Around 70 young athletes from 24 clubs attended the first MRC Junior Development Squad event on Saturday. This was a skills development day, focussed on group paddling and wash-hanging, kindly hosted by Elmbridge CC and led by BC President and multiple World Champion, Ivan Lawler.
The emphasis of the day was on having fun and enabling the paddlers to develop skills in a non-race environment, thus allowing them to take risks and not worry about making mistakes. There was a good mix of on- and off-water sessions, with the “classroom” time led by Ivan. Complete with cardboard cut-out boats on a whiteboard, he demonstrated wash-hanging and group dynamics from the simplest two-boat scenario, up to the large groups encountered in international races. The morning’s paddle was done in small groups, but the challenges were increased by the high winds and strong flow on the river. Luckily the winds dropped for the afternoon session, when there were various drills and challenges, this time in bigger groups, such as having to find a place in a big group immediately from a start-line.
Paddlers and coaches came from clubs as far afield as Lincoln, Chester, Swansea and Cornwall. In addition to developing the paddlers, it was a training day for coaches of all levels, providing an opportunity for them to work together and learn from each other. The subsequent feedback on the day has been very positive, with all those involved taking back new skills and knowledge to their clubs.
There are now over 90 paddlers enrolled in the squad, which will continue to grow as more meet the qualifying criteria following promotions throughout the year. This ensures that all the progressive juniors around the country are able to benefit.
Many thanks to Ivan and the team at Elmbridge for putting up with an extra 100 or more people taking over their clubhouse, and to the paddlers, parents and coaches who were all prepared to turn up on a very windy day. We are now looking forward to the next MRC JDS event – the two-day training camp at Longridge in April.