Experience the Difference

Machinations have begun in the post-2016 Olympics wash-up.

The most common statement I have seen and heard is, ‘we need to go back to basics, see where that takes us, learn from this experience and make the necessary changes’.
To me, the operative word in that statement is ‘basics’. But what does that actually mean for an athlete? And more importantly, who is saying that? The coaches or the athletes? It depends entirely on who you talk to and from which perspective it is being viewed.
If coming from an athlete’s point of view (which in my opinion, is the ONLY viewpoint to consider) then the basics are really basic and accordingly simple because that is what sport is – SIMPLE.
Start by examining what turned that young, eager child into an athlete at junior, then senior champion level, then enabled that athlete to qualify for the Olympic games.
Ask:

  • What made up their early support network?
  • Was it their Parents, Coach or Squad?
  • What did they do?
  • How did they train, eat and recover to produce their results?

History tells us everything – it is the real indicator of your potential. There is an indication that good training that needs to be in and around the environment in which they were brought up.

You can bet though, most of the reflections and return to ‘basics’ considerations will be about the funding modelling and how the sports directors and ‘support’ coaches, sports scientists and medical staff can justify their personal positions, and in turn, keep their jobs.
I predict there will be more opinions and posturing about justifying the funding, even increasing the funding to create a perception with the ‘powers that be’ that if they pay more money, you will increase the chances to produce more medals in 4 years’ time.
Sorry to burst that bubble, but one thing I know full well by now, after all of these years in elite and professional sport is this, money does not make a champion athlete. Nor is it needed.
Sure, money helps with travel and accommodation for all-important extra competitions and equipment upgrades, but not much else.
The human body is an adaptive organism and all the money in the world won’t make that body any faster, stronger, and leaner or anything else that wins events.
What is needed is a specific training program combined with strict, consistent adherence to the built-in progression within that program. Nothing more and nothing less is needed to create that champion athlete.
Break it down and look at an average elite athlete in a logical way.
Almost every athlete that competes in the majority of Olympic sports is relatively young and driven to achieve excellence in the hopes of pleasing everyone, often to their own detriment.
Because of their age, they often aren’t knowledgeable about what makes an elite athlete, they are however, in possession of unique physical attributes that many others are not.
So where do I see ongoing issues with highly funded programs/systems?
At a minimum, the athletes in these institutes/organisations have at their disposal for unlimited use, the following:

  • Head coach
  • Strength and conditioning coach
  • Sports Scientist
  • Dietitian
  • Masseur
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Sports physician

Why do I see a problem in this?
All of the above spend considerable amounts of time with, and talking to, each individual athlete. While this is a positive, I know from my extensive experience with professional clubs / teams, institute athletes and individual professional athletes, that while the list of support people talk to the athlete, they spend little time talking to each other. They often fail to devise and deliver a constant and uniform flow of information into the heads of young, impressionable, willing to learn and eager to please athletes.
Every one of the ‘support staff’ looking the athletes has their own perception and interpretation on the needs of each athlete to best further their progress. The outcome is that the majority of the athletes are simply confused and unsure of what is required exactly, at what intensity they should be training, and when and how their training should unfold.
The trouble is, sport is really simple which is what is so alluring about it and exactly why it attracts young athletes to participate in the early years of their lives.
The solution as I see it is this:
Every piece of information needs to be delivered to the athlete in the presence of their coach.
By coach, I mean the person that creates the day-to-day program the athlete follows. They are the only person who will thoroughly understand the daily ups, downs, ebbs and flows that each athlete goes through as they transition toward truly elite capabilities.

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