As head coach or manager, your job is to get the best out of your team. If that means playing your most talented player in an unfamiliar position then so be it. Right? Wrong. Convincing elite athletes to fulfil a role that may be uncomfortable is a much tougher task than it may appear but with deft management, even the most stubborn star can be swayed.
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Do superstar athletes truly relate to the struggles most people have to endure to reach the peak of their sport? After all, these once in a lifetime athletes perform seemingly impossible feats with apparent ease. If not, can superstar athletes skipper a team filled with less talented individuals? CONQA explores the challenges of captaincy and how talent can often get in the way of good leadership.
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.
Another global tournament, another humiliating early exist from South Africa as the Proteas once again succumbed to pressure and played far below their usually high standards. But fear not; this will not be an exploration of that crushing defeat to India but rather a viable solution to any athlete or team struggling with the vice grip of pressure.
After making history with Leicester City last season, Claudio Ranieri is now out of a job after the Foxes parted ways with the Italian manager after a woeful defence of their English Premier League Crown. Half a world away, a cricket coach offers a sympathetic voice. Paddy Upton, coach of several cricket sides around the globe including the Sydney Thunder, helps CONQA unpack the struggles a championship winning coach can go through.
It’s a throwaway term for pundits and scribes whenever a coach bumbles his way through a press conference after his team has lost another game, but what does “losing the dressing room” actually mean? CONQA Sport explores this fascinating concept and calls on two legends in their field to help out. Next time you hear this phrase, you will have a better understanding of its meaning and nuance.
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.
In a somewhat unprecedented move, this summer’s South African. domestic T20 competition will go ahead without a title sponsor – unless something drastically changes in the next few weeks. This sheds some light on cricket’s relevance and the country’s economic climate, but that does not mean all hope is lost. Antoinette Muller from the Daily Maverick explores this thorny issue which can be viewed as a microcosm of the broader financial narrative in the nation in particular, and the globe in general.
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.
It is hard to disagree that South African sport has failed to transform at the top level, butcricket’s political association in South Africa stretches way further back than apartheid. Daily Maverick’s Antoinette Muller and Chronicle’s Leila Dee Dougan visited the heartlands of black cricket in South Africa to explore why cricket and politics will always be bedfellows; the work being done by CSA at grassroots, and how high performance and transformation go hand in hand.
In elite sport, stagnation is a death knell. In order to stay ahead of the competition, new techniques and strategies must be actively sought and implemented. Every coach or athlete is after the next big thing that will propel them to greatness, but is it an idealistic dream to assume that innovation is something that can be taught? CONQA Sport examines the concept of innovation and finds that in the right environment, genius can flourish.
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.
Muhammad Ali was more than a boxer. He was a humanitarian, activist and poet who brought laughter and light to so many people who only knew darkness and despair. His ability to spin a yarn for the press or hurl verbal jibes at his opponent were unrivalled and no one since has been able to match Ali in this regard. CONQA Sport takes a look at the art of trash talk and finds that it exists within a subjective realm where what is appropriate or not comes down to the individual's perception. We also pick our 12 best scathing moments of trash talk in sports history.
Elite sport is in a constant state of turmoil between searching for new ideas and remaining true to the universal truths that have existed since competition began. There are certain variables that are not quantifiable and yet still undoubtedly constitute the make-up of competition. Variables like hard-work, passion, determination. One such variable is pressure. We all know what it means in a broad sense, but understanding its intricate details is a challenge. Chris Passarella, associate director, mental conditioning for the New York Yankees, wishes to do away with the term altogether and believes the sooner we stop referencing it, the sooner its hold on athletes will dissipate.
Gianni Infantino, the newly appointed president of FIFA, has said he wants soccer to consider video replay trials “sooner rather than later”. The beautiful game has lagged behind with the implementation of this technology, and while it will be broadly welcomed, it should take a few lessons from cricket and rugby to make sure the trials and subsequent implementation goes smoothly.
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.
Like a family member or loved one, our favourite athletes and teams reach into our hearts and souls and pull on certain strings that compel us to be biased. We can’t help it. There’s nothing we can do. Our athletes and teams are just and virtuous, and exempt from derision, while the opposition is the antithesis: deceitful, unsportsmanlike, unworthy of praise or achievement. The subjective nature of sport creates an environment where the same action or behaviour can yield very different responses depending on which side of the fence you sit.
The inaugural season of the Women’s Big Bash in Australia exceeded expectations in every way. But while the women’s game is becoming increasingly professional Down Under and in the United Kingdom, it still lags behind in South Africa. The weakening rand, which so threatens the men’s game, could now also endanger the women’s game in this country if the governing body doesn’t box clever.
Genuine sporting talent is a commodity very few are blessed with. Even fewer possess the gifts that enable participation and success at the elite level. Like any commodity, talent needs to be nurtured wisely to see it flourish into something tangible. The question is, where should an athlete invest that talent, and how should it be done? CONQA Sport explores the debate between early and late specialisation. Is it better to specialise in one sport as early as possible like Tiger Woods and Andre Agassi, or is the path to success made easier with a multi-disciplined approach like AB de Villiers? The evidence provides some strong conclusions.
They say an army marches on its stomach, well then so does the future of a nation’s sporting ambitions. There is no such thing as a successful elite athlete who goes to bed hungry. Could the solution to South Africa’s transformation problem be found on the empty dinner plates of hungry children? Are quotas and government interventions providing results, or are we merely papering over gaping cracks that are indicative of an unequal society? CONQA Sport explores the relationship between transformation and nutrition and finds that the challenges we face are heavier than first imagined.