20 December 2017

Lessons Learnt: Building on the Past, Perfecting the Future

Daniel Gallan (@danielgallan)

CONQA enjoyed it's best year yet, however as a result of continuously improving, we have already set the gears in motion to build our success. As anyone in elite sport or business knows, stagnation is suicide. One trophy, medal, accolade or promotion should merely serve as a stepping stone.

South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk had another stellar year, collecting gold at the World Championships in London in the 400m. He added a silver in the 200m to prove his all round capabilities. Though injury will keep him out of action in 2018, he will surely be planning his next move. 

South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk had another stellar year, collecting gold at the World Championships in London in the 400m. He added a silver in the 200m to prove his all round capabilities. Though injury will keep him out of action in 2018, he will surely be planning his next move. 

Another year has come and gone - and what a year it was. But we’re not about to rest on our laurels. To help shape our views for the new year, we’ve asked a select few leading minds across elite sport what they’re most looking forward to, and what they’re hoping will change

Grant Downie – Head of Performance: Manchester City FC Academy

“What we learned in 2017 is that elite sport can damage a young person’s well-being. The industry has to take better care of the athlete’s long term mental health.

I’d like to see more organisations offering support to transitioning athletes out of their sport. That might include forging a new career or joining the coaching ranks, however they need to have options. The duty of care shouldn’t stop once they retire, we all need a greater awareness of the long term view on athlete well-being.''

Andy Harrison – Programme Director: British Cycling

“2017 was the last year that centralised athletes at British Cycling would have been born before the year 2000. We are certainly now in the age of the ‘Generation Z’ (or whatever other term is used in the media)!

Do we need to be approaching this new generation differently? Maybe so, but ultimately it’s just about recognising that interactions need to be personalised and then having the skills to adapt your approach accordingly – which has been the case for generations A to Y.

In regards to Generation Z, think about making your interactions EPIC – Experiential, Participatory, Image Rich, Connected.”

Warren Kennaugh – Behavioural Expert: Super Rugby, AFL, PGA

“I foresee the greatest change coming in 2018. The continuation of the growing importance of mental skills in high performance. We are seeing more teams utilising specialists, which bring a structured approach that is often considered a ‘dark art’.

Our challenge in the new year is to become more sophisticated and predictive in the application and use of mental skills programmes. It’s not good enough that we only use such tools in the visualisation and preparation process to get the athlete in their ‘happy place’. This is not enough if we're then expecting world class performances to appear.

We have a responsibility to fully understand the athlete, as well as look for the predictive patterns of both success and derailment which facilitate their on-field performance.”

Michelle Hurtado – Director of Resource Strategy and Analytics: United States Olympic Committee

“The biggest change over the last year, and it has been growing for some time, has been the impact of big data and the focus on analytics. These have come to play defining and documenting roles in our return of investment.

Moving forward, this will dramatically impact how we focus on grass roots development and how we ensure we’re creating a sustainable legacy for the Olympic and Paralympic movements."

Dr. John Sullivan – Psychologist and Scientist: NFL, English Premier League, US Military

I have witnessed two significant changes in 2017 which have been part of the same process. Although technology is almost ubiquitous in sport, its accuracy and precision has drawn both concern and proper questioning.

The call for proper scientific validation (and safety) by sport scientists, has been well received by some technology companies. They are moving towards proper implementation of devices, rather than unsubstantiated testimonial claims. This direction (and correction) in the marketplace has significantly highlighted a truth within sport, that people are far more important than software, hardware and technology.

Technology only serves as a tool for strength and conditioning, data and sport scientists. Wthout talented sport scientists, medical staff, data experts and other support members, most – if not all – technology is rendered useless.

The rise in awareness about both the importance of having a proper sport science team, along with technology requiring proper validation, can be seen as a positive trend for 2018 and beyond.”

Justin Woolford - Chief EXECUTIVE Officer: CONQA Group

''2017 has been a fascinating year, with new ideas, methodologies and processes. I've seen many new trends across elite sport and corporate structures.

Obviously certain organisations are further ahead, and some have access to larger resources. However, having insight in to many clubs, leagues, federations and organisation across the world, the most common trend is culture. 

A phrase originated by Peter Drucker and made famous by Mark Fields, President at Ford says, ''Culture eats strategy for breakfast''. Another piece of insight from the former Chief Executive Officer at Apple, Steve Jobs, was quoted saying, ''It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Pioneers of industry who have built incredible teams and companies place emphasis on their people. And as a result I believe from what I see 2018 will have even more emphasis on it's people, leadership development and most importantly it's company and organisational culture."

Further insight?

What are you most looking forward to in 2018? What changes do you envisage will impact your industry in profound ways? We hope they challenge you to strive for greater heights in 2018 as we have done so throughout the year.