We're already a hugely successful sporting nation. Our country enjoyed record performances at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, while English athletes made up more than 80% of the hugely successful Team GB and ParalympicsGB in the most recent summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.
This success has been made possible by excellent performance programmes underpinned by effective talent systems – but we know we can’t take this success for granted.
That’s why we’ve produced our Talent Plan for England, which outlines our seven principles for investing in talent and explains how we can help produce the athletes that will star on the international stage in the future.
Phil Smith, our Executive Director of Sport, says that while we should be proud of what's already been achieved, there's still plenty of room for improvement.
"In this plan we’re building on success," he explained.
"We’ve set ourselves a high bar but believe we can create the world’s best sporting talent system."
Our plan states that how we win is as important as what we win. As such, it has twin objectives of progression and inclusion.
It underlines that, for everyone in the talent system, sport should remain a positive experience and the system is also accessible to everyone who has ability and potential to succeed at the highest level regardless of their background.
The Talent Plan for England's seven guiding principles
- We wish to create the world’s best sporting talent system, which consistently delivers results.
- We believe that providing a positive talent development experience for all stakeholders within a sustainable high performing culture will achieve optimal results.
- We want people to be better for being in the England talent system and advocate a holistic development approach. The journey and the growth of individuals is an end in itself.
- We’re passionate about athlete welfare and the parity of physical and mental wellbeing.
- We believe national teams should strive to be representative of the population they represent.
- We believe that an inspired, effective and well-supported workforce is crucial to the creation of a sustainable high-performing system which delivers excellent developmental experiences for all.
- We recognise that athlete development is complex and non-linear.
"The experience young athletes receive will have a lasting effect on not only their sporting performance but also their mental and physical health,” added Phil. "Training to win and enjoying the experience should not be mutually exclusive.
"Secondly, as fans we want to see sports teams that reflect the best of our nation and our population, in all its diversity. We have a concern that not only the culture of talent pathways but also the sheer cost of being talented, may be a real barrier to this."
While for our Chief Executive Tim Hollingsworth this plan is an example of how all Sport England's work can coalesce into one goal.
"We invest in a number of ways and areas for a number of outputs, but they’re all linked by three Ps, a sense of purpose, a sense of people and a sense of place – which is really apparent through this talent work," he said.
"To all the people who work within the system, leaders, coachers, volunteers in particular, I hope this plan is something that can introduce for you the real sense of where we feel we are now as Sport England.
"We have a collaborative role to play in driving talent, but also doing it in a way that is best for the people within it."
It needs to be done in the right way and the athletes need to have the right experiences behind them
Dame Katherine Grainger, chair of UK Sport
Dame Katherine Grainger, chair of UK Sport, said it's vital the new Talent Plan for England is ambitious.
"A new strategy should not be simple or easy. It should be stretching," she explained. "This plan has been built from a lot of conversations and consultations and is built around what we can achieve if we are truly ambitious.
Team England won 136 medals at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, finishing second in the medal table
"It is amazing when we have huge moments and win things on the international stage, but it matters just as much how we win as what we win. It needs to be done in the right way and the athletes need to have the right experiences behind them.
"An athlete's development is very personal but a lot of it is down to chance and we don’t want to leave it to chance, luck, destiny or fate. As a system we need to take as much responsibility as we can to leave as little as possible to chance. We need to question what we do, find the gaps and do whatever we can to fill those gaps. We are at the start of a most amazing journey."
Our talent plan describes how the England talent system is structured, outlines in brief how we work with key partners and provides some working definitions of terminology often used to describe various aspects of the Talent Pathway.
And for Mims Davies MP, Minister for Sport, she was pleased to see inclusion addressed as one of the key principles in the plan.
"We have a duty to redouble our efforts around inclusion and I’m delighted to see the plan tackle that head on," she said.
"Sport and physical activity should be for everyone.The talent system is no different. It cannot be right that the talent system is unrepresentative of society more broadly."