For a practitioner who spends any time on social media it is easy to get the sense we are in the death throes of informed debate. Authorities (often self-proclaimed) seem to constantly spew forth evangelical proclamations, push their ideology and promote others who espouse their doctrine, and decry those who express contrary views. Sadly, it appears there are no shortage of young zealots eager to answer the call to join the modern crusades conducted on a social media battlefield. In this post we will explore the trend for binary thinking and polarised arguments that fuels the tribalism we see on these platforms, and how this is increasingly creeping into sports science and medicine circles. We will then attempt to plot a path back from the edge of the abyss, and bridge the divide between factions to allow us to return to real debate.
I regularly engage in mentoring coaches and practitioners, and the universal starting point in this process is a 'SWOT analysis', allowing the individual to identify areas where they require development. A frequent response and common theme relates to the process of planning or programming training. Before we get into the puzzles to solve when programming physical preparation, let us begin with a revelation: athletes are humans not machines. Input does not necessarily equal output. When working with athletes we must understand that we are dealing with inherently complex and highly dynamic biological systems. Designing a training plan for an athlete or a group of athletes is therefore far from straightforward.
In this post we will unmask the flaws in the conventional wisdom that relates to planning and programming, including periodisation models. We will uncover the realities we face when programming training, explore the puzzles involved, and define the challenges we must resolve. Finally, we will outline a road map approach to guide planning physical preparation in a way that acknowledges the uncertainty, along with some strategies to help navigate the unknown and shifting terrain, to allow us to steer and adapt our course as we go.
In the spheres of performance science much attention is paid to 'athlete health'. It has become widely recognised that lifestyle factors are critical, not only mediating performance and training adaption, but also impacting upon injury and illness. Despite such growing awareness, until very recently the notion of coach or practitioner health has not been widely considered in the same way. For the first time, important discussions on the topics of coach and practitioner health are being held more widely. For instance, coach health in the field of strength and conditioning was recently featured on the very popular Pacey Performance Podcast. These discussions have raised important issues in relation to the unique challenges presently faced by practitioners operating in the information age. In addition to exploring these issues in more depth in this post, more importantly we will examine strategies and tools to help negotiate these challenges, and ultimately find a way of working that is sustainable in the long term.
'Long-term athlete development' has perhaps never been more topical, with an ever-growing number of programmes worldwide providing training for children and adolescent athletes. Mostly there is agreement on the need for structured 'athlete development' programmes for kids who engage in youth sports. We have consensus that appropriate physical and athletic development is beneficial for kids' health, performance and long-term outcomes. Still, confusion remains among parents, young athletes and practitioners, as authorities in the field continue to hotly debate the details. Here we will attempt to cut through these debates and provide much needed clarity and context to resolve some of the confusion. As we generally agree on the 'why', we will attempt to move things forward by finding shared ground and common principles to guide the 'what' and 'how' in relation to long-term athlete development.
The term elite appears incessantly in the sporting domain. But what do we mean when we say elite? What does 'elite' mean to you? For many when the term 'elite' is used what this calls to mind is more akin to 'elitist'. The interpretation of 'elite' is often synonymous with 'exclusive', and a domain reserved for the chosen few. In this post we will dig a little deeper into these misconceptions and explore what differentiates elite from elitist. By the end of this discussion we hope to provide an outline of the hallmarks that constitute truly elite practice in sport.
Ask any athlete or coach and they will readily acknowledge the mental side of training. The mind is an integral part of training the body. How an athlete perceives the training prescribed can be hugely influential in determining how they experience it. In turn this perception can affect how the athlete responds to the training performed. Despite their apparent importance, mental aspects of the training process are typically not accounted for in any structured or meaningful way. In this post we will elucidate what these critical elements or 'mental resources' are in relation to the training process. We will then explore how each of these aspects can be accounted for and harnessed to best effect in the way athletes' training plans are presented and delivered.
For the most part, when those in the media talk of 'inspiration' or 'being inspired' they are referring to those watching sport being inspired to strive to achieve the feats that they have seen or attempt to emulate sporting heroes. In this way, great athletes are often described as 'an inspiration to others'. Essentially, this is inspiration borne of admiration - essentially the 'I want to be like them when I grow up' scenario.
The alternative meaning of inspiration - and the definition that this post will mostly focus on - is inspiration in the sense of stimulating thought or inspiring new ideas.
In a presentation last year I used the concept of yin and yang to describe the inter-relationship between physical and technical in track and field athletics. In essence, yin and yang describes how opposing elements (light and dark, fire and water) paradoxically serve to complement and ultimately define each other. Much the same applies when considering simplicity versus complexity. There are many instances where each of these elements apply in the realms of coaching and various facets of practice in elite sport. In this post we will explore the paradoxical - or yin and yang - relationship between simplicity versus complexity in the fields of coaching, physical preparation and sports injury.
High performance has become a buzz word that appears constantly in relation to sporting bodies and organisations associated with sports worldwide. The reason for the inverted commas 'High Performance' in the title is that this term has become so over-used and misused that it has arguably been rendered meaningless. Using the label does not make it so. In this post we discuss the elements that must be present in order for an environment and the practitioners who work in it to merit the title 'high performance'.
Providing learning opportunities and mentoring to coaches and practitioners has been a recurring theme throughout my career. Indeed a large part of my present role involves mentoring young coaches and practitioners in the early stages of their career working with athletes. These interactions frequently prompt me to reflect on my own journey and what I have learned on the way. This post is a collection of those critical lessons - essentially what would have been useful to have been told starting out.