Inspiring new generation of sports stars is a task that Andy Wood is relishing
ANDY Wood is hoping the success of London 2012 will inspire a new generation of sporting stars from Derbyshire.
Wood, who led the Great Britain badminton team at three Olympic Games, is performance manager at the recently-formed Derbyshire Institute of Sport (DIS).
The DIS aims to help more athletes from the county compete at future Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games.
Wood, from Shardlow, is working to ensure that talented local sports people received the support they need to reach their full potential.
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Up to 100 athletes a year will be given access to improved coaching and training and competition facilities, as well as high quality strength and conditioning, sports science, physiotherapy and medical support.
Wood lent his experience and expertise to the Australian and Canadian badminton teams at London 2012.
"I was heavily involved in the badminton but I also managed to get around quite a few other sports," he said.
"It was a great atmosphere – something really special – and it seems to have really energised and inspired people.
"There were so many success stories of different athletes – and they all started somewhere.
"That's the next challenge for us now."
Wood coached Simon Archer and Jo Goode to Britain's first Olympic medal (bronze) at Sydney in 2000, then helped Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms to silver in Athens four years later.
He also coached Spondon's Donna Kellogg and Derby-born Anthony Clark during their successful careers on the world stage.
"If you asked most aspiring athletes and certainly ones I worked with, they will all relate to a moment when they were perhaps 12 or 13 when they saw somebody standing on a podium with a gold medal round their neck, which inspired them," said Wood.
"That can prove to be a really strong vision in helping you achieve your goals.
"If we can capitalise on these moments and use them to channel people in the right direction over the next eight or 10 years in some case, we can maybe help them get to the pinnacle of their sport.
"We have to harness the attention certain sports are getting and the energy behind that."
Wood is excited about the county's sporting prospects – and hopes it could lead to success at major sporting events in the coming years.
"We've got to hope that the investment from Derby City Council, Derbyshire County Council and the University of Derby will enable our athletes to get access to the best facilities and coaches," he said.
"With the plans for the velodrome (at Pride Park) and other developments, you can clearly see that a big effort is being made.
"And we've got some great coaches too. If we can get everything linked together and working towards a common goal, there should be some really exciting opportunities ahead."
Wood feels that Derby University can play a key role in attracting and retaining athletes.
"Donna Kellogg has taken up a role as performance sport manager at the university, so she will have a big role to play too," he added.
"As well as attracting people into the area, this will also offer our athletes from within the county the chance to stay here rather than losing them to other places, like Bath or Leeds."
The first athletes to be supported by the DIS compete in a range of sports, including badminton, basketball, swimming, table tennis, cycling, netball, sailing and squash.
"Sports will be reviewed quite frequently and any sport that shows capability of achievement, we will help out when we think we can make a difference," said Wood.
"We've got our eyes on a few sports at the moment and a list of 20 athletes from a variety of different sports who are showing great promise.
"We are recruiting a lot of coaches in our chosen sports and we have got some really good people lined up.
"Work will be done with them to set targets but they will be quite different from sport to sport."
Although bringing home medals is a clear goal, Wood believes the whole initiative has a wider role to play.
"I know I'm biased but, for me, sport is massive," he said.
"It is just such a healthy environment to be involved in – not just physically but the idea of having dreams and finding ways to achieve them.
"It does affect people – as we saw with the euphoria and joy in London – and I think it will last longer than some people think.
"We've got to hope it inspires people and leaves a mark, not just on the athletes but also parents, schools and government."