A U S T R A L I A ’ S # 1 C O A C H I N G M A G AOLYMPIC ZIN E EDITION
S P ORT // B U S IN ES S // L IFE // S PEC I A LTY
OLYMPIAN TO OLYMPIC COACH
THE AOC’S GOALS FOR RIO ISSUE EIGHT/AUGUST 2016
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THE EDGE OF INJURY / BIG 4 PERFORMANCE DOWNERS / TEAM SELECTION / BILL SWEETENHAM’S 11 OLYMPICS / AND MUCH MORE // 1 COACHINGLIFE
GOOD LUCK TO ALL OUR RIO COACHES!
THANKS FOR ALL THE YEARS OF PLANNING, THE LATE NIGHTS, THE SACRIFICES YOU’VE MADE TO STEER OUR ATHLETES TO OLYMPIC SUCCESS IN 2016. STEWART FLEMING AND THE COACHINGLIFE TEAM
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FROM THE EDITOR
If you have had the good fortune of seeing
If you wanted to be coached to achieve
the movie, Eddie the Eagle, you will
more, this is a great place to start. You
have seen first-hand how the Olympics
may not be aiming to compete at the elite
can inspire an individual just by their
level but if you could learn from those who
existence. This is not an isolated incident,
coach at the pointiest end of success,
with many of the former Olympians sharing
then I can guarantee it would change your
similar stories of childhood obsession
and commitment. Those readers who remember back to Shane Kelly’s (5 time Olympian) story will remember that he decided at eight years old to become an Olympic gold medal athlete.
What if we could gather all their stories, wisdom and knowledge and put it together in one place? I have personally interviewed 21 of Australia’s elite coaches and created this store of Olympic
So how are the Olympics relevant to
excellence. It was not easy – these people
you? If you are a regular, sport-loving,
are hard to reach and extremely busy, but
nationalistic Australian, but not an elite
now we can give you the benefits of their
athlete, then it is a spectacle of Aussie
excellence and the chance to support our best athletes. I would not even consider myself a regular athlete but I love watching Australia win. Is that where the Olympics stops for you? A good feeling and some national pride?
ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE Every 4 years, the country’s best motivators, the best technical specialists
This is our first Special Edition and I am incredibly proud of the effort the team have put in and the ultimate result of those efforts. We may not be Olympians, but we have been infected with the Olympic Spirit. We have learned lots and will be viewing our Rio team with more informed Aussie Pride. Happy Olympic Coaching!
and the best team builders are selected
COACHINGLIFE August 2016 ISSUE 8 Coaching Life is published 11 times a year and is your authoritative source for information on coaching in sport, business, life and anywhere else you find a coach. Published By Operait Pty Ltd ABN 63 189 244 221 24 Leo Lindo Drive, Shailer Park, QLD 4128 Editor Stewart Fleming firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant Editor Sarah Bailey email@example.com Advertising firstname.lastname@example.org Design Emma Mardaine - haven creative www.havencreative.com.au Printing & Distribution Bluestar Web
to bring athletes together to compete with the world’s most elite. It’s a chance to show how we, as humans, can compete and perform in the most exceptional circumstances. Having put together this amazing resource of coaches, how can we, personally, learn from this group of experts? Not being an athlete, is their information and wisdom relevant to my life, job or business?
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DISCLAIMER This publication is not medical or professional advice. It is intended only to inform and illustrate. No reader should act on the information contained in this publication without first seeking professional advice that takes into account personal circumstances. The publishers and editors give no representation and make no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the accuracy, completeness, currency or reliability of any of the materials contained and no correspondence will be entered into in relation to this publication by the publishers, editors or authors. The publishers do not endorse any person, company, organisation or techniques mentioned in this publication unless expressly stated otherwise. The publishers do not endorse any advertisements or special advertising features in this publication, nor does the publisher endorse any advertiser(s) or their products/services unless expressly stated otherwise. Articles are published in reliance upon the representation and warranties of the authors of the articles and without our knowledge of any infringement of any third parties copyright. The publishers and editors do not authorise, approve, sanction or countenance any copyright infringement. The publication is protected under the Commonwealth Copyrights Act 1968 and may not, in whole or in part, be lent, copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine readable format without the express written permission of the publisher. ISSN 2205-6963 Copyright Operait Pty Ltd All rights reserved.
Photo: Guillaume Béguin
AOC - Fierce but fair: Australia’s sporting goals for Rio and beyond. Fiona de Jong, CEO, Australian Olympic Committee
10 THE MEDAL-MAKER - Look back at the
26 SWIMMING - Coaching the coaches, not the athletes.
incredibly successful career of Bill Sweetenham and 30 learn how he delivers gold medals again and again every Olympic cycle. Bill Sweetenham AM, Olympic swimming coach legend 14 HOCKEY - Professional, skillful, ruthless: The Hockeyroos establish their style of play and their 34 unique view of success. Adam Commens, Hockeyroos Head Coach, Hockey Australia 18 RUGBY - Tim Walsh’s coaching Performance Matrix to ensure peak performance at the right time. 37 Tim Walsh, Women’s Rugby 7s Head Coach, Australian Rugby Union 22 DIVING - Could it be another fairytale ending? How our 38 small nation stays successful against the big guns of the diving world. Chava Sobrino, Head Coach (Diving), NSW Institute of Sport
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What being a Head Coach really means and how it creates team success. Jacco Verhaeren, Head Coach, Swimming Australia EQUESTRIAN - A closer look at the team selection process and performance prediction of our champion equestrian athletes. Prue Barrett, National Performance Director (Eventing), Equestrian Australia PERFORMANCE - Coping in the performance environment at the Olympic Games from a multi-sport Olympic coach. Bob Crudgington, Associate Lecturer in Sports Coaching, University of Queensland ARCHERY - Interview with Ya-Ping Shih on preparing athletes for high stress situations. Ya-Ping Shih, National Coach, Archery Australia WATER POLO - Former Olympian now top coach, Elvis takes us through his Rio preparation strategies. Elvis Fatovic, Men’s National Team Head Coach, Water Polo Australia www.coachinglife.com.au
40 FOOTBALL - How the Matilda’s became a world class
60 ROWING - Maintaining big picture focus for best
team through program development. Alen Stajcic, Women’s National Team Head Coach, Football Federation Australia
performance through daily information overload. Chris O’Brien, National Team Performance Director, Rowing Australia
44 BASKETBALL - A leaf out of AFL: How the value of the
63 SWIMMING - The Olympics are not a Utopia! The
‘mature age rookie’ has changed the Opals game. Brendan Joyce, Opals Head Coach, Basketball Australia
practical realities of life as an Olympic coach from swimming’s best, Michael Bohl. Michael Bohl, Coach, Swimming Australia
48 TABLE TENNIS - It’s all in your head: Learning to control
66 BEACH VOLLEYBALL - Sucess starts in the mind. Check
the ‘controllables’ with high performance athletes. Jens Lang, HP Manager and National Head Coach, Table Tennis Australia
52 WATER POLO - Team culture is the key to success with
the Women’s water polo team. Greg McFadden, Women’s National Team Head Coach, Water Polo Australia
teams and driving team values and behaviours. Steve Tutton, Senior Coach, Volleyball Australia
out Kerri’s Gold Medal Excellence Plan that helped her to ultimate Olympic result. Kerri Pottharst, Beach Volleyball Olympic Gold Medallist
68 ATHLETICS - Understand your athlete for best
performance and injury prevention. Craig Hilliard, Head Coach, Athletics Australia
72 BASKETBALL - What it takes to follow the dream, and 55 BEACH VOLLEYBALL - A new approach to qualifying our the highs and lows of elite coaching.
58 CYCLING - Rio’s road race will be the biggest challenge
yet for our Aussie cycling stars. Bradley McGee, Head Coach (Cycling), NSW Institute of Sport
Andrej Lemanis, Boomers Head Coach, Basketball Australia
74 Strange Olympic events! 75 The Last Word. COACHINGLIFE
FIERCE BUT FAIR: AUSTRALIA’S SPORTING GOALS FOR RIO AND BEYOND I FOUND MY WAY INTO TRIATHLONS DURING UNIVERSITY. AT THAT TIME, I WAS STUDYING A DOUBLE DEGREE IN LAW AND IT IN AN ACCELERATED PROGRAM AT BOND UNIVERSITY ON THE GOLD COAST, AND COMPETING IN TRIATHLONS AT THE SAME TIME. AS SOMEONE WHO LIKE TO DO THINGS PROPERLY, IT WASN’T EASY JUGGLING A LAW DEGREE, IT DEGREE AND TRAINING IN THREE SPORTS, BUT I DID.
typical day was 6 hours in lectures, 6 hours training, 6 hours studying for assignments and 6 hours of sleep. As an academic scholarship holder, I had to keep good grades to stay at university, so I’m sure that contributed to my hard work ethic and ultimately I graduated with honours. I had ambitions of being a decent athlete and a leading intellectual property lawyer, but soon recognised that I couldn’t sustain both well. You need to know yourself well to make these tough, defining choices in life. I decided I would not likely enjoy being a professional, full-time athlete
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AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMMISSION – Fiona de Jong, CEO as I needed mental balance. After a few years as a young lawyer, I really wanted to do the deals rather than document them, and had a preference to deal with people rather than paper. Because I’d studied IT, I moved into an eCommerce role with one of the large banks around the dot com boom of the 90’s. At the time, the banking and finance industries were leaders in technology innovation. After a series of big projects, I paused and reflected on whether my professional skillset could combine with my sporting interests. So I volunteered at my local triathlon club and spoke with a number of people working in the
sports industry to better understand what real jobs existed. In 2004, I came to understand that some skillsets I had were useful to sports administration. A role became available at the AOC and I was fortunate enough to be afforded an opportunity. It’s about your skills and experiences, and the contribution you can make to an organisation that can be more important than industry experience sometimes. When I started in the role, a large part of the role was drafting the selection criteria for the Olympic Teams, so my legal drafting skills were clearly an asset. Secondly, the AOC had very little web presence at the time, let alone a digital or www.coachinglife.com.au
Coaching is one area where the level of sophistication and professionalism has accelerated. It is much superior to what it was 10 years ago. eCommerce strategy, so my experience was well placed. At the end of the day, the Olympics is large-scale, complex project management, so my work in managing large, complex financial projects was what I could bring to the Olympic organisation. Politically, the AOC was open to a fresh individual, rather than someone with a sports background or alliances. When recruiting into the AOC now, many years down the track, I consider all of those things when evaluating a candidate. I don’t always take people from the sports industry.
THE EVOLUTION OF COACHING Having spent 10 years in the Director of Sport role before moving to the CEO position 2 years ago, I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to do the work I do. Some things have changed hugely, others not at all. Sadly, the problem with funding sport in Australia has not changed significantly. As a sector, it is still out-spent, out-populated and under-resourced in terms of funding when compared to other nations. It’s deeply disturbing for a country like ours where sport is such a part of the fabric of our society. Coaching is one area where the level of sophistication and professionalism has accelerated. It is far more superior and sophisticated to what it was 10 years ago. Coaches approach the www.coachinglife.com.au
science of training athletes more holistically too. They’re mostly about developing good people, not just good athletes. Coaching has become a conversation, not a dictatorship. The most effective coaches are those who connect on a personal level and have conversations with athletes to bring out the very best in them as both an athlete and individual. They help athletes come to the right decision rather than tell them what the decision is. Athletes empowered to make their own decisions are generally more selfsufficient and able to achieve more consistently at the highest level. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of incredible people over the years so it’s difficult to identify just one, but Jacco Verhaeren, the Head Coach of Swimming Australia, is one that comes to mind. It’s a courageous move for an iconic sport like swimming to have a non-Australian assume the head coach position, but he is someone who exemplifies the ability to connect with athletes and coaches at a personal level. He has a warmth and personal presence about him that creates an open, collaborative team-based culture. These personal attributes enable him to achieve great results in the pool. Emotional intelligence is increasingly important, particularly in sports with a small participation base and a lack of depth of talent behind its No.1 athlete. In Australia, we need to be able to work with the talent we have, and
understand each athlete as individuals in order to get the most out of them.
A TRANSPARENT SELECTION PROCESS Our role at the AOC is to ensure that selection is a very fair, open and transparent process. We aspire to ensure every athlete is clear on what they need to do to make the Australian Olympic Team. It’s effectively a 3-step process: QUALIFICATION The athlete needs to meet qualifying standards, or in the case of a team sport, the team needs to qualify, to compete at the Olympic Games. In some sports, Australia qualifies the place and we can choose the athlete, and other sports it’s the individual athlete who qualifies the sport and takes the spot. For example, in tennis it’s based on the ranking of the individual athlete, but in rowing you qualify the boat and the nation decides on who gets a seat in the boat. There’s well-documented criteria to govern this process, all approved by the International Sporting Federation and the AOC/International Olympic Committee (IOC). NOMINATION Once a spot has been qualified for Australia, we need a process to determine which athlete is the best Australian athlete to take that spot. The relevant National Federation (NF)/ COACHINGLIFE
OLYMPIC EDITION Sporting Organisation (NSO) decide what is the best way to choose the best Australian in that event. It might be an objective standard, such as winning a particular race, or a subjective standard, such as at the coach’s discretion. Prior to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, there were a lot of appeals over athletes selected for sports, so in 2004, a number of sports tried to take a more objective approach to make selections more ‘cut and dry’. But come Athens 2004, some sports realised this selection method didn’t always result in the best athletes being on the start line. By the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, many sports adopted a bet-each-way approach, including one objective spot (win a race and you’re in) and one subjective spot (coach’s discretion). SELECTION Once the NF/NSO has nominated their athlete to the AOC, we evaluate whether they should be selected. It’s not based on performance but rather on demonstrating the attributes or meeting the standards of behaviour required of our Olympians. Being an Olympian is more than just being an elite athlete, they are role models for Australia and need to demonstrate the values the Olympic movement represents. As custodian of the Olympic movement in Australia, that’s what the AOC is here to do. Out of respect for all the past and future Olympians too, the athletes should know it is not just about being a great sports person but also being a balanced human carrying the attributes expected of our sporting heroes. There have been only a few cases where a sport has nominated an athlete and the AOC has chosen not to select them. On average, going into an Olympic Games, we have around 28-35 selection disputes. These are questions raised by athletes wanting to challenge a decision, qualification, nomination or selection, and around 5 or so end up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. We are currently in the middle of 7 National Federation nomination disputes and
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DID YO KNOW U ?
there will be more. Making or not making an Olympic Team is a defining moment in an athlete’s life and like any important decision or moment, how it’s communicated is so important. This responsibility often falls to the coaches to inform athletes of this very special and important decision. The AOC requires each sport to adopt a policy for counselling and assisting athletes seeking nomination or selection. We ask them to document who is going to make the call, when they’re going to make it, how they’re going to make it. Is it a phone call? A list of names put up on the website? Is it made 10 o’clock at night or 9 o’clock in the morning? We ask that they think about all of those things, and require that they make people available for the athletes to talk to when that decision is communicated. The AOC makes an Olympic Appeals Consultant available to talk them through what their options are around challenging a decision and pursuing an appeal. What makes the Olympics so appeal-able is the fact that it’s so rare. It only comes around every 4 years. We understand we are dealing with people’s lives, livelihood and dreams, which is why I’m personally so passionate about the process being fair and transparent. In Australia, we have more appeals than most nations because we have a culture of allowing athletes to ask questions and challenge authority. In this way, appeals provide an avenue for athletes to question decisions and encourages sports to be transparent in the decision-making process. The same processes apply to the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics.
LOOKING AHEAD AT TOKYO 2020 Agenda 2020 is under the leadership of IOC president, Thomas Bach. It’s a reform agenda sweeping through the Olympic movement. We’ve seen a lot of anti-doping matters recently and I would hope we will have a cleaner Games come Tokyo 2020 than we’ve ever had. In Tokyo, we will see some
TRADIT IONAL LY LIVE RELEA SED AT DOVES THE O CEREM LYMPIC WERE ONY. T OPENIN HIS WA AFTER G S ABA THE 19 NDON 88 SEO 10 DOV ED UL GA ES CH MES W OSE TO RIM O HEN SETTL F THE E ON T O L Y M HE JUST A P IC C S IT W AS BEIN AULDRON WERE G LIT A INSTAN ND TLY RO ASTED .
new sports on the program, which will likely present new opportunities and focus for Australia. These sports will likely include non-traditional sports like surfing, skateboarding and rock climbing. One of the pillars of underpinning the Agenda 2020 reform is ensuring that the Olympics are relevant to the youth of today. We need to make sure the Olympics and sport in general is appealing. Things like the Olympic channel (a digital app launched for Rio) we hope will build a fan base amongst young people the world over between Olympic Games, not just during the 19 days of the event. Hopefully by 2020 the digital footprint of the Olympics has grown and is engaging young people in new ways.
AS FOR THE RIO OLYMPICS, WE HAVE 3 AMBITIONS:
Reclaim Australia’s place in the top 5 nations on the medal tally, meaning more medals across more sports.
