being appropriately supported.



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