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.
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.
We’ve spoken before how the modern style of leadership requires a nuanced humanist approach where an individual is emboldened to make mistakes. In this ever changing world, obtaining collective buy-in from the every member of the team is crucial to creating a winning environment. But is there still space for a more hard-nosed, authoritative style of leadership? We asked two of the leading minds in world sport, both of whom presented at our Elite Sport Summit earlier this year, to share their thoughts on the subject.
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.
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.
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.
We spend roughly 23 minutes of every hour at work trying to move people in a certain direction. We might be driven by selfish motives or we might be altruistic in nature. Either way, the process of exerting influence over another human being is something we spend close to half of our working time trying to accomplish. Tom Bird, best-selling author and speaker on the art of influence, speaks to CONQA and outlines the key attributes a leader must possess in order to influence people. As you would imagine, there is no one size fits all model but by following a general formula, anyone can become influential.
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.
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.
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.
If something is broken it must be fixed. How a coach or manager seeks to do so can either steady the ship or send it to the brink much sooner than anticipated. Wholesale changes might grab headlines and demonstrate that the person in charge is being proactive, but almost always it is much wiser to implement incremental changes to steadily improve every facet of performance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every day elite athletes and coaches earn a living by pushing the boundaries of human potential. The dividing line between what was once considered impossible and what is now a prerequisite for success is constantly shifting. Michael Johnson, one of the best athletes that has ever lived, has created a high performance centre that is the world's leading speed factory. It is here that athletes from all over the world improve their speed and where the limitations of athletic capabilities are being explored.
In elite sport winning is hard enough, winning time and time again is almost impossible. And yet some teams manage to do it. Throughout history there have been sporting dynasties that dominate their code with an air of impunity. But how do they do it? What is the secret to sustained success? Great British Cycling Team are establishing themselves as a modern dynasty. Few others have swept all before them in consecutive Olympic Games, and with Rio 2016 just a few months away, this era of dominance shows no sign of stopping.
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.
In elite sport, the road to the top is a long and arduous journey. It needs to be filled with sacrifice and commitment, with more than a fair share of luck and talent. Even then, success is not guaranteed. It seems counter-intuitive, but failure is vital for success. Without it, athletes are ill-equipped to deal with the inevitable shortfalls and challenges that are part of the game. If an athlete is progressing along a linear path to the top, it is crucial that an obstacle is placed in the way.
Sport is a business, so the old saying goes, and subsequently those involved, including coaches and athletes, are business men and women. That might not appeal to the idealistic notions surrounding the games we love, but to look squarely at the truth, cold hard cash still runs the show. Eddie Jones came and left Cape Town like a tourist, and while it is easy to lambast him for being greedy, it was a sound business decision. Perhaps it tells us something about where coaches value the international game, compared to franchise competitions.
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.
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.