Have our athletes walk away from the Games having had one of the best experiences of their lives.
For our athletes to have felt part of a team with a unity of purpose and united in desire for the 2016 Australian Olympic Team to come home as the most respected team in the world. www.coachinglife.com.au
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OLYMPIC EDITION Bill and Micheal Bohl
Sarah Bailey and Stewart Fleming, CoachingLife
BILL SWEETENHAM IS NOT A QUITTER. NOR IS HE THE SHY, RETIRING TYPE TO QUIETLY DOWN TOOLS AND TAKE UP KNITTING INSTEAD. FOR BILL, IT IS EVIDENT THAT LEARNING IS A CONSTANT STATE. “I HAVE NO INTEREST IN SITTING BACK AND DOING NOTHING”, HE SAYS, DESPITE CALLING TIME ON A STELLAR COACHING CAREER AFTER 11 OLYMPIC GAMES, CULMINATING IN RIO 2016. AS ALWAYS, HE IS IN PURSUIT OF EVEN GREATER KNOWLEDGE, ADDING TO HIS LIFETIME REPOSITORY OF WISDOM BY HUNTING IT OUT VORACIOUSLY FROM ALL CORNERS OF THE GLOBE. THIS IS BILL’S FINAL INTERVIEW ABOUT HIS INCREDIBLE CAREER. WE CAN ONLY TRY TO DO THIS LEGEND JUSTICE.
BILL SWEETENHAM: THE MEDAL-MAKER
ill grew up in Mount Morgan and then Mount Isa, both historic mining towns in rural Queensland. Even in this rural setting, his keen enquiring mind and desire to seek out his own path proved a personal challenge. At 16 and after having a disagreement with his father, he decided it was time to leave home. As he was packing his bags with approval to leave home, his father informed him that everything he had packed was paid for and provided by his mother and father. As a result of this disagreement, it was agreed that he would leave home with just his underpants and $20. His mates found much amusement as he climbed into their car in his underpants. After a year of living rough, hot and tough in a mate’s garage in Mount Isa, Bill decided to return home. However,
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given the argument with his father, there was a penalty for doing so and he had to pay the price. His father set out that Bill, as a penalty, had to teach a thalidomide child to swim a referee-approved 50 metres in two different strokes (the requirement to join the local swimming club), and only when and if he had succeeded in doing this could he move back home. Luckily the young boy was open to bribes and reinforcement, but in the enforced teaching baptism, Bill found his passion. A former swimmer himself, he’d given up on his Olympic dreams in 1972 to play rugby with his friends, but this teaching experience called him back to the pool and by the end of the 1974 summer, he was teaching 40-50 young children to swim. Never one to rest on his laurels, Bill was always reaching for the next level www.coachinglife.com.au
in anything he did. Through this new teaching and coaching passion, he built a small swimming pool in the back yard of his parents’ home. It was heated and enclosed and Bill gave everything to his teaching passion. In building this pool and with his lack of actual building skills, it was constructed in such a way that it could withstand an atomic blast and it became his dedicated teaching pool. One of the families that he was teaching was the Rafter family of Australian tennis fame. Jim Rafter was the Accountant at Mount Isa Mines and sat on the Board of the local Catholic school. Jim obviously saw something in Bill, so he convinced St Kierens School in Mount Isa to build a 25 metre pool where Bill was able to continue his coaching. Bill was always learning, even from his earliest students. One of these was a young lad named Anthony Byrne who volunteered in an early class how swimming was done. Anthony was certain that he could swim. After Bill fished him out of the pool (spluttering and coughing), Anthony explained that he could swim but just not yet. Anthony went on to achieve considerable success at State and National level for many years before taking a college scholarship in the USA. The confidence and attitude of this young man provided another lesson for Bill in his coaching career. www.coachinglife.com.au
Bill, Lauren Boyle, Janelle Plamister
Never one to rest on his laurels, Bill was always reaching for the next level in anything he did. Through this new teaching and coaching passion, he built a small swimming pool in the back yard of his parents’ home.
Anthony followed Bill to Brisbane where Bill worked with the local club (Carina) which included Stephen Holland. Laurie Lawrence had just retired from this position and Stephen’s parents had recruited Bill to coach the programme. Although Holland (the future “Superfish”) had already won gold at the 1974 Commonwealth Games, he would go on working with Bill to continue to improve and break more World Records. Before going to the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, Stephen had broken approximately 12 World Records with Laurie and Bill coaching him. Even though during this short 18-month period, Stephen improved some 12-15 seconds, Bill remained unhappy with his coaching of Stephen. Stephen had made significant improvements in his personal best time for the 1500 metres Freestyle in the 1975/76 era while training with Bill. He went on to win a Bronze medal in the 1500 at the 1976 Olympics, which was 2 seconds under the previous World Record. By the time Holland retired, he had also won 8 national titles over 400, 800 and 1500 metre distances.
of Sport. In 1980, Bill was appointed Head Coach for the Australian Olympic Swimming team at the Moscow Olympics and was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study all facets of coaching in the USA. Clearly, Bill was on a steep learning curve and on a mission to gain knowledge and experience, and lead fellow coaches in the pursuit of excellence by having the opportunity to learn from each other, no matter what the sport.
Working as Australia’s first ever Director of Coaching and in the role of Queensland Director of Coaching at that time, Bill was then recruited by Don Talbot for a role working with American coach, Dennis Pursley at the newly formed Australian Institute
Even a serious accident couldn’t halt this man’s single-minded quest for future success. In 1983, while on tour with the Australian team in West Germany, he was involved in a bus crash that severely injured his left leg. During the accident, it was both fortunate that dirt plugged the wound and stopped him bleeding to death. However, the bacteria in the dirt gave him a nasty bone infection which still continues to periodically flare up to this day. As a result of this accident, Bill spent 2 to 3 years on crutches and subsequently, his left leg is several centimetres than his right. The injury definitely slowed him down temporarily, but Bill was back on deck every day in 1984 coaching his swimmers on crutches with the famed Ken Wood as his assistant coach. Success continued to flow and Bill remained the Australian Head Coach for a further 2 Olympic Games COACHINGLIFE
OLYMPIC EDITION and coaches – through a more professional programme and approach. He relates this to planting a tree and observing it grow and bear fruit. “The greatest fear I have when I coach an athlete is that one day they will look back and think, ‘I could have done better’”, he confesses. “Swimmers are only as good as their coaches, and a winning partnership as required.” There’s not a morning when he doesn’t wake up at 4am, wishing he was somewhere coaching, because his love for coaching, swimming and success overrides everything else in his life.
Bill and Tracey Wickham
and on the staff for Australia for 5 Commonwealth Games, being voted Australian Coach of the Year for swimming 3 times and Australian Coach of the Year for all Sport for 1981 and Team of the Year in 1980. Up to this point in time, Bill had coached multiple world record holders such as Tracey Wickham, Michelle Ford and Stephen Holland. Working on his return from 4 years in Hong Kong, once again recruited by Don Talbot to come in and help prepare athletes and strategies for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney (1995-2000). The youth programme for Australian Swimming was a first, and is considered by most to have been and remains the world’s leading youth programme. Always an advocate for taking up new challenges and opportunities, along with continued professional development, Bill accepted an offer from British Swimming to become their National Performance Director and Head Coach after the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Up until this point, Britain had been in a downward spiral with its swim programme for many years, and the Sydney Olympics were the first time that the Brits returned home without a single medal for its swimmers. However, with Bill at the helm 6 years further on at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, British swimmers took home 15 gold medals. They produced their best ever performances at the World
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Championships and Olympics, breaking 200 domestic records along the way and nearly every record on the books. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Bill’s radical rejuvenation of the programme was met with resistance at every turn. “Britain pursued me pretty aggressively and I wanted a challenge,” he said. “I knew it was going to be tough – I just didn’t realise how tough.” They were hard years, trying to change and improve the culture and altitude, and Bill was thinking, “Did you bring me to the UK to change me or for me to make changes to British swimming?” However, despite the naysayers, Bill had clearly ushered in a new era of success for Britain in both swimming and sport in general. Olympic medallist, David Davies (1500 metres Freestyle and Open Water), was quoted as saying, “The biggest turning point was when we got Bill Sweetenham. He changed the attitude, the professionalism, the way people trained, the way coaches worked and thought.” Despite the ‘tough and eccentric’ moniker, accolades came from all corners, including his successor, Michael Scott: “I always say that the fundamental thing is that you’ve got to have good coaching. That is the legacy of Bill Sweetenham.” As for Bill, the shake up complainers weren’t his main focus. It was all about building a programme of success that would pay off for years to come, nurturing young talent – both athletes
After 8 years in the job and a very successful campaign for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Bill stepped down. It was time for a new challenge, a new growth opportunity. He said, “I feel like I’ve changed the course of history for British swimming”. Many also give him credit for doing the same thing for British sport. “I believe that I have left a legacy for Britain that will take it with good leadership further forward. In 10 years’ from now, I’ll look at it and in my conscience and my heart, I’ll think that I made a difference – I actually turned sport around in Britain.” One of the strategies that Bill was able to put in place in Britain was a talent identification and development programme in 2004 and 2005, where he developed what is considered by many to be the world’s most advanced early identification and development programme aimed at global success for womens’ swimming. It developed the likes of world and Olympic podium athletes such as Ellen Gandy, Rebecca Adlington, Hannah Miley, Kerri-anne Payne, Jo Jackson, Francesca Halsall and Jazz Carlin. This strategy was also supported by a very successful mens’ programme developed at the Offshore Training Centre located at The Southport School on the Gold Coast, where a small number of men, with the support of Coach Chris Nesbit, were able to win European Junior Championships for the first time in the modern history of competitive swimming in Britain. www.coachinglife.com.au
OLYMPIC EDITION Bill’s international coaching network wouldn’t let him relax for long. After leaving Britain, he spent time with Spain and greatly assisted them to a 2nd in the World Short Course Championships in both medals and points score. He recruited Fred Vergnoux from France to assist with the British programme – a close relationship that has lasted the years. He values Coach Vergnoux as a protege of his mentoring and professional association which will continue through the 2016 Olympics and beyond. Bill works closely with Michael Bohl (one of his ex-swimmers), Chris Nesbit, Ken Sabotic and Scott Talbot in a similar concept. Bill works closely with Argentina and has witnessed their massive improvements in the last 5 years. He was afforded much credit for their greatly improved performance at last year’s Pan American Games and their first ever male medal in the 100 metres Freestyle at the 2015 World Long Course Championships. He has also coached and continues to work with Lauren Boyle of New Zealand who also was a World Record holder during his coaching period with her, and he World Long Course medals won in 2015. Bill has mentored many coaches across many sports but clearly, after talking with him, one of his favourite achievements is mentoring Lisa Alexander who is now Head Coach of Australia’s netball team, the Diamonds. He has consulted with many sports including the New Zealand cycling team. Bill considers his biggest achievement to be mentoring coaches, having developed over 30 coaches in 4 countries to go from having no global performances to becoming global podium coaches. Coach education and development has become his greatest passion. This has extended outside the sports arena over time. The corporate world is now yet another advocate of Bill’s significant leadership and strategic development work – perhaps inevitable given the similarities between sport and business in www.coachinglife.com.au
their quest for success and driving performance targets. When not actively involved in a coaching programme, Bill is off searching the world for more knowledge and experience, and for the next piece of information that will connect the dots and improve athlete and coaching performance. He sought information from everyone and in every field. Now he considers knowledge to be less of an advantage and a winning point of difference. With the introduction of the internet, knowledge is now a common denominator of the top coaches in the world. He feels that 98% of coaches are trainers and focused on what happens from the neck down (the physical). In his observations and experience, many coaches can train but struggle with coaching. Coaching is from the neck up (the mental) and training is from the neck down. They must be connected. He believes that if you cannot inspire, then you cannot coach. Many of Bill’s lessons came from observations of racehorses training in Hong Kong when he lived on the Hong Kong Jockey Club (1990-1994). Subsequently, he observed Bart Cummings and Neville Begg train their stayers and sprinters. He relates how he questioned Bart on the coaching of horses. Bart’s response was that he had to “read the horse”. “Just like coaching an athlete, you have to know the heart and mind of who or what you are coaching”. Every Olympics are different for finding the winning edge, so relying on last year’s results or those of the last Olympics is not an option for Bill. There is only forward movement, improvement and positive change. “The growth of your learning has to keep you ahead of the field. Winning without improvement is just lucky, and luck will run out. Success comes from sustainable and reputable work.” Bill knows the business better than most. Incredibly, by a role as a National Head Coach or personally coaching an athlete or being part of a podium athlete’s programme, he has had a significant input to a podium athlete or team at every Olympics since 1976.
Truly legendary results! The secret to his success? “With great accuracy, do things that others are not prepared to do,” Bill says. Bill was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1989, and has now served as Head Coach at Olympic Games for 3 different countries. To do so once might be considered luck, but with results proven many times over, no one can deny his genius in strategic planning, national relay development strategies and for taking swimming to a new level of professionalism. As Bill says, “Luck has never been good to me!”. Bill believes that the future of coaching and training will come from the neural and sensory aspects of applied preparation. He campaigns constantly for a drug-free, transparent and fair playing field for the sport of swimming.
BILL’S 11 OLYMPIC GAMES 1976
2000 Sydney 2004 Athens 2008 Beijing 2012
Rio de Janeiro COACHINGLIFE
PROFESSIONAL, SKILLFUL, RUTHLESS:
HOCKEY – ADAM COMMENS, Head Coach, Women’s National Team (Hockeyroos), Hockey Australia
THE HOCKEYROOS STYLE I STARTED PLAYING HOCKEY WHEN I WAS 5 IN A SMALL COUNTRY TOWN NEAR JUNEE, NSW. WE CREATED A HOCKEY PITCH ON A LIVESTOCK RESERVE WITH THE COWS AND SHEEP. I PLAYED THERE THROUGHOUT PRIMARY SCHOOL, THEN EVENTUALLY MOVING TO SYDNEY FOR BOARDING SCHOOL AT 16. WHILE THE BOARDING SCHOOL WAS NOT PARTICULARLY KNOWN FOR ITS HOCKEY, IT ALLOWED ME TO GET CLOSER TO A HIGHER LEVEL OF COMPETITION.
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played at Sutherland Hockey Club and my coach, Greg Corben, drove me back and forth, 45 minutes each way until I was able to drive myself. Greg was the U17 coach at the time and first grade men’s team coach. The commitment of the coach and club was one of the deciding factors in why I chose to play there. The club and members went out on a limb to make me feel welcome.
Following the Games, I offered my coaching services to schools for 3-4 years in Sydney before moving back to Perth in hope of selection for Athens. Unfortunately, I broke my hand during a game against New Zealand, and, due to it being a very competitive group that year (they ended up winning the gold medal at Athens), I missed out on selection.
In 1995, I received an AIS hockey scholarship and I moved to Perth at 18 to train, study Physical Education at university and work to support myself. I was selected to make my debut for the Australian team on my 21st birthday, and was part of the Australian team that won the bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
During university, I’d thought that I’d like to coach at an elite level, potentially as a national team coach. I’d had many coaches in my career and evaluated what I liked or didn’t, and thought about what I would do in their position. Having a background in sports science also gives you an understanding of how the body works and how you might
OFF TO HOLLAND
ONES TO WATCH OUR BIGGEST RIVALS: Netherlands. They are the gold medal favourites and beat us in the last World Cup final. We’ve also had some great battles with NZ, who have some outstanding individuals, and Argentina, who are always an exciting side as well.
potentially coaching for Australia in the future. I thought it would be great to able to be a full-time coach, but in Australia there are limited positions, such as at State Institutes. The other option was to travel overseas, which is what I chose. A lot of hockey players choose to go to Holland as it is regarded as the premier club competition in the world with the most money. I thought there may be opportunities in Belgium, possibly even to coach a women’s side in first division. I hoped, if I proved my worth as a coach, there might even be a chance with one of the Belgian national teams.
prepare athletes, alongside the mental aspects of the game. I also had the technical and tactical aspects from being a player at a high level. But there’s a lot more to coaching that just that!
I was fortunate to find a club who would take a chance on me as a ‘trainer’: Royal Antwerp Hockey Club. I went as a player and trainer for the first grade men’s hockey team. After a while I started as an assistant coach for their women’s team before taking over the following year as the Head Coach.
After the 2004 Athens Olympics, my decisions were geared towards
I also worked with their Juniors, which led to opportunities with the national
team. I went from the U18 women’s team to be Head Coach of the Belgium men’s team at 31 years old. It was a team with a lot of potential, and we qualified for the Beijing Olympics 6 weeks after I took over. It was an absolute fairytale, as it was the first time Belgium had qualified in 32 years. We had to beat the world champions (Germany) to qualify – with 3 seconds to go in the match! It was very exciting and the crowd ran onto the pitch. I led that team to Beijing, ending up 9th, however I felt we performed very well overall.
