Performance Management team to make changes
6 August 2013
National Performance Director Chris Spice and Head Coach Bill Furniss have insisted they can make the changes required to bring British Swimming back up the medal table at world class events.
The British team won one medal at last month’s FINA World Championships in Barcelona – the first major international meet since the new leadership team of Spice and Furniss took up their roles.
“It’s been a disappointing week because we came here expecting to do much better than we have,” said Furniss.
"I’ll be on deck with the coaches, I’ll be in their ear and I want to improve our conversion rate," - Bill Furniss“We’ve certainly tried all week to do much better than that and we’ve done the best we can. It’s very much an indication of where we are now.
“For the first four weeks of my job, Chris and I were looking at the restructure. We have looked at everything we do, all over Britain.
“There has been a massive amount of work to get a new performance management team in.
“Once that’s over, my job will be with the coaches. I’ll be on deck with the coaches, I’ll be in their ear and I want to improve our conversion rate. I definitely see that as my primary role.
“It’s a starting point for Chris and I. We know it’s a challenge and we’ve got to change some things drastically. That’s the challenge going forward and we’ve got to learn from it.”
Spice, who joined British Swimming from British Basketball in April, said: “From our point of view this was an assessment meet. It’s a brutal assessment of where we are,” he said. “Our impact hasn’t even begun yet.
“As soon as we get our leadership team on board, we’ll be looking at what we can do in terms of the front end next year to make a real difference but what we do know is that things can’t stay the same.
“We’ve reset our UK Sport targets and they are fully aware that we’ve only just started in post. They also understand that our leadership team is not even in place yet.”
Barcelona was a week of near misses for the British Swimmers with three swimmers finishing in fourth.
“I’d rather have fourths than fifths but we came here for medals,” said Furniss. “I’m not bothered about ninth or eighth. If we focus on them, we’re not going to get the medals. We want to focus on winning events and being the best in the world.
“Hopefully in a few years time I’ll have swimmers disappointed with silver. It’s about raising the bar, it’s about giving the right message, it’s about being a lot more focused, more concentrated and it’s about being world class.
"Hopefully in a few years time I’ll have swimmers disappointed with silver," - Bill Furniss“We’re not going to be world class by crying if we come eighth or ninth. To me, we missed medals and that’s what we’re really after.”
Whilst the team felt the loss of Olympians and major medal winners such as Rebecca Adlington, Gemma Spofforth and Joanne Jackson, Furniss admits he was impressed by the new generation of youngsters who made their debuts in Barcelona.
“The attitude of the juniors is no fear and no respect and they’re not looking at reputations,” explained Furniss. “James Guy has done a fantastic job. It doesn’t matter who you are, he’s going to take you on.
“So there he is at 17 years old and fifth in the world for 400m Freestyle, seeded nowhere coming in and he leads our relay of in 1:47.1.
“So what I’ve learned is, sometimes if you’re experienced you think the juniors learn from you but at times, that can be reversed. I said that to the swimmers this week, this time our seniors can learn from our juniors. This ‘no fear, take it on and have a go’ attitude in a controlled right way.
“It is something we have learned and we have watched everything this week, the athletes, the coaches – we’ve looked at everything to do with this team and can see some areas we can move forward.”
Another change in 2014 will be the timing of the trials for the Commonwealth Games which will see the Brits reverting back to the April trials time.
On this year’s new trials system in June, Furniss said: “Around 50 per cent of the of the performances here were better than trials but I think the late trials hurt us aerobically and I think we haven’t handled that very well, both swimmers and coaches. That’s something we’ll have to learn from.
“In the distance events we’ve certainly struggled and we need to learn from that.
“We’re not doing late trials next year as it’s Commonwealth Games so we’re doing the trials in April.
“But without those late trials, I don’t think the juniors would have made the team. I’ve spoken in depth with their coaches and in March-time, they didn’t think they were ready. They think they would have struggled. So it’s swings and roundabouts.
“Chris and I and the coaches will look very closely at what we learn from this and where we go in the future. I don’t want to give you a knee-jerk reaction but it’s not as bad as we think.”
As outlined in the post-London 2012 Performance Review, Furniss and Spice are also keen to increase the amount of racing the British swimmers do in the run up to major meets.
“I think the main thing is we’ve got to race more,” explained Furniss. “Absolutely the thing that I’ve learnt more than anything here is that we can swim in the bubble that is the trials in England but we’re not competing well outside of that bubble.
“That’s something Chris and I have already spent a lot of time on this week.
“And you will see British swimmers, certainly as we get closer to major Games, racing more against the rest of the world and importantly racing tired against the rest of the world. There will be a change in terms of that.
"You will see British swimmers racing more against the rest of the world and importantly racing tired against the rest of the world," - Bill Furniss“We will also be bringing back event camps and relay camps.”
Whilst it was a tough week for all the British team, Spice was impressed with the attitude of the team as a whole but is clear where the focus must now lie.
“From our point of view, even though it was a tough week people have stayed on course and as a team I was impressed how they pulled together,” said Spice.
“But there is still work to do, it’s not an easy thing and a lot of that is related to racing.
“There were a lot of people who won medals in Barcelona who didn’t swim best times.
“We have to get better at the psychology of racing and that isn’t about racing a fast time, it is about racing the person in the next lane to you.”