I am home now after twenty hours of traveling. The travel time gave me some time to reflect on what I saw and what I learned during my trip. The biggest lesson that keeps coming back to me is that to succeed at the highest level of sport today you must have a fully functioning performance team. That team must be athlete centered and coach driven. Generally the system that I saw set-up in Australia follows this paradigm. Frankly my concern in some situation is that sport science may be starting to drive the system. In my opinion that is not sound, it must be the coach who drives the system. That demands that the coach be well educated in all aspects of the various functions of the performance team. The coach must know how to ask the right questions, the coach must be the filter for the information. The coach has to decide at the end of the day what is relevant to make the athlete better. What really appealed to me was the situations were I saw the sport scientist working in a practical applied manner to help the coach solve performance problems. In short what I saw was “applied” sport science. Some other lessons:
- The importance of reactive agility was underscored. Warren Young at University of Ballarat is doing some real good work in this area. Now the challenge is to come up with a meaningful measure for reactive agility. It is more than just reacting to flashing lights. I am looking forward to exploring this area during my next trip down under in 2011.
- There are many questions on the real value of small-sided games in soccer and rugby. The people I spoke with feel we need to delve deeper into this area to find out what is really going from a mechanical load perspective and how small sided games transfer to the game. Similar is not the same.
- Hamstring pulls are still a big issue down under as they are everywhere in the world. I will talk at length on this in another post.
- I learned how important it is for coaches to have a system to mine the training data they have. Many of the answers we look for as coaches are right in front of us. We just need to collect accurate data and analyze it systematically.
- The most important factor in recovery is sleep!
- Jeremy Sheppard from Queensland Academy of Sport of sport put it quite succinctly- What you do must be athlete specific and sport relevant. He felt that in the search for specificity you add stress to stress, which could have negative implications.
- Variety in training comes from programming variety and load management, not a multitude of drills.
There was so much more that I need time to assimilate. I want to thank everyone who was so open and willing to share information. Thanks to the folks at NSWIS for hosting me on the first part of the visit. Thanks to ASCA Australia for inviting to speak the conference. It was a great experience. I can’t wait to get back in 2011.