HOCKEYROOS – CHALLENGES AND CHANGES At the end of 2010, I applied for my now role with the Hockeyroos in Australia and started in January 2011 with an 18 month run towards the London Olympics. The Australian women’s team had been a little unlucky with some of their results, slipping down to 7th in the world rankings. The women’s game had become more professional and the international scene more competitive.
To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re coaching men or women. It’s about coaching the individual and getting the best out of them, helping them be the best they can possibly be.
To ensure we had the right kind of hockey player for the modern game, we made selection decisions based on who we felt gave us the best chance of winning a medal, as well as building sustained success for the team. It did not relate to previous results or the commitment of the players. Those who weren’t selected initially were given opportunities to change their game and learn to play the style we were after. Some adapted very well, others didn’t, which then made room for some outstanding players that we have now to come through such as Jodie Kenny, who is probably the best central defender in the world, Anna Flanagan, Edwina Bone. They now play alongside some great stalwarts of the team: Casey Eastham, Madonna Blyth, T eneal Attard. We were equal 1st in our division in London, only missing out on the semifinals by goal difference. We ended up coming 5th only losing one game (0-1 to NZ). I was able to keep my position after the Olympics, and since then
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we’ve played in 11 major tournaments and made the final in 10. It’s been a really successful period for the group.
COACHING MENS VS WOMENS TEAMS To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re coaching men or women. It’s about coaching the individual and getting the best out of them, helping them be the best they can possibly be. In the women’s game, the coach can have more impact due to the tactical things you can do. I coached men and women in Belgium and both versions of the game are equally as challenging. You need to create an environment where players feel comfortable in performing and using their talents. They need to feel confident to try things that might get the result. It’s not easy as a coach, because you’re trying to create players who make better decisions, but also highlight and correct errors, which can make them afraid to make mistakes. This is especially important in the lead up to an Olympic Games.
We work very hard on establishing our brand of hockey and what is important to us. We must consider what decisions are made in the moment. If a player makes a correct decision but loses the contest, then it’s important that the coach doesn’t dwell on it. Making a correct decision is more important than correct execution. Obviously you want both, but along the way, when an athlete makes an error in execution, you work on in training so that in the future they’ll have the skill level to execute it. One of the big changes in the last 5-6 years, is how we use different mental strategies in the lead up to tournaments and in how we prepare for matches. Each player has a routine that they’ve worked out over their careers, and we try to fine-tune that. We have a psychologist, Darren Everett, who has been instrumental in creating our culture and trademark behaviour, setting out the standards that we want to live by on and off the pitch. It includes looking at your lifestyle as an www.coachinglife.com.au
DID YO KNOW U ?
athlete. Quite often, you’ll find that’s the difference between top level teams. It’s not that you can’t switch off, it’s that you recognise that you’re an athlete, and the decisions you make are based around this.
THE FI RST O LYMPI SUSPE C DRU NSION G W AS IN 1 HANS968 FO GUNN SWED A R R LILJEN ISH PE WALL, NTATH POSIT A LET IVE FO R ALCO E. HE TESTE D SEVER HOL. H AL BEE E DRA R N S K PENTA BEFOR THLON E THE – WHI AGAIN CH WA ST THE S RULES .
MY RIO EXPECTATIONS I would say that the girls are going into their Olympic campaign confident, but there are a number of teams who are going in with the same mindset. There are also a few who are continually improving and can cause an upset on any given day. Right now, we’re focusing on ourselves and perfecting our style of hockey. If we can play that way at the right moments, we can beat anyone. While many teams’ idea of success is winning a gold medal, our team views success as playing an exciting brand of hockey that is recognisable as the Hockeyroos. Our play is uncompromising, professional, skilful, united, ruthless, all working for each other, at an elite level of skill. If we do that, the result will take care of itself. Much of this relates to behaviour and mental preparation. If the players are nervous, unsure, or not on the ball, they’re not going to play their best hockey. A great example is the Wallabies in the last World Cup – while they didn’t win, the style of rugby they played inspired the Australian rugby supporters to get behind them. It was a brilliant, attacking style of play, and you could see what they stood for as a team, reinforced by Michael Cheika.
HARD CHOICES When you’re working in a sport that you love, you don’t really see it as work. I do it because I love it. You do have to www.coachinglife.com.au
make difficult choices – I have a 7 yearold daughter who lives in Belgium, who I left at age 1 to take up the position with the Hockeyroos. It was a really difficult decision and I’ve decided to return to Belgium after this Olympics. My difficult choice this time is leaving the Hockeyroos. I think that their best years are ahead of them, and it’s hard to leave when you can see a hugely successful 4 years leading up to 2020 Tokyo. But my daughter would then be 11; I would have been away for 10 years of her life. My wife Stephanie is also from Belgium and is expecting in June this year. You find that coaches of high-level sporting teams have to make family sacrifices regularly, and it’s not always easy for the people around you. It’s easy to be too focused on your work and not have a healthy balance. I’m sure I will continue to coach in some form, either with athletes or in high performance working with coaches. I’ve been coaching internationally for 10 years and it’s very intense. You have a number of staff and 25-30 players that you’re on call for 24/7. It would be nice to have a break from that and refresh, but there’s nothing like standing on the side of the pitch, coaching your team to victory. I’d like to coach for another Olympic Games, if I get the opportunity.
3 TOP TIPS
It’s important to know what you want to achieve. Use all the development opportunities available and be open-minded to learn. When I first started, I thought I had a good grasp on how I wanted to coach and communicate, but in reality, how I coach now is worlds apart from my original ideas.
Everyone is capable of developing and learning, and creating their own style over time. You need to adapt and change the way you give messages to the people that you work with. To develop this skill, you need to think about it quite deeply, rather than expect it to develop organically over time.
Continual development as a coach is very important. I try to seek out other high level coaches and learn as much as I can from them. I’ve always been a big believer in using mentors and people that you respect throughout your career. I find that this style of personal development is more effective than going to one-day courses.
IT’S ALL IN THE PLANNING RUGBY 7s – TIM WALSH, National Women’s 7s Head Coach, Australian Rugby Union I WAS ORIGINALLY A RUGBY PLAYER FOR THE QUEENSLAND REDS, AND THEN WENT ON TO AN INTERNATIONAL CAREER THAT SPANNED 10 YEARS. I PLAYED A LOT OF 7S THROUGHOUT MY CAREER, COMPETING IN 20 TOURNAMENTS FOR AUSTRALIA AND GOING TO THE 2002 COMMONWEALTH GAMES IN MANCHESTER.
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played in England for 6 years with Leeds Carnegie, Worchester Warriors and Birmingham & Solihull, as well as with North Harbour for New Zealand, back to the Reds in 2010, and finished up my career in Padova, Italy, playing 15s from 20102012 with Petrarca. I absolutely loved playing in Italy. It was an amazing experience, just from a personal growth aspect, I was immersing myself in a different culture, struggling through the language – although I can speak some Italian now! We ended up being very successful all over Europe. It was a great way to finish my rugby career. Whilst in Europe I played for Samurai Rugby 7s International team – a very prestigious invitation-only team. Throughout that time, I worked with some of the best coaches and players in the world, such as Mike Friday and Ben Ryan. I learned a lot from these guys, playing under them and then coaching with them as I stepped into my first coaching roles. www.coachinglife.com.au
Coming into the Olympics, it would be naive to think that the pressure remains the same but it is a catalyst for us to be able to attract sensational athletes and another challenge for us to embrace and thrive off. Throughout my career as a player, I had always coached rugby when I could, so I did my coaching badges Level 1 (in Australia), Level 2 (in England) and Level 3 at the RFU (whilst in Italy). I’ve also always tried to increase my knowledge around business, so I’ve completed several degrees, diplomas and courses, and now nearly have my MBA. I’m very fortunate to be able to be in the business of sport, and specifically my passion, rugby. While I was in Italy, the U20s World Cup was to be held in Padova, so the Australian team came over and I ended up working for them as analyst and Assistant Coach for Australian Rugby
Union (ARU). Once I retired from rugby, I became the Coaching Coordinator for the ARU Rugby 7s for both Men’s and Women’s programs. This involved travelling for 6 months of the year and supporting the Men’s team in Las Vegas and the Women’s in China. After a year, in 2013, the opportunity to be Head Coach of the Women’s Rugby 7s team arose and I’m now in my 3rd season with them. It was amazing development for me, being able to see what worked and what didn’t for both teams. Within that time, the 7s game became a full-time program for the Women’s. It enabled me to really focus on one team, take COACHINGLIFE
ownership and mould them to where I wanted them to go and their style of play. I love the fact that I can shape and grow the team. When I took over as Head Coach, they had finished 7th in the World Series and 5th in the World Cup in Moscow (2013). I had been coaching both Men’s and Women’s squads as an interim appointment after the departure of the Men’s Head Coach. I was assigned the task of leading the men’s team to Olympic qualification in Rio, which we achieved successfully through the Oceania tournament. Andy Friend has now taken over as Men’s Head Coach, as he has just returned from Japan.
PLAN TO PEAK AT THE RIGHT TIME Taking over the Women’s team, we had a flush out of players to quickly change the culture. We developed a focused strategy around recruitment and selection. I gave the girls some policies and structures around play and behaviour. We won the first tournament in Dubai, were 3rd in Atlanta, won Sao Paolo, and
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made every final after that. We ended up finishing the 2014 season 2nd overall. The following year we finished 3rd for the season, and currently we are sitting 1st. If you look at our ranking and form, we are a massive chance in Rio. There is a lot to be done between now [time of writing] and then. It depends on who can peak at the right time, handle the pressures of the Olympics and maintain focus. That’s the reality of the whole experience. If we perform at our best, then I believe we can win it. We have great depth and great players with a lot of experience. Working towards Olympic medals means you cannot maintain peak performance over a full period of 18 months. We have to schedule in specific down times and rest periods, and maintain a focused season plan around what tournaments we are targeting. We have to be smart and recognise that there may be some games over the season where we will not be quite at our physical best as a consequence of the plan to peak at the right time.
2 months ago we hosted an Olympic family day. Everyone close to the players was invited – parents, partners, friends – with the aim to help them stay focused and be protected from excessive pressure. We brought in the Women’s Water Polo Captain, Bronwen Knox, who will be attending her 3rd Olympics, and was on the bronze medal-winning teams from 2008 and 2012. She was able to speak to our team about what their Olympic preparation, both past and present. Her mother was also able to share about how she could help Bronwen cope with the pressure. We also brought in a sports psychologist to work on any focus issues and on personal development. The AIS have been very supportive with their resources and gave us access to the Water Polo, Hockey, Netball and Basketball teams. Being able to talk to other coaches in similar situations is a great help and there is a huge depth of expertise and experience. I meet with Rod Macqueen every so often to talk about rugby strategies and bounce ideas. The beauty of having travelled so much as a player meant www.coachinglife.com.au
U O Y DIDNOW? K
ES, GAM I K IN NT ELS ERE 52 H 3 DIFF E FOR 9 1 HE RE ON , AT T RE WE AGES. E MEN L TH VIL WO TES C R I O F MP LE OLY N, ONE R ATH IN O A F ME URT ONE NC . AND M IRO S IE FRO OUNTR C
I was able to spend time with a lot of different amazing coaches (e.g. Mike Friday, Brian Ashton, Peter Grigg, Ewen McKenzie), see their strategies, their different ways of doing things, and then pick out the things that worked for my style and implement them. Lately the single biggest influence on my coaching has been David Nucifora, who played for the Wallabies in the 1991 Rugby World Cup winning team. He consulted for the women’s team for a year before he took up the position of Head of Performance at the Irish rugby union. He also coached me as a player, and has mentored me as a coach to become who I am today.
THE PERFORMANCE MATRIX Coming into the Olympics, it would be naive to think that the pressure remains the same but it is a catalyst for us to be able to attract sensational athletes and another challenge for us to embrace and thrive off. 3 years ago I wrote down all the criteria I thought we needed to be to win the Olympic medal. A sample of these were: • squad size • physical results • mental psychology • game trends • leadership (players) • leadership (coaching) • skills needed to be the world’s best These were all included into a performance matrix to develop the team to where we are today. We keep monitoring and adjusting it to keep the players highly motivated and www.coachinglife.com.au
I try to create an environment to allow individuals to perform at their peak. I see myself as a transformational leader but also a servant leader.
challenged. Getting the best comes from being creative and keeping it enjoyable, although it is hard work. We do lots of identity building that we work on every year and create vision statements that we live by as a team. Team Identity is built around the culture and drives player behaviour. It’s has become our moral compass so that every big decision or behaviour we require, we always turn back to the vision statement, which helps us make the tough decisions. Everyone has the vision statement on a card in their wallet that they carry around. There is a shortened acronym version that the players developed which is tagged on the bottom of emails and up in the locker room. It is everywhere to help permeate their lives, inform their decisions and help them live it.
ALWAYS LOOKING AHEAD Overall it is a process-driven, performance-based team. We are continually setting goals, reaching them and adjusting them onto another goal. We’ve always had Rio 2016 in our sights, but are now also looking ahead to the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Looking back at the list I created 3 years ago, there are a lot of differences to what actually happened! Injuries do happen due to rugby being a contact sport, and will put a dent in the plans, but the squad size now has the depth to cover all bases with experience. We made sure we had world-class international experience and the team is well on track, if not exceeding expectations. While I’m never satisfied, never complacent, it is really pleasing
to see that my initial predictions were fairly close to what we have achieved so far. The last 3 years have had themes: • 2014: Platform and Establishment – becoming a full-time team, establishing an identity • 2015: Growth and Leadership – maturing into a world-class team, leading on and off the field in the way Women’s 7s is played • 2016: Dominance and Destiny I try to create an environment to allow individuals to perform at their peak. I see myself as a transformational leader but also a servant leader. I create the opportunity for them to excel but not dictate via measures and markers. I want to create something they can own, where they have the freedom to express themselves and perform. I went to the Commonwealth Games as a player but this will be my first Olympic games. We all stay in the village and our tournament is actually in the first 3 days. After that, the coaches fly home and the athletes stay. We won’t go to the opening ceremony, which ended up being an easy decision that comes back to our original vision statement. The simple answer was no, as it would affect our performance. We didn’t have to argue with the players at all, because this is how they think. We are very fortunate to have the competition so early. If they do well, they’ll have a fantastic second week! I am also glad because I will make it back in time for my little boy’s 2nd birthday. To be not only the Head Coach, but to take this team to the Olympics, is a dream. COACHINGLIFE
PREPARING FOR ANOTHER FAIRYTALE ENDING
I WAS ORIGINALLY A DIVER MYSELF FOR MEXICO. I STARTED OFF AS A SWIMMER, BUT NOT BEING TALL OR FAST ENOUGH, I MOVED ONTO DIVING IN 1974. SWIMMING IN MEXICO IS NOT FANTASTIC, THEY DON’T HAVE BIG INTERNATIONAL RESULTS AT ALL, BUT DIVING IS COMPLETELY THE OPPOSITE. IN DIVING, MEXICO HAS ALWAYS BEEN VERY COMPETITIVE AND HAVE WON A FEW OLYMPIC MEDALS AND HAD SOME WORLD CHAMPIONS. DIVING FOR MEXICO IS LIKE SWIMMING FOR AUSTRALIA! ALL THE TV NETWORKS FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS TO SHOW NATIONALS AND INTERNATIONAL TRIALS EVENTS.
DIVING – CHAVA SOBRINO, National Coach, NSWIS
ended up representing Mexico at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, where I was 11th in the 10m platform event. I was only 19 years old and it was huge. For any young athlete, it is a dream come true to represent your country at an Olympics. After the Olympics, I had an injury to my left shoulder, so I started helping out and coaching in order to keep my sports scholarship as financial aid. I managed to compete for another year before retiring in 1981 and turning to coaching. Since taking up coaching, I have not looked back. Although my induction to coaching was circumstantial, I realised that I really enjoyed it and I was lucky to have
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started with a really good group. Some of that group ended up going to the Olympics and winning medals. At the time, Mexico had good ties with Cuba – one of the Communist countries who had a large amount of money invested into sport research. Therefore, we always had good coaching courses. I also had a great mentor, a Bulgarian sports scientist called Stoyanka Dovreva who was a “methodologist”. She studied training methods for better performance, and from her I learned how to do all the programming, planning, volumes and intensities. I still use a lot of these planning principals to this day.
