Inside the Games: prepare to meet our next generation of Commonwealth athletes

The number of Team Scotland athletes selected for Glasgow 2014 is now at 104, with the latest team announcements for boxing, wrestling and para-sport bowls coming last week.

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This week there will be no additions as such, but there will instead be a selection announcement which is just as significant; on Tuesday, the athletes who have been chosen for the Achieve 2014 development programme will be unveiled.

This scheme gives young, up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to experience the Games environment before they compete for real.

The aim of the Achieve programme is to prepare the next generation of athletes and coaches for the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2015 and 2017, followed by the 2018 Commonwealth Games, as well as inspiring and motivating them for the next stage of their career.

The programme was launched prior to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi but on a considerably smaller scale than will be the case for Glasgow 2014. Twenty-eight athletes travelled to India as part of Achieve 2010, while this year over 120 athletes and coaches will be part of the programme.

Being part of the Achieve scheme is an extremely important learning process for these young athletes. It cannot be overstated just how valuable an experience this programme can be for these young athletes - the Commonwealth Games is on a far larger scale to the single-sport competitions that they are used to competing in and being part of a massive event like this for the first time can be overwhelming.

Just observing the set-up and getting a feel for the village and multi-sport environment can help prepare these young athletes for their first competitive experience, meaning they are far more likely to perform better.

I can still clearly remember walking into my first Commonwealth Games Athletes' Village in Manchester in 2002 and it was an incredible shock to the system. My older team-mates had described the village to me prior to arriving, but I was still hugely under-prepared.

The sheer scale of it is breathtaking and the constant supply of free food is a constant threat to every athlete's finely-tuned body. Well, it's only a threat until you've finished competing; as soon as your competition is over, it's there to be taken advantage of…..

The Glasgow National Hockey Centre, located at Glasgow Green and the venue for the hockey competition at Glasgow 2014, is currently hosting its first international competitions.

The men's team are playing in the 4 Nations Championship against Argentina, Belgium and England and the women are competing in the Champions Challenge against India, USA, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, South Africa and Korea.

For the women's squad in particular, Glasgow 2014 has presented them with a unique opportunity. Both in 2013 and this year, the squad has received sportscotland funding, enabling them to train full-time for three months last summer and three months this summer in preparation for the Games.

It cannot be overestimated just how important a factor this could be in giving the Scottish women their best ever chance of winning a medal. Prior to this funding boost, only the handful of players who were in the GB team had the luxury of training full-time. The others had full-time jobs and were required to shoehorn in their training sessions around their working day.

Being a full-time athlete is incredibly valuable. I was a full-time badminton player for eight years after I graduated from university and, even in those privileged circumstances, I felt there was never enough hours in the day to complete all my training, rehab, psychology, physio and everything else that being an athlete entails; how these hockey girls managed to hold down full-time jobs as well as maintaining an international standard of hockey is beyond me.

Like the Scottish hockey teams, both men and women, many of the Team Scotland athletes have already been given the opportunity to play a test event or other kind of competition in their Games venue.

Badminton, swimming and cycling have all held international competitions in the last year in their Games environment and this could give the home athletes that little bit of experience and knowledge which could make all the difference when it comes to standing on the podium this summer.

For both the male and female Scotland hockey teams, Glasgow 2014 presents their best ever chance of winning some Commonwealth silverware.

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