Interview with one of UK All Sports’ Olympic Medalists
Olympic Medalist, National Coach, Renowned Artist….
With London 2012 just around the corner, we caught up with UK All Sports’ Judo Ambassador Neil Eckersley to hear about his Olympic memories and receive some valuable tips for all aspiring athletes & coaches!
My memories all revolve around fulfilling my childhood dream of performing at the greatest sporting spectacle on earth; The Olympics. I hold so many proud memories; Everything from being informed of my selection for my first Olympic Games to marching behind the union Jack in both Olympic opening ceremonies and receiving my Olympic rings. I was fortunate enough to take part in two Games, Los Angeles & Seoul. Predictably Los Angeles holds the greatest memories for me, as that was where I won my Olympic medal.
Is¬†Great British Judo¬†in a healthy place¬†going into the Olympics 2012?
On the whole the team is in good shape for the London games, but the final preparations are crucial and will need to go like clockwork in order for the team to have a positive outcome.
My advice to aspiring Judo Players would be; to have a positive attitude and outlook, be honest, hard-working, dedicated and realistic in relation to your expectations, view defeat as a learning tool and do not blame others for poor performance.
How¬†hard¬†did you¬†find the transition from player to coach?
My transition into the coaching world was on the whole pretty straightforward; I think it was a positive move that I did not embark on a coaching career as soon as I retired from competitive judo. I worked and spent time in the real world before being asked to be a part of the coaching system. This experience was beneficial and allowed me to have a realistic and honest approach to my coaching practice.
Did you find that the fact that you were an international player, put more pressure on you as a coach and increased peoples expectations?
No on the contrary my experiences as an elite performer helped lower the expectations due to the fact that I had had a unique insight into being a successful performance athlete.
What advice would you give to aspiring coaches out there?
Listen, observe, seek advice, access specific and related training and be true to your beliefs. Have a needs led approach. Ensure that you the coach have a constructive, not judgmental, professional relationship with your athletes.
Knowledge, experience, understanding, empathy, adaptability, and having a creative vision are in my opinion the main qualities of becoming a successful coach.
What hurdles did you experience in becoming a¬†professional coach and how did you manage to get over them?
Having high unrealistic expectations which were formed from my own experiences and success was at first a major hurdle that I experienced.¬† But with support and guidance from coaches who were highly experienced within their field I managed to address this situation.
Talk to us about¬†one of your major coaching roles/positions..
One of my most successful roles was as Performance/Potential Coach for British judo. The structure that I implemented resulted in major international success for the athletes that were identified within the program. The majority of the athletes within the program then went on to represent the Association in the Olympic Games, I managed and coached these athletes for a number of years, this role and commitment gave me great satisfaction.
If there was not Judo, what do you think you¬†would be doing as a career?
I have been an artist for over 10 years, recently I have formed my own arts studio Portland Street Studios which is based in Lancaster, and I am passionate about art, my painting allows me to express myself totally in a unique way. If anybody is interested in viewing my work it is available on the Saatchi Gallery website. Just go onto the online section & enter Neil Eckersley, or follow this link (http://www.saatchionline.com/profile/96946) where you can view a selection of my paintings.
To hear more about Neil’s Playing & Coaching Career and what he can offer UK All Sports’ clients, please click here
To see a behind the scenes view of Neil filming for the BBC please click here