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Versatile Ben Urban dives into adventure in Uruguay

17 Jun 2020 08:50

 by David Fernández Rodríguez / judo news, results and photos

You may know Ben Urban (25) as a clubcoach, judoka or maybe as one of the photographers of the IJF. His main occupation now is being a coach of Uruguay´s National Team. Our colleagues of asked Ben how he became coach, especially in Uruguay and about his goals.

Ben Urban: My competitive career was difficult, as I struggled with major injuries, while training full time in a high performance environment. My coach and former Great Britain men’s coach, Chris Bowles, mentored me through the transition from athlete to coach. I kept training at a good level while coaching with a regional cadet team. Then in 2017 I extended my coaching commitment and took on a full time position with my club, Tonbridge Judo Club, working with our performance athletes, at cadet and junior levels. I have been exposed to working with high performance athletes on an international stage from very early in my coaching career. Our club works with athletes towards inclusion on the British Olympic and Paralympic pathways.

Tell us about your collaboration with Uruguay and your club in Great Britain?

Currently I am working out how to exist as a coach without a full time paid position. My passion is coaching and so I am building a strategy that will enable me to continue to be involved with elite Judo. I am working with Fighting Films on the International Judo Federation World Tour, as part of the media team; which is really helping me to devote time to developing my best practice as a coach. As you mentioned, I am working with the Uruguay Olympic Judo team, specifically with Alain and Pablo Aprahamian.

I have an amazing relationship with the team and we are learning to work with each other well. It is fantastic to be working with athletes who are so hungry to change the way their country is represented on the global judo circuit. Mika (Alain) is a dedicated athlete and he has made my transition to the international level as a coach really enjoyable.

What’s the Spanish connection you have?

We are working closely with Sugoi Uriarte and Laura Gomez in Valencia, to provide a really unique team and programme, which is supporting us to really grow together. Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, Mika has been training regularly with me and the performance athletes at my club, to ensure we maintain the best physical condition during this period.

Well one of your goals is learning Spanish, isn’t it?

Sure, I want to learn Spanish. I ask the athletes I work with to speak in Spanish to me sometimes so that I can slowly pick it up, although languages are not my strong point! I am also writing my Masters thesis in Coaching Psychology, which is my focus for after quarantine.

What system is used in Great Britain?

There is a centralised system in Great Britain, meaning the British World Class Performance Team are based in Walsall, at the Centre of Excellence. However, in parallel to this there are numerous high performance clubs and training centres whom work as part of the entire performance pathway system. In my opinion there should always be alternative options, as not everything suits every athlete. A system needs to be adaptable and to allow for different types of athletes. The athletes I work with are prepared so that they are capable to react and adjust to new conditions and situations in their programme.


What style of coach do you consider yourself to be?

I believe in a ‘person first, athlete second’ approach to coaching. If an athlete’s wellbeing is looked after outside of their training and competition, then they will be more likely to feel prepared to perform. I think being a coach is way more than just being on the tatami at training. I believe in making people feel good and being a coach requires knowing how to relate to a person, to help them feel like they are supported in every move they make.

Elite sport is such a small window of time and you should always take the time to enjoy the top of the mountain and take it all in. ‘Love the process’ is my motto.

But what are the qualities that a good athlete must have?

An athlete should try to ‘love the process’ of training. Of course there are times when things are tough, however It’s important to enjoy, or at least respect, all modes of training. A clear mind is really important! As a coach it is important to equip athletes with tools to deal with difficult situations so that the best outcome is achieved.

Read the full interview at

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  • Ben Urban (GBR) - © Facebook
  • Alain Aprahamian (URU), Ben Urban (GBR) - Grand Slam Düsseldorf (2020, GER) - ©, judo news, results and photos
  • Cameron Bradley (GBR), Ben Urban (GBR) - © Facebook

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