David Somerville: "When we reach the final day of the competition in Glasgow I don't think it will be one or two stars of the team. There will be 14 athletes that performed to their full potential"
With the Queen's baton arriving on the British islands, and another 100k tickets being released, the anticipation and excitement for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014 are infecting the nation.
Meanwhile, at Judo Scotland's HQ in Edinburgh, the preparation of the judokas that will dispute the medals at the SECC Precinct on the first three days of the Games, is taking it's last stride.
David Somerville, national high performance coach, is part of the team of experts responsible to train and develop the 14 athletes that will represent Scotland in Glasgow 2014. The final team will be revealed on May 28.
Silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 2002, Somerville took the time to talk to me about the preparation of the judo team, the expectations for the competition, his transition from judo player to coach and who are the judokas to watch on Team Scotland.
Luciano Graca: When and how did you start in judo?
David Somerville: I started when I was 7 years old because my brother was involved in the sport as well. Basically my mom and dad thought that my brother and I had too much energy and it was a good way to keep two physical boys out of trouble in the house.
LG: How did you become a professional judoka?
DS: When I was a younger judo player I was identified through Scottish and British scout systems as being someone with potential. I liked judo since when I first started; it was something that resonated with me. As an individual I like to express myself through playing judo so when the opportunities came I was happy to pursue them.
LG: How was the transition from judoka to coach?
DS: When I was a competitor it wasn't something that I had thought for myself. As you become a senior athlete just as a natural evolution you start to take on responsibilities for some of the younger athletes. I started to gain hands on technical work or planning work for those athletes. When I retired some of those responsibilities continued and it progressed from there.
LG: Who are your idols on judo?
DS: As a judo player when I was younger it was the guys we watched on TV people like Neil Adams. I think that as you travel on your own journey you start to have an increased respect for the people that perhaps are a little bit closer to home. People like Graham Randal and John Buchanan that I have a massive amount of respect. When I changed my profession I started to analyse the actions of the coaches around me. I started to identify other great coaches and Scotland have a great history of developing great coaches like George Kerr and Billy Cusack, who certainly have great footsteps to follow on.
LG: At what stage are the preparations for the Commonwealth Games?
DS: We just finished our general preparation phase and we are now involved in the final preparation. Our qualification period has finished; we are coming to the end of our selection process. The team started off a four week general preparation phase which focus on a little bit more on a physical training, making sure that the athletes are well enough rested, in good physical condition, that there aren't any injuries, and making sure we are getting them in the best place they can before moving them in a more intense lock-in training phase. These four weeks program are individualised but the next week will see us take part on a progression of training, and to travel abroad to some competitions and training events.
LG: Training wise how do you compare the type of training you had when you competed at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 2002 to the type of training you give now 12 years after?
DS: I think fundamentally if you look superficially a lot of the activities are the same. I'd like to think that our integrated sports services are on a much stronger position now with the support that we receive from Sport Scotland, UK Sport and Scottish Institute of Sport. The number of expertise we can bring to add value to the athlete's preparation is much greater. I think that the scientific underpinning principles that we do with the athlete's preparation are a little bit more robust now than it was 12 years ago.
LG: Do you feel more pressure to do well because the Games are in Scotland?
DS: No I don't think so. I'm not sure pressure would be the correct word, but expectations perhaps. I think, as a team or as a coaching staff making analysis of what we think the team can achieve, whether is one medal competing in Tokyo or 14 medals competing in Glasgow the expectations or the pressure is always the same. It will be a fantastic opportunity for the whole team. I think is something that everybody is relishing and looking forward to.
LG: Are you excited for the CWG?
DS: Oh yes, I think everyone in Scottish sport is very excited. We are very lucky here to experience two home games back to back. I don't believe that has ever been or will ever be a more exciting period to be involved in Scottish and British sport.
LG: Will you be watching any other sports?
DS: Yes sure. Judo is on the first three days of the Commonwealth Games so hopefully we can get Team Scotland to a good start and get a bit of a momentum to the medal table. The judo team have a very important role to support Team Scotland and hopefully make the whole games a successful experience. We will be in the other venues to support the other sports, get out and about in the local communities to use the momentum of the legacy. Most definitely the judo team will be involved on the Commonwealth Games cheering to the other teams.
LG: I'm going to put you on the spot now. Who are the judokas to watch on Team Scotland?
DS: You are putting me on the spot but as the team has not being selected yet I'm not going to take the spot kick. I think we are in a good situation in the judo team. I'm pretty sure we will be filling a full team, both men and women. We are in a good competitive situation across all weight categories. When we reach the final day of the competition in Glasgow I don't think it will be one star or two stars of the team. There will be 14 athletes that performed to their full potential. Actually, the team tends to extend wider than that; judo is not a sport like track or field or swimming, where you can take part in the activity on your own. Everybody on the team will need a squad of players to help them to prepare. There will be lots of stars that unfortunately won't make the cut but they will be stars in the future and will have contributed to the success of the Scottish judo team.