Road To 2012
Talent Team Induction
British Cycling’s introductory Performance Programme, the Talent Team is the first chance cycling’s aspiring future stars get to pull on a Programme jersey. Following the 2011/12 inductions, Luke Webber speaks to coach Gary Coltman about the role coaches, parents and riders play in the formative years of a cyclist.
Despite unearthing the likes of Dani King, Laura Trott, Lucy Garner, Pete Kennaugh, Adam Blythe, Sam Harrison, Elinor Barker and Annie Last, when Gary Coltman talks of British Cycling’s Talent Team he retains complete modesty. Only referring to a general job satisfaction while considering the success of individuals who have passed through the setup, Coltman also considers the Talent Team as a precursor to the Olympic Development Programme (ODP) and not a Programme in its own right.
Dani King (right) and Laura Trott (centre) - both picked up by the Talent Team and now team pursuit World and European Champions on the track.
Coltman also considers the Talent Team as a precursor to the ODP, as much as being a Programme in its own right, referring to it as a ‘preparation phase’ that ensures the young athletes have a good understanding of what’s required when they move up to junior level, as well as the all important skills to handle the challenges of the road ahead. Talent Team members are not named on the UK Sport funding structure and the support consists of the ‘basic essentials’ for development – good coaching, opportunities to develop and much less about the finer details of performance orientated support. That comes later.
Coltman is keen to point out at that the programme isn’t a Talent identification programme; it focuses on Talent Development.
“Talent can be identified at any time and at any point along the pathway.” The Talent Team is about developing young cyclists who have shown the potential to achieve success in the future, to be the best they can be.
“The programme does not set out to identify who the next World or Olympic Champion is going to be and we are not about fast tracking individuals to success. It’s about putting the selected pool of riders through a process of development and opportunities”.
This in turn provides British Cycling the opportunity to work with the talented athletes who have shown potential and are ready for what the Programme has to offer. It also provides information to the coaches further up the pathway and can be particularly helpful to the ODP coaches in making their selections.
Whilst the majority of riders on ODP have progressed from the Talent Team, there are still occasions when riders who haven’t been selected for the Programme join the ODP or even the Olympic Academy. Every Programme operates on a no-closed-door policy.
Coltman goes on to describe the technicalities of selecting riders at such a young age, where physical maturity and huge variation in development are as influential as talent, dedication and hard work.
“We always make it clear we can get selection wrong; we don’t have a crystal ball, which is what you need at this age. There could be a rider who missed selection and goes on to be the best in the world, but ultimately we have to choose those we believe are ready for what we have to offer.
“And if a rider we missed gets selected later – if we look back and believe we made the right decision at the time – we can still be comfortable in that and applaud them. Talent Team is not about taking an individual and desperately trying to get them onto the next Programme; it is about giving them all the resources and letting them drive their own programme while experiencing the process.”
And in Coltman’s opinion that process is as important as the physical development attained during their time on the Talent Team.
“Talent Team is about educating and learning, not about giving. The presentation we hold at induction shows an example of a rock climber with a person holding the rope. We are holding the rope – the individual has to climb the rock face. If you fall we have the rope, but we also provide the challenge and it is up to the individual to take that challenge on. This process will move them on as a person, as a bike rider and if they move onto the ODP puts them into a good place. And if they choose a different route – for example to race abroad on a team – they are well prepared for that.”
The most unique challenge presented by the Talent Team however is the relationship between the rider, the parent and the coach – and as a parent Coltman presents a message centred on the wellbeing of every rider.
“I always stress the need that parents have to be on board with our message. I reiterate that we are challenging all the kids to be the best athlete they can be, I challenge all my coaches to be the best they can be, we challenge each other in the office to be the best we can be. Now I challenge you to be the best parent you can be. Critically, I’m standing with the parents when I say this, otherwise we are expecting a lot from the kids.
“Part of this is buying into an ethos for the kids to take control – but we also recognise they are young and it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s a two year learning curve that puts a rider through the process of being a part of British Cycling, and every year we start afresh with a new intake. This is just another year.”