Where do you want to go?
I've been thinking a lot about this, as over the past few years with working for Hilton (it's been almost 4 years!) in the Victorian Sprint Group program, we've seen some amazing growth and some brilliant results. It's not all been perfect, of course, lots of hard lessons have been learned and there's more to come. One of the things we need to consider is pathways into the VSG. Until reasonably recently, we'd pretty-much say yes to anyone that wanted to have a go, sprinters being rare animals. But, these days, we've got a pretty good hotbed of talent here and the VSG is full.
So what do we do with the kids that want to have a go?
We need pathways into the squad. I very briefly discussed this with Hilts yesterday, and it's softly-softly at the moment, but some ideas to toss around, based mainly on talent ID, where talent isn't just being able to ride quickly as a J15, but also being committed. We (Hilts and I) put our hearts and souls into the VSG, it's all consuming for both of us, and we expect that riders in the program are equally committed. If you're committed and prepared to bust your arse for years, we'll move heaven and earth to make the program fit you in.
How do you, as a J15 or a J17, show commitment? It's easy to see speed, just race fast. Are you in it for the long haul or just dabbling for a bit of fun before you go and do something else? There's nothing wrong with dabbling, but the VSG is not for that.
Is it realistic to expect a J17 to show long term commitment? I think it is, to a point. If you can't ever see yourself as being an Olympian sprinter, then you're dabbling - if it's something that you want, now, then we're interested in you. We know things change, and life intervenes all the time, but if it's not on the radar, you shouldn't be wasting our time. The kids I've fed up into the VSG want (at the moment) to be Olympians, Perko and Anna are their heroes. This is really important.
So, some pathways, I run a sprint group outside of the VSG, which you all know about, the aboc Sprint Squad, it's a bunch of masters guys and developmental kids and some senior riders who for various reasons aren't in state development squads (but may be working towards them). That's one pathway into the VSG - if you ride in my squad, I'll see you, and see how committed you are as well as if you have physical talent. If and when the time is right, I feed you up the chain into the VSG. I've done this with a few riders so far. This means paying me though, and that's possibly open to suggestions of nepotism, it certainly can't be the only way in and it isn't.
Other pathways - work with another coach, specialise in sprint (if you can find a coach that will let you as a J17 or J15, they're rarer than they should be), get them to speak to Hilts if you're showing the right stuff. Win sprint at Junior Vics beating the kids in the VSG, that's sure to get our attention! Get spotted by a coach or testing through Cycling Victoria, as an example Carnegie-Caulfield riders sometimes get pulled up into the VSG if they show enough talent at their club training sessions or testing sessions.
There's others - if you think of some, I want to know!