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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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.
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.
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.
The true test for any elite athlete is bouncing back from adversity. For the Lions half back pair of Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk, the climb up from last season’s poor showing with the national side will be an arduous journey. With high performance coach, Tim Goodenough, CONQA explores the process of rebuilding confidence to return to the top.
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.
Long before sport turned professional, elite athletes have acted as ambassadors for the societies they represent. As such, they have been labelled as role models and moral compasses whether or not they are deserving of those titles. But is this fair? Do we as the public hold our athletes to impossible standards not reserved for any other industry? How does being a role model impact performance and is the status even worth pursuing? CONQA Sport answers 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.
Every year, new teams are crowned champions over a wide spectrum of sports, but there are only a handful that will forever echo throughout eternity as conquerors. The Brazilian footballers of the 1960s, the West Indian cricketers of the 1970s and ‘80s, the current New Zealand All Blacks who dominate rugby union; these reigns, as mighty as they appear, pale in comparison to an empire that stretches back to the very beginning. US Swimming has exerted a stranglehold on their sport since the first Olympic Games and haven’t let go since. Thanks to a dominant mindset, they won’t be letting go any time soon.
Elite sport practitioners are constantly placed under immense pressure, and in the heat of the moment, tempers flare and harsh words are exchanged. Fortunately, the consequences of irrational actions are never life threatening. Not so for the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, where one misspoken word can result in untold misery and death. Gary Noesner spent 30 years with the FBI, ten of which he was the Chief Negotiator, handling delicate and dangerous situations every day. His unique insight could help athletes and coaches remain calm under pressure while others descend into chaos.
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.
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.
Here’s a question: would you rather have Lionel Messi’s left foot or Cristiano Ronaldo’s right? Tough choice, so why not both? Ambidexterity is a rare ability that few possess. Being able to perform equally well on both sides of the body might be a handy trait in everyday life but is a massive competitive advantage in many sports. Elite athletes who possess this gift stand out. But is it something they are born with, and if not, how can you train it? CONQA Sport explores.
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.
Have you ever wondered why supremely gifted athletes don’t always form successful partnerships? Together with Warren Kennaugh, a behavioural strategist with over 20 years’ experience working with some of the world’s most successful teams, we uncover what constitutes a winning pairing. With elite teams constantly searching for the smallest gain in performance, perhaps the secret to success could be hidden in the emotions and values of their star athletes.
Every job, no matter how glamorous, can get tedious from time to time. So then how do they do it? How do those elite athletes who reach over 100 caps for their country or compete in multiple Olympic Games stay hungry and focussed over many years in the same sport? Of course the pursuit of glory is a driving factor, and motivation comes easy when things are going well, but every athlete goes through dips in form and enthusiasm. This is when motivation can be used as a tool to set things right. CONQA Sport speaks with Professor Pieter Kruger, Performance Psychologist for the South African national rugby team, the Springboks, and debunks a few misconceptions surrounding sports psychology, and finds how motivation affects performance in elite sport.
How many of us have the confidence and self-belief to truly be a superstar? How many of us could attempt a seemingly impossible play in front of thousands of people, knowing that millions more are watching on TV around the world? The truth is, only a handful of humans go down in history as world class athletes. These champions share certain qualities; skill, a drive to win, passion. CONQA Sport explores a particular trait that is required to be the best – ego, and finds that the line between confidence and arrogance is as fine as the line between success and failure.
Elite sport is a cut-throat business. Hard work and effort is commended and admired, but the age of the gentleman amateur is over. Winning at all costs and ensuring success is all that athletes, fans, owners, and sponsors care about. Focussing on one's strengths is one way to do it, but there is another, more ruthless avenue to glory. Preying on your opposition's weaknesses might seem low, but it is a tactic that has proved successful for centuries. Tim Mahon, the High Performance Manager for Shooting Australia, speaks to CONQA Sport about Manoeuvre Warfare, and how this military concept can be related to elite sport.
The Pygmalion effect, or the Rosenthal effect, is a psychological phenomenon whereby the expectation placed on individuals and groups dictates the way they perform. Tell an athlete or team that they have a particular attribute for an extended period of time and they will soon adopt that attribute. Team identity is an abstract concept and yet some teams just exude a certain personality. The way they play, the fans that support them, the players they recruit; every facet of their being embodies an ethos. We explore the identities of two of the greatest sports teams on the planet; Real Madrid CF and the New York Yankees and find out whether team identity can be translated into success.
As apex predators, Africa’s three big cats have to draw on resources and skills honed over millennia. The leopard’s cunning and resilience, the cheetah’s grace and speed, the lion’s strength and power; the African plains marvel at nature’s glory. Like claws and teeth, sports stars need to keep their minds sharp and ready for any obstacle that comes their way. It’s eat or be eaten, and only the very best can stay at the top of the food chain.