As an athlete, I didn’t understand that the programs were all planned and controlled. I thought I just walked up to a pool and trained. What seemed random was actually very well planned. Soon, I found it very interesting that you could control and predict results by setting goals and developing training programs. Even athletes in this day and age won’t realise just how much their coaches have put into their preparation. In 1994, I moved to Brisbane to coach for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It’s very hard as you have to leave your family, friends, culture, everything. I had initially thought to come to Australia www.coachinglife.com.au
OLYMPIC EDITION for only 2 years, but I’m still here (22 years later)! I am glad, however, as the situation in Mexico is very dangerous now with the drugs and crimes. Since 1996, the sport has opened up and I saw the opportunity to move to Sydney and the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS). At NSWIS, I developed really good relationships with other sport coaches, for example, Gary Sutton, the National Coach for Cycling, and Kenneth Graham, the Senior Sport Scientist at NSWIS, as well as all the coaches from swimming who have helped me develop and mature. I’ve learned to create a network of people and a team that will work for my squad and program. I can also compare our programs with other sports and types of training. I am almost finished the Podium Coaches Course with the Australian Institute of Sport, which runs for a year. It builds creative networks, interpersonal relationships, and brings in experts on personal development and administration. It’s probably the
best course I’ve ever seen. We have a hub of approximately 15 coaches for a wide variety of sports, and I now have a network to call and talk through ideas and solutions with.
comes mellowing and I just want the best result for Australia, which removes a lot of pressure and gives the staff the freedom to be creative, innovative and motivated.
DEVELOPING ATHLETE SELF-BELIEF
To prepare the athletes for the challenges of Olympic competition, I try to use my experience to give them self-belief. I don’t want them to depend on me 100%. For example, we have Melissa Wu and Esther Qin competing in Canada and Russia at the moment. They went with my assistant coach, Joel Rodriguez. I feel like he’s capable and has coached these girls for a long time alongside me. Another of our coaches, Vyninka Arlow is with the junior teams, who are currently competing in Germany and Holland. I don’t want to take all the trips, as the younger coaches need to develop as well and stay motivated. Otherwise you don’t generate a good environment and longevity in the team. All the athletes believe they have 4 coaches, which is perhaps peculiar to our sport. We respect our athletes for who and what they are, and help them to develop professionally as well.
Comparing Olympic preparation in Australia to that in Mexico, much of the planning is the same, but I’m more experienced and mature now and don’t feel I have to do everything myself. In Mexico, we didn’t use of cameras, delay systems and biomechanics and I have introduced more technology and sports medicine into diving but I don’t need to be an expert in everything. So much is provided by NSWIS to help facilitate my job and make it easier for me to concentrate on the technical and competition aspects of the sport. Although there are more people to coordinate, a ‘service team’, it’s actually easier to manage. We have 4 coaches now at the Institute and we all help each other out and provide new ideas, which is refreshing. With maturity
Across Australia, Diving Australia has three national diving centres, and I am one of 3 national coaches. The others are Michel Larouche from Canada, and Tong Hui from China. We all have different techniques, ideas and training methods, which makes for very interesting meetings. Diving Australia has done a very good job in bringing us and the centres together, along with a talent identification program at each centre to develop our next Olympic medallists.
WILL RIO HAVE ANOTHER FAIRYTALE ENDING? The Rio Olympics are coming up very fast. Our first hurdle is to get our top 4 NSWIS team members selected: Melissa Wu (silver medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics), Esther Qin, Brittany Broben (silver medallist at the 2012 London Olympics) and Kevin Chavez. The other diving programs also have strong teams, so the competition nationally is very tough. In www.coachinglife.com.au
ONES TO WATCH Our top Australian athletes: Esther Qin, Brittany Broben, Melissa Wu, Grant Nel, Kevin Chavez, Maddison Keeney, Dominic Bedggood. Adelaide, they have Grant Nel (Men’s springboard), and in Brisbane they have Maddison Keeney (Women’s springboard) and Dominic Bedggood (Men’s platform). But there’s also a strong group of new, younger athletes who are also very keen for selection.
HEALTH The other major
Whoever makes the team, we prepare them to aim for a medal and say, “Whatever happens, you will be ok at the end.” That’s what I did with Matthew Mitcham, for example, at the Beijing Olympics. When he first arrived, he didn’t believe he could be a medal contender. That changed very quickly and in the end it was a gold medal result which was great, especially because he achieved a perfect 10 score in China. China is the number 1 nation in the world for diving.
great now, but when you’re younger,
When he scored a perfect 10, it was like a movie ending. He was 30-odd points behind in the last round on the last day, so it was very difficult to make up the ground in a single day. When he got a very high degree of difficulty dive, he achieved 112 points in that day, and won gold. It was simply amazing.
mornings is also very difficult! If I
THE REALITY OF COACHING AT THE TOP Some of the hardest things for me as a coach are: TRAVEL One of the hardest things for me, is the fact that I have to travel so much when I have a 10 year-old daughter, Maya. Leaving your family behind is always one of the biggest sacrifices as a coach.
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sacrifice is probably your health. It’s very stressful work, with a lot of pressure, expectations and long hours. After the London Olympics, I ended up having a mild heart attack and had a stent put in my heart. I’m you think you’re invincible and can take anything. EFFORT DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL SUCCESS With the team, one of the most awful things for a coach is when your athletes work hard and still don’t do well. You love them as if they’re your own kids, so when they genuinely struggle, it’s difficult to see. MORNINGS! As a Mexican, coaching won Lotto, I’d drop morning coaching completely and just do afternoons. We start training at 6am in the mornings, but swimming starts training at 5am, and poor guys, I just look at them and go, “Oh my God, you’ve been here for 1 hour coaching already.” I’ve had to adapt to this life, the culture in Mexico is very different! I still love coaching as much as I did in Mexico. I love the competition, the training and seeing kids go from nothing to an amazing athlete. I’ll continue on, but at the same time, I would like my program to continue on for another cycle with Diving Australia
2 TOP TIPS 1
Believe in yourself and what you’re doing. You always have to believe it. Sometimes there will be situations that will make you doubt, but just 100% believe in what you are capable of because you’re capable of doing amazing things.
The best route to get to the brain is through the heart. You need to really connect with your athletes. If the heart is not there in the relationship, it’s not going to happen. You will get better results if you are able to connect well with your athletes.
and NSWIS. www.coachinglife.com.au
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THE HEAD COACH ROLE: IT’S ALL ABOUT TEAM SWIMMING – JACCO VERHAEREN, Head Coach, Swimming Australia
I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN THE NETHERLANDS, AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PASSIONATE ABOUT SPORT. AS AN ATHLETE, I WASN’T GREAT AT IT. I THINK I LACKED TALENT, BUT I DID LOVE IT AND PLAYED A LOT. THE COMBINATION OF MY INTEREST IN HUMAN BEINGS AND THE PHYSIOLOGY BEHIND SPORT TOOK ME TO A SPORT ACADEMY IN THE NETHERLANDS. EVEN AT AGE 14, WHEN I WAS STILL SWIMMING, I WANTED TO BECOME A COACH, SO EVEN THEN I STARTED TO WORK TOWARDS IT.
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t the academy, the first year is very general, studying a lot of sports like athletics, gymnastics, hockey, football, and I chose judo as well. In the second year, it is a choice, and I chose swimming and judo, because I was active in both sports myself. In the final year, I really decided to go for swimming. So at 19, I was on deck being mentored by another coach and still studying at school at the same time. I was very lucky to get a job, and not a full-time one at that, because at that time in the Netherlands, full-time jobs in swimming didn’t exist. Many coaches were volunteers. So I worked part-time in swimming, and the other half in gyms just to make money. I started with a small but talented swim team and went to my first international event as a coach 4 years later – the European Youth Championships in Turkey, 1994, with a talent I was coaching at the time named Pieter van den Hoogenband. He won 3 gold medals there. In
1995, we went to my first senior event, the European Championships in Vienna, then to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. From that moment on, I’ve been every year to either a European Championships, World Championships or Olympic Games.
A STEEP LEARNING CURVE Pieter van den Hoogenband was the first athlete I had international success with. He was only 18 at the 1996 Olympics, and managed to be fourth in both the 100m and 200m freestyle. I also had a girl who won two bronze medals for the 400m and 800m freestyle. Those were surprising medals, but Pieter and my other medley swimmer were a bit unlucky not to get to the podium. It became my inspiration to continue and try to do better. Certainly with Pieter that worked out brilliantly with his gold medals at the next Olympics in the same two events and breaking both world records. The 1996 Olympics were my first and I www.coachinglife.com.au
I think the most important thing in a coach is that you get more experience with different people. Every unique person needs a different approach. didn’t have any experience whatsoever. Obviously, you make a lot of mistakes and need to discover a lot of things, and I was lucky to have the time to make those mistakes and still do some good. From 1989 to 1996 was a big learning curve for me as a beginning coach, being exposed to international competition. From 1996 onwards to Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, I was capitalising on that experience. You never stop learning as a coach. I definitely appreciate the experience I needed to have in the first 7 years of coaching to become a better coach. I think your coaching style, that relates to the way you are, doesn’t change much. Coaching style is very personal. But you get more experience and learn more to work with the individuals. My first 7 years, I was working generally. I had a program that everyone did, and there was only a little individualisation. The program worked pretty well, but after 1996 I took more science on board and started to work with external experts like physiologists, biomechanics, strength and conditioning coaches. I think the most important thing in a coach is that you get more experience with different people. Every unique person needs a different approach. As a coach, you don’t step away from your values, beliefs and structure, but you do work differently with each individual. If you have 9 people and no assistant coach, it’s a lot of work. It’s comparable to what Michael Bohl does these days. He has a lot of swimmers on www.coachinglife.com.au
the team and works on his own. Most coaches work with one or two people, sometimes 4 on the national team and that’s it, but the group dynamics within your group change as you add more people and so do the challenges: spreading your attention, your coaching on the day itself. You will always have some athletes that do well and others who don’t, and you have to learn to manage those emotions within yourself as well. Michael Bohl is a master in doing that.
INDIVIDUAL VS GROUP COACHING When I got a bit older, my group was a bit smaller. At the 2012 Olympics, I had 4 or 5 people, and I was working very, very individualised. I think the biggest shift in my coaching has been to really go more in depth with all the experts. At the beginning of my career I couldn’t do this as there wasn’t the opportunity. I definitely didn’t have the knowledge and experience to manage all these people around a program. In the end, you get used to working with a team around you. You stay the coach, but you become a manager of a high performance team as well. In my home training environment, I like between 6-10 athletes. You can still give individual attention, but there is a group dynamic. But I know some coaches that work very well one-on-one with an athlete. I think it comes down to your personality and character. When I started coaching, I had 40 swimmers, and there was no place for individualisation. Instead of real coaching, it becomes training and keeping people busy. For high performance, that number is definitely too high. Ideally we’re looking around 8 swimmers is manageable, and 6-8 very manageable for a coach in high performance. After 2012, I decided to quit individual coaching. I’d been in the sport for 24 years working as a coach either one-onone or with groups, and I thought it was time for a change. From 2006-2012, I
had combined the role of head coach with being an individual coach and the technical director. In hindsight, it was too much work, so I decided to focus more of the being the technical director and reorganise the Federation.
AUSTRALIA: A NATION OF SWIMMERS AND COACHES In 2013, I got a call from Michael Scott, the Performance Director for Swimming Australia, asking if I was interested in a role in Australia. Because the Australian system is so big, I always thought that a head coach, technical director or performance director for Australia would be Australian, so I didn’t expect it. There are so many good coaches and people around. I’ve always seen Australia as one of the biggest swimming nations and always thought it must be a great place to for a coach to live and work because of the popularity of swimming. There was lot of opportunity, it was more professional compared to the Netherlands, so I was very interested, I just didn’t know what people would think of me becoming a head coach. Professionally the choice is not so difficult, but shaking up your family’s lives and leaving friends is much bigger and more difficult. My wife and two boys did a great job adjusting in another culture and making new friends. I was recommended the Gold Coast to live, and although I fly around the country working with other coaches, nearly 75-80% of the team lives in Queensland, so it makes it easier. I needed to get used to it professionally and really find my role – work out what difference you can make, what value you can provide as Head Coach in the system, with the coaches and with the national team. It took me a while to figure out and actually build relationships. Obviously there are things you have to adjust to. Australia is not Europe. There’s a lot of rules and policies in Australia, and cultural differences. It’s not a problem, just something you have to get used to. COACHINGLIFE
NO TWO COACHES COACH THE SAME Because the role is bigger, you have a broader responsibility for both coaches and athletes. It requires more inspiring and informing and consulting. You have to trust the people you work with, and I’m lucky to work with a lot of great coaches here. You can walk into a program, share ideas and knowledge with the coach, try to inspire, but in the end the coach will do what they think is best for their athletes, and you have to trust and respect them in that. There is no coach that runs the same program as another coach. For example, David Lush and Michael Bohl are very different from one another. Their programs don’t look alike, not on land or in the water, not their coaching style or skills, and yet they are both great coaches. The beauty of Michael Bohl is that he doesn’t take anything for granted, even at his level. He knows what’s required but will never guarantee you medals. David Lush is at the beginning of his career by comparison, and I’m impressed by the way he deals with things, by his style and philosophy, which is very modern. But whether you’re experienced or not, we can all be successful as long as we keep communicating and trying to make each other better coaches. My role is to create the best possible environment for the coaches. Two weeks out from the Olympics, we bring the teams together, and this is where I lead the meetings and experts in the team. I perfect and protect the best possible environment for the coaches and athletes to work in. What Michael Bohl does with Mitch Larkin is not my business. I make strategic choices of training locations, relay teams, jet lag protocol, strategy with nutritionists, team atmosphere. I lead conversations with the physiotherapists, the psychologist, the team managers, and bringing it all together. I’m not the one making the medals. My opinion matters
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MY TOP TIP To be a good coach, you need to be absolutely passionate and committed towards your goal. There’s no way around, only that passion will bring you the results. On top of that, try to be the best version of yourself. That means constantly develop yourself and never think or believe you know it all. At the same time, believe you can do the best possible, then ultimately your passion and belief, while being yourself, will bring you up to the level. Sometimes you need to accept the fact that everybody’s got a particular talent for something. Sometimes it’s also ok to be the best possible development coach in the country. Try to be the best version of yourself, and whether or not that is a lead coach or a development coach, only time will tell.
in the conversation where we share knowledge and debate things, but as soon as I walk away, I trust them to take the best ideas they can use themselves and leave the rest. This is the way it should work. I’m a sounding board to talk to on a technical level or on how they work with their staff and other people. I never think about the results because they are uncontrollable, even for the athletes. The only thing you can control is yourself, the way you approach and prepare for the race. Our mantra is peak performance, which means be the best you can on the day that it counts. I will always encourage the team, but never mention a word
DID Y KNO OU W?
GOL D ME GAM E AT DAL BAS KETB T GAM ALL ES W HE 1936 B A E S ON A R H SAND ELD OU LIN T RAIN , MA COURT I SIDE K N I TH N IMPO G DR SSIB IBBL E L I NG E. T SCO RE W HE FINA L AS 19 -8.
on medals or results. Thinking about outcomes gets in the way of the best possible process, which leads to the best possible outcome. www.coachinglife.com.au
AFL’S OLYMPIC HISTORY OVER THE YEARS, AFL AND CLUB PROFESSIONAL STAFF, PARTICULARLY IN THE MEDICAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CONDITIONING AREAS, HAVE ASSISTED OLYMPIC TEAMS AND SPORTS PROGRAMS. AS A KEY EMPLOYER FOR MANY SUCH STAFF, THEY OFTEN HAVE THEIR PROFESSIONAL START THROUGH INITIAL AFL PLACEMENTS. Most recently, Swimming Australia turned to 3-time AFL premiers, Hawthorn FC, for help in rebuilding its organisation prior to Rio. Swimming’s high performance team had talks with Hawks coach, Alastair Clarkson and his leadership team, as well as former Sydney premiership coach, Paul Roos, and Geelong Chairman, Colin Carter, to improve its leadership team concept and overall team culture. AFL has an even longer history with the Olympics, having been a demo sport at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. The exhibition match between the Victorian Amateur Team (VAFA) and a combined VFL/VFA Amateur team was played immediately after the bronze medal soccer match between Bulgaria and India. Commentary was given throughout the game to explain umpire decisions and rules. Interestingly, basketball legend Andrew Gaze’s father, Lindsay (an Olympic basketball coaching legend himself), was an emergency for the VFL/VFA team.
Pictured here is a replica of the original jumper worn by the winning VAFA team for the special exhibition game.
Photo: Guillaume Béguin
SELECTING THE RIGHT TEAM FOR THE JOB EQUESTRIAN – PRUE BARRETT, National Peformance Director (Eventing), Equestrian Australia
I GREW UP IN A FAMILY THAT WAS HEAVILY INVOLVED IN EQUESTRIAN SPORTS. MY MOTHER COMPETED HERSELF QUITE A LOT AND IT WAS A FAMILY AFFAIR. MYSELF AND MY 3 OLDER SIBLINGS ALL RODE FROM AN EARLY AGE.
OU Y D I D OW? KN
THE RS AT E S A H N AN PLEC TO RU K D A STEE H ES RAC GAM THE T ST F O 1932 A LAP FICIAL LO EXTR F AN O WHEN COUNT!
