Sir Clive: The golden girls will inspire Britain's next generation after the Games have gone
22:36 GMT, 10 August 2012
Sir Clive Woodward is a ladies’ man. Not that this revelation should alarm his wife Lady Jane. This knight of the realm is a gentleman. His interest in any other members of the fairer sex is confined exclusively to the promise which won the Games for London and which has to be honoured right now.
It’s the legacy, of course. ‘Legacy, legacy, legacy,’ vowed Lord Coe.
Well, the legacy starts on Sunday night. The moment the Olympic flame flickers and dies at the end of the closing ceremony the yet greater task of igniting a brilliant and unquenchable future for British sport begins.
Games changer: Boxing golden girl Nicola Adams
Who will strike the first match ‘The girls,’ says Woodward. ‘The most striking feature of London 2012 has been the advances made in female sport.
‘Perhaps because they had further to go they have focused even more intensely and been open to fresh thinking about their preparation.’
So these are The Emancipation Games ‘Yes,’ says the elite performance director of the British Olympic Association. ‘The final breakthrough for the women. They have transformed the Olympic landscape.
‘No fewer than 48 per cent of the Team GB competitors are female. Their performances have been watched by all the live spectators here and the hundreds of millions of television viewers with the same fascination and excitement as the men.
Boxing clever: Adams beats China's Ren Cancan on her way to gold
‘We have arrived at true equality.’ Emmeline Pankhurst can sleep easy in her grave. The suffragettes who fought for the freedom to play men’s games as well as the right to vote can leave the rest to Sir Clive. He will employ the women to unlock the door to Seb Coe’s revolution in British sport.
The key to that is in the coaching. Woodward found it in the combat sports as Nicola Adams, in the boxing ring, and Jade Jones, on the taekwondo mat, boosted the surge of gold medals.
‘Just look at these girls,’ says Woodward. ‘They are not only talented but technically correct, fast, beautifully balanced, have perfect footwork and absolute commitment to their training. That tells us that they have world-class coaches and that is where the legacy has to come from.
‘It’s not only about the money and the facilities, although of course all that is important. The future is in the teaching.’
As the only England manager to win the Rugby World Cup, Woodward is the most iconic figure in team coaching in this country since Sir Alf Ramsey in the 1960s.
Talking a good game: Sportsmail's Jeff Powell talks to Sir Clive Woodward
That makes it all the more significant that he sees one-on-one coaching as the most vital element for every sport.
‘Look at it in the Olympic perspective,’ he says. ‘The most successful athletes have individual coaches. Some more than one. Jessica Ennis has her main coach but they also use specialists for some of her different disciplines in the heptathlon.
‘Without doubt that focused training is the most crucial. Our national football and rugby teams need one-on-one coaching for all the players.
‘Put it this way. If I could have a rugby XV in which every position was filled by an Olympic gold medal winner then that team would win. Without doubt. Team coaching is easy when you have properly schooled players.
Golden girl: Hepthalete Jessica Ennis competes in the long jump and celebrates her win (below)
She's done it! Ennis celebrates her gold
‘I will go so far as to say that it would benefit football and rugby players to spend some time being coached in the combat sports. They develop that great balance as well as strength and grit — and courtesy, grace and good manners. Look how polite most Olympic athletes are.
‘Then who knows Some footballers who might not make it to the top could suddenly find another sport at which they could become stars, maybe Olympians.
‘The biggest lesson I learned from my time at Southampton Football Club was the need for concentration on individual skills. Matt Le Tissier told me about the hours he spent just working on his first touch and he became one one of the most highly skilled players in the country.
‘Look at the Brazilians. I went to watch their Olympic team play the other night and I was impressed by the way they all wanted to demonstrate that wonderful ability of theirs by running with the ball and taking on opponents.
‘That is the product of all the hours, days, weeks, months and years they spend with a ball on the beach. To be honest, I prefer that way of playing to teams who look to pass the ball at once, even Spain. Not least because for them it’s not just training. It’s the other factor we have to inject into the teaching — FUN in capital letters. But it is the individual coaching that matters, especially with the young.’
Track star: Laura Trott won two gold medals
To increase that factor a multi-million-fold, Woodward sends out this clarion call to every father and mother in the country to become coaches to their sons and daughters:
‘No-one spends more time with their kids than their parents.
‘Games teachers at school are essential but they may not get more than an hour a day with each child, if they are lucky. Imagine if they could send the boys and girls home with a schedule for them to work on their skills and fitness. Then they could be in training and thinking about the sports they love in the mornings and the evenings.
‘People talk about angry parents on touchlines but we need to educate them, too, to help their kids.
‘A prime example has been staring at us here — all the work that Judy Murray has put into Andy. If we can get millions of parents thinking like that we can bring out more success.
‘You don’t win gold medals unless you are totally committed and that is easier with the right kind of help. We are now seeing not only the men but more and more girls putting in that effort and it’s paid off.
Welsh wonder: Jade Jones won taekwondo gold
Golden wonder: Jones with her medal
‘So I’m not talking about finding millions and millions in funding to pay for armies of trainers. I for one am not cynical about the way Government ministers have taken to coming to the Games and supporting our athletes.
‘I want them to become excited and then stay involved so that they continue to put in the finance where it’s needed. But I also want every mum and dad who is looking to get excited about how they can help their children.’
Coe’s slogan for London 2012 is: ‘Inspire a Generation’. His target is the potential athletes of the future.
Woodward adds another: ‘Inspire a Generation of Coaches’.
He says: ‘We need them if we are to be as successful at future Games as we have been in London. We’ve had home advantage here. Of course it’s helped. Would you rather take on the All Blacks at Twickenham or in Auckland
Taking it all in: Sir Clive Woodward enjoys the opening ceremony
‘Next time we are away. So we have to take it a step higher.
‘The challenge is difficult — to be at least as good in Rio as we have been here, then even better in all the Games after that. It can be done.
‘And if we do we will know that we have improved the health of the country, delivered something permanent and important for the feelgood factor in Britain and re-confirmed our belief in ourselves as a nation.’