DJC @ The Midland Area Open
For (I think) the first time, Drake Judo Club had judoka competing in two different places as well as the normal Saturday sessions at the Lifecentre. Lottie's part in that play was to dip her toe into the next level of junior competition - the Minors (or A Band) Area Championships.
For those who have not tried to fathom out the BJA Performance Pathway Programme; the first, relatively serious, step on the ladder is for 10 & 11 year olds competing at Area Open level. The next step is Pre-Cadet - Jack's age and level - before Cadet, Juniors before the senior ranks. Area events are held throughout the year at roughly monthly intervals and anyone with pretensions to climbing the ladder try and attend. For the older judoka National Ranking points are available, which means a preferential draw at events and invitations to National squads. For anyone (and I know someone) with an eye of one of those England roses; it's the step into the big league and the next step towards a dream.
Having been rather unceremoniously been on the wrong end the week before at the Western Schools, this week was spent trying to manage any expectations. So with not a little bit of nerves (I was fine, Lottie was petrified!) we trekked to the University of Wolverhampton's Walsall Campus for the Midland Area Age Band Championships. The event was held about 100m from the BJA Centre of Excellence as well, just to ramp up the excitement! 4 tatami areas in the leisure centre, banked seating and literally hundreds of judoka, parents and coaches - what a buzz! The judoka had travelled from all over the country which meant that the Midland Area Open has the reputation of being one of the toughest!
As it happened, Lottie realised that her group would contain the gold medal winner from her age group from the schools as well as the girl from the year below. It was going to be a bit brutal but we were here to learn and gain experience, so we put on the brave face and waited. A 2pm weigh in enabled a leisurely drive up, but it was going to be a long afternoon with a 6:30pm scheduled start time. Still that meant a lot of watching judo, bits of warm up and more food!
With our friends from South Brent providing much needed encouragement and a little bit of matside coaching from Simon Ward (Kingsley School & Western Area Coach); the girls were called 2 hours early. A small group of four in the under 32kg weight as some of the others on the published list had weighed in heavy and had to fight at under 40kgs.
No messing with the first fight being a rematch of the previous week; with the same result unfortunately. Lottie went on the attack and was always coming forward; showing great spirit with the nerves. A good long look at the other two judoka in the group as they had an epic golden score contest, but it was impossible to pass on any tactical lessons in all that noise.
The nervy second fight against the big throwing Bradley Stoke girl wasn't going to end well, especially after the referee spent an age checking the video replays, but Lottie did us proud, withstanding numerous seio nage attached before succumbing in the end. Still more learning lodged in the memory banks!
A tired third fight against a girl from one of the powerhouses of British Judo - Bushop Stortford - was looking promising until Lottie was caught and thrown for Ippon. It shows how competitive the group was as that was the only Ippon throw in the entire group!
Not the most auspicious start to the Lottie's Minors campaign, but the smile came back afterwards with an unexpected bronze medal and when nudged by her hero's mum; Lottie said she wants to do more. I've got a feeling that we might be wracking up the miles this year!
Watching some of the best judoka in the country was illuminating, both in terms of how they approach the whole event as well as the range of techniques on display. Lottie wasn't out of her depth and with a few Western Area Wednesday sessions under her belt, plus some more work with the DJC coaching team, she'll be giving it to her much more experienced opponents in no time!
It would be nice to have a few more DJC judoka on the tatami in the future at some of these events. The Western Area Open is in July and the Hutton Moor Leisure Centre might even have warmed up by then!
Maybe not quite the same as the Cornish gold rush, but a not insignificant step on the judo ninja's judo journey never the less