Uncategorized · Apr 1, 2014

Performance principles: Leading Team GB in the Youth Olympic Games

Sarah Winckless- Head of Coaching Services at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster, Olympic Bronze-Medalist (2004), twice World Champion (2005, 2006) competing in rowing and Chair of the British Olympic Association Athlete’s Commission; was recently announced as Chef de Mission for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

Having just returned from the Chef de Mission Seminar in Nanjing, China, Sarah shares her insight into the preparation for the games as leader of the GB team, in line with the three Performance Principles that she champions at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?


The Youth Olympic Games

The Youth Olympic Games is a new and evolving competition, this being the third edition, the first a summer Games in Singapore in 2010 and the second a winter edition in 2012 in Innsbruck. There are competitions for all 28 summer sports on the 2016 Olympic Programme, however there are restrictions on team size for nations, each being allowed up to 70 athletes from individual sports, and a male and female team. Whilst the athletes are between 14 and 18, so sports have tighter age ranges, for example Women’s Gymnastics athletes have to been born between 1st January and 31st December 1999. I am hoping that we will have between 40 and 45 athletes travelling the Games from 20 or so different sports.

Leading a team: Performance

Whilst the ethos is to get the best athletes in the age range, there is also intent in the Youth Olympic Games to expose the athletes to a Cultural and Educational Programme during the Games and we have a Young Ambassador attached to the team to enable this to happen. As Chef de Mission I will have to work closely with the team to make sure they are able to ‘focus on what’s important’ at the right times. At the British Olympic Association our first value is Performance, and this looks to how the athlete performs on the field of play. Much of my planning will be around ensuring that each individual in the team have that opportunity. However at this stage of the young athlete’s development I am really interested in the more holistic approach to the performer and will be encouraging them to take advantages of the Cultural and Educational Programme.

The recent Chef de Mission Seminar in Nanjing, China was an opportunity to fact find, listen to the organising committee and see what stage their planning and preparation had reached. In terms of leading the GB team I also needed to work out what opportunities there were to operate outside the Olympic Environment, and where to cost of this in both financial and logistical constraints would outweigh the benefit of having extra hands on deck.

Bringing individuals together as a team

The main challenge of the role will be bringing together individuals from different environments to come together as a team in a foreign environment where human capital resources are low. Resources will be stretched in a foreign environment and it will be about deploying the team cleverly and effectively to allow athletes to perform at their best. Hence this really plays into our third Performance Principle, working effectively with others to achieve goals’.  

It will require me as the leader to empower each individual on the team to be well informed and be confident to know when it is appropriate to make a decision and when something needs escalating to me. In the run up to the games which take place on16th-28th August, I will be bringing the Team Leaders of each sport together at least three times between now and when we meet to board the plane. The first meeting is on the 10th April 2014, when we will be sharing what we’ve learned in Nanjing and hearing how the Team Leaders feel their experience, skills and knowledge can be best used. I am looking forward to leading Team GB!

If you are keen to find out more about Sarah’s role, please see the article for reference: https://www.teamgb.com/news/sarah-winkless-lead-team-gb-nanjing-2014

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