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.
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.
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.
The South African Blitzboks need at least a Cup quarterfinal appearance in each of their remaining two tournaments to be crowned champions of the 2016-17 World Rugby Sevens Series. However, such premature talks of titles can prove derailing and in an exlusive interview with CONQA, coach Neil Powell explains how his team is maintaining their focus.
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.
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.
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.
Golf is the most popular sport for people 50 years and up. Makes sense right? Golf is mostly taking a pleasant stroll through manicured fields interspersed with the occasional swing of a lightweight stick. Obviously professional golfers are getting more and more athletic but where else do you find a fully professional Senior Tour? Well it turns out that the twilight years come much sooner for female golfers and more and more young women are dominating the game. CONQA Sport examines the societal reasons behind the phenomenon and finds that they are more worrying than first imagined.
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.
Change takes time, and more often than not is a difficult and arduous process. In the realm of elite sport, a ruthless industry to begin with, change often means sacrificing results in order to change course and head in a new direction. For the Springboks, South Africa’s proud national rugby team, a change in identity has coincided with a dramatic downturn in performances. Naturally, the media and public are up in arms, but should they be showing a touch more patience and understanding? CONQA Sport unpacks this rebuilding phase that South African rugby is going through and offers a sympathetic and measured view on the situation.
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.
What is it about certain sports fans that compel them take success for granted? Is it simply the desire to see your team succeed that obscures the truth, or is it something more complex? Once a nation or club enjoys a spell of dominance, expectations rise and leave a high water mark for future generations. Unfortunately, the natural ebb and flow of success means that on field performances do not always match expectations. CONQA Sport explores how accomplished legacies often breed entitlement.
Caster Semenya is on a course with destiny and controversy at this year's Olympic Games in Rio. Gold in the 800m for the 25 year old South African is as close to a sure thing as you can get in sport. She has obliterated her opposition this season by running the fastest women's 800m in eight years. However, as has been the case since she burst on the scene in 2009 as a prodigal teenager, questions around Semenya's gender-identity and whether or not it is fair that she is competing will be brought up. CONQA Sport unpacks the debate and finds that in this case, there are many more questions than answers.
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.
Grant Lottering knocked on Death’s door on a cold mountainside in the Alps almost 3 years ago after falling off his bike and slamming into a rock embankment. Fortunately for the South African cyclist, the Grim Reaper wasn’t at home and gave him a second chance. Most people would have counted their blessings and put as much distance between themselves and a bicycle as possible. Not Lottering. Instead he is returning the Alps to attempt something no other human has ever done before.
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.
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.
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.
When Alexander the Great brought his Macedonian army in front of the uncountable force of the Persian Empire, he apparently eased the concerns of his generals with a thought on leadership: "I am more afraid of an army of sheep lead by a lion, than an army of lions lead by a sheep", or something akin to that. Great captains can make ordinary teams great. Some are worth there place in the side through their leadership alone. But what makes a great captain, and is leadership a skill or an innate gift bestowed on a few? CONQA Sport explores.
Every week there seems to be another example of sport and politics mixing in an unsavoury fashion. Whether it is one more FIFA delegate being implicated in a corruption scandal or a star athlete accused of doping, it would appear to be a given that sports articles feature on both the back and front pages of newspapers. But perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. CONQA Sport explores the often tumultuous relationship between sport and politics and discovers that if history is anything to go by, these two key representations of the human identity will forever be linked.
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.
Every day, scientific breakthroughs change the world we live in and the only way to stay ahead of the competition is to stay ahead of the ever steepening curve. Elite sport is a cutthroat and competitive environment where only the best survive. As a result, sports technology is proving to be the difference in many close contests. CONQA Sport speaks to Mounir Zok, the Senior Sports Technologist at the Unites States Olympic Committee (USOC), and finds out that it is still the human element that ensures success in a world hurtling towards to the future.
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.
There are some special athletes around the world that seem impervious to the touch of Father Time. These men and women not only refuse to let the advancing years hinder them; they embrace their age with wisdom, skill, and invaluable experience. One such athlete is Victor Matfield; the imperious South African rugby forward who is not only the most capped Springbok of all time, but at 38, is still one of the most indomitable sportsman on the planet. CONQA Sport explores how older athletes maintain excellence, how they adapt their game, and the emotional maturity that is needed in order to remain at the top.