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Pioneering Sports Club

Pioneering Sports Club

Excelsior ADC is now affiliated to British Athletics, British Weightlifting and British Gymnastics; the only sports club in the UK to do so.

Access to coaching for children in the Culm Valley is limited, every Gymnastics club in Devon is oversubscribed, the nearest Weightlifting clubs are in Plymouth and Bristol, and good track athletes have been travelling to Taunton or Exeter to train.

Knowing this, we decided to do something about it and create a Club that combines the best of all 3 sports.This allows children to develop their all-round movement skills and athleticism, giving them a better chance of enjoying more activities.

“Someone once told me that if you teach people to move well, you won’t have to tell them to move often. The lack of physical education in schools, plus the introduction of fitness suites full of machines, has resulted in a generation of physically illiterate children. When given the opportunity and correct coaching, children can learn to control their bodies and see the results immediately. This then gives them confidence to participate in traditional games or other activities such as parkour or street dance.”

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Putting the LT and the AD into LTAD

Some Academics write a lot about models of Long term Athletic Development (LTAD) but have never coached a group of children over any length of time! Whilst it is entertaining to read their theories (like fish writing about aerodynamics) it is worrying to see schools and sports governing bodies buying into this.

There are many excellent coaches out there, who have come from a physical education (rather than sports science or games) teaching or military background and have developed lots of athletes.

It is they who I have been spending time with and developing my coaching practice, in conjunction with analysing latest “research”. It started with my work with Paula Jardine and the South West Talent project, continued when I was Head of Athletic Development at Millfield School and has come to fruition now.

“Sporting excellence comes from a varied background of activities. Athletes who have a good gymnastics background, who are strong, and can run, jump and throw will do well in track and field and also most other sports. Excelsior ADC will provide expert coaching in all these areas to give children the best opportunity to succeed.”

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I have been working with local Clubs over the past 3 years with the Athletic Development Centre but wanted to build something myself that will last for years to come.

There is a massive drop off in sporting participation as young people become teenagers. The Olympic Legacy has proven to be a costly fallacy with certain individuals making a lot of money, but no impact on the Nation’s Health.

By having a different emphasis throughout the year, the athletes can be strong, fast, agile and avoid boredom. They will avoid both year round and single sport specialisation: predictors of injury, burnout anddrop outs.

Why discipline is important

I think many sporting bodies are frightened of creating a true learning environment, instead emphasising “fun” and “quick fixes“. This is doing our younger generation a disservice.

Some of this is due to funding projects looking to “make an impact” or “engage” people or ” have a large footprint“. That is why sports partnerships push rounders and table tennis, despite these “activities” having minimal long term health benefits: they are easy to do.

Guess what. Just like parenting, coaching and making a difference ain’t easy. Whilst it is easy to succumb to “pester power” and give your kids an ice cream to keep them happy in the short term, we all know that green leafy vegetables have to be part of their diet.

But, if you are only parenting for 6 weeks (the length of time of most research projects and funded activities last) you can get away with it, and leave the problem for someone else to pick up.

Our athletes are a pretty self-selecting bunch: those turning up expecting a holiday camp or social club, get a surprise. They find themselves being made accountable for their own actions, asked to solve problems and come up with solutions themselves.

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They also find themselves given help by the older and more experienced athletes, who also keep them in line if they get distracted and want to talk about 1D! If they stick around, they learn how to look after themselves, how to manage their time, diet and training, and how to cope under pressure.

It is a pleasure to watch the growth of the young people into leaders and mentors, sporting success is secondary to the development of character.

In the words of cyclist Tom Baylis “All Excelsior athletes do well. All this comes from that dirty word “discipline“! 

How to Set Up a Sports Club

Despite having a Masters degree in Sports Coaching, and having extensive experience coaching International and Professional athletes, setting up the Club was no easy task.

Complying with each of the 3 Governing Bodies’ regulations meant sitting extra exams and attending 24 separate training days, as well as recruiting volunteers and purchasing kit.

“Whilst time consuming and expensive, most of the process was worthwhile as I got the chance to learn from other coaches who have been through a similar process. It is disappointing to see sport competing with each other for participants. I view Excelsior a bit like Switzerland; we are neutral. As long as the athlete is fit, happy and enjoys their sport, we have succeeded, no matter what sport they do.”

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I owe a debt of thanks to many people who helped me through this process either through advice, inspiration or practical help. They include the following (apologies if I have left you out).

Most of them are busy coaches who are doing things off their own back (With 2 notable exceptions Jason Wood & Dom Elsom who work for Active Devon & British Gymnastics respectively).

Coaches: Gemma Robertson, Debbie Saunders, Carolyn Devereux, Shelley Gonsalves, Helen Reddy, Bernie Chilcott, Yvonne Budd, Stephen Chappell, Keith Morgan, Ray Williams, Marius Hardiman.

The GAIN faculty, especially Vern Gambetta, Greg Thompson, Ed Thomas, Kelvin Giles, Jim Radcliffe, Gary Winckler, Frans Bosch, Andy Stone, Steve Magness, Dave Ellis, Bill Knowles, Finn Gunderson, Clay Erro, Steve Myrland and Joe Przytula for helping me develop my knowledge and vision.

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Huge thanks to Mike Euridge for mentoring me and allowing me to “maul” his gymnasts. I learnt loads about coaching from this man, as well as gymnastics.

Anne Hawkins for assisting me at the Willand after school gymnastics and facilitating the hire of the hall. The pupils have benefited immensely from our combined “expertise”!

Thanks to all the athletes I have coached, apologies to those I have coached in the past, as I do a much better job now, thanks to mistakes I made with you!

Biggest thanks as usual, to my Wife and fellow Director Sarah (who has done the Lirf course and Level 1 S&C last year) and my 2 children Daisy and Jack for being test subjects and putting up with my extended absences.

Join Us Now

Excelsior ADC runs weekly sessions in gymnastics, athletics and weightlifting. This will form a comprehensive year round programme with gymnastics and weightlifting having more emphasis in the dark winter months, and athletics in the summer months.

If you want to be part of a healthy, supportive and challenging community, that will enable you to reach your potential, then please contact us.



  1. Lucy says:


    We have just moved to Cullompton and it’s good to know that there’s a proper athletics and gymnastics club. My son Arthur is 8 and daughter Sophia 5 , they’ve shown great interest in sports. I would to check if they’re old enough to join the excelsior development club and how much it would cost.
    Do you also offer adult training as my husband who is suffering from bad back would like to start training again.

    Thank you so much.

    Kind regards

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Client Testimonials

Georgina Rozario: England Scrum Half
I had the pleasure of having James as my first s&c coach when I was at University in Plymouth. I worked with him for 3 years and learnt everything I now know about training to the best of my ability. When I first saw James I was identified as a talented rugby player but had various injury and illness problems to contend with. By the end of my time with him I had become an athlete and later received my first international cap against the U.S.A.

Upcoming Courses

Making Sport Better with Wayne Goldsmith
15 May 2019

Making Sport Better – WILLAND

Venue: Willand, Devon;

Cost: £40 including seminars and practical experience. here.