Our #TeamEnglandFutures series, entitled ‘Behind the Scenes With’, in association with SportsAid, sees experienced support staff offering insight into the processes involved in preparing for a major Games.
Current and previous Team Leaders and Chef de Missions will share their experiences to help better understand their roles, the detailed planning in the build-up to a Games, and the key considerations during competition-time.
This time in the hotseat is Grant Robins!
Former swimmer Grant represented Team England at the Auckland 1990 Commonwealth Games in the 100m and 200m backstroke. Since then, Grant served as Team England’s Swimming Team Leader for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, and was recently re-elected to the role for the home Games in Birmingham 2022. He is also Head of Talent (Swimming) for Swim England.
Here, Grant reflects on his experiences in a special blog written for Team England Futures....
“Our goal is to have the best Games ever, and that involves medals, relays, but also experience. Not everyone can come home with a medal, but everyone needs to compete well and soak up the atmosphere and be the best version of themselves - that goes for me and the support staff, as well as the athletes. As current Head of Talent (Swimming) for Swim England, the opportunity to be Team Leader at a home Games is a fantastic privilege. I did it on the Gold Coast and that was a really great experience where we won nine gold medals in Swimming. The ability to do it again but within a home environment is so unique.
“The spotlight of a home Games will be a completely different and new experience and something that I'm already relishing. At the moment, we're getting ready. It's a lot of organising - organising the party, organising the events – and we'll be making sure that the preparations leading into the holding camp, either training or competition, are organised and taken care of. The trials in April next year will be really busy as we're selecting for a number of events - the World Championships, European Championships, European Juniors, European Youth Olympics and the Commonwealth Games!
“We will also be making sure that the preparations leading into the holding camp, either training or competition, are organised and taken care of. Generally, you can't just train into a major meet - you have to be able to race as well. There will be an opportunity for them to race properly before we go into Loughborough on Wednesday 20 July which is for the holding camp. I hope we have 5,000 people in the stands at the newly built Sandwell Park Aquatics Centre, all cheering for England! There will be a lot of flag waving and cheering for the home swimmers so it'll give them a bit of a boost.
“The swimmers themselves are really excited about being at a home Games and they really want to showcase the sport. From a performance and a showcase point of view, they'll really be wanting to swim well in July, with a big focus on the Commonwealths, as well as Worlds and Europeans, for both para and able-bodied athletes. Normally we would have a two-year break in between the Olympics and Paralympics and a Commonwealth Games. A home Games has allowed the momentum from Tokyo to really crystallise and project our sport forwards.
“We want to make it as risk-free as possible - from injury, from lacklustre performances, from illness. My job is to prepare the environment so all of those risks are minimised. As long as we've planned well and thought through the process - right from anti-doping regulations to dealing with the press, to making sure people have enough rest - every detail which we intend to do - the Games themselves should be risk-free. From a British Swimming point of view, we were very successful in Tokyo. We did really well in the relays, so the team environment is very paramount.
“Even having Adam Peaty featuring on Strictly Come Dancing has allowed Swimming to flourish a bit! He is the face of our sport and it will motivate people to come and watch these incredible athletes, like himself, compete in Birmingham. What's really going to be exceptional at this Games is that there's some people that will really, really work hard to breakthrough and make this team, athletes as well as support staff, and I want that to be showcased as well as the Adam Peaty's of this world.
“From a Commonwealth Games point of view, the Aussies are still going to be strong – they always were and always will be a big competitor for us. Canada had a good Tokyo as well. The other Home Nations have an opportunity to showcase themselves as we did when we were in Glasgow. I think the biggest opposition will be Australia and it'll be up to us to challenge them in as many ways as we possibly can.”