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  • Writer's pictureRoss Taylor

DJC @ England REDS Assessment Day

Any day that starts when the alarm clock goes off at 3am is going to be a stinker. For us judo parents, there’s pretty few things that we won’t do to get our enthusiastic judoka to where they need to go, but this was pushing the limits! As we have had more interest in the REDs programme this year, it’s meant that Drake Judo Club could offer a minibus transport but being limited to 62mph on the motorway has its drawbacks. Still at least the judoka could get some sleep en-route!

The Regional England Development squad is England Judo’s programme to broaden their reach and engage with a much broader base. This is the first rung of the Performance Pathway and that reaches all the way to the Olympic Squad. 2018 saw six DJC judoka attend the Assessment Day, although for various reasons, the attendees at the sessions numbered less than that. This year, we had 8 judoka attend, with Lottie, Alanna, Jake, Bogdan & Reuben (as well as our adopted Team DJC member Maddox from South Brent) returning and Ellie, Maria and Liv going through the assessment for the first time. Once through the assessment phase, there are 8 monthly regional sessions (the West is in the “Central” region) as well as 2 national sessions where all the REDs judoka assemble at the BJA Centre of Excellence in Walsall. In addition, there are a number of REDs specific judo tours and training opportunities.

Assessment Day is a bit of a strange affair. There’s a bit of the general “getting to know you” stuff as well as the judoka being put through various biometric, gymnastic and judo trials. The England coaches are at pains to point out that there are no “pass or fail” criteria with the trials but they form a benchmark against your peers. Of course, with a dojo full of teenage judoka, an element of friendly competition was apparent. That said, DJC should be extremely proud that our judoka were very forthcoming with help and assistance of others who were struggling. The group containing Maria, Lottie and Ellie got so connected that they were leading a group high five every time someone nailed the particular exercise!

This year, the entry criteria was raised and that general raising of the bar was also apparent in the assessment exercises too. With 60 plus judoka to get through, all the coaching team strived to hold a (relatively) organised method but kids will be kids and it took a Germanic intervention from the England Judo Head of Talent Development, Sandra Klinger, to re-establish order!

After a quick warm up, the judoka were split into pre-arranged groups of roughly the same size & weight and then they got cracking. With 7 exercise stations, it was perhaps a surprise to some that there were only 2 technical judo exercises; one for standing techniques and the other for groundwork. The rest of the stations gave the coaching team metrics on gymnastic ability, explosive power, flexibility and core stability amongst many other things.

From what I recall from Lottie’s assessment last year, it was clear that not only was the assessments a step tougher, but our judoka were a step advanced from last year too. Each and everyone of them can be extremely proud of how they conducted themselves and the level that they have reached. Of course, there will be lots of stiff challenges ahead – just navigating the England calendar is a selection event in itself! – but we are now in the glorious position of having a core group that are more than capable and comfortable at being at this level.

After the assessment was completed and a short break for a bite to eat, the judoka has a 2 hour randori session to finish the day! We started with 8 judoka and the same 8 trudged to the minibus for the return journey. The minibus was rather smelly by the time we got back to the Lifecentre.

With the full Squad being announced in the coming weeks, the first training session of this year is at Bath in early February (another minibus trip, but somewhat nearer!). Make no mistake, just putting your name forward for this is a serious commitment but the rewards will more than make up for it.

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