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Monthly update from our Chef de Mission

on 07-06-2013 10:00

ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission for Sochi 2014 Penny Briscoe shares an insight into the planning and activity behind preparing the team for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

This month we made important progress in the development of the team for Sochi. As part of the BPA’s ambition to be best prepared for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, sport Team Leaders, Head Coaches and core staff from the BPA recently convened at St George’s Park - the Football Association HQ - for a crucial development workshop.

"This month we made important progress in the development of the team for Sochi."Penny Briscoe

St George’s Park is a truly stunning training and preparation facility and it was against this backdrop that staff from Alpine Skiing, Wheelchair Curling, Sledge Hockey and the BPA discussed and debated a wide range of ‘preparation into Games’ topics. The workshop took place with 300 days to go to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and this landmark ensured intensity and focus in every session.

Throughout the first day, BPA staff updated sport colleagues on the information which had been shared by the Organising Committee at the Chef de Mission seminar. This ‘information heavy session’ was interspersed with discussion and debate around key preparation and Games delivery topics, while the main decisions related to the performance and logistical considerations of travel options and arrival in Sochi.

These considerations are very sport specific and need to take in to account factors such as dealing with travel fatigue, allowing sufficient time for village and venue orientation and gaining access to suitable venues to ensure training and routines can continue without interruption in those crucial final few days before competition starts.

The intensity of our first day continued into the pre-dinner ‘team development session’ which comprised fiercely contested Football 5-a-side and Boccia events. Rivalry between the two teams continued throughout the penalty shoot out (which was a very low scoring event!) to the very last ball in a thrilling game of ‘Total Boccia’. This was an excellent team-building session, not only for the relationship development and team building it engendered but also because ‘the Chef’s Team’ emerged victorious! The final session before dinner was back in ‘the classroom’ where BPA Communications Manager Tash Carpenter delivered an excellent presentation which included advice on best practice in social media which is something we all need to not only understand but follow on a day to day basis.

Our second day opened with some detailed analysis of the role of the Team Leader and Head Coach and how these roles combine to deliver world class management and technical support in preparation for and during the Games. This ‘warm up’ proved to be an excellent precursor for the main session of the day which was a joint presentation by Paralympic Rower and London 2012 gold medallist Dave Smith and Boccia Team Leader Matt Hammond, who shared their perspectives of the London 2012 Games with the aim of developing a greater understanding of the concept of ‘thriving in the Games environment’. This session was superbly presented and a number of key themes emerged which sport specific staff acknowledged as relevant to being best prepared for Sochi.

Dave’s presentation focussed on the importance of relationships - the fact that trust in, and respect for, fellow athletes and programme staff was an integral part of his crew’s medal success and how, without world class support services which drove them on and on occasion stuck them back together, success wouldn’t have been possible.

Matt Hammond focussed on the uniqueness of the Games environment and the fact that it is very much a team effort to ensure athletes and staff are well placed to deliver personal bests when it matters most. He also explained how every athlete and staff member had ‘bought in’ to their vision for success and worked diligently to deliver their part of the ‘best prepared jigsaw’.

At the end of a successful second day there was collective agreement that learning through the experiences of others is a really useful tool when preparing for a first Games and both Dave and Matt’s insights resonated with all in attendance.

"Every day must be maximized." Penny Briscoe

With now just nine months to go to the opening of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games every day must be maximized if we, as aspiring ParalympicsGB 2014 team members, are to be best prepared when it matters most. Each and every one of us, both athletes and staff members, need to be fully equipped and fit for purpose in our roles next spring. This means no stone should be left unturned in our planning, no preparation or development opportunity should be squandered and every support angle explored and maximized in the coming days and weeks.

Click here to catch up on my blogs from previous months. I’ll return in July with some insights into what the athletes are doing away from the ice and snow!


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