A Week in the Life of the SWNTP: “Plan B?…What Plan B?”

Six months have passed since the Scotland Senior Women qualified for the CEV Small Countries Final 2015 following their successful performances in front of home support in Perth. During this period there has been quite a bit of activity both on and off the court. Indeed, no sooner had the international court been dismantled at Bells Sports Centre and the hard-working Events Staff headed home for a well-earned rest than the planning process for the Finals had begun.

Practice sessions were confirmed and venues were booked. Tentative arrangements were made for competitive opportunities at Christmas and Easter in Northumbria and Belgium respectively. The Programme was boosted by the addition of Physical Conditioning testing and programming, regular Sport Psychology input and Nutrition support. The momentum generated by the success of Perth was reflected in the buzz that surrounded the squad as the players returned for the new season of National Team preparation. The plan was ticking along nicely until….

As part of the planning process for the build up to the Finals in Liechtenstein we had assumed that they would be held anytime between the beginning and end of June 2015. After all, that’s been the norm for the SCD Finals in the past. The key phase in our preparations was regarded as the period from the end of the domestic season through to the Finals in June. The month of May was to be the most intensive part of our preparation. The dates were all pencilled in to everyone’s diaries.

Then, at the end of October, the CEV announced the dates for the Finals.

They weren’t in June as had been anticipated but set for 15-17 May. This came as a bit of a ‘sidewinder’ and caught us unawares. These dates would have a significant impact on our plans as they stood and our initial reaction was one of concern. The month of April is normally the culmination of the National League and Cup competitions with Play-offs, Semi-Finals and Finals. It is a crucial stage in the Club calendar and as a result we have always ensured that we avoided scheduling any SWNTP practice sessions during this period. If May was no longer available to us as our intensive final preparation phase would we have to negotiate with the Clubs to try in fit in practice during April?

After some careful consideration and rescheduling of venues we managed to successfully rejig our plans and avoid impacting on the final stages of the Club season. At this point we would like to express our thanks to John French who was instrumental in helping us acquire evening training facilities during early May.

In fact, as we began to piece ‘Plan B’ together it became more evident that we could end up with a really positive outcome! Over the course of the Easter weekend we are planning to travel to Belgium to play against some professional club teams and that remains on track. The players will then return home and immediately go into their respective Club preparations for the Play-offs and latter stages of the Cup. Once the season is over we will jump into an intensive three week period where the players will effectively be practising four times per week. We made a point of contacting all the Women’s Division 1 Clubs to make them aware of our new plan and to stress that there would be no impact on their end of season preparations. Indeed, now we see their work as a critical component of our own pre-competition groundwork. All in all, it represents a six week period of intensive competition and practice, exactly what we need in advance of the Finals!

The players’ response to all these changes has been extremely positive. They recognise the additional demands this places on their time and energy but they are being proactive in dealing with the situation. For example, May represents the beginning of the University exam diet and a number of players are likely to face potential clashes. Already, some players have begun dialogues with their tutors and course leaders to put in place alternative plans should a clash arise. Others will face work related issues but it encouraging to see the players shouldering the responsibility of finding solutions at this early stage. This is further evidence of the growing maturity of the squad.

As we now head into December practice will accelerate with a session on 21 December followed by a three day residential camp at our base at The PEAK in Stirling from 27-29 December. The players will then have a small respite before reconvening again on the 2 January to head south to Newcastle and two days of scrimmage matches with Team Northumbria.

After that is all done and dusted there will be less than eighteen weeks until we head out to Liechtenstein for the Finals. Thank goodness for Plan B!

Craig Faill
Head Coach
Scotland Senior Women’s Programme
25 November 2014