We’ve caught up with John McGuinness, Team England Performance Director, ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. He sheds light on how preparation has gone for the players representing Team England and how they are shaping up before stepping onto the greens in front of the fans at Victoria Park. John also shares how his own experience of Glasgow 2014 will be beneficial in assisting Team England to make the most of Birmingham 2022.
How are you feeling ahead of the Games?
I’m feeling very confident and optimistic. All of the players are feeling happy and healthy which makes me feel upbeat.
In the build-up, what differences have you found between playing for England and being Performance Director at a Commonwealth Games?
As a player, it was all about getting yourself into peak performance and ready to play. As Performance Director, it’s obviously a much wider and much bigger task than simply getting yourself ready to play. The excitement is the same. The excitement about going out and participating because all the Management Team are as much as of the team as those who are playing. We all want the players to do well and put in good performances as if we were actually playing so there are a lot of similarities there.
How do you want the team to approach each match at the Commonwealth Games?
I’ve been talking to the players about them focusing on their performances rather than the end results. I am not asking them to think about medals. I’m asking them to be ready for on the very first game, that very first end and to focus on that. Take every single game and end as it comes and focus on that rather than anything to do with medals.
For me, I want the team to approach each match equally. Whether you’re playing Australia or any other nation, you go out and you approach them in the same way. We focus on putting on a really good performance and being well prepared to perform the way that we have been practicing over the past eighteen months.
What would you say to the fans coming to watch and support Team England at Victoria Park?
From the fans point of view, it’s brilliant as it’s a home games. I encourage the fans to be as vocal and supportive for Team England as they possibly can. The players are enthusiastic and passionate about representing Team England, they know they’re representing their home nation, families and clubs.
They want to put on a brilliant show for the fans so I want the fans to really enjoy the occasion. I think Victoria Park is looking magnificent and the atmosphere will be fantastic. I want the fans to really enjoy it and get behind the England team.
What advice would you give to young bowlers who aspire to be part of a Team England squad at future Commonwealth Games?
Clearly to reach this level, as a bowler, you need to be a bit special from a player point of view but you also need to be very dedicated. You need to put the hours and practice in to reach this top level, it’s not just about ability.
All of the players in this squad have had ups and downs but they have worked incredibly hard to get into this side. All of them have done it by achievement, going out and winning things and getting themselves into the situation where no one can deny that they are the best players in England at this moment in time.
My advice to any young bowler is to keep focusing on getting better and keep putting the practice hours in. Keep trying your best to get results and improve your game.
How has this year’s preparation gone ahead of competing at Birmingham 2022?
Fantastic. We started coming to Leamington the end of April and we have pretty much been there every other weekend since then. This included inviting other nations to play against us. We’ve really got a strong team unit and that is across the men, women and para. We are one. A strong team that is well prepared.
From a bowling point of view, we’ve got a good balance of getting enough play and being relaxed, comfortable and not overplayed. I want to make sure they are hitting their peak from the first end that they play. Everything we had planned with people being available has gone to plan, it has been challenging at times bringing players from every corner of the country, it has taken a big commitment.
They’ve all kept themselves healthy, going through sport science and psychology support from Loughborough University. All the players have adhered to the programme and have done really well.
How will you motivate the team prior to them stepping on the greens?
At this point in time, my motivation is making sure the players are not only aware of what they’re about to embark upon but realise that it’s time to enjoy the moment. For me, it’s making sure that we maintain positivity around the camp and to eliminate any ‘noise’ – things to do with logistics, food, operations. I’ve got a good team including Alistair Hollis (Team Leader for Team England) to help take away the ‘noise’.
As far as the team being motivated, I don’t have to do much as the team are thrilled to bits to be here, they’re so ready to go. The challenge is maintaining that when we get into the competition because I’ve been and played in these competitions and I am aware of what can happen playing in these major games. There will be ups and downs so it’s about making sure that everyone stays positive and recognises how great this team really is throughout the competition.
What is one key experience that you learned from playing at Glasgow 2014 which will be beneficial for the Birmingham 2022 team?
I think my experiences of Glasgow 2014 were very positive, coming away with a silver medal but it could have been a gold. One experience that I’m sure the players will be aware of is if you get the opportunity to go for medals, you have got to take that opportunity.
Some players in this squad have good experiences of that, some don’t. Those that have been in those situations know what need to be done if they get into that situation. Those that haven’t been there before know that the margins can be very small whether you win a medal. Therefore, when you get into that situation, it’s really about psyching yourself up. Realise that it’s ‘right here and right now’, there’s no second chances.
What I also take from Glasgow is making sure the players enjoy the occasion and relax. They’re here because they are tremendous players and have played their way into the squad and they must never forget that. It’s important that they allow themselves to play the way they are capable of, rather than getting caught up in the occasion. Focus on enjoyment and their performance will allow them to play to their strengths and get the most of playing in the Commonwealth Games.
John also confirms which formats our Team England stars will playing at Birmingham 2022: