Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Training: To centralize or not? (Updated)

This Just In: Franssen wins lawsuit against Dutch Judo Federation.

Juul Franssen has just won her lawsuit against the Dutch Judo Federation, which must give her the opportunity to train with her own coaches though she must also try to go for some central training. The federation may not bar her from international matches. In addition, she has to get her "A" status back and have the opportunity to vie for the Olympic Games.
Franssen wants to continue training in Rotterdam rather than Papendal because she is studying there. The federation did not recognize Franssen's top status in December and therefore she was barred from competing internationally.

The ruling on Wednesday afternoon may also affect other top athletes and was therefore viewed with great interest across the Dutch sports scene. It was a good ruling and a fair one.

Franssen gets to keep her Olympic dream alive with this landmark ruling.
In some countries, training for the national team members is scattered throughout various clubs. In others, there is centralized training.

Two countries where centralized training has been instituted are Great Britain and the Netherlands. In the case of Great Britain, top players who opt not to join the centralized training program can still go for international competitions but they have to be pretty much self-funding.

It seems to be stricter in Netherlands where the concept of self-funding has not been established. Apparently, over there, players don't get to decide where they want to compete but get chosen by the federation.

In places where centralized training is required, players must make a tough decision. In the UK for instance, Ashley McKenzie has opted to stay in Camberley Judo Club instead of relocating to Walsall (centralized training).

Scottish judo players face the same issue. To move to Walsall or not? Judo Scotland high performance coach Euan Burton has this to say:
"There is no perfect situation, but there's always a choice. The athlete can choose to stay in Scotland, however, you're taking a choice to receive less funding and possibly receive less punts at the ball, so to speak."
The situation in the Netherlands is trickier because if players don't make the switch to centralized training, they effectively can't compete. Juul Franssen is a perfect case study of the challenges faced by their top athletes there. She wants to train in Papendal (centralized training) but she can't due to her studies. Should she be barred from competing because of that?

But she is far from the only one. Other players like Roy Meyer and Marhinde Verkerk also have a tough choice to make. Two of their top players, Kim Polling and Noel van 't End make for a very interesting situation though. Polling was living in Italy and van 't End in France. So far some exceptions seems to have been made but how to justify this to players who have made the sacrifice and moved to Papendal?

Of course there is the bigger question of whether centralized training is the best way to produce good results. According to Hans van Essen of, other sports in Holland such as handball, athletics and gymnastics have instituted centralized training and have shown good results.

It does make sense for countries where there isn't a huge judo population to centralize their training, to pool all the top talent together so there are enough randori partners. In countries like Japan this is not necessary because there are big clubs at the universities, police and even private companies (trade teams) where their top players can get plenty of quality randori partners. But in many other countries, most clubs don't have that many randori partners for top-level players. A centralized training centre addresses that problem.

Perhaps the way British Judo does it is a reasonable compromise. Players don't have to go for centralized training but if they choose to train at their own clubs, they don't get funding. They have to fund themselves. Fair enough. But they don't get barred from competing internationally.

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