Sports science has made and can continue to make a huge impact on sports performance. However, most sports scientists do not communicate their knowledge, research, ideas and information very well. As a result, many coaches will listen to and work with sports scientists who have made the effort to understand the coaching “world” and to sports science professionals who listen to, respect and engage with them as equals – as professionals trying to make a difference.
Many people aspire to leading high performance sporting teams, organisations and national sporting bodies. However, most are unprepared for the real challenges of leadership – particularly of leading effectively in an environment of pressure, stress and high public expectations.
Every time a professional player or elite athlete tests positive to drugs or is caught abusing alcohol, you can guarantee three things will happen:
- Newspapers and other media will over react and claim an isolated incident is evidence of an inherent drug and alcohol abuse culture in the club or sport (or all of sport);
- The club or sport will over react and ensure a drugs and alcohol education program is put in place as soon as possible;
- Everyone associated with the incident will over react, deny responsibility and blame someone else.
What’s the reality?
Typically the end of season means a well earned rest, a few quiet drinks with team mates, some time with family and then… the end of season review.
Every team does some kind of season reflection or review – in most cases motivated by one or more “P” – Performance, Politics, Pressure.
- The Performance Review: is one motivated by a drive to improve the performance of the team – players, coaches and staff – for next season.
- The Political Review: is a review often driven by the Board or Executive to achieve a political agenda or philosophical shift in the club.
- The Pressure Review: is one forced on a team by media, fans, club, Board or other stakeholders as a result of a poor performance.
By far the most effective review is one that is deliberately and strategically placed in the team’s “performance cycle” each year and is embraced by coaches, players, staff, Management and Board as being an important and positive aspect of progressive performance from season to season.
Here’s a typical football Club scenario. Pick a club – any club – any code – it doesn’t matter.
The team loses a few games, has a couple of bad seasons and the decision is made to sack the head coach.
In fact, Legend AFL Coach David Parkin once said, “There are two types of head coaches. Ones who have been sacked and ones who will be sacked”.
So the club sacks the coach, goes through a search process, finds someone else to be head coach and prepares for the next season.
Next season the team loses a few games, has a bad season and surprise surprise – the Club starts looking for another head coach.
Some Clubs have recruited and sacked several coaches over the past ten years and have not had a change in their on field performance.
Many of these same Clubs have had the same Board, CEO and management team in place throughout that same ten years.
So what they are saying is, “we are doing everything right, we have all we need to win a title, we have a great culture and leadership – all we need is a great head coach and we will be back on track”.
Is it just me or is this a really silly way to run a business?
The Coaching Team.
Gone are the days of the “GURU” coaches.
Sure, the great names of coaching have all been “one man bands” – strong, decisive, authoritarian, leadership focused head coaches who controlled every aspect of the team’s performance.
However, elite sport has developed at an incredible rate over the past twenty years and the knowledge and skills required to win an elite sporting competition are greater than any one person can bring to the table.
Think of the advances in sports science, sports medicine, analysis, IT, nutrition, psychology and technology since the 1980s.
How can we expect that any one person can be THE expert in all performance areas plus coach the team, deal with the media, work with Club Board and Executive, recruit new players, talk to sponsors, meet the fans etc etc etc?
So – the Coaching Team and Performance Team concepts are born.
Here’s how it goes.
Your club has had another poor season.
People looking for answers come up with a lot of ideas on how to improve next year.
The management team determine that what the Club needs is a new high performance facility: new stadium, new meeting rooms, new computer lab, new medical facilities, a new gym and of course the obligatory new recovery facility.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
This is the Facility Fallacy.
Positive Drug Tests in sport.
What sort of idiot trains hard for months or even years then:
- Takes performance enhancing or social drugs before, during or after competition?
- Takes performance enhancing or social drugs at any time?
That’s just it: they are idiots. Well most of them are anyway. Some are misguided. Some are lazy. Some just made a genuine mistake.
Positive Drug Tests in Sport: 6 Types of Drug Cheats and How to Recognise them.
Message to the Sports Science community – are you kidding?
I thought the old approach to altitude training was done and dusted but to my amazement, nations continue to invest in one of the most questionable sports performance “enhancement” methodologies in the business.
You can’t be serious!
I am getting so sick of people talking about high performance environments, about following a process, about systems, about structures, about programs, about initiatives, about workshops and about strategies.
The name of the game is Winning – oops – there I said it.
Winning. Winning. Winning. There, I said it again.
That felt great. I’ll say it some more. Winning. Winning. Winning. Winning.
That felt so good I’ll do it again. Winning!! Winning!!!! Winning!!!!!
The W Word: Winning.
Many coaches will say they want to be successful.
No they don’t. Not really.
They want to be successful again and again and again and again and again. They want to Sustain success and Always have a competitive program, winning athletes and quality players.
So how do you it?
How do you Sustain Competitiveness And Sustain Success?
So Great Britain has an outstanding high performance sports system.
Australia had one a few years ago…and they hope to have it again.
The “Eastern Block” had some brilliant high performance sports systems – systems which influenced the development of high performance sport all over the world in the three decades since.
The Chinese have a huge one driven by State money and a very large population.
The French are doing some great things in theirs.
The US has a strong high performance system driven through the College system.
South Korea, Japan and India are growing theirs. Canada is re-building theirs.
The South Americans will be working hard to make their high performance systems the best in the world now that Rio has been announced as the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games.
South Africa is building one on the back of the Football World Cup.
Seems like every nation in the world has to have three things – a flag, a carbon policy and a high performance sports system.
Here’s the thing…..none of them do what they are supposed to do….none of them actually produce winners.