Joseph Lightfoot has an article on the athlete-centred approach of British Cycling - described as Kings and Queens:

“We put the riders in the middle; we’re just the minions around them giving them expert advice.”

“Having the riders in the middle having ownership and having responsibility for what they’re doing is one of the key things that we try to promote. And it seems to work.”

“The ‘athletes are kings and queens’ with everyone else there to support them. That philosophy runs through British Cycling and Team Sky.”

Many federations, teams and governing bodies claim to be athlete-centred, and in some cases coach-driven. In practicality, it's tougher to implement, and rare to actually pull this off, as these bodies often struggle with communication and resort to authority, which is easier to implement than athletes having a true voice in the programme. 

When programmes aren't athlete centred, coach driven, there is often a lot of wasted resources, as these resources aren't driven by needs or problems to be solved, but instead are 'check-list' based, driven by funding bodies too far from the coal-face, which means many of these resources don't meaningfully contribute to athlete performance.

The Kings and Queens model is ultimately the best one for senior experienced athletes, and should be scaled for developmentally athletes, teaching them to learn how to drive their own programme, while still leading them in the right direction.

Lightfoot's article has some suggestions on how this model applies to programmes with more limited resources, and how to make it work.

AuthorJoel Filliol