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first went to Musgrave Pony Club, in Bundaberg, Queensland, and for most of that time my mother was also the Chief Instructor at the club. Mum really directed us into eventing. We lived in a very strong area for eventing and show jumping and she saw it as a way to get us to do dressage! (Eventing consists of 3 phases: dressage, cross country and show jumping.) She was prepared to drive miles and miles for us to compete. I originally started coaching at the local pony club at age 18/19. Because my Mum was already a coach there, we always had kids that used to come and ride at our place, and I was put in charge of them. I worked in a ‘real job’ in a bank for a couple of years, and then went to work for Heath and Rozzie Ryan in NSW who had represented Australia. I did an apprenticeship of sorts with them, and gained my NCAS Level 1
coaching qualification. After that, I went overseas to train for a few months in England and based myself at the yards of British Olympians Lucinda and David Green, and Richard Meade. Once I came home, I concentrated on competing and set up business with my now husband, Craig, producing horses, coaching and competing at the highest level myself. I was selected for my first Australian team in 1993. Craig is a coach as well, so it’s really good to work with someone else in that environment, developing your own coaching techniques and strategies, and learning to work with a group of riders. Craig and I had been coached by Heath Ryan and Wayne Roycroft, who at the time were national coaches themselves. We were brought into the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) equestrian program and often when Heath or Wayne were not available, we would be called on instead. When I decided to start a family and stopped competing, we had the opportunity www.coachinglife.com.au
In 2008, there was a scholarship program for coaches through the Australian Sports Commission. Equestrian Australia nominated me to be the scholarship coach at that time, which allowed me to go as the Assistant Coach for the national team at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky 2010. I’d built up a relationship with Wayne Roycroft, first as a rider on national teams, and then as his assistant coach before being made the scholarship coach. With Wayne as my mentor, I was able to work under him quite successfully. It was great to have that experience going from a competitor to a coaching role.
Photo: Guillaume Béguin
to be the NSWIS coach at major competitions in Australia. Because Craig was still competing, I took on that role for quite some time.
At the moment I’m not heavily involved in the business at home with Craig. I concentrate solely on the Equestrian Australia role and my family. The sacrifices are things like, the dining room table becomes the family wardrobe – it’s where all the washing gets piled! – and luckily my husband and two sons don’t really mind that much. In the lead up to the Olympics, a lot of things don’t get done!
With the high performance squad, they each have their own daily training environment and usually operate out of their own property. The squad members are generally people I know quite well because many of the riders are my own peers who I competed against when I was riding. I’ve got 15-20 years of relationship with these people that I’ve developed over a very long time. Half of the riders are based in the UK and half in Australia, which is a geographical challenge, so I’ve already done 4 trips overseas this year. The way I communicate with them depends on the person. For some, text messages are great, others are better www.coachinglife.com.au
Photo: Guillaume Béguin
MANAGING THE HIGH PERFORMANCE SQUAD
Photo: Guillaume Béguin
Photo: Guillaume Béguin
with phone calls. Emails don’t work very well as, while you can send out bulk ones, a lot of the athletes have other people manning their email accounts, so you don’t really get that close to them with email. Usually ringing them works, and we keep track of their event schedules so I know in advance what their training and event programs look like. I look at my athletes as CEOs of their own organisations. They have their
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own staff, and their Olympic aspirations take up perhaps only 10% of their overall equestrian business.
multiple horses for potential team selection and each horse/rider pairing is called a combination.
When I put a program together, we work out what events they should be going to. They all have a variety of horses so you’re looking at multiple programs per person, because each horse requires its own. It’s not as simple as one program per person. A rider may qualify
HOW TEAM SELECTION WORKS We have a group of 4 selectors, including myself, who choose the combinations to represent Australia at a major championship. The rider can qualify multiple horses, and over a period of time we get a feeling from the rider which horse is the stronger contender for a team. Once a combination is selected, a rider might also have another horse nominated as a reserve horse. This reserve horse isn’t necessarily a direct replacement in the event of an injury to the selected horse. Each combination of rider and horse is considered separately and can be ranked differently. Therefore, if an initially selected combination has an injury, the replacement may not be the selected rider’s reserve horse but another combination entirely. Depending on the rules of the event, you can be allowed to take a second horse into the competition and only then would a reserve horse be a direct replacement due to the inability to www.coachinglife.com.au
For Rio, we can have 4 named combinations in the team, and one travelling reserve, who is a whole separate combination named one week prior to Rio, not a second horse for one of the team riders. This reserve is named from the group of 4 reserves from our training camp in Gloucestershire, UK, just prior to the Olympics. Selection is completed on the 29th June, after our specified qualification period ends and the 4-member team and 4 reserves are announced by the AOC at the end of June. As a team, we work with a sports psychologist, which the riders find very useful for the post-event review and in working out what we can do to improve and move forward. It definitely keeps the process more straightforward and helps me work with the athlete on a day-to-day level. The psychologist can also help me work out how best to deliver a message to an athlete. By the time the riders get to this stage, they’re all very experienced and know the risks. A horse can easily be injured at the last minute and force an athlete to withdraw from the team. In athlete terms, the event riders are very ‘mature’ athletes, sometimes also in terms of age (such as Andrew Hoy – 7-time Olympian), and are able to roll with the punches more than most. It’s no less disappointing, but they understand that this is what the sport is like. We are looking to create a balanced team, where you have experienced combinations and perhaps a wildcard that might be able to do extremely well on a very good day – which could be an experienced competitor on a younger horse. These are the decisions you make as a selector. Everybody has a view about someone earning their selection, but in the end, we’re www.coachinglife.com.au
trying to pick a team that will achieve the outcome we’re looking for. The controversy is always whether we go with the ones that, from the outside, appear to have ‘earnt’ their selection on the team through consistent results, or with ones that might have the ability to threaten an individual medal on their best day. I believe we’re a good chance of winning a medal. It’s not going to be an easy road, with the Germans and New Zealanders very strong. It will be very interesting and we’ll certainly be very competitive.
RIO ISN’T THE ONLY THING ON OUR MINDS Our next major championship is the World Equestrian Games (WEG) is in Bromont, Canada, 2018. After Rio, we will sit down and do a 4-year program leading into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, working in the WEG to that, rather than focusing solely on one and then the other. You find that 90% of combinations that do well at major championships have been a partnership for 4-5 years. Therefore, doing an 18-month program leading into the WEG doesn’t sit well within the trends of the sport. It’s better to do a 4-year program from one Olympics to another. There was a time when you could take a rookie at perhaps age 21, such as when Wendy Schaeffer won an individual medal at the Atlanta Olympics, but the sport has changed considerably now, including the technical requirements. You really do need to be in the sport and competing at that level for quite a period of time before you can go to a WEG or Olympics and win. It’s certainly much more difficult now. Horses are retiring later and able to compete at that level for longer, so they get better and better. That’s what makes the sport so much harder to win at that level now.
ONES TO WATCH THE GERMANS – Michael Jung and Ingrid Klimke THE KIWIS – Jonelle Price and Mark Todd
Photo: Guillaume Béguin
bring in another whole combination to the event at the last minute, especially in an instance such as Rio where great flying distances and logistics are involved.
MY TOP TIPS FOR AIMING FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE COACHING
Attach yourself to someone who has been there before you and learn as much as you can from them. You don’t do it for the money involved. If it’s really what you want to do, don’t expect financial rewards in the beginning.
Never stop learning. Surround yourself with other coaches who understand different sports. No matter the sport, you’re still dealing with people, managing and working through programs. Share ideas with like-minded people.
FILIPE FRAZAO / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
COPING IN THE PERFORMANCE ENVIRONMENT AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES BOB CRUDGINGTON, Associate Lecturer in Sports Coaching, University of Queensland
IT IS WELL KNOWN THAT THE OLYMPIC GAMES PRESENT A CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENT FOR ATHLETES, COACHES AND OFFICIALS. ALTHOUGH MOST SPORTS CONDUCT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS AND MANY PARTICIPATING TEAMS UNDERSTAND THE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ENVIRONMENT AND, IMPORTANTLY, THE CULTURE ASSOCIATED WITH THEIR SPORT, THE OLYMPIC GAMES REPRESENT THE NEXT LEVEL OF COMPLEXITY.
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ach event is located in a different part of the world and only held every 4 years where a large number of sporting disciplines are thrown together for the “greatest sporting show on earth”. Nevertheless, the opportunity to participate in such an event is a unique setting that can provide novel learning experiences which can shape their craft. For the coach, creating a performance climate is a real challenge; and it’s no wonder predicting gold medal winners can be problematic at times. Coaching at any level is a complex process. Managing a team at an Olympic Games can challenge the best of coaches. Apart from the organisation of the games themselves, there is also their location to take into consideration. Each cycle, the games are hosted in a different country and this brings
great variations in climate, facilities and culture (language, ways of doing things). Often coaches will try to have their athletes participate in test events at the venue in order to get a handle on the competition environment and to provide some familiarisation. However, this doesn’t cover the experience of living and preparing in the Olympic Village, where the conditions can be extremely difficult to replicate. Even experienced Olympic coaches have to quickly adapt their methods to ensure they maximise the performance environment of their athletes. In a disruptive and contested environment, it is often the athlete or team who adapts best to the conditions (on and off the field) who succeeds. For Australians, consider the differences between performing at the 2012 Olympic Games in London www.coachinglife.com.au
Different athletes react in various ways and a coach has to be vigilant in terms of making sure their charges are coping with the housing conditions. as opposed to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. London is a cosmopolitan city with English-speaking residents, high-class facilities and a temperate climate. In Rio, apart from worrying reports around the completion of competition facilities, there are also concerns around health in the presence of super-bacteria in the waterways and the Zika virus. For the coach, they need to work on the “controllables” and prepare their athletes for the conditions they are likely to encounter. In terms of health and security, the Australian Olympic Team management will have protocols in place in order to minimise any risks, so the coaching staff should focus on other factors.
can be very different with often 3 or 4 athletes sharing one room, and shared bathroom facilities with other rooms or athletes from other disciplines. In Atlanta, the Olympic village was composed of a number of college dormitories whereas the Sydney village was comprised of new housing modified to cater for athletes, coaches and officials. The “communal” living arrangements can be a source of distraction for athletes who are used to more private facilities, that in turn can affect sleep patterns and detract from performance. Different athletes react in various ways and a coach has to be vigilant in terms of making sure their charges are coping with the housing conditions.
The 4-year cycle also implies a long term commitment from coaches and athletes, and often it can take more than one cycle for a coach to appreciate and learn from their Olympic experience. If the coach is the architect of the performance environment, then they need to account for a number of other variables in terms of preparing for competition and particularly managing distractions, which could impact on their athletes or, more importantly, themselves.
Here are some of the environmental factors that can deviate from typical practice and have the potential to impact on performance:
Most athletes and teams are used to staying in hotels when at competition events. Accommodation arrangements at the Olympic Village www.coachinglife.com.au
The Olympic Games have a high security factor and so access to ground transport and facilities means preparation activities, including training and warming up for events, have to be well-planned as they are often inflexible in terms of scheduling. Another logistic issue is around access to facilities for staff. In many cases, assistant coaches and consultants may have limited accreditation such as access to competition venues only and not access to other sections like the village accommodation. These personnel are often housed in other areas outside the Olympic Village and so access to them for meetings can also present a challenge. This can be more challenging for the head coach or manager as they may be required to select staff for full accreditation whilst others may only receive partial accreditation and
potentially miss out on some of the Olympic experience. These often tough decisions have the potential to impact on team dynamics.
In terms of the day-to-day operation in the Olympic setting, other factors emerge including communication, assimilating into the AOC culture, and managing events including the opening ceremony. During a normal international competition, teams and squads can work through their own structures, including conducting team meetings or preparation activities for competition or gymnasium or even scouting of opponents. It is often a flexible arrangement with the coach making adjustments from day to day in response to progress within a competition, injury management or changes in tactics. At the Olympic Games, the Australian Olympic team management have structured communication and management protocols in order to manage a large and diverse team numbering well into the hundreds. Indeed, there is an “Olympic culture” running where the Chef de Mission, section managers and the athletes themselves take greater precedence than coaching and other support staff. The coaches used to calling the shots need to be able to adapt to subtle power shifts in communication and decisionmaking, and in some cases be prepared to have less input. These shifts in operation can lead to some personnel feeling more or less valued, which again has the potential to impact team dynamics. COACHINGLIFE
LAZYLLAMA / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
The pressure of winning along with the complexities associated with the Olympic Games can impact on a coach’s typical behaviours and routines that can then impact on the performance of the athletes.
THE OPENING CEREMONY
Another impact the coach may well deal with is the decision to participate in the Opening Ceremony. Usually this decision is made before entering the Games and is often based on the competition schedule and the proximity to events. Participants should not underestimate the cost in terms of time, energy and emotions around this special event. In most cases, athletes and teams are required to spend hours in secure holding areas and are often exposed to the weather and have limited access to facilities, including toilets. Finally, there is always a quota in terms of who can march, and again, similar to accreditation, choices may have to be made around which staff can and can’t participate and thus there may be a further potential impact on team dynamics. There is a great emphasis on managing the athletes and where possible normalising as much as possible their preparation for competition. It’s important that players are able to manage their own expectations and cope with many the distractions around
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can be achieved by appropriate selfawareness and collegial support when colleagues are observed as experiencing some unusual distress. Mindfulness techniques and daily exercise can be most effective for coaches and support staff in this highly charged emotional climate. Furthermore, thorough (contingency) planning fosters a setting in which coaches can control the “controllables” and accepting that there are some constraints that have to be accepted. In other words, they need to be able to adapt and provide the calm leadership needed to succeed in such a contested environment. As Darwin says: “It’s not the fittest that survive, but those able to adapt to change”.
including the Olympic village, dealing with higher social and media scrutiny (mainstream and social media) as well as coping with the expectation of high performance. It is often the case, ensuring the coach or coaching staff also manage the pressures of the Olympic cauldron in terms of their own performance can be neglected. Like the athlete, the coach also has to perform, ensuring they continue to contribute to the performance of their charges. The pressure of winning along with the complexities associated with the Olympic Games can impact on a coach’s typical behaviours and routines that can then impact on the performance of the athletes. It’s therefore important for the coach to be self-aware and to monitor their own behaviour as well as control their own emotions. Athletes are highly attuned to shifts on coaches’ behaviours and especially in their emotions. The Olympics provide a complex and at times unpredictable environmental and like their athletes, coaches need to manage their own distractions. This
As well as an Associate Lecturer in Sports Coaching at the University of Queensland, Bob Crudgington is an experienced high performance coach and manager. He was Head Coach of the Australian Olympic Softball team for both 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, High Performance Manager for the Softball team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and High Performance Manager for Diving Australia for the 2004 Athens Olympics. His Olympic medal tally as a coach includes 1 gold, 1 silver and 7 bronze. He was inducted into the ISF Hall of Fame in 2013.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARCHERY AUSTRALIA HEAD COACH, YA-PING SHIH YA-PING SHIH IS A FORMER CHAMPION
ARCHER HERSELF, WINNING AN INDIVIDUAL SILVER AND TEAM GOLD MEDAL AT THE 1999 WORLD ARCHERY CHAMPIONSHIPS WHILE COMPETING FOR TAIWAN. SHE WAS RECRUITED TO THE TOP JOB IN AUSTRALIA IN 2013 AFTER COACHING THE CHINESE TAIPEI TEAM IN 3 OLYMPIC GAMES (2004, 2008, 2012). Why did you leave a successful role in Taiwan for Australia? I had a desire to see other countries and experience a different system of training and sports management. I am also able to do leadership training targeted at sports coaches and managers every year with the AIS in Canberra, which has been a huge learning opportunity. It is always good to learn more about other sports and professional programs. It has been a very good experience for me and I feel very lucky to be chosen to the be the Australian coach. What have been the challenges? I feel I have made progress with the team in the last 3 years, although it has taken time to understand the different program and system of administration. For instance, in Taiwan, each coach has one or two athletes, here the head coach is responsible for the entire national team. It is definitely a challenge! I am happy with the performance so far, but we could be stronger. What was your pathway into elite level coaching? My family are not into archery, but I decided to try at a young age and had some good performances. By the time I reached university, I was competing in international tournaments and starting to coach. After the 1999 World Archery Championships, I retired www.coachinglife.com.au
and focused on my teaching career and coaching. In my country, your parents will support you through university, but after that you need to support yourself, and coaching offered me a way to do that alongside my chosen career. I coached the school archery team as well as archers on the university team, and worked up to coaching the Olympic team for 3 Olympic Games (2004, 2008 and 2012). Three of the 2012 team archers were my students. How are you preparing the team for Rio? This year is definitely more intense. It will be a stressful time for the athletes, and if something happens, you need to be able to find a solution quickly. If you want to make it to the top in archery, you need to be able to bypass the stress by finding solutions to problems. If you worry and think too much, it wastes energy. We are going to Taipei in July for some tournament practice prior to Rio, so the athletes can learn deal with different situations. It is a young team, and they can shoot very well at home, but competitions can be high stress and challenging situations. For the Olympics, we are aiming for a stable performance with good concentration through each shot. If you lose concentration, you lose the shot. The most important thing is that the athlete learns to trust themselves
and aim for a personal best. Itâ€™s also important that the archers trust you as the coach. The performance is not about me, but about each team member, and learning to work together for the best result. What are your Rio expectations? All our archers will try their best, and I would like our team to make the top 4. We have quite a young team, so I expect many will continue on to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
AUSTRALIAâ€™S BIGGEST RIVALS: For the women, our biggest rival is Korea. They have the 7-time female champion, as well as 5 individual gold medals. Chinese Taipei is also very strong. For the men, the Korean team is again the one to watch, however some individual Europeans are also very strong. COACHINGLIFE
FROM OLYMPIAN TO OLYMPIC COACH WATER POLO – ELVIS FATOVIC, Head Coach, Australian Men’s National Team, Water Polo Australia
I GREW UP IN DUBROVNIK, CROATIA, A SMALL TOWN OF AROUND 50,000 PEOPLE. WATER POLO IS A VERY BIG SPORT IN CROATIA AND I PLAYED FOR JUG AND MLADOST (RIVAL) TEAMS AS A LEFT OFFENSIVE PLAYER. WITH MLADOST WE WON ONE CROATIAN CHAMPIONSHIP AND CUP IN 1993. I THEN RETURNED TO JUG WHERE WE WON 5 CROATIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS AND 6 CROATIAN CUPS.
y first trip to Australia was in 2000 for the Sydney Olympic Games with the Croatian National Team. We only made it to the quarter finals but I liked the city and thought that if I ever moved, it would be to Australia. Then at the Athens Olympics in 2004, we were knocked out by Italy which was difficult for us. I finished my playing career in 2007 and became a coach in the JUG junior program that year. Coaching came around for me quite naturally. I had been captain of my team for 10 years and I was always part of the coaching team in some way. The following year, 2008, I was offered the assistant coach position with the Croatian National Team and was assistant coach for the whole Olympic cycle leading up to London 2012. I worked with one of the world’s most successful coaches, Ratko Rudic for the London Olympics, who was an important coaching mentor for me. Ratko has won 4 Olympic gold medals with three different teams, a real feat, so it was an honour to be his assistant.
