Nowadays, through advanced media technology and the ever expanding social network, we are able to witness great sporting success in ways we could have never previously imagined. We are fortunate to gain access to areas that shed greater light on those defining moments when athletes succeed at the highest levels. The images can be truly inspiring but at the same time they can be misleading. What they don’t often capture is the time, commitment and failures that the athlete faced in order to reach the pinnacle.
The performance pathway is an unforgiving one. The more success you achieve the tougher the pathway becomes. There are no exceptions even for those athletes who we think are unbelievably gifted and who seem to succeed consistently with ease.
In August 2011 I laid out my vision for the Senior Women’s Programme to the nineteen players assembled at the University of Stirling. I spoke about a vision of Scotland becoming a consistent performer at European B Division level by 2021. I mapped out the steps we needed to take and I underlined where we needed to start the journey.
I also made it very clear to the players that the majority of the people in the room at that time, even the coaching staff, may not be around when that journey reaches its end. What was important was that we started the journey strongly and had belief in where we wanted to go so that others could achieve the vision.
This is the first SWNTP article for over four months since our success in Malta. It has not been a case of ‘nothing to report’, far from it. However, it has been a significant point in the timeline of the Programme. The period immediately after Malta was one of reflection for everyone. For some it was a time to recharge and look ahead to the next step in the journey whilst for others it was a time to face some difficult personal decisions.
When the ’20:21 Vision’ is achieved it will not just be down to those players and coaches who are involved at the time. It will be the culmination of the combined efforts of a considerable number of people.
It was with great reluctance that we accepted the loss of several players and staff from the Programme during the time between Malta and the start of the new SWNTP season. On the playing side, Sophie Hunter, Fiona Kennie, Caroline Clayton, Kay Wheatley and Elaine Krwaczyk made the very difficult decision to step down from the squad for various personal reasons. At the same time Susan Fotheringham, our regular Physiotherapist, had to leave due to work commitments. Leigh Watson, Assistant Coach to the Programme for many years, also made the tough decision to leave and concentrate on the demands of her teaching position. It is not possible in this short article to truly explain how much of a contribution each and every one of these players and staff made to the progress that has been made over the past two years and more. The Programme is greatly indebted to them all.
So the pathway had just became that little bit steeper. The question was, do we go back or do we go up? There was only one answer.
New players, including a number from the successful Junior Women’s Programme, have been invited along to the squad. This will involve a bit of a transition stage as these players develop a feel for the Programme and decide whether or not they are prepared to make the commitment required. At the same time the Coaching Staff can evaluate their potential in terms of the role they can play within the squad going forward.
The Programme Schedule for 2013-2014 is in place and can be found under the National Teams section on the SVA Home Page. After a bit of a sluggish start momentum is beginning to build once more as we head towards a two-day Camp at The PEAK, Stirling, on 28-29 December. This is closely followed by a second training camp, this time in Newcastle from 3-5 January, where the squad will play a series of scrimmage matches with Northumbria University, Lynne Beattie’s new club. With Northumbria undefeated for over two years including this current season it will provide the squad with a serious challenge. At the same time it offers a great opportunity for the younger players to take a step up and the established players to sharpen up their performance.
Then, of course, there is the small matter of a home qualification tournament for the Small Countries Division in June of next year. What greater incentive could the players have than to be able to compete on home soil and qualify for the second time in succession for the final to be held in Liechtenstein in 2015? The prospect of taking on Malta, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Cyprus in front of our own support is mouthwatering.
The whole event represents a fantastic opportunity to promote the women’s’ game in Scotland. But it’s not just about the tournament itself. It’s about the whole build up towards it and about keeping the Scottish Volleyball community involved as much as we possibly can. We just don’t want this to be our vision. We want this to be everyone’s vision.
Our strapline for this new two-year cycle is ‘Eyes On Gold 2015!’ We took bronze in Malta last summer. We could have chosen to aim at going one better in 2015 but that’s not our mentality! The key thing is we are fully aware of how tough an ‘ask’ this will be. We know the path will become even steeper the further up we go. A lot of people have put in a lot of personal sacrifice in getting us to this point and we don’t plan on letting them or ourselves down.
Scotland Senior Women’s Programme
4 December 2013