For a group used to plying their trade on sports fields and at poolsides, the grandeur of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
’s rehearsal space was a marked change, yet at a glance, it would have been easy to miss the sports coaches sitting quietly amongst the 90-strong orchestra as they practiced Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
As the conductor raised his arms and the notes started to sing out, only a careful eye would pick out the red, white and blue polo shirted guests casting anxious glances around the room.
The intruders were in fact part of UK Sport’s Elite Programme, an initiative designed to enhance and develop coaches working with British sports, to enable them to become world leading coaches.
Coach Development Advisor at UK Sport, David Bunyan, who led the trip to the BBC Philharmonic’s Manchester base, explained: “We look to explore a different stimulus away from sport, and compare sporting excellence with different art forms. In this instance, particularly as the musicians take part in practice, rehearsal and performance, it mirrors very much what athletes do with their coaches.”
The Orchestra is led by General Manager, Simon Webb, himself a former cellist, who was keen that the coaches had an authentic experience.
“We wanted them to understand something about how the orchestra communicates and how the teamwork and leadership works, because you really have to be there and see it to understand it,” he said.
“We wanted them to sit in the physical working environment to get a sense particularly of the non-verbal communication and the importance of listening, peripheral vision, respect and awareness of colleagues required to create a great performance.
“Essentially we do the same things, they do it with sport and we do it with music, we wanted them to gain that mutual understanding.”
Amongst the coaches in attendance were GB Taekwondo National Coach Stephen Jennings, the Tennis Foundation’s Lead National Programme Coach Stuart Wilkinson and Andy Banks, who coached Tom Daley to Olympic bronze and a world title.
Banks, who admitted getting “lost in the experience”, found parallels in the most unusual of places.
“I found the strings particularly ‘wow’ because they were like synchronised swimmers; every single bow movement is synchronised with the others and they all know exactly what they’re meant to be doing at every point during the music,” he said.
“It’s like watching a very good international football team perform poetry in motion. Seeing how easy they make it look, and understanding the complexity of what’s going on in order to perform in that way and make that sort of sound, is comparable in my sport to perfecting the a dive and making it look effortless.”
These lessons are just a small part of the bigger picture the Elite Programme coaches can build during their time on the three year development course, where the ultimate aim is for these experiences to have a positive impact on the way they work with athletes.
“I’m always pushing them to see what they’ve learnt, and what they will take back to their sport, because whilst it’s a wonderful experience, experience is only any good if it modifies behaviour,” David Bunyan summarised.
“This was certainly out of their comfort zone, which we try to do with this programme, in the hope they will then take their own athletes and do something that is slightly different with them, hopefully to improve their performance.”
The day concluded much as it had begun, with music filling the room. However, this time it was the coaches striking the notes, as they performed a short piece they had created themselves. Their faces a study of concentration, and heads nodding in time, what was lacking in technique, was more than made up for in determination.
Full list of coaches in attendance: Greg Baker (Disability Table Tennis), Andy Banks (Diving), Ben Bright (Triathlon), Andy Flower (Cricket), Stephen Jennings (Taekwondo), Pasan Kularatne (Disability Shooting), Jack Maitland (Triathlon), Stuart Wilkinson (Wheelchair Tennis)
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