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I then wanted a new challenge, so I took up the opportunity to become the Head Coach for the Australian men’s national water polo team, the Sharks. I hoped to bring some more aggression and competitiveness to the squad. Moving to Australia, I don’t think language was a problem but maybe you should ask someone else! When there is a lot of adrenalin, you do say things, but I think that everyone can understand generally. Our school system in Dubrovnik teaches everyone English, so I had a good understanding already.
OLYMPIC STRATEGIES Going into the Rio Olympics, we are working on creating a culture of attack and will try to improve some area of offence and defence with the team. I used the same coaching techniques for the World Cup and try to put the pressure on in the smaller competitions. If we can win these under pressure, then we will be better prepared for the pressure of the Olympics. www.coachinglife.com.au
DID YO KNOW U ?
GOLD MEDA LS ARE ACTUA N’T LLY MA GOLD DE OF ! THEY SOLID ARE N WITH G OW SI OLD P LVER LATING HAVE B , AND EEN FO R THE LAST 100 YE ARS.
We recently returned from a training camp in the United States with their national team, and on the 21st June will be playing in the World League in China. There we will play against Serbia, Croatia, Italy and Greece. This will give us a good indication of how we are performing as a team and where we need to work more before Rio. The players are sacrificing a lot for us but as always, the most important thing is continued improvement. Our strategy leading into the Olympics is to play absolutely every game better. We don’t want to concentrate on the last game but focus on the first game, which will be against Brazil. We know that in our group we have 5 games where everyone can beat everyone. There are about 9-10 teams that can win a medal this year. In the past there
used to be 4 or 5 weaker teams, but now they are all very strong. Japan, which was a slower team, will punish you now if you give them the chance. It will make for a very exciting competition but I have no doubt that if we play our best game, that we can beat these teams. The team is still not complete as one of our players is still playing in Hungary. Hopefully he will win the championship and then he will play the European champion league before he comes back to Australia. He will be in Perth on the 8th of June to join the team and we are very proud to have a player at that level to be able to compete for Australia. We know that the other European players will all finish at the same time, so we won’t be at too much of a disadvantage.
I really enjoy coaching in Australia and hope to continue my work here for many years. I like how Australian players are competitive but it can be hard to find teams to play against with Australia so far away from any other country. We have a training camp in Singapore prior to World League final where we will train with the Greek team. Rio is going to be a very close competition. We already know who we will be playing against. In our group there are a lot of quality national teams with Brazil, Greece, Serbia, Hungary and Japan all in our group, and we probably won’t know who will get through until the quarter finals. It’s an exciting one to watch!
Elvis Fatovic has twice led his home team of JUG Dubrovnik, Croatia – one of the most successful European clubs ever, winning four European Championships, 3 National Leagues, 2 National Cups, 1 Adriatic League and a bronze medal in the European Champion League. He played 128 times for the Croatian National Team and winning the silver medal at European Championships in 2003. He also played for Croatia at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and finally won Gold with Croatian team in 2012 in London. Now as the Head Coach for the Australian Men’s Water Polo team, the Sharks, he is ready to take on Rio.
CREATING A WORLD CLASS TEAM
FOOTBALL – ALEN STAJCIC, Head Coach, Women’s National Team (Matildas), Football Federation Australia
MY FOOTBALL CAREER STARTED AS A JUNIOR REPRESENTATIVE IN STATE TEAMS AND THE AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLBOYS TEAM BEFORE MOVING INTO THE NATIONAL PREMIER LEAGUE LEVEL IN NSW (ONE LEVEL BELOW A-LEAGUE). UNFORTUNATELY, WITH TWO KNEE RECONSTRUCTIONS EARLY ON IN MY PLAYING CAREER AT 21 AND 24, I DIDN’T REACH THE HEIGHTS I WANTED TO AS A PLAYER.
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love the sport and am very passionate about it, so coaching provided another avenue for me to pursue it at an elite level. During my knee reconstructions, I took up the opportunity to complete my coaching badges up to Level 3. Once I started coaching, I really felt it was something that I wanted to pursue. During that time, I was finishing my Bachelor in Education (PE) at university, and once I started teaching, I took on coaching in the school system with both NSW schoolboys and schoolgirls teams. I also had a part-time role with the Football NSW elite boys zone program and was actively coaching full-time by the time I was 24. The elite program was a precursor for those kids being
selected for the NSW state team. Some of those ended up playing A-league, which is very rewarding to see.
BUILDING THE BEST STARTS AT STATE LEVEL I had high objectives and goals to improve the game of football in Australia. I felt there were a lot of holes in the coaching and football structures, and had ideas about how we could create positive change. When the NSWIS Head Coach role came up in 2002 for the Women’s team, I’d already had a lot of contact with quite a few of the players through coaching the schoolgirl teams. From this exposure, I was reasonably aware of elements in women’s football, where it was at and what we could do better. www.coachinglife.com.au
OLYMPIC EDITION As a male player, especially back then, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to learn about the women’s side of the game, but I was fortunate, with coaching the schoolgirls teams, to have an advantage. I always took the approach that I coach them as footballers, regardless of whether they were boys or girls. The individual differences and unique personalities make such a difference that I find labelling ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ is too simplistic. The art of coaching is dealing with differing personalities within each group. NSWIS was always focused on elite international performance and always pushed its programs to be world class. From the outset, this was something that I strived for. A lot of the things within football, let alone women’s football, weren’t run at a level where the objective was to become world class. The players were only training twice a week, there wasn’t much infrastructure or support around them; all areas we could improve in both on and off the field. At the time, NSW only had two players in the national squad (Matildas), which I felt was a very low figure, given a state as big as this with the highest participation rate. To me, it showed that we weren’t doing things right in the development of these players. My initial goal was to try to get as many NSW players up to speed as possible to boost our representation in the Matildas. By the end of the 12 years that I worked on the program, we had around 150 players who went on to play for either the Matildas or Young Matildas. Of these, about 30 played for Australia in senior International football. Not only did they become players on the team, but key players. I was lucky that the CEO and 2IC at NSWIS were both very supportive of change. That kind of leadership in an organisation allows you to challenge the status-quo in order to make positive change. Changes included putting our girls, as a collective, into a boys’ competition where they were challenged week-in, week-out. We www.coachinglife.com.au
played 30 matches a year against elite level boys. We had extra training, extra support around nutrition, psychology and career development. Over that period, we saw the development of the W-League, which was also well supported by the Institute. Looking at this Matildas team, they’re all players who benefitted from the support structures that were built over that period.
THE PLAYER IS THE CENTREPIECE There’s been lots of challenges along the way. Being such a young coach, communicating up the hierarchy wasn’t one of my strengths. Over time,
I learned how to negotiate better, and how to do the things that will benefit the players the most. The players have always been the starting point for me, working out how I can get the best out of them. That includes looking at the environment, both playing and training, and getting the resources to make sure each player becomes the best they can be. Sometimes that’s difficult with people in organisation who haven’t had to deal with footballers or with sports. For example, once, we had a budget of $1,000 to buy footballs for a national league women’s team. I said, “The players are most important. I want a good ball, so let’s buy [for example] COACHINGLIFE
10 at $100 each.” The accountant, who’d never kicked a ball in his life, said, “But we can buy 50 balls at $20 each.” But we didn’t want the plastic balls; we needed the good balls that we can train and play with in preparation for international football. So while the accountant bought the plastic balls, I went out and found more money to buy the ones we needed! This is an example of how we really need to put the players at the centrepiece of our development programs and structures, and make sure we do everything we possibly can to give each individual every opportunity to be their best. Sometimes it can be difficult when people in positions of power have never played sport or football, however you always want a balance of people who have and haven’t played sport in such an organisation for different perspectives. This is where your feedback and presentations skills are important, and your lines of communication to explain what the objectives are. You have to have clear objectives and a vision of how you’re going to achieve them, and once you have that, you need to bring
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other people along for the ride. This includes people who are higher up in the organisation, as well as players, parents, managers and other staff. That way, all decisions can be based around those key objectives and vision.
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE WORLD CLASS In 2013, Football Federation Australia invited me to be the Interim Assistant Technical Director to Han Berger, which was a great experience. I also helped develop the national curriculum with Kelly Cross. A year later, Hesterine de Reus was dismissed from the Head Coach job with the Matildas and I applied for the interim position. The rest is history. To create a competitive, world class team, we had to run national team camps in the middle of the W-League season, which had never really been done before, due to our qualifiers being so close to the end of the W-League. The club and coach support for our qualification campaigns for the World Cup and Olympics was fantastic and helped us achieve what we did.
To take our team to world class level, one thing we did was show the team some factual evidence of where we had been. A good part of leadership is showing a group where they should be and taking them there. I gave them some goals and objectives of what we needed to achieve, and detailed what the journey would be to get there. I saw some areas we could improve in the team culture off the field, and on our style of play on the field. We went about changing this, and the players really bought into the process. We plateaued at a world ranking of 9/10/11th for the last few years, but we had a new vision to become one of the top 3 in the world and in medal contention. So we looked at changing the behaviours within the team, off the field, and playing style on the field. I’ve evolved my vision and philosophy on the game and how it should be played, especially by Australian teams, which I’ve implemented with this team. The training camps and preparation camps we had prior to the World Cup meant the team was virtually full-time for 5 months prior to the tournament. www.coachinglife.com.au
DID YO KNOW U ?
AT THE 1960 R ABEBE OME O BIKILA LYMPI FROM CS, THE M ETHIO ARATH P I A O PAIR O WON N BAR EFOOT F SHO ES FRO AS NO MANU M THE O FACTU FFICIA RERS FIT HIS L FEET. H ADIDAS WO U E L D W A FIRST S ALSO AFRIC THE AN TO WIN A GOLD MEDA L.
We did a similar thing prior to the Olympic qualifiers. The first 5-month period was a building block for creating those team values and solidifying our playing style. Once the W-league finished, we had another 4-5 weeks together full-time, building on that foundation and evolving our style. We also brought in world class Australian athletes to talk to the group, preparing them for the realities of the Olympics – the distractions, how to cope, their careers and preparations needed. We’ve heard from Lydia Lassila, Steve Monaghetti, Natalie Cook and Brendan Joyce (coach of the Opals). There’s so much to be learnt from athletes cross-codes. It’s tremendous to have that kind of spirit amongst the Australian athletes with their world of knowledge.
THE FINAL RIO GAMEPLAN It’s been 12 years since we qualified a women’s football team for the Olympics. The qualification was achieved through the Asian Confederation, which is an extremely tough tournament including Japan and Korea. Qualifying was both a relief and thrilling. I know that this group of players is capable of anything and is still a young team that is still maturing and evolving. The best football of this team is ahead of us. Our goal is to win a medal. Everything in preparation revolves around the team being ready to go to the Games, www.coachinglife.com.au
to compete against the top teams in the world and be genuine contenders to win a medal. We’re leaving fairly early, to arrive a month before our first match. We will use that time to spend together as a team before we get to our first match against Canada. Canada won the bronze medal in London 2012, are ranked 9th in the world, and are a tough, strong team with a bit of X factor. They should have a lot of confidence coming into this Olympic Games. Afterwards, we play Germany who have been in the top 2 in the world for the last 10 years, along with America. It’s a challenging draw, but there’s no reason why we can’t win through to the quarter finals.
TOP TIP Be open-minded and embrace things that are out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to get stuck and become a bit stale. In terms of education, coaching courses, learn from other coaches, other athletes, even other countries. Embrace as many different elements as you can and implement what fits with your team to improve. Increase your skills, knowledge and awareness at every opportunity you can.
THE VALUE OF THE MATURE AGE ROOKIE BASKETBALL – BRENDAN JOYCE, Head Coach, Australian Women’s Basketball Team (Opals), Basketball Australia By Lauren Clemett
I STARTED OFF PLAYING AFL EARLY ON AND THEN PICKED UP BASKETBALL IN SCHOOL. I ENDED UP WITH THE CHOICE OF GOING DOWN TO NORTH MELBOURNE TO PLAY AFL, OR CONTINUING WITH BASKETBALL. WHEN I CHOSE BASKETBALL, MY DAD DIDN’T TALK TO ME FOR 3 MONTHS! TWO OF MY BEST FRIENDS WENT ON TO BECOME SUPERSTARS IN THE GAME: TONY SHAW FOR COLLINGWOOD AND TERRY WALLACE FOR HAWTHORN, BOTH NORM SMITH MEDALLISTS.
nstead, I ended up playing 287 games in the NBL for 13 years and captained both the Nunawading Spectres and Westside Saints, and made 7 NBL finals including the NBL Grand Final in 1981. Joyce was also fortunate to be a 2 x NBL All-star in 1988 and 1989. I made it to the senior Australian squad but always just missed out on making the team for a World Championships or Olympics. I was also vice captain of the U20 Australian team and then captain of the U23 team. As a point guard, you are usually an extension of the coach on the floor. However, at the time, I was a fairly intense player and just didn’t see myself as a coach. Despite that, I used to love coaching kids and juniors, even while playing at senior level. Funnily, I actually coached Andrej Lemanis [now Head coach of the Australian Men’s National Team, the Boomers] in Victoria for the U20s Keilor Saints team. When I finished my NBL career, I decided to go on with coaching as a I still had a passion for the game. I took
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on a coaching role with the Ballarat Miners in the CBA (now SEABL) and Basketball Victoria league for 3 years, leading them to CBA back to back Championships. Afterwards I coached Wollongong/Illawarra Hawks for 11.5 years to 2 Grand Finals in 2001 and 2005, winning the NBL Championship in 2001, then the Gold Coast Blaze for another 2 years, making the NBL playoffs in their inaugural year of 2007. While at the Hawks, in 2001, I also became Assistant Coach to Brian Goorjian for the Australian Boomers. With the men’s team, I went to both 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2006 World Championships in Japan and we were Gold medallist at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. In 2013, I accepted the full-time Head Coach role of the Australian National Women’s program and the Opals after doing a lot of work on player and coach development away from the NBL with Basketball Queensland and Basketball Victoria. www.coachinglife.com.au
3 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MEDALS IN 3 YEARS I’m pretty happy with the last 3 .5 years in the job, as it’s the first Olympic cycle where every team has won a World Championships medal – U17s gold 2016, U19s bronze 2015, and the Opals bronze 2014 – which has never been done before. In the U17 World Championships, Australia had never finished higher than 5th, and the USA had never been beaten in women’s tournaments. Our team beat the USA in the semi-finals and went on to win the gold medal. We have transferred the Opals style of play to the U19s and U17s via the Centre of Excellence, where I lead the technical direction of coaching and the development program. We’ve now got the chance to put the icing on the cake at the Olympics by winning a medal. To achieve this, you’ve got to have a vision and a plan. When I looked at the Opals 2012 London Olympic team, I realised that 10 of those girls would be 30-plus by the time we got to Rio. Immediately, Kristi Harrower announced her retirement after holding down the point guard position for 16 years, which was a huge loss for the team. Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage were also injured and not available for the 2014 World Championships in Turkey. Missing those key names, and with only 3 players from the London www.coachinglife.com.au
team playing, winning the bronze medal by beating Turkey in their home country, it really felt like gold because it was so unexpected. From 2013-2014, I have built a pyramid of depth – a huge development program to give everybody an opportunity to try and make the National team. We took the players we picked out through this program on tours to Europe and Asia to really expedite their development and expose them to the best players in the world. The two junior national coaches we appointed – Paul Goriss for the U19s, and Shannon Seebohm for the U17s – really contributed to our success at the World Championships.
