Para Coach Development Dartmoor 2024

Coach development programme takes trajectory into Paris

26 Jun 2024

An inside look at how an expedition on Dartmoor was used to foster personal and professional growth for Paralympic swimming team support personnel ahead of the Games.

Across the current Games cycle the Aquatics GB Para-swimming World Class programme has delivered targeted opportunities to build up the experience and knowledge base of individuals working with para-athletes through avenues such as exposure to performance hub environments and camp settings, mentorship and even a coordinated trip to see the High Performance Podcast Live.

Para Coach Development Dartmoor 2024 - Andy Sharp
Andy Sharp prepares to sleep outdoors

In collaboration with UK Sport, a step away from the pool deck was organised for a cohort of coaches in line to be attending the Paralympic Games this summer, with a series of challenges on the Dartmoor ranges providing a testing ground for the group to develop their communication and support for each other in unfamiliar challenging conditions.

“From the pictures it all looks really exciting and very nice, but honestly it was quite challenging and firmly tested the group.” said Aquatics GB Para-swimming Head Coach Rob Aubry,

With physical aspects including walking, climbing, abseiling, river crossings and preparing to sleep outdoors under the stars, the expedition format facilitated a setting that would apply stresses akin to those experienced on a team at a Games.

“The facilitators, Mission Mindset, were recommended to us through the Royal Marines charity for their expert understanding of communication, hierarchy of command and the ability to get a lot done in a very short space of time in highly challenging conditions - all areas of which we were keen to expand our perspectives on and adopt new learnings.

Para Coach Development Dartmoor 2024 v2
The group together on Dartmoor

“For the Games we are away from home for nearly three weeks; eating, sleeping and working together in this tight knit bubble effectively 24/7. Undertaking these couple of days with core Paralympic coaches plus a couple of additional athlete preparation staff, the concept around the challenges set were essentially to help ready us for supporting each other personally and professionally in such environments.”

An adverse change in the weather meant the group relocated overnight under the shelter of a bothy to undertake additional exercises that focused on how their progression and growth as a unit would enable them to best support athletes in their mission to achieve best performances at the Games.

Dawn Ibrahim Dartmoor 2024
Dawn Ibrahim abseiling

“The guys running the course checked and challenged us on some of our communication and how we drove that. Feeding back not only on how we verbally communicated, but also placing emphasis on how importantly body language conveys a message. When people are tired and fatigued, making sure that our body language supports performance culture and is able to present positivity to our athlete cohort no matter how we may be feeling in that instant.

“We also took a key look at making sure we each have plans to maximise rest and recovery when the opportunity presents itself, and acknowledging a personal responsibility for our fitness to make sure we are equipped to deliver our roles under the additional underlying pressures we will encounter across the duration of the Games.”

The para-swimming competition programme runs across ten days (29th August‑7th September) at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. Further details on the athletes selected to represent Great Britain can be found here.