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International Debuts: Good luck girls

Jenny McGeever and Torzie Boylett overcome hurdles to get honours

Jenny McGeever Torzie BoylettOne of the best moments in my Coaching career was last week when these two ladies were talking about their selection for Internationals this week.

Both have had to overcome some big hurdles and I am chuffed to bits for them and their families.

Both came from the South West Talent group of athletes and I have been training them since (4 years now for Jenny, 3 for Torz).

Wheelchair and bust

Last summer I spent some considerable time coaching both girls.

Jenny was hoping to get selected for the Oympics as part of the epee team, Torzie was preparing for her hockey season with England under 16 aspirations.

British Fencing selected fencers from other weapons (they got embroiled in their own selection legal battles as a result) and so Jenny narrowly missed out.

torzie boylettWhen Jenny asked Alex Newton (fencing performance director) for feedback and areas for improvement she was told “you’re not fit enough“.

Two weeks into hockey season in September, the bullet proof Torzie Boylett had her patella smashed by a hockey stick.

Things were looking less than promising.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off.

With British Fencing involved in an internal politicking situation, Jenny decided to try her hand at Modern Pentathlon for a year.

Better to focus on positive aspects of what was in her control, rather than at the beck and call of a disorganised NGB.

Torzie’s plan A was in tatters, a major setback had occurred. In conjunction with her physio, Polly, we started rehab straight away. Bearing in mind Bill Knowle’s adage that “ A knee injury is a brain injury” I got Torzie working on her good side to encourage correct movement patterns. 

Jenny and I sat down each month to look at her overall training plan and the best way to ft that in around her studies. We did an analysis of the 5 disciplines and how we could best incorporate cross training and economic use of time/effort/ money:

  • jenny mcgeeverFencing: Excellent, needed to maintain in London.
  • Horse Riding: could ride, but needed jump practice. at home with her Mum.
  • Swim: quite good previous, but just unfit at it. Would use hours in the pool to improve efficiency of technique and gain aerobic fitness. In London and Tiverton Swim Club.
  • Run: vast improvement over 4 years, but too much time spent jogging. Would work on intensive intervals and specific technique and increase anaerobic fitness with me.
  • Shoot: Abysmal. Safest place to stand was directly in front! Had the accuracy of an Imperial Stormtrooper. Coach Drew Wilsher to help.

We also talked about the need for getting stuck into competition for experience: having to take kit for the extra disciplines, how to warm up, how to switch on/ off between all 5 areas. Jenny needed to know how to fence after a swim, or how to ride after a run, how to get from start line to start line on time.

We also focussed a lot on nutrition: Jenny was constantly losing weight away from home. Together we came up with our Recovery Flapjack recipe which is now used by all our Excelsior athletes!

Torzie’s main goals were in order

  • Stay motivated despite the setback
  • To walk
  • Get strong
  • Get agile
  • Get fast
  • Get fit
  • Play hockey.

This required careful communication between Mum, me and her physio. Torzie’s right buttock and hamstring practically disappeared, and we had to work constantly to get her to feel where they should be.

We celebrated milestones in a big way to stay supportive: First step out of the chair, first skip, first hop, first run, first training session, first match and so on.

We are still working on all of the above to maintain her new found gains and ensure she is confident under pressure of tournamnet play.

Having what it takes

Both girls have got very supportive families, and seem to be the “sporty younger sibling”.

Both went to Blundell’s school. Jenny Left at 16, Torzie is leaving this summer due to lack of support (you are either on sport or off sport, there is no grey area!) and a male emphasis on facilities. Getting told off by teachers for being late to lessons when struggling in a wheelchair says a lot.

This is common at other schools and even Universities: priority gym access and coaching seems to go to boys’ teams first. Jenny has the same problem at St Mary’s in Twickenham! 

This lack of support would cause most people to quit. Instead, “it is the dab of grit that causes the pearl to form in the oyster”. They have indeed undergone aQuest

The girls dug deep, drew on the support from their families and coaches (Drew, Anne Baker) and followed the plan. This stickability is often forgotten about. Not for them the excuses of doing what is familiar and comfortable.

The Future

jenny mcgeever torzie boylettThey have both become comfortable in feeling uncomfortable. I am uncertain as to what the future holds, but I am certain that these girls can take on challenges and overcome obstacles.

The work I have done with these girls is the best I have done. It has challenged all aspects of my coaching, and I have worked very hard to keep ahead of their development.

I hope to be able to coach these girls in some form or another throughout their careers. I am applying the lessons learnt with the next generation of developing athletes. 


  1. […] Development Centre.  It has been great to see the sucess stories like those who made their International debuts  but also to see the growth and maturity of all the young people who are becoming more […]

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