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UK Coaching Team
Talent and Performance Organising and Planning

On the Road to Rio with Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Coach Ian Barker

Blake Richardson catches up with Great Britain's former Olympic silver medallist to discuss the importance of preparing athletes in cycles and how to structure a long-term coaching plan

Former Olympic silver medallist and World Championship gold medallist Ian Barker is a difficult man to pin down, for the simple reason his feet hardly ever touch the ground. 

As one of the country’s leading sailing coaches, Ian is forever jetting off to exotic locations in far-flung corners of the world. 

When he is not in the air, he is invariably on the water, working with the Irish 49er Olympic team or as coach to Great Britain Paralympian Helena Lucas – who won gold at The London 2012 Paralympic Games in the 2.4mR class. 

You might say his life is plane sailing! 

But is hemisphere-hopping like a modern-day Phileas Fogg really as glamorous as it appears? 

When I catch up with Ian, he is back in Blighty for an all-too-short stay after returning from another stint ‘down south’ in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Melbourne, Australia for the 49er World Championships and Para World Championships respectively. 

There will just be time to unpack his suitcase and do the laundry before returning to the departures lounge to catch another long-haul flight to Brazil later this month. 

His family may be used to his nomadic lifestyle, as he has been a globetrotter since the year dot, but that doesn’t make it any easier on them. 

"It is a logistical challenge and difficult, balancing work and family life, especially now the Olympic and Paralympic Games are less than a year away," says Ian, who quickly adds: "But, yeah, it’s a pretty good job! They are long days for sure, but when your office is the harbour in Rio next to Sugarloaf Mountain, I’ve no complaints. 

"I consider myself very lucky to be doing what I do."

Olympic diary 

For Ian, the countdown to the Rio Olympic Games began on 13 August 2012 – that is, the day after the closing ceremony of the London Games. 

That is normal practice for a high-performance coach of an Olympic team, for whom time management and long-term coaching plans are paramount. 

The technical term for structuring coaching plans into shorter training cycles is ‘periodisation’, and every sport, and probably every coach within each sport, will have their own ideas on how to divide the training time up into manageable blocks. 

"It’s probably more useful to think of it in one-year cycles as opposed to a four-year cycle," says Ian when I ask him what his approach is.

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UK Coaching Team