Change is an inevitable part of life and either you are shaping the world around you or you're being shaped by forces beyond your control. Astute leaders know this and not only disrupt the environment they inhabit and bend their surroundings to their will. But change is scary and if a leader loses control there can be dire consequences to face. With the help of Mark Fitzmaurice, a 30 year veteran at Dale Carnegie, CONQA explores the challenges that change brings.
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.
They say an army marches on its stomach and the same could be said for an elite NFL team. The Dallas Cowboys have a new member in their ranks but he’s not responsible for tackling, running or throwing a football. Instead, Scott Senhert, Director of Sports Performance at the Cowboys, is tasked with the job of making sure the hulking footballers eat right. As he explains to CONQA, this is often easier said than done.
The world might be hurtling towards a hegemonic global village, but it’s not there yet. Multiple cultures, worldviews, identities and philosophies permeate throughout every facet of society and sometimes, coalescing individuals under a unified ethos can be a challenge for even the most astute leaders. With Professor Jennifer Chatman at the University of California, Berkeley, CONQA explores the challenges of managing a diverse team.
In an exclusive interview, CONQA sat down with the Chief of the Singapore Sports Institute to discuss the small nation’s ambitious plan to be recognised not only as a host to the world, but as a force to be reckoned on courts, tracks, fields and in pools around the world.
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 world game’s global showpiece is set to expand from 32 to 40 teams as of the 2026 edition, a decision that has divided opinion across the world. Here, two writers with very different opinions weigh in on the debate and offer compelling arguments for both sides of the divide.
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 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.
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.
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.
With less than a week to go to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, the integrity of sport and competition hangs by a thread. Every day, new information surrounding the developing Russian doping scandal emerges. President Vladimir Putin has remained steadfast in defence of his athletes and government while the whole debacle is getting uglier and more political as it progresses. In light of this, CONQA Sport takes a look at the relationship between sport and politics, and more specifically, war. For make no mistake, this is a 21st century imperial march on sport, and indeed, the world.
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.
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.
Leicester City Football Club are the English Premier League champions. Let that sink in. This team has shattered all previously held notions about what it takes to win trophies in football. With a squad costing the same amount as individual players in traditional elite teams, Leicester have shown that money well spent is better than spending money with abandon and hoping for the best. While the party continues, we take a look at the financial implications that this fairy tale and wonder if it is a sign of a bursting financial bubble.
The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is less than 150 days away. Thousands of athletes from an expected 206 countries will be competing on the biggest stage in world sport. All will be representing their nation and people - All except one team made up entirely of refugees and displaced people. Team Refugee Olympic Athletes will not represent any government but rather the 60 million people around the world who do not have a country to call home. Extraordinary as this is, this team is the embodiment of the original Olympic ideal.
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.
What if the next global superstar is playing the wrong sport? How many world champions and gold medallists were saved by switching codes? Talent transfer, or talent recycling, is when an athlete abandons their primary sport for another in the pursuit of new challenges and glory. The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is the world’s leader when it comes to talent transfer and they, along with adaptable coaches and athletes, ensure Australia remains a global sporting powerhouse.
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.
Athletes are more than just individuals who have forged a profession in a field they love, they are ambassadors of a nation and carry the hopes and dreams of millions. You would think governing bodies would do all they can to help them. You'd be wrong. Sunette Viljoen, the South African javelin thrower who recently won a bronze medal at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Athletics Championship, has spoken out about how the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee ( SASCOC) treats the athletes who are part of their Operation Excellence (OPEX) programme. One can only hope that she will be the first of many.
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.
In the closing stages of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final between Australia and Scotland, it appeared, against all odds, that the brave Scots were on their way to be the Northern Hemisphere's only representative in the semi-finals. It was not to be. Minutes later, South African referee Craig Joubert awarded Australia a penalty that Bernard Foley duly kicked over to give the Wallabies a dramatic victory. Since then the rugby world has been divided into those who are calling for Joubert's head and those staunchly defending the ref.What is not up for debate is that the sport needs a good long hard look in the mirror as this could have easily been avoided if players had the power to review a decision.
No one loves cricket more than Indians. The same could be said of New Zealanders and rugby. Ditto for Canadians and ice hockey. Certain nations have forged a part of their identity around a particular sport that it's impossible to mention one without the other. But how would a new sport wriggle its way into the psyche of a population and forge its own identity in a community besotted with a particular pastime? CONQA Sport explores this conundrum by finding out whether this is done through success in competition, the formation of a community, social upliftment, youth development, or an amalgamation of different variables.
Cinderella stories, fairy tale results, no-hopers inspiring hope; whenever an underdog manages to upset a much better and accomplished rival in sport we can’t help but get romantic about the games we love. By its definition, an upset takes us all by surprise and throws egg on the face of so-called experts and allows the few that somehow managed to predict the result to say, “I told you so.” But can we draw any parallels between famous upsets and if so, can we use these common themes to predict future upsets? CONQA Sport explores the blueprint of a sporting upset.
Subtlety and precision, or raw power and force of will; if asked to associate these attributes with either ballet or elite sport it would appear to be an easy match to make. Ballet is the prance of the aristocrat while sport is the everyman’s pastime. And yet, crossing the divide might provide a way for inhabitants in both camps to improve their already impressive attributes. Caryl Becker, Physiotherapist for the Royal Ballet Company, explains how her background in elite sport has helped improve the conditioning of dancers, and what ballet and the art world can teach elite sport.
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.
Have you ever wondered why certain countries seem to stand head and shoulders above others in a particular sport? Rasmus Ankersen, CEO of Danish football club FC Midtjylland, travelled across the world to answer that question. He recorded his observations in a book called The Gold Mine Effect: Crack the Secrets of High Performance (2012)and identified certain ingredients that talent hotbeds around the world share. Using the same theories, CONQA Sport explores how a high school in the middle of South Africa can stake a claim as being the most productive gold mine in world rugby.
For most people, running away to join the circus might seem like a desperate attempt at experiencing an alternative lifestyle, but for elite gymnasts, it offers a continuation of one they love. Of the roughly 1 200 artists and performers on Cirque du Soleil stages around the world, a third have a history in elite sport. CONQA Sport explores how the largest theatrical organisation on the planet paves the way for young athletes to prolong their passion after they are deemed too old for the sport to which they have given their life.