Director of Performance – start of season update

Brendan Purcell, Director of Performance provides a start of season update on the GB Rowing Team.


It is now the start of the assessment season for the Senior, U23 and Paralympic teams. As always, these things come around very quickly – especially when you consider that the World Championships were only at the end of August.

Since returning to training, the Senior men’s and women’s squads and the Para squad have been getting on with debriefing last season as well as planning forward and doing their training. The Para squad also had the opportunity to go on a recce to Tokyo, where they visited the competition venue, the athletes’ village and some of the other areas, as well as getting used to Tokyo itself in preparation for next year.

The World Class Start programme is obviously into its new camp season, really focussing on moving the progression of athletes up through the Start pathway, and hopefully more into the team. They’re also at an exciting time where they have an equal, 50/50 split between men and women on the programme.

We have also spent the last month or so on our performance reviews, looking at what we need to sustain, what we’ve done well and the areas in which we need to improve. The leadership team (Head coaches of all squads) met last week and were discussing and determining the priorities as we move forward into next year. Clearly, the obvious thing to say is that the priority is delivering at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, whilst we also attend to the fact our world will extend past 2020 and we’ll have to plan for integrating and developing the next cycle of athletes to come in post-Tokyo.

Alongside this, over the past 12 months we’ve been working on our people development programme, where we’ve been focusing not just on the Senior squad coaches, staff and practitioners, but we’ve also now made sure there’s work going on around the Start programme. Over the last few months, we’ve actually expanded that to start working on supporting the High Performance Programme (HPP) coaching staff to develop their own individual development programmes.

At this really busy time, it’s also where the UK Sport investment process for the next four year cycle starts. We’re in the middle of our first submission, which is due in at the end of November. This is a ‘situational analysis’ looking at the current context of trends and futurology. Alongside that, we also have to assess our athletes against the known performance parameters.

We are also running a full, independent evaluation of our whole pathway. We’ve set up what we’re calling our Pathway Insights Project, led by two independent consultants, to help look at and understand how the pathway currently works for talent coming all the way through from Juniors, U23, HPP and Start into the Senior team, how that works and how we can make this more effective and more navigable for athletes, staff and coaches in the future.

Next week we have a panel meeting with UK Sport – as you may be aware, the Olympic and Paralympic funding is based on milestone targets, which are tracked through each World Championships, with a final target at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In Linz at the Senior World Championships, we met our Paralympic target of two medals, so UK Sport are comfortable and confident with that. In our Olympic programme we were targeted to win four medals and achieved three, so they want to sit down with our leadership team and be clear on where we think our gaps are, where we think our gains are and how we’re going to address and work on those in the next 12 months to achieve our target come Tokyo.

That all leads back to the the First Assessment for the Seniors and U23s which took place in Boston with a 2k ergo and a 5k water trial. For the Paralympic programme, their assessment happened at Caversham, so we are well and truly moving onto 2020 already.

A final note from me to say a huge congratulations to our World Rowing Beach Sprints medallists last week, putting in some really strong performances out in Shenzen and flying the flag for GB.