‘MATURE AGE ROOKIES’ – A LEAF OUT OF THE AFL PLAYBOOK As part of the development program, I decided to bring in six players in 2014 aged 19-26 as ‘mature age rookies’, as the AFL does. I thought some of these rookies had a chance to make the 2014 World Championship team or senior teams in the future. Through the Centre of Excellence, we controlled their daily training environment, gave them strength and conditioning program, a skills development program, psychology and nutrition, and taught them how to be professionals. 2 of those kids ended up making the World Championship team because of the
unavailable and retired players and made a very important contribution to our success. The following year 2015 we took another 4 mature age athletes into the program, over the two years 12 of which went into the U19 group leading up to their 2015 World Championships. The U19 team won bronze and comprised of 11 players who had come through the new Centre of Excellence ‘Hybrid model’ program. This year 2016 we took 12 of the best kids, 3 for the future U19 team and 9 players for the U17 program and 9 of those played in their gold medal World Champs win this year in Spain. Similar to AFL, when you draft kids at 17 or 18, they may not be ready physically or mentally. With only 8 teams in the WNBL, there are a lot of really good players who are forgotten about or not seen. They have a good understanding the game, hardened physically and mentally mature and ready because they play in second tier leagues against senior women. However there are not enough spots due imports playing in the leagues as well. So we look at all under pinning leagues as well evaluating at all levels for development and this is also why the AFL teams now look at the second tier leagues – VFL, WAFL, the South Australian league. COACHINGLIFE
Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com
CROSS-CODE COACHING We now share information with coaches in other Olympic sports, such as Greg McFadden with the Women’s Water Polo Team. I also get quite a few calls from AFL teams because AFL is getting a lot like basketball strategically. I’ve spent a day at the Sydney Swans in 2012, been at Collingwood, and Essendon. Kevin Sheedy got me down back when I was coaching the Wollongong Hawks in 2001, asking about ‘flooding’, which we call defensive transition. Time spent with the AFL coaches is really beneficial; while you’re sharing information, you’re also getting ideas. It’s not just about strategy, it’s about people management as well. We all have the same challenges. It’s not just about basketball. Our athletes are similar too, with more skill, jumping, running, agility and similar body types. Now that the Women’s AFL League has been announced, it’s a good thing we have won all these medals so they don’t pinch our girls as well!
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DEVELOPING THE STYLE OF PLAY As a player, I was brought up on many continuity offensive structures due to a longer shot clock for basketball and some of those old style structures are still around. However, I wanted to develop a style that was very aggressive defensively but also with a very attacking style offensively. Strategically, we’re doing some things with the Opals that a lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to do. I look at the girls as elite athletes. Because they’re women, doesn’t mean they can’t do the same things as men, and that’s how I’ve approached it and it’s worked. If you develop this style of play of what l call “Conceptual motion”, it requires players to have a good skill package and intellect on how to play and attack within today’s 24-second shot clock. Sometimes I think it scares coaches because we actually allow a lot of players to make more decisions than what they would under continuity play, but this does allow more freedom to play to the strengths of the players
rather than centred around 2 or 3 players for success. This also makes you versatile and less predictable.
SELECTION: THE WORST PART OF MY JOB We’re just about to select the team, but I know from my Olympic experiences that there’s many distractions at the Olympic Games, so I’ve brought in a sports psychologist to talk to the team about developing resilience. We even discuss topics such as how to deal with negative social media. We’re all doing things behind the scenes to develop our leadership, and learning how to deal with failure and success. I have worked to strengthen values and team culture. When we brought up resilience, the players wanted to talk about selection and the pressure and stress of it. You can never prepare for being told that you haven’t made the team. While it’s always disappointing, the team respect and appreciate the one-on-one conversations I have with them. I think it’s highly respectful to talk to each www.coachinglife.com.au
If you develop this style of play of what l call “Conceptual motion”, it requires players to have a good skill package and intellect on how to play and attack within today’s 24-second shot clock.
world. Our media coverage must get behind our women’s sport – we’re one of the best in the world and hopefully more corporate partners will support Women’s Basketball here in Australia.
player individually, then if they’ve got questions, they can ask them. As a player who also got cut on occasions, I understand some of the emotions they’re going to go through, but it’s still the worst part of my job. In the end, you’re trying to put the best team together with the right balance of talent in positions and personalities and team spirit. It’s not all about our Excel sheets and measurements. There’s a lot of intangibles that come into play.
OUR OLYMPIC DRAW There’s going to be quite a few players at their first Olympics, but they’ve had a lot of international experience the last 3 years including our World Championship Bronze Medal in Turkey 2014 leading up to Rio. While I think a medal of any colour would be the icing on the cake, I’ve been coaching www.coachinglife.com.au
a long time and really it’s all about the development and process, which gives us every chance of being successful. There are over 220+ countries that play basketball. In Europe, it’s the No.1 sport for some countries, so the competition is unbelievable. The USA is one of the tough teams, no doubt, and France is also very good. Serbia is No.1 in Europe, and Japan are coming on, as well as Spain, Canada and China. At Rio, we will play Brazil first up, and then Turkey. After that will be France, Japan and Belarus. We’ll then cross over and play either Serbia, Canada or Spain. Turkey and Russia supports women’s sport incredibly, as does France. We don’t have the same financial support here, but the commitment from the women and our development programs are right up there with the rest of the
Have an open mind. If you’re willing to listen and learn, you can always get better no matter your age.
Be resilient, because once you step into the coaching world, criticism of you is incredible.
Stay focused on the process of what you believe in, and have the courage of your convictions because it’s very hard. There’s always some sort of politics or challenge, and you have to try to convince people to stay with the plan.
When success comes, enjoy the moment, because your new challenge begins the next day.
IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD:
BEHIND TABLE TENNIS HIGH PERFORMANCE TABLE TENNIS – JENS LANG, High Performance Manager and National Head Coach, Table Tennis Australia
I WAS BORN INTO A TABLE TENNIS FAMILY IN GERMANY. MY DAD WAS A FIRST BUNDESLIGA (GERMAN PROFESSIONAL TABLE TENNIS LEAGUE) PLAYER IN THE 1970S, AND MY BROTHER ALSO USED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL TABLE TENNIS PLAYER. IN GERMANY, IT IS A PROFESSIONAL SPORT WHERE YOU CAN MAKE A LIVING OUT OF IT.
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ssentially, I was holding a bat before I knew what it was. I started playing at age 7 or 8, just at home with my Dad. He never worked as a coach on a state or national level, but he was my first mentor and private coach. I was of course inspired by my older brother as well. I started competing at the age of 9. I played for my home club, and moved through the ranks of the junior age groups. At my level, I was quite successful in the beginning and made it to State level and into the top 10 fairly quickly. Then from 14-18 years old, I had a variety of interests. I was still playing table tennis, but not with the focus or intensity that my brother did at that age. In the end, I didn’t make it into the German National Team, however my brother played a number of international tournaments for Germany. He played
in the first Bundesliga pro league for 6 years, and another 15 years in the second and third leagues. I played in the second Bundesliga for 4 years while I was also working full-time, and in the third for 10 years. During my time working for Andro (one of the biggest table tennis brands), I made my first visit to Australia. I like to see other parts of the world and to keep growing as a person and as a professional. I spent 5 weeks in Townsville with the coach there who was an Australian Olympian, Brett Clarke. I found the Australian mentality very welcoming, easy to talk to, not as intense as Germans can be. The climate also makes a huge difference to quality of life. I then moved to Australia in 2011 to take up my current role with Table Tennis Australia. www.coachinglife.com.au
DID YO KNOW U ?
THE O L CANCE YMPICS HA VE BEE LLED 3 N SUMM T ER OLY IMES: THE 1 916 MPICS DUE TO IN B W 1940 S WI, AND BO ERLIN TH TH UMME E R IN HEL SINKI A OLYMPICS ND TH SUMM E 19 ER LONDO OLYMPICS 44 IN N DUE TO WW II.
DIFFERENT SYSTEM, DIFFERENT APPROACH In Germany, there are 600,000 registered members in the German Table Tennis Federation. When you think about Germany being a quarter of the size of Queensland, there’s automatically a much larger depth of players in terms of clubs. In Germany, there are more than 10,000 clubs, whereas in Australia, we have 10,000 registered players. Table tennis in Germany is comparable to perhaps swimming in Australia. Everybody can play. Every village or small city has a table tennis club, alongside a football club and a volleyball club. In Australia, we don’t have a league system, it is all based on an individual set up for both players and coaches. Clubs are run like individual businesses, which is not particularly helpful for the development of the sport or sporting pathways. When you turn 17 or 18, there used to be a disincentive to continue playing as students would enrol in university and be required to quit the sport to focus better. In Germany, there’s not the immediate need to make that decisive call as you’ve got team competitions and the club environment, so you can compete at all kinds of levels and retain the social aspect of playing. It is www.coachinglife.com.au
something that is unfortunately missing in Australia but is getting better over time.
position and do the groundwork in the program in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
CREATING SUSTAINABLE STRUCTURES FOR SPORT GROWTH
Coaching was never my chosen No.1 career path but now I am the High Performance Manager and National Head Coach – a hybrid role. The program management part is 80% of the position, so actual coaching is a part-time role for me. I saw this as a great opportunity to build sustainable structures in the sport in Australia. This year, being an Olympic year, the balance has shifted to perhaps 60% programs, 40% coaching. We have so many events on – the Olympic trials, the Oceania Championships, the Oceania Cup, the Australian Open, the Australian Junior Open – so this requires a lot more on-table coaching than usual. On top of this, we have national junior training camps and have started a national assistant coaching program as well. The high performance program has grown significantly over the last 5 years, to the point where my portfolio becomes too big and it becomes hard for the program to keep growing. The idea was to have 3 assistant coaches who underpin my
On a worldwide level, we are not competing for a medal at this stage. For the Olympics, our goal is to challenge our opponents as much as possible. Not having a medal target has its pros and cons. For example, in the team event, there’s only 16 nations who qualify for the teams, and due to the seeding, we will face the top 4 countries in the world straight away. We likely play China or Korea first. We might not be able to beat them, but we want to make their life as hard as possible, really challenge them. In the individual events, the performance target for all four of our players is to win their first round matches. Management of expectations is hugely important, especially psychologically. As with many other sports, table tennis takes place in the head for the majority of the time. There are many external factors that have an influence or an impact on your performance: Playing conditions – the table tennis ball weighs 2.5 grams, travels at speeds of up to 110km/hr, and can rotate 80-100 times per second. It’s a COACHINGLIFE
Accepting and really embracing that a large part of an athlete’s performance on the day is outside of their influence is a tough lesson, but also a key success factor for any athlete moving forward. highly volatile object. External factors that affect this are air flow, equipment, lighting and so forth. Being an interactive racquet sport, the extent to which external factors influence the outcome of a table tennis
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game is quite large. As an athlete you can tick all the boxes – do all the right things in training, follow a thorough match preparation routine, show heart and true fighting spirit during the match, etc., but you still come out short. Accepting and really embracing that a large part of an athlete’s performance on the day is outside of their influence is a tough lesson, but also a key success factor for any athlete moving forward. There is always the temptation to place blame on something or someone else if you’re losing. This is something we educate the junior squad members about from the beginning – how they think, realising that the sport is very competitive on an international level, a lot of factors that you have no influence over. Management of your own expectations is the key. Through mentoring, extensive conversations in the lead up to and after competitions, debriefings, you try to generate learning and breed a healthier and more
sustainable culture amongst the junior squad members. It’s something that needs to be educated from grassroots onwards.
THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF THE OLYMPIC EXPERIENCE In the lead up to Rio, there’s a lot of work and preparation, including on the weekends when competitions are held. You have to make sacrifices in your private life as well, as everything is dedicated to performing and excelling at the Olympic Games. I have worked 9 of the last 10 weekends. In that regard, it’s certainly not easy and part of the nature of the job. On the other side, it’s a massive opportunity and a privilege to be part of the Australian team. It’s worth working for and striving for! London was my first Olympics, and was such big learning experience. You’re surrounded by the best in the world in their sport and as coaches or high performance managers. The Olympic environment is very inspiring and www.coachinglife.com.au
ONES TO WATCH FROM AUSTRALIA – Jian Fang Lay, who will be going to her 5th Olympics. It’s inspiring how she maintains her level and her international competitiveness. Also, Melissa Tapper who is the first Australian athlete to qualify for both the Olympics and Paralympics. She is a medal prospect at the Paralympics. OVERALL: CHINA! In particular, Ma Long, the World No.1 and favourite for the gold medal. From the Europeans, Dimitrij Ovtcharov (Germany) ranked No.4 in the world, and Jun Mizutani (Japan), ranked No.5. The sport is dominated by China to an extent where it is counterproductive for the international development of the sport. For the 2012 Olympics, they changed the rules to allow only two players per country to compete, so now at least the bronze medal is up for grabs!
MY TOP TIP something that motivates you to do your very best like nothing else. I want to do my absolute best as a coach, as a mentor and a program manager. At London, our best male player, William Henzell, had his career best performance, eventually losing to the former World No.1 Vladimir Samsonov. He had just previously beaten the World No.39 – his previous best performance. William recently retired, but had been the dominant male player in Oceania for many years and approached his training and preparation with strong attention to detail. He was a true professional and he had an ability to focus like few others. We did some video analysis before he faced Vladimir Samsonov, but Vladimir doesn’t really have much in the way of a weakness in his game! However, William always www.coachinglife.com.au
wants to succeed in whatever he does, so we looked at where we might be able to create opportunities. It was one of my most memorable moments as a coach, as William ended up leading 4-1 in the deciding 7th game, and played perfectly to game plan. At that point, I realised he might actually be able to win. In the end, he was leading 6-4 when Vladimir changed and opened another facet of his game, which turned the tide of the match. We didn’t win any medals overall, but that wasn’t realistic anyway. All our four players outperformed expectations. It was fantastic.
If you’re a coach, you’re seen as an example. Therefore, integrity is super important. You need to embody and stand for the values you expect from your players, of any age. This definitely works for me. Be the best example for what you expect from your players. The existence of role models is particularly important in the early stages of development because what do the juniors do? They copy. If you’re the best example, then that’s what they copy. In the end, it’s not rocket science. Understand what “control the controllables” means, and really embrace that.
TEAM CULTURE, THE KEY TO SUCCESS I FIRST STARTED PLAYING AT AGE 13 WITH BALMAIN BEFORE MOVING TO CRONULLA AT 17. I PLAYED 1ST GRADE FROM 1982 TO 2002 WITH THE CRONULLA TEAM, WINNING 5 NATIONAL LEAGUE TITLES AND RUNNER UP IN ANOTHER 4. AT ONE POINT, WE WON 10 SYDNEY 1ST GRADE COMPETITIONS IN A ROW. WITH THE NATIONAL TEAM, I PLAYED AS A DRIVER AND OCCASIONAL CENTRE BACK.
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hile I was playing first grade, I started coaching the lower grades at Cronulla. I was at the AIS with the Australian Men’s team and had aspirations to go to the Olympics as a player when Charles Turner, our head coach, asked me if I wanted to do the ASC Scholarship Coaching program. I wasn’t sure what this involved and thought that this might be the end of my water polo career, but Charles allowed me to do both – train with the team and do the coaching course concurrently. In 1992 I was selected for the Barcelona Olympics, so Charles put me on as an Assistant Coach at the AIS while I was still playing. I remained in the team until 1996 and also as an Assistant Coach at the AIS, but
WATER POLO – GREG McFADDEN, Head Coach, Women’s National Team (Stingers), Water Polo Australia
unfortunately we didn’t qualify for the Atlanta Olympics. I decided to retire from international water polo and started concentrating on my coaching career. I became the NSW Intensive Training Centre (ITC) Coach in 1996, which led to me being NSWIS Head Coach. In 2001 I then became the AIS Head Coach of the junior men’s program. This program produced a lot of players who have gone on to play for Australia with some of them becoming dual or triple Olympians such as Rhys Howden (Australian captain), Richie Campbell (Australian vice-captain) & Pietro Figlioli to name a few. We took some chances on some of these young kids who we believed would have the potential to become good players and we were able www.coachinglife.com.au
OLYMPIC EDITION to fine tune their basic skills while also getting them to train at a high intensity equal to what junior players were doing in Europe. They were also exposed to the highest level of competition at a young age by playing in the Australian National League, which also helped fast track, their development. The program ended at the end of 2005, which is a pity as if we had continued this program we would have produced more good players, which could have contributed to possibly greater senior men’s team results. While in charge of this program I was asked to assist with the women’s national team at the end of 2003, and then became head coach in 2005.
