It takes guts to be a leader. You need to be ruthless in your decision making, confident in your strategies and bold when managing individuals under one unified ethos. But what of the bravery required when admitting that you may not have all the answers? Is this a sign of weakness or is this in fact what separates the good from the very best? With the help of two of our speakers at the 2017 Elite Sport Summit, CONQA explores the benefits of seeking the advice of external influencers.
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Everyone grows up wanting to be the next Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James or Serena Williams. The reality is, that the vast majority of elite athletes play supporting roles in the background. But if the original goal was to be great, how does the coach or manager keep athletes motivated and content with their place? How does a competitive high performing athlete remain focussed, when their teammate is grabbing the headlines? With Phil Handy, assistant coach at the Cleveland Cavaliers, CONQA explores this unique challenge.
After our conversation with Professor Jennifer Chatman from the University of California, Berkeley, we have become entangled in the complexities a leader faces when confronted with a multi-cultural team. With the help of two of South Africa’s greatest sports leaders, we unpack the conversation even further to get to the heart of this unique challenge.
In these modern times, it seems the best teams have every basis covered when it comes to backroom staff. There’s the obvious strength and conditioning expert alongside a mental coach, but rosters are swelling at an alarming rate that we won’t be surprise when teams start employing a designated hairdresser or dog walker for their pampered stars. More people can mean more headaches for a head coach as managing different personalities is a challenge all on its own. With the help of Terry Condon, a man with experience managing teams within teams, CONQA unpacks the unique skillsets required to be a modern manager.
Who’d be an elite coach? The merry-go-round at the top can be a daunting prospect for any manager and in this line of work, even the very best get the axe. But as we see time and time again, appointing a new manager often has an immediate positive impact on the team. Maybe there is some logic behind the madness. Two experts in their field with decades of experience help CONQA unpack the effect new managers have on teams and find ways to replicate that for those who are trying to keep their job.
All records are made to be broken but some are just never expected to do so. One of those was Michael Johnson's 43.18 set in the 400m in 1999. However, at the Olympic Games in Rio last year, Wayde van Niekerk smashed it out the park with a mind blowing 43.03. The women behind his success, "Tannie Ans" Botha, speaks to CONQA on how that record has changed their relationship, how the pair are striving for more success and what it would take to join the pantheon of greats who claim gold in both the 400m and 200m.
Two giants of world sport have recently felt the painful bump of reaching bedrock and now have to make some dramatic changes if they want to taste the glories of the past. South African rugby and Australian cricket sides used to command respect from opposition by virtue of their dominance. Today they are both facing unprecedented crises. CONQA Sport offers a way out for both of these once proud juggernauts.
In elite sport, all athletes are equal; some however are undoubtedly more equal than others. In a world where human beings are separated by their abilities on the field, is it fair to treat everyone equally? Is this egalitarian utopia even worth pursuing? Would this approach negatively impact the creativity and flair of star athletes and how can coaches navigate this dilemma without alienating the rest of the squad? CONQA Sport explores these questions and more.
Every single one of us gets lambasted for a job poorly done from time to time. Criticism can severely impact performance but luckily for most of us, the amount of people who have access to our shame is very small. Imagine that all your work, good or bad, was public knowledge. Imagine that everyone with a smartphone could vent how terrible they thought you were at your job. Imagine newspapers, radio stations and online blogs were about to call you out for a perceived ineptitude to millions of people around the world. Now you have a taste of what being an under fire head coach of an elite sports team feels like when results aren’t going their way. CONQA Sport explores how owning and directing the narrative can help coaches navigate these difficult times.
If succeeding as an elite athlete was easy, we’d all be doing it. So many variables have to go exactly right for a young talent to make it to the top. Hard work, struggle, sacrifice; talent means nothing if a young prospect is not willing to go the extra mile. But if what if the key to success meant going further than a mile? What if the path to greatness lay outside the boundaries of one’s home country and was paved in a foreign land? CONQA Sport explores why youth development needs travel and why so many young English footballers are unwilling to leave the nest.
The winds of change are sweeping through the world of coaching and structural hierarchies are being torn down. Coaches and managers are no longer the authoritative rulers who dole out knowledge and wisdom to players like a mother bird feeds her chicks. Today, coaches are facilitators: respected figures who help guide elite teams and athletes down the path to knowledge but leave the problem solving up to those who have to perform on the field of play. CONQA Sport speaks with John Pitts, an elite coach with experience in a wide variety of sports, to unpack this modern approach.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus, an ‘expert’ is defined as someone “having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced.” Elite sport is littered with experts, and countless others who fancy themselves as one. With all that expertise floating around, coaches and managers are often tempted to bring in an external source of knowledge to improve their athletes’ performance. But is this necessary? What if a shift in mindset turned the focus inward and tapped into the wealth of internal knowledge within the playing group? CONQA Sport speaks with Paddy Upton and discovers that the solution to the problem is often right under your nose.
Elite sport is cutthroat industry where the only thing that matters is the success of the team. Coaches and managers who fail to meet the expectations of fans and stake holders all too often get the sack. This can be a difficult and painful process. Stuart Lancaster knows what this feels like as he was axed as England Rugby’s head coach last year and has been replaced by Eddie Jones. Jones has enjoyed a successful start to his tenure but as CONQA Sport discovers, part of that success may be due to an unprecedented show of maturity and goodwill from Lancaster. Hopefully, his selfless act can used as a model for coaches and federations in the future.
Allister Coetzee has been appointed the 23rd Springbok rugby coach and has immediately sought to establish an era marked with youth and excitement. With an average age of just under 26 years, this is a team that might lack experience but has all the potential for something truly great. What Coetzee will need to do is unify all 31 players under a single ethos – perhaps the most challenging task for any head coach or manager of a national team.
Coaches need to have the right mix of skills in order to be successful. They need a combination of technical and tactical ability, mixed in with a mental fortitude and resilience to cope with the trials and demands of elite sport. But how can an organisation ensure that the right coach is placed at the head of the right team? What are the different challenges that a junior development coach faces compared to the head coach of a national team? Cricket South Africa have a carefully crafted method when it comes to coaching development and placement which ensures the Proteas remain a world class side.
Sports fans are a fickle bunch. They'll heap praise on their team, players, and coaching staff when they're winning. Accolades and plaudits flow in abundance as long as positive results are doing likewise. When things go bad however, the well of well-wishes dries up and a flood furious anger washes over the once loved heroes. No one is at the mercy of this turbulent climate more than the coach or manager. They’re the ones holding the wheel, they’re the ones making the play, and when things are going badly, they’re the ones standing where the buck stops and the hard questions start. Using Jose Mourinho and Heyneke Meyer as examples, we explore the risk and reward of sacking a coach.
Remember your first day at a new job? Were you nervous? Were you eager to impress straight away? Now imagine that you had the world’s eyes fixed firmly on your every move. Every decision you made, every experiment you attempted was scrutinised by millions of strangers. Now you get a sense of what Jürgen Klopp, the newly appointed manager of Liverpool FC must be feeling. To understand what challenges the new coach at a prominent team faces, CONQA Sport spoke with Gary Kirsten, former head coach of the Indian and South African national cricket teams
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.
The Royal Belgian Hockey Association (RBHA), despite being a successful organisation, has a unique challenge in world sport. They are an international team whose players speak multiple languages. Clubs and franchises around the world can relate, but not many nations can. Multilingualism exposes individuals to different cultures, but when coaches and managers are trying to unite their players under one ethos, it can prove challenging. Murray Richards, High Performance Manager for RBHA explains how his team have overcome this obstacle.