I heard about the youth league at the start of 2018. A points ranking series of tournaments for those aged 17 years and below who want to compete and ultimately be the best in the world.

The first one was in Bulgaria and it unfortunately clashed with my summer holiday. Straight after this event in May on the advice of some of England’s top coaches I arranged a meeting with my Elite squad parents to discuss entering the second Youth K1 in Croatia. The decision was made and five top girls chose to attend. We had very little time to prepare and I knew not what to expect.

Flights and hotels / apartments were hastily arranged by the parents and I registered the girls as world athletes.


Even I was shocked by the volume of entries and the amount of nations represented. The girls fighting section had over 90 students entered and the tournament itself stated to have 90 plus nations entered. Every category we entered had a minimum of 65 students entered from all round the world. This comp was something special.


We arrived Thursday evening and my family shared an apartment with the Snaiths, the apartment was as nice as the company with a veranda looking straight out onto a sea filled lake. Friday morning = registration day which was a confusing and mildly disorganised affair, most of the other English coaches (and there were lots) had no more idea than me about the check in procedure. I opted for a coastal walk to the check in hotel which I thought we might  need to be at. Thank god I did because we did need to be there. I rapidly text some other coaches to let them know. The first thing I noticed on Friday morning was that the resort was beautiful and the place very clean and tidy, unlike the registration which was shoddy and poorly organised. I also had to enrol onto a WKF coaching course to coach my girls kumite. This cost me £300 euros but the qualification lasts 3 year.

Off to the comp.

I returned to the apartment, hired three bikes for 4 days and set off for the venue. I arrived at the venue to discover the bike locks were ALL BROKEN, this typifies my luck this year, I left the venue to return to the bike hire place for new locks, fell over a metal contraption, hurting my shin and got lost on the way back. Yep I am daft. Arriving back at the venue after cycling about 10 kilometres I was sweating like a melting snowman and realised I had left my coaches T shirt at the apartment. No way was I returning a second time, so I walked around the arena like a 1970s medallion man, tracky jacket unzipped, my lanyard as a medallion resting on my fat hairy chest. Gorgeous…

If I thought the registration was chaotic I was in for a shock as the venue was rammed full to bursting point, the air conditioning struggling to maintain a cool temperature and the areas numbered five and six were set in a marquee behind the practice area had a temperature of around 50 degrees (fact not an exaggeration). It was AWFUL. The room was obviously rather smelly, the tannoy system totally inadequate and basically the venue way to small.


BRILLIANT, simple as that really. I google all senior K1 events so know what to expect in adult sections and the kids sections were not disappointing. I would say in 12 to 13 years kata my very top girls are not to far off the mark for the lower half but in order to win something like this they need to totally up their game plan. The top ten were tremendous. Kumite we were nearer the mark, Katie Hunnam made it to the third round and lost by only one point, one more win to be in the last 16. Emma Snaith fought well and lost by a few points in the third round, but again she looked okay.

16 to 17 years junior kata. Good grief, the boys were better than any English adults I have ever seen, in fact so were the girls. We are a long way off the mark to win in this section and to be honest by the time you hit this age it is mostly down to natural talent. I can teach the girls the kata as well as the next coach but it is down to power, speed and precision, a lot of which involves being able to stop stone dead at the end of every technique and this is a natural talent. Eleisha finished 6th out of 8 in her group with a score of 21.14 which was a higher score than the England squad girl in attendance. Eleisha has good kata temperament, she can handle the pressure very well but she lacked all the other elements to be at the top of the group. The junior fighting was a disaster as Eleisha missed her call up. Another learning curve for me here. Next time I register as Eleisha Mitchinson and leave the jane out. They were shouting in kata something that sounded like lish for Eleisha and ya for Jane, which probably explains how no one heard the kumite call. Plus they did not add Mitchinson at all, two nemas is perhaps enough. After watching Eleishas fighting section She would not have won here.


KATA, I believe Eve Palmer is the best 14 to 15-year-old kata girl in England, but entering Croatia is a different game altogether. Eve and Lola both recently turned 14, Lola on the day of the comp. This means they can be up against opponents aged almost 16 and when you are talking about the best in the world this age gap matters. Eve scored just over 21 in round one grabbing a fourth-place qualifier to round two. Round two where they merged with the best from another group she also scored over 21+ finishing 6th. I am not making excuses up, Eve was well beat, but she looked the part and in one years’ time with some hard training mainly for speed and power I believe Eve will stand a very good chance here. 

KUMITE, Eve put on a vigorous display of aggression and chased her opponent round the tatami. Most unusual for Eve, she lost five flags to nil on hantei which I though a tad unfair. I have no idea how Eve will develop by next year in kumite as this girl is full of surprises.



I was surprised how many English clubs attended, I believe between all the English entries there was only one bronze medal, which indicates the difficultly factor of this tournament. The huge Scottish club of CEK who spend their time touring the world competing were there as expected and I believe they did rather well. An indication of how important it is to get this type of mat time into your students. Our kids will have watched and learned just as I myself did and the benefits of this should prove enormous to their development.

A lot of competitors receive private funding to help with their costs. I need funding for myself. I am not rich and when I travel abroad I have no income from my clubs to come back for. Every comp costs me the same as everyone else except I get no holiday pay and have no wage at home.

The Resort.

My personal opinion of Croatia is very high, the place has an abundance of countryside, much of it forested in shrubland and the first thing I noticed when getting off the plane was the beautiful smell of pine trees. The resort of Umag has poor beaches, most being pebble but it is back by pine trees in and around the hotels, the place is not a huge built up city but rather a long thin resort hugging the coastline, spattered with nice pubs and food outlets and served by a mini train that takes you to and from the main town Umag which itself is small. The beer was cheap, the place quite pretty, the apartments were lovely, the weather was fantastic, and I loved it.

One totally free day before we return. This is what it is about for me. Having fun with my Dokan kids and the company of the parents. We went early to the inflatable assault course on the sea and spent nearly two hours leaping about like kids. Well,, they are kids but I am not and it was the most fun I have had in over 5 year. Everyone went for food, I went on a 2-hour bike ride and met them all back at the hotel the others were staying at. On the evening we caught the mini train to Umag, ate a meal by the sea with pretty views and a bit of sunburn to keep us warm, then caught the train back to our accommodation at 9.10 !!! EXPLANATION REQUIRED. Everyone except me caught the train. WHAT A BUNCH OF PARTY POOPERS ????. I stayed and invested my cash on two pints in two nice bars and Ali and Eleisha went shopping to waste more money. Then we caught the late train and enjoyed the two ride back along the seafront, looking over the pretty moonlit ocean.

I have a lot to work on. I have a lot to think about. I want to return next year, and I want greater success. I usually get what I want, if I work hard enough and bide my time.