AN INTENSIVE PREPARATION PERIOD At the start of each Olympic cycle, we consider which players are likely to keep playing and who can help us achieve our best result at the next Olympics. Obviously we’re focusing on doing the best we can, which is to win a gold medal. We believe we have the capability to do this, so over this period we’re trying to work out the best
combinations, who has the mental toughness and the physical capabilities to give us our best chance of achieving this. We don’t spend a lot of time together as a team in the first 3 years because a lot of the athletes are either full-time students or working. Our international season is May through to August, and at the end of each season is a World Championship/World Cup/Olympics. We also have World League competition each year that helps prepare you for these major competitions. We get together as a team for perhaps short camps 4 -7 days throughout the year and in the International season for about 4-6 weeks, which also takes in the major event for that year. Over this time, we’re experimenting with different player combinations, rather than progressing through each competition with the one team. This makes continuality and cohesiveness difficult at times. By comparison, the Americans and Europeans are virtually together right through from May to the major competition in August, so they’re
working together constantly. The USA have a great competitive culture as it is built into their high school and college systems as they are fighting for scholarships and are training 6 days a week twice a day at a young age. Australia is obviously a big country, so logistically it is difficult for us to have a centralised program similar to the USA or Europe. When you compare us to countries like America, Australia does very well. In California alone, they have a greater
DID Y OU KNOW ?
QUEE N WIL HELM THE N INA O ETHE F RLAN FOR T DS AS HE 19 K E D 2 8 GAM BE RE SCHE ES TO DULE IN WI D TO THER F NORW HER HOLID IT AY IN AY. IT WAS N OT.
OLYMPIC EDITION population then Australia and 250 high schools with 50m swimming pools and water polo programs. All these athletes are fighting for scholarships at the 62 universities nation-wide who have full-time water polo programs. Their students even have their training times scheduled around university times to make it easier for them. In the Olympic year, we ramp it up and come together as full-time athletes as much as possible. This allows us to work on the systems and combinations we want to use and create the continuality and cohesiveness that we struggle with over the first 3 years of the Olympic cycle. It also allows the coaching and support staff to become a lot closer over this period. We find this 10-month intensive preparation keeps our top players wanting to play at the elite level, while also allowing us to develop our next tier and younger athletes throughout the Olympic cycle. Australia tends to lose more players then any other country after each Olympics as the girls want to finish their studying or are looking to start a career.
TEAM DEVELOPMENT For the previous 4 years, we’ve been working closely with a sports psychiatrist, and over the last year with a clinical psychiatrist. That’s been an area where we’ve really improved over these last 8 months – building the team culture and making sure everyone in the team is comfortable to speak up. We want the girls to get into a situation where if they see something wrong, they say it straight away, rather than letting it build up until it affects their decision-making in the heat of battle. We’re trying to get the girls out of the culture of keeping this internally and we’ve made some huge inroads. Part of this is due to building relationships and having critical conversations with each other, athletes and coaching staff. In the past, the players have been hesitant to say what they actually feel, thinking in the back of their minds that they might get dropped. All we want is the best for the team, and we’re there to try to help them become the best they can be.
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CAN WE BE THE BEST IN THE WORLD? We believe we are on track for Rio, but we knew going to the USA to compete in May was always going to be a huge challenge. The USA is the top team in the world and it was good to get a reality check now rather than get to Rio and find out we were a little off the mark. We have now just returned from China and the World League Finals, where 7 of the 8 teams going to the Olympics competed. We finished 3rd in the World League Finals, losing to Spain in the semi-final 10-8, and have come away knowing what we need to improve over the final months to make sure we are at our best. Since returning, we have finalised our 13 players for Rio. The three players who have missed selection have shown what our great team culture by agreeing to keep on training to help the selected team prepare. I think we’ve been one of the best teams in the world over the last 12 years. We’ve got aspirations of being the best at Rio, and I believe we can do it, but it’s not going to be an easy task. The Americans are an extremely good team, and all the top European teams will be there, plus China. In the women’s competition, there are probably 7 teams who can win medals out of the 8 teams competing. It’s a fairly even playing field but the USA are definitely the favourites. If we play our best, I believe we can beat all of these teams. At the last 2 Olympic Games, we have only lost 2 games of water polo all up, both times losing to the USA in the semi-finals, one of which was in overtime.
WHAT NEXT? This is my 12th year coaching the women’s team, and I spend 4-5 months of the year away from home in a nonOlympic year, and 8-9 months away in an Olympic year. I have two children, so it’s a major sacrifice to be away, missing out on their development and achievements, or watching them play sport. They’re growing up quickly and you don’t get that time back. As a
coach, that time is part of the sacrifices you have to make for the team to be successful. After each Olympics, we sit back and evaluate what’s next. I talk with my wife and family about what they want me to do. If we’re not successful in Rio, I don’t believe that I will be in charge of the women’s team. I’d probably look at stepping down and give someone else the opportunity. If we are successful… I don’t know either! 4 or 8 years ago, I would have definitely said, “I want to keep on coaching” because I am passionate about our sport and Australia being successful. However, there are a lot of other factors that need to be taken into account.
MY TOP TIPS
A lot of coaches try to be other people, or try to copy other coaches’ styles. I think what you’ve got to do is take the good from the coaches you’ve experienced and try to incorporate that into your program, but stay true to yourself. I’m very passionate at times, and the girls understand where that passion is coming from. It’s something that you can’t fake; it’s natural. You need to be yourself as much as possible.
When you’re young, you can make the mistake of thinking that you’ve got all the answers. But as you get older and more experienced, you realise that you’re still learning and there are many great people out there who can help you. You can never stop learning. The more you talk to coaches from all different sports, not just your own, the better experience you gain as a coach and the more you can incorporate the good messages or examples into your program.
RIO QUALIFICATION STRATEGY: A NEW APPROACH BEACH VOLLEYBALL – STEVE TUTTON, Senior Coach, Volleyball Australia
AS A KID, I GOT BLOWN OUT OF DARWIN. MY FAMILY LOST OUR HOUSE TO CYCLONE TRACY IN 1974, SO WE MOVED TO ADELAIDE. AT MY FIRST HIGH SCHOOL, MY PE TEACHER WAS A VOLLEYBALL NUT, SO I STARTED PLAYING, THEN MADE THE U20S STATE TEAM AT AGE 16. IF I HAD STAYED IN DARWIN, THERE WAS NO DOUBT IN MY MIND THAT I WOULD HAVE PLAYED FOOTBALL INSTEAD.
progressed to the national volleyball team with the confidence of my state coach, Harley Simpson, and was able to play nationally and internationally, so I caught the bug as a player. We would play indoor volleyball in winter and beach volleyball in summer. I played in two national championships in my first year, playing both U17s and U20s, then made the senior state team within two years.
When we returned, my brothers got involved in playing and we dominated the national scene for the next 10 years. Then, at 30, I had the opportunity of becoming a coach with the South Australian Sports Institute. I was involved in the family business in the building industry, so it was a bit of heartache for the family at the time, but I’ve now been coaching since 1990 in some shape or form.
We went to Hawaii in 1978 for the Pacific Rim Championships, which opened my eyes to how global the sport was. The most significant thing was the USA team who won the event. That team ended up being the nucleus of a team that won a gold medal in both the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, and a bronze medal in 1992, so it was a significant bunch of guys that we’d played against. They were world class and we got smashed, but it just showed you the professionalism of these guys who’d come out of playing college volleyball. We were just a bunch of rebels who came from different states and went to a camp one week before we went away.
THE CURRENT STATE OF VOLLEYBALL COACHING In the early days of full-time coaches and sporting programs in Australia, I ran a men’s volleyball program, dealing with part-time athletes. I felt we needed to have our athletes better prepared, based on my experiences and the trends in the world. It was quite challenging to create a parttime program to contribute toward our national teams who were moving into a full-time, centralised environment. I was identifying athletes, giving them a balance of training and competition experience but there weren’t enough COACHINGLIFE
competitions, so a few coaches got together and started to host an event in each of the 5 major states of volleyball. This made it more attractive to the athletes to train, prepare, compete and prepare again rather than just competing once a year at the National Championships. I ran the whole show solo – booking flights, keeping the books, driving the bus, organising medical and physios. It was kind of fun at the time! Now it’s about creating a team behind the team. With our current team of Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy, we’re bringing in psychologists, physiologists, strength and conditioning guys. There are routines and processes in place for managing and developing the athletes short term and long term. You become more of a manager, planning for the team and the individuals in the team, then implementing and delivering support services based on common goals. In Australia, there are now opportunities for professional full-time coaches in Indoor as well as Beach Volleyball however many of the coaches are in
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positions coaching National Teams for multiple cycles. There are many honorary coaching positions with the pathways structure for roles with National Junior Teams in Indoor and Beach Volleyball at U17, U19 and U21 levels, however our challenge is to bridge the gap from this honorary level of coaching to a full-time professional level. Coaches currently in the system may not get the experience to develop their skills and grow into a position as I did. For Volleyball, there hasn’t been much upward pressure as there haven’t been many athletes transitioning to coaching positions until the end of the Beijing cycle. Now there are opportunities with roles in the national junior team and the junior pathways programs to learn from the leaders within the sport. The only full-time positions, however, are either with state-based institute programs or with the national senior team programs for Indoor and Beach Volleyball – Men’s and Women’s Programs. One difficulty, or lack of incentive, is that we don’t have a professional league in volleyball, or an extensive, domestic
national tour for Beach Volleyball as they do in Brazil or Germany. With basketball, players have the ability to become pro and derive a level of income either domestically or in foreign leagues, which allows them to give it their full-time commitment. This is not possible in volleyball or beach volleyball in Australia. Our best players in volleyball have to go overseas to play in foreign leagues as professionals to earn as much as the basketballers do.
VALUES, BEHAVIOURS, RELATIONSHIPS I have been coaching volleyball teams – indoor and beach – for nearly 20 years. There is a difference in coaching beach volleyball because the team has only two players, compared to managing a team of 12 indoor players. You can have more intensive relationships with only a two player team, when you’re away for up to 300 days a year, competing as frequently as we do. It’s really important to invest and support those two players, so you become the travelling psychologist, the counsellor, a whole range of support mechanisms and the custodian of team values. A large part of www.coachinglife.com.au
ONES TO WATCH Both the Chinese and Vanuatu women’s teams are always competitive with us given the vast difference in their cultures and volleyball depth compared with ours. Vanuatu have recently had very consistently good form, so I expect them to be a real threat to our goal of qualifying a second Australian women’s team for Rio.
what I do is demonstrating and living the values of the team. We now have psychologist who works with the coaches on how to drive values and behaviours, and teaches us how to best support the athletes and be better at our jobs. We address emotionalbased decision-making – the feelings and thoughts that are a large part of driving values and behaviours, so that the team values can become the basis of decisions rather than the player’s emotions or the environment. In all cases, the team comes first, as in any team sport.
beat those who are financially and geographically able to play in more competitions. To do this, we had to use our values and team culture to drive us through the tough times. It’s the first time I’ve really pushed this approach. We have a centralised program based in Adelaide, but most other countries operate with a decentralised program where the athletes can decide to play together and may not have a specific coach. In Australia, we have a more strategic approach to investing in individual athletes, putting them together as a team, then surrounding them with support and resources. It’s not the norm, internationally. With a small population base and depth of talent, we know that with a good coach and resources, we can punch above our weight.
QUALIFYING FOR RIO – A NEW APPROACH
Although I’ve been the Head Coach of teams at 4 Olympic Games before, this is the first where I’m actually coaching a team. As Head Coach, you work with a team of coaches who then coach their teams. This time, I’m the one who has guided a team through all the challenges in pursuing their goal. I’ll be on the edge of my seat in Rio, but at the same time confident that we’ve done everything we possibly can to prepare. We’ve challenged the best teams in the world, we’ve got the vision and now we want to play our way with our game style.
In the Rio qualification period, we finished 7th in the rankings – a little higher than our original goal. To qualify, your best 12 results in the 18-month qualification period are counted. We played 14 events and qualified, whereas many of our opponents have played 23 events and haven’t yet qualified. We knew we were going to have fewer opportunities, so we had to be well prepared at the begging of the qualification season to go out and deliver a performance from the start that would be consistent enough to
Being in this different role has been very rewarding in that I’ve been able to challenge myself. I’ve really enjoyed how, when you’re prepared to invest yourself, it comes back to you in a range of different, unexpected ways. For example, the girls take care of me when we travel and make sure I’m ok, because that’s the relationship we have. They take me as a person, an individual, and as a team member because I’m vital to their experiences on and off the court.
WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED IN RIO The goal is to win a medal. We want to win a quarter final, to put us into the semis, which then determines whether you’re playing for gold or silver, or the bronze. Our men haven’t qualified a spot yet, but they have two more chances coming up, as do our second women’s team. It’s hard work and while we’re asking tour players and teams to be uncompromising, we have to be conscious that their humans as well and accumulate emotional and physical fatigue. Last year, we flew around the world 10 times. The total accumulated flying time equated to nearly 2 weeks of sitting in a seat on a plane. We recognise that it’s not normal to live the life that we do in the volleyball world. Currently we tend to survive from one Olympic Cycle to the next, and our Federation structure is aligned to that, so it makes it difficult to be consistent with the principles and philosophies of long-term athlete development as teams changes as well as support staff and coaches. We need to drive more unity and find more funding to hone our coaching talent and to get our hands on the talented players and coaches earlier. We need to embrace more opportunities for young Australians.
MY TOP TIP Be clear about who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. As a coach, you have a lot of types of relationships with the players to maintain: teacher, a father figure, a mentor, a dictator. When you commit to a goal and a dream, it’s important that you understand what it’s going to take and be really consistent in how you play your role to achieve it. COACHINGLIFE
CYCLING – BRADLEY MCGEE, Head Coach (Cycling), NSW Institute of Sport
RIO’S ROAD RACE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YET I STARTED COMPETING IN CYCLING AT THE AGE OF 10. THE YOUNGEST OF A FAMILY OF 4 BOYS, WE WERE HEAVILY INTO SPORTS AND ALL TRANSITIONED INTO CYCLING AND RACING IN THE 80S IN NSW. WE WERE ALL QUITE TALENTED AND ONE OF MY BROTHERS MADE IT TO JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP LEVEL.
y nickname, as the runt of the litter, was ‘Nipper’. I didn’t have a lot of early success, and if it wasn’t for my older brothers, I probably wouldn’t have stuck around. Instead, between 16 and 18, things started taking off for me competitively and I was taken up into the national program. I moved to Adelaide to train with Charlie Walsh, who was the head of cycling with the AIS. It was really sink or swim. Every year we’d start with 15-25 aspiring, healthy, young blokes, and by the end of each campaign, 11 months later, we’d be lucky to have 5 left – just enough to field a team for the Team Pursuit. That was the way it was run. I was Junior World Champion in 1993, and followed it up with the Commonwealth Games in 1994, winning gold in both the Individual Pursuit and Team Pursuit events. I did 4 Olympic cycles as an athlete, winning
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multiple Olympic medals. I spent 10 years riding professionally with the French team ‘Francaise des Jeux’, and then one year with Danish team ‘Team CSC’ after which I became their Directeur Sportif (“Sports Director”) for their cycling program.
LEARNING THE ROPES AT ELITE LEVEL As an athlete, your only job is to think about your physical, conditional and mental contribution to the team. Because cycling is so tough, everything else needs to be coordinated and managed by the staff so the athletes can do their job. There is a huge amount of coordination, forethought, vision and planning to do. Taking up the new role, I was amazed at how much went on behind the scenes and how much was done for the athletes. With that top team, I was able to learn from the best. I found one way to learn quickly was to have an informal conversation with key staff members to get a better
understanding of what was needed, then go back to playing the lead role for making decisions. The staff had a lot of knowledge to give, but were not always asked to provide it, so could feel frustrated at times. I was able to be the breath of fresh air with whom they could share their knowledge. It worked fast and well.
COACH AND ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT In 2012, I returned to NSW to work with the NSW Institute of Sport as their Head Coach for cycling. It was the first time the role had become available in 20 years and I was quick to put my hand up. It was where I wanted to be. I wanted to learn more. Alongside various AIS Winning Edge and Melbourne Business School programs, what we’ve learnt is that we need to get out and learn from other sports more, wherever there’s an opportunity, such as observing NRL’s Wayne Bennett. www.coachinglife.com.au
As an athlete, your only job is to think about your physical, conditional and mental contribution to the team. It’s quite important to have an appreciation for how young the athletes are that we’re developing today and realise their level of development and understanding. Tunnel vision and minimal uptake of information is quite prevalent. With the NSWIS program, I work directly with U19s and a few exceptional 16 year olds, but we rely heavily on the regional programs developing younger kids. I try to coach the coaches there and support them with the U15s and U17s. Typically, talented young athