A new talent plan released by Sport England is to place greater emphasis on creating a positive athlete experience for individuals within the talent pathway. For many English athletes the top of the talent pathway is to represent Team England at a Commonwealth Games.

The plan, which outlines Sport England’s intention to create the ‘world’s best sporting talent system’, identifies progression and inclusion as two key objectives to facilitate an improved athlete experience while they remain in the pathway.

Within the plan are five key strategies which have been designed to help achieve the two core objectives. They include talent development practice, talent research and insight, talent workforce development, talent systems investment and initiatives and talent communications.

Through restructuring talent pathways to adopt a more person-centred focus, Sport England want all athletes to eventually leave their respective pathways feeling fulfilled of reaching their potential while relishing the opportunity available to them.

A further aim is to make England talent pathways accessible and inclusive to all with ability, regardless of their locality or personal circumstances.

Sport England’s guiding principles:

Guiding principle

SE commitment

We wish to create the world’s best sporting talent system, which consistently delivers results.

We’ll support sports to enhance their talent pathways and strive for optimal alignment between England talent programmes and subsequent high-performance programmes.

We believe that providing a positive talent development experience for all stakeholders within a sustainable high performing culture will achieve optimal results.

We’ll work with UK Sport, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and other partners to ensure sports have an appropriate

culture, operate with integrity, advocate clean sport, and have robust policies and procedures in place.

We want people to be better for being in the England talent system, and advocate a holistic development

approach. The journey and the growth of individuals is an end in itself.

We’ll promote dual career and strive to embed a development approach that develops the whole person, supporting their educational development in concert with their technical and sporting proficiency.

We’re passionate about athlete welfare and the parity of physical and mental wellbeing.

We’ll advocate for the parity of physical and mental wellbeing. We will ensure talent leads and coaches

in funded England Talent Pathways have access to appropriate mental health awareness/mental health first aid training.

We believe national teams should strive to be representative of the population they represent.

We’ll create a system which is inclusive and enables everyone to achieve their potential.

We believe that an inspired, effective and well-supported workforce is crucial to the creation of a sustainable high performing system which delivers excellent developmental experiences for all.

We’ll invest in people development and the principles of inclusive leadership. We’ll ensure inclusion is

embedded into every aspect of our talent pathway, including the recruitment and functions of the talent workforce.

We recognise that athlete development is complex and non-linear.

We’ll reward organisations for their role in long-term development and encourage collaboration.

Sport England and Team England

As already highlighted, for many English athletes the top of the talent pathway is to represent their country at a Commonwealth Games and this is particularly pertinent in the next cycle with Birmingham hosting next Games in 2022. The prospect of competing in front of a home crowd is a great experience for athletes.

Sport England was a major funding partner of Team England for last year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The funding helped Commonwealth Games England send a team of over 600 people which included 400 athletes with an integrated para team and equal gender split to compete in Australia.

The Games proved very successful with the winning of 136 medals, 45 of which were gold.  This is the second highest number of gold medals at an overseas Games and the second highest total medal haul overseas (behind the 140 won in Delhi 2010). This was Team England’s best ever Games in Australia beating Melbourne 2006, Brisbane 1982, Perth 1962 and Sydney 1938.

59% of Team England athletes won a medal in Gold Coast and the proportion for the para-athletes who won a medal was very similar- 18 medallists which represents 54% of the total team.  Team England para-athletes medal tally would put them at 13th on the medal table as a standalone team.

The Gold Coast was a breakthrough Games for female team sports.  The Team England Netball team winning gold was one of the moments of the whole Games, their best ever Commonwealth Games performance on the sport’s biggest stage.  The women’s Basketball team won silver, the best performance by an England basketball team at the Commonwealth Games and the women’s Rugby 7s team won their first ever Commonwealth Games medal, taking bronze.

The Gold Coast was also the Commonwealth Games where young athletes from Team England seized the moment and delivered a number of outstanding successes – Examples include Alice Kinsella (17), Taeja James (15), Georgia-Mae Fenton (17), Alice Tai (19), Katherine Torrance (18), Holly Hibbott (18), Ethan Hayter (19), Ellie Robinson (16), Tom Hamer (19), Sarah Vasey (21), Lewis White (17), Courtney Tulloch (22), who all medalled in Australia.

Birmingham 2022 will be a fantastic opportunity for new English talented athletes to break through after benefitting from the Sport England talent pathway and it is less than 1300 days away.