Wide angle shot from behind the goal during a GB training camp showing three of GB Men in the far goal end ready to defend

Goalball UK’s new Performance Pathway Programme took place over the weekend of 17-19th May with its inaugural Centre of Excellence.

Based at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, the camp took place over three days, supporting our talent, performance potential and high-performance athletes. Importantly we also have ambition to use the camps to grow and strengthen our coaching pathway.

As well as a new experience for our players, it was also the opportunity to induct four new coaches, alongside a staff team that will work across the player cohort.

Performance Coach, Gary Lambert, has spent nearly a decade leading the England Touch Association Women’s 27s squad as Head Coach. Together, they’ve achieved four unbeaten European Championships and secured a bronze medal in the 2019 World Cup. As they gear up for the 2024 Touch World Cup in Nottingham this July, seeded second with their sights set on Gold, Gary looks forward to his final tournament with the squad before fully committing to his new role as Performance Head Coach with Goalball UK. He serves as a Vascular and Trauma Surgeon in the NHS, navigating high-pressure, performance-driven environments, and holds a strong focus on culture, team building, leadership, innovation, and individual development.

Gary said of his appointment,

“I am thrilled to embark on a new coaching challenge and adventure with Goalball UK. With the trust, patience, and support of the Goalball community, I am excited to embrace this new coaching challenge and adventure, bringing enthusiasm, skills, and years of experience to contribute to the growth and development of the sport, its community, athletes, and performance programme”.

Assistant Performance Coaches, Ella Strachan and Alex Jones also bring a wealth of experience to their new roles and will be brilliant additions to the sport.

Ella’s journey into sport is firmly rooted within rugby union. Starting from the age of 12, she has been immersed in the game, training at county and northern England level and went on to captain the University’s first team. Those experiences have instilled a deep appreciation for teamwork, strategy, and the relentless pursuit of excellence.

Alongside playing rugby, she gained coaching qualifications at the age of 18 and went on to coach at various levels, from local clubs to county teams, while also officiating matches. These experiences have honed her leadership skills and deepened her understanding of the game. As well as rugby, she also has experience in other competitive sports including cricket, swimming, Tae Kwon Do and, most recently, CrossFit. Beyond her love for sports, she has always been fascinated by human behaviour. That curiosity led her to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and, currently, a part-time Master’s in Sport and Exercise Psychology. She is passionate about understanding what drives athletes to perform at their best and how we can optimize their potential both on and off the field.

In addition to her sporting endeavours, she has spent the last three years as a Year 2 Primary teacher, which she finds incredibly rewarding. This role allows her to apply psychological principles in educating young minds, enhancing her ability to optimize performance in both educational and sporting contexts.

On being appointed, Ella said,

“While my expertise lies primarily in rugby, I am passionate about coaching and committed to excellence. I am eager to bring my expertise and enthusiasm to the world of goalball. I am here to learn, grow, and contribute to the success of the performance programme as we focus our attention on the European Championships 2025 and beyond”.

Alex also has a background in rugby and currently works with the Jamaica U20 national team, with their UK-based players, both coaching them and offering Performance Lifestyle support. Additionally, Alex is a Director of Sport at an Independent school as well as an academy pathway rugby coach at Harlequins RFC. During his time working within the sports education sector and various coaching roles, he has worked with several highly successful teams and has been involved in over 20 international tours and competitions. His experience, drive and commitment will be an invaluable asset to Goalball UK, and we look forward to working with him over the next Paralympic Cyle.

Alex remarked,

“I believe working within a coaching and performance environment that emphasises professionalism and high performance is pivotal in motivating and bringing out the best in players. I have been lucky enough to be part of some very successful teams regionally, nationally and internationally, and I am very much looking forward to working with the Goalball programme, alongside the coaching and staff team, to bring success to the sport.”

Also joining the coaching team as a consultant will be Ferhat Esatbeyoglu, a world-leading goalball academic and coach. Ferhat is a level 2 goalball coach and currently coaches a first-division club in Turkey. In addition, he has several years of high performance experience including being part of the Turkish men’s coaching staff who competed at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. In his day job, he is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Sport Sciences at Yozgat Bozok University, Turkey. He teaches adapted physical education, exercise programming and prescription for people with a disability and the history of the Paralympic movement and Paralympic sports. He has published numerous articles related to amputee football, sitting volleyball and individuals with vision loss.

In supporting our programme, Ferhat Commented,

“I am delighted to be supporting the Goalball UK performance programme as it strives to develop an environment of high performance that brings success internationally. The goal is the 2028 Los Angeles Paralympic Games, but I am looking forward to bringing my experience and expertise to aid the improvement of individual players, as well as assisting the coaches and wider staff team.”

The Performance Pathway Programme is a fresh start for competitive goalball within the UK and the gap in our calendar enables us to reset and build from a stronger platform. The aim is to improve collectively as players, staff and an NGB, and drive individual and team performances over the next cycle as well as sustain the pathway longer term.

Gary Fraser, High-Performance Lead said:

“This is an exciting period for goalball as we reshape our performance programme to inspire those currently involved and the athletes of the future. Our first camp demonstrated a mixture of new initiatives, highly engaged athletes and staff, as well as a strong sense of belonging. I’m looking forward to the future with fresh optimism, as we work together as a collective to improve performances. We have an exceptional group of players and staff determined to achieve our shared ambition of achieving success and sustainability in the sport.”

If you would like to support the Centre of Excellence, please get in touch: enquiries@goalballuk.com