The Crusaders are just four matches away from completing a remarkable unbeaten season in Super Rugby. Their success has been built on an innovative approach to maintaining and increasing fitness as the long gruelling season has progressed. CONQA speaks to Simon Thomas, head off strength and conditioning at the franchise.
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Sport Science & Medicine
Ground breaking work being done out of a UK based company is set to change the way we look at human performance forever. By measuring brain waves and mapping them against performances on the field, elite sport is on the verge of measuring the unmeasurable concepts such as form, mindset and psychological well-being of athletes.
At what point does the integrity of competition become tarnished by the intrusion of science? Elite sport’s mission is to push the boundaries of human performance, but if those boundaries are bridged by variables beyond the realm of physical ability, does sport lose its purpose? With the help of world renowned sports scientist Ross Tucker, CONQA addresses these important questions.
Rather than look back on the year that was, CONQA Sport is casting an eye on 2017 and calling on the powers that be to make some changes to improve the games we love. In the cutthroat world of top level sport, stagnation is suicide and so, along with some of the leading figures in the industry, we have compiled a 2017 wish list for a happy and elite new year.
We all know the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, right? How, using maths, the second poorest team in Major League Baseball went on a record-breaking winning streak and changed the way baseball scouts and general managers operated. The story was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster and the word ‘Moneyball’ became synonymous with statistical analysis in sport. Well, a similar story is underway in football. By combining the roles of head of scouting and head of analysis, Daniel Stenz is changing the game. CONQA Sport spoke with Stenz ahead of his move to the Hungarian Football Federation.
Go and Google “mental toughness quotes”. What you’ll find is scores of one liners from some of the greatest athletes, coaches and world leaders including Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Vince Lombardi and even Donald Trump. What you’ll find is a host of history makers who believe that the abstract concept of mental toughness plays a major role in success. If you ask Dr John Sullivan, a psychologist with experience in many leading teams around the world, what you’ll find are history makers with no idea what they’re talking about. In his recently published book, Why the Brain Always Wins, Sullivan debunks mental myths and shows why coaches and athletes have it all wrong. CONQA Sport explores and challenges this theory.
Leicester City Football Club are the English Premier League champions. Let that sink in. This team has shattered all previously held notions about what it takes to win trophies in football. With a squad costing the same amount as individual players in traditional elite teams, Leicester have shown that money well spent is better than spending money with abandon and hoping for the best. While the party continues, we take a look at the financial implications that this fairy tale and wonder if it is a sign of a bursting financial bubble.
British boxer Nick Blackwell has recovered from a medically induced coma after taking a beating for 10 rounds in his British middleweight title fight against Chris Eubank Junior. He is making a steady recovery but the calls to have the sport banned are ringing louder than ever. But the risk that comes with contact sport is one all professional sportsmen take. Why then are we seemingly more tolerant of severe injuries in other sports compared to boxing?
Every day elite athletes and coaches earn a living by pushing the boundaries of human potential. The dividing line between what was once considered impossible and what is now a prerequisite for success is constantly shifting. Michael Johnson, one of the best athletes that has ever lived, has created a high performance centre that is the world's leading speed factory. It is here that athletes from all over the world improve their speed and where the limitations of athletic capabilities are being explored.
As we head into 2016, the world has never been more connected. With high speed internet, affordable air travel, and satellite TV, there world is literally a global village, one that is shrinking everyday. The sports world, like business or entertainment, has cottoned on to this new way of thinking and more and more, athletes are representing domestic and national teams in countries they were not born in. So what place does patriotism and national pride have in all this? If we are all united by a love for sport, and ideologies such as nationalism are outdated, is there any point in international competition? CONQA Sport explores.
"In rugby, men are missiles," so said sports journalist and sexologist Ernest Crawley in 1913. If only he could see them now. As the years have gone by, particularly after the injection of professionalism in the late '90s, those missiles have become nuclear warheads. Monsters crash into monsters for 80 minutes and the pace and force of the game has become relentless. And we love it. But what are the ramifications of the ever increasing forces rugby players exert on each other? Should we, as sports fans, be concerned? CONQA Sport speaks to Paddy Anson, Head of Strength and Conditioning at Gloucester Rugby, and explores the negative impact of expanding athletes. How has it affected the way the game is played and is there a warning from the NFL that rugby should be taking seriously?
We spend so much of our lives sleeping and the effect it has on us is so profound. Despite this, elite sport is still in its infancy when it comes to sleep research and its impact on performance. CONQA Sport speaks to some of the world’s leading experts on sleep and recovery to discover why so many athletes struggle to sleep at night, how they can improve their sleep, what behaviours they should adopt and discard, and why, in a world where marginal gains could mean the difference between winning and losing, the field of sleep is still relatively unexplored.
With two Rugby World Cups, a Cricket World Cup, Formula 1 race wins, golf Major titles, as well as championships and victories in a host of other sports such as netball, football, hockey, tennis, and water polo, Dr Sherylle Calder is arguably one of the most successful individuals in world sport. Her innovative and highly successful programme, EyeGym, has improved the performance of thousands of athletes across the globe. By improving how the eye sees and understands the world around us, the cognitive process of seeing and doing, and then effectively and accurately responding to what is being seen, elite athletes are able to separate themselves from the competition.
Every coach and manager has to implement innovative and creative strategies in order to stay ahead of the field. Most elite teams have scores of advisers, specialists, coaches, and opinion makers; all of whom need to be focussed towards a single vision. It is no different for those responsible for the athletes’ fitness and well-being. Wayne Diesel, the Sports Performance Director for the Miami Dolphins, discusses why managing the philosophy within the medical team is vital to success on the field.
Finding the right level of arousal is vital for elite athletes if they are to succeed. A long distance runner who burns himself out too early will have as little chance of success as a boxer who is too slow to get in the zone for his fight. Unfortunately, arousal is not a switch that can simply be turned on or off. Mitzi Hollander, founder of The ADD Lab, has helped Attention Deficit Disorder patients maintain their levels of arousal for years. Using the same methods, she is helping professional athletes manage their body and minds for peak performance.
Injury: the greatest fear for every athlete. Across any code, at any level, injury is a part of life for sportsmen and women. A torn hamstring, a broken arm, a severe concussion; all injuries require extensive physical therapy. But what about the mental battle that needs to be waged when injured? How does the psychological process measure up to the physiological one? Doctor Charlie Weingroff and Springbok captain Jean de Villiers reveal what an athlete goes through psychologically when undergoing physical rehabilitation.
In our latest interview, we chat to Stephan du Toit, head of strength and conditioning for the Stormers and Western Province rugby teams. Du Toit has been working with some of the best players in the game for over 11 years and so when he tells us how his holistic approach to conditioning is one to follow, we take him very seriously.