Under 21 Team Selection Policy
Congratulations to all of those selected for the Junior Team and Young Rider Individuals selected to go to the European Championships in Denmark this year. Its a fantastic experience so go and enjoy it.
See BD Website for more details.
Dressage Central is essentially set up as a News Service but there will be a few occasions where I feel an Editorial Comment is appropriate and the first of those occasions has arisen with the announcement that Great Britain will not be sending a Young Rider Team only two individual riders.
Firstly I must put my hand up and declare an interest. I am the owner of one of the Long Listed horses that was not selected but owning this horse has, for a number of years, given me a front row seat in the theatre of Under 21 Team selection. My issue however is not who has and who has not been selected, but the fact that is has been decided not to send a Young Rider Team at all.
I will also preface my comments with an acknowledgement of how difficult a job team selection is, and how many considerations have to be balanced.
Funding of all Olympic sports these days survives only on the oxygen of success and over the last few years there has not been a glut of Junior or Young Rider Medals. However I guess one question is whether the only objective of these Under 21 teams is to win medals or whether there is the wider objective of providing support and encouragement to young riders and the experience of international competition. Interestingly the selection policy published on the BD website specifies the “aims” of the selectors being to select the various squads and;
“To select a team that will achieve the best possible results for Great Britain at the Junior and Young Rider European Championships to be held on 21 – 24 July at Broholm, Denmark”.
There is no stated general aim in the selection policy of supporting and encouraging Young Riders. This is probably just as well because it is hard to think of a process more likely to discourage and undermine the confidence of these riders than the one they have gone through this year.
At the moment GB does not have the strength in depth of Under 21 riders coming through to challenge teams like Germany and Holland. I understand that in Germany there are usually about forty riders that come forward for each team and at the beginning of each year 15 are chosen to go forward into the selection process. Realistically therefore, at the moment, GB can only consider a bronze medal in the Team competitions as achievable.
Our Young Riders are required to take part in squad training weekends and Premier League competitions around the country over the winter and spring, and encouraged to compete abroad in mainland Europe. This is expensive and time consuming and requires a great deal of commitment from the riders, their families and their trainers. There is no financial support for this at all.
During this process there seems to very little real constructive dialog between the selectors and the riders, their families and trainers. As I have said, I appreciate that the selectors job is a difficult one but I don’t understand why they need be quite so insular. All horses and riders have strengths and weaknesses, which are not always apparent from the training and competing seen by the selectors. I would have though the selectors would want to maintain a close dialog with the riders and their connections but this does not seem to be the case.
So the Young Rider hopefuls this year have jumped through all the necessary hoops and then a few weeks ago a Long List was announced. At this point logic would suggest that the selectors would exclude from the list any rider they were not prepared to put on the Team. Since the Long List was announced some have had disappointing results, some have continued to perform consistently and others have improved. It is therefore difficult to understand why riders in the latter two categories are now seen as of an insufficient standard to form part of a team.
So if you were 18 and had a good horse, how would you view the whole Under 21 arena? Would you be encouraged to have a go or avoid it?
nd how would you feel as a young rider, who has been through the process, has had reasonable, if not dramatically good results, was put on the Long List, but is now considered of an insufficient standard for the team. The riders on the Long List are good riders. They deserve encouragement and support because they will be the riders of the future. These riders may not have the horsepower or experience to challenge for the top medals now, but in a few years they might have and then the experience of a European Championship would be invaluable.
And finally what message does it sends to other countries about what we think of your young riders that we are not even prepared to send a Team.
I would encourage BD to look again at the whole selection process again and see if it really reflects what they are trying to achieve.