16 December 2017

What Needs to Change in 2017

Daniel Gallan (@danielgallan)

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.

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games was the highlight of an unforgettable year in world sport.

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games was the highlight of an unforgettable year in world sport.

2016 was a remarkable year for world sport. From the lows of ongoing FIFA scandals and the implications of Russia’s state sponsored doping as outlined in the McLaren report to the highs of Rio, Leicester City, the Chicago Cubs, the West Indies and the All Blacks, this was a year that will live long in the memory.

And that is where it will remain. There is no place for nostalgia or regret in elite sport. It is a constantly moving environment and those who can’t keep up are mercilessly left behind. Change is inevitable and improvement is the mission and so we have compiled a list of ways sport can develop and build on the triumphs of 2016. We’ve also called on some of the leading figures in the industry to lend their thoughts.

Strive to create a truly global village

One of the troubling aspects of the previous twelve months has been the increasingly separatist mindset that has found a footing in the developed nations of the world. Brexit, Trump and the resurgence of right wing political parties in Europe have cast a shadow over the notion that this world is evolving into a truly global village.

Thankfully sport has not followed suit as athletes around the globe are increasingly choosing to represent their adopted nation rather than the one they were born in. No more so was this notion of oneness more apparent than at the Summer Olympics where refugees from war torn nations such as the Central African Republic and Syria competed under a nationless banner for Team Refugee Olympic Athletes.

Nationalism undoes the unification that sport creates. Sport has always acted as a lightning rod for patriots and zealots but as our world teeters on the precipice, we all need to come together and celebrate sport for what it is: escapism and entertainment.

The ongoing controversies that surround Colin Kaepernick in the United States, state sponsored doping in Russia and transformation in South Africa are indicative of how sport and national identity are often merged into one entity. If we wish to break the archaic psychological barriers that separate us by virtue of where we were born, we must use sport as a tool to do so rather than another brick in the wall.

Slow down to better understand emerging technologies

Steve Gera – Managing Director & Co-Founder of winningalgorithms.com; experience in the NFL, NBA, MLB, EPL and the Tour de France. (@sfgera)

“The one change I'd like to see in the world of sport is a real movement to leverage strategic thought into the way technology is implemented on both the performance and commercial sides of sport.  The current environment is too fast and too fragmented for teams to keep up, and for companies to build products that solve real issues. 

I am going to be spending my entire 2017 working with teams and companies to bridge the gap in understanding emerging technology so we can begin to thoughtfully create platforms that truly amplify performance, and contribute to increased revenues.  We need to stop looking for gadgets and begin creating value in performance science and technology.”

More focus on the brain

Dr John Sullivan – Sport Scientist, Clinical Sport Psychologist and Co-Author of The Brain Always Wins; experience in the NFL, EPL, US Navy SEALs and more. (@BrainAlwaysWins)

Brain health in elite sport is starting to get the air time it deserves. Thanks to Will Smith's  Concussion  and other mainstream mediums, 2017 promises to keep the momentum going. 

Brain health in elite sport is starting to get the air time it deserves. Thanks to Will Smith's Concussion and other mainstream mediums, 2017 promises to keep the momentum going. 

“I’d like to see the brain taking its rightful place of importance. Sport as a worldwide cultural institution has seemingly forgotten this critical component to success. We attribute excellence to a variety of factors and all too often neglect the brain even with global awareness of brain injuries. However, by prioritizing the human brain, we can optimise athlete performance and health.

Performance is a multifactorial process that begins and ends with the brain. In fact, winning is the result of the innate and expansive ability of the human brain to adapt and overcome, so let’s focus on the fact that human performance has more to do with the most sophisticated survival system in the known universe than it does with any other system in the human body.”

Credit where credit is due

Charlui Weingroff – Director of Physical Development, Head of Strength Coach at Canada Men’s Basketball. (@CWagon75)

“I would really love to see the performance staff viewed in the same light as the technical staff. All staff in an organisation must share the same vision and mission within the same system. They must all be accountable in terms of appointment and removals and must share in the praise and criticism based on results.

The performance staff must be judged the same way the technical coaches are judged and if the team is succeeding, then they must get the credit that they deserve.”

Honest athletes and sympathetic fans

Tim Goodenough – Executive coach, mental conditioning expert with a particular focus on youth development. (@TimGoodenoughZA)

“I would love to see a space open up in world sport where more superstars and heroes are more real about the fear they face, the anxieties they work through and the very common human problems we all have. If there was a safe space for coaches, players and administrators to acknowledge their insecurities and weaknesses they would be able to share their processes which would lead to improvement.

I would also love to see fans and supporters hold onto the idea that, irrespective of the result, the player is always trying their best. We can criticise, discuss and engage but we do not have the right to abuse athletes. I would love a 2017 in which all the stakeholders in world sport understand that every game is played and managed by human beings who are trying their best. No one is perfect in sport and that’s what makes it special”

Better fan engagement

Warren Kennaugh – Behavioural Strategist and consultant with over 20 years’ experience working with organisations such as the PGA, Cricket Australia, the NRL and more. (@Warren_Kennaugh)

I’d like to see a continuation of the trends to further engage with spectators within the game. Currently we see gaming doing it well where in game exotics attract us into the game beyond an outright win/ loss bet. In the shorter forms of cricket, we’re seeing players miked up, it would be good see match officials, next batter in and perhaps even the coaches audioed up to provide insights to the public.

I think the role of wearables can play a strong part. How can we, for the cost of our ticket, get a wearable of our chosen team which vibrates when a four is scored, flashes when a wicket falls, flashes another colour when a try is scored or six is hit? This would add to experience for spectators at the ground especially at night events.

An area which sport could look to is live concerts. Taylor Swift is renowned for her connection with the audience and getting very large numbers involved in her concerts. It would be great to have spectators at the ground and those at home feeling they’re more connected to their idols and involved in the games that they love."

Honest, corrupt-free governance for social change

Luke Bodensteiner – Executive Vice President of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (@LukeBode_ussa)

Just because Sepp Blatter is gone, it doesn't mean that the integrity of FIFA has returned. It will take a lot of hard work to restore faith in the gatekeepers of the world's beautiful game.

Just because Sepp Blatter is gone, it doesn't mean that the integrity of FIFA has returned. It will take a lot of hard work to restore faith in the gatekeepers of the world's beautiful game.

“It’s imperative that governance models in world sport change dramatically to better support and enable the social power of sport.  The public view of sport governance has changed and governing bodies must adapt to address those expectations.  Scandals, corruption, and misalignment of agendas have put sport worldwide in a precarious position, repelled fans, infuriated athletes and diminished the potential of stakeholders.

World sport requires visionary, ethical, and inclusive leadership.  It requires strategic, objective-driven organizations that aim to maximize the impact of the resources that reside within and are generated by sport, for the benefit of youth, the athletes, communities and fans.

There’s an incredible amount of important work being done in youth and high-performance sport, which can improve lives, inspire our communities, and reveal insights that make us all better, healthier and more effective.  But this work risks being buried in scepticism, disinterest and disengagement driven by misaligned governance and disingenuous leadership.

Sport is a powerful force for social change.  When world sport organizations align their interests and objectives with youth, athletes and communities, and focus on positive social outcomes centred on those stakeholders, world sport will be optimized to leverage the best of everyone involved” 

Thank you all for continued support throughout the year and we will be back in 2017 to push to boundaries of human performance with more insight and analysis.