If succeeding as an elite athlete was easy, we’d all be doing it. So many variables have to go exactly right for a young talent to make it to the top. Hard work, struggle, sacrifice; talent means nothing if a young prospect is not willing to go the extra mile. But if what if the key to success meant going further than a mile? What if the path to greatness lay outside the boundaries of one’s home country and was paved in a foreign land? CONQA Sport explores why youth development needs travel and why so many young English footballers are unwilling to leave the nest.
We all know the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, right? How, using maths, the second poorest team in Major League Baseball went on a record-breaking winning streak and changed the way baseball scouts and general managers operated. The story was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster and the word ‘Moneyball’ became synonymous with statistical analysis in sport. Well, a similar story is underway in football. By combining the roles of head of scouting and head of analysis, Daniel Stenz is changing the game. CONQA Sport spoke with Stenz ahead of his move to the Hungarian Football Federation.
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.
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.
World tennis is reeling in the wake of wide-spread match-fixing allegations. Tennis now joins the growing list of sports with questionable integrities after the recent scandals that rocked football and athletics. While there is no question that match-fixing is a heinous crime at the elite level of the sport, a closer examination of the inner workings of tennis might shift your perceptions. CONQA Sport explores the challenging financial environment that low ranking players live in and discovers that the temptation to throw a game for money can be rather enticing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Philip Buchanon's book New Money: Staying Rich, is a revealing personal account that explores some of the financial burdens that so many professional athletes face when they sign massive contracts. Buchanon bravely discloses how his own mother demanded a pay-out of US$1 million for raising her son for 18 years, as well as other shocking anecdotes. Many athletes are ill-equipped to handle new money and squander small fortunes. In an exclusive interview with Conqa Sport, Buchanon discusses how he hopes his book can inspire and educate young athletes.
The University of Pretoria has established itself as one of the premier sporting universities in the country. Tuks have created a winning culture through victories across various sporting codes. We sat down with Steven Ball, the Deputy Director of Coaching and Performance Management, about why Tuks has achieved so much recent success.
Just over a decade ago, Germany were languishing in 22nd place on the FIFA rankings. Thanks to Ulf Schott, Director of Youth Development at the German Football Association, Die Mannschaft now occupy top spot, and aren't showing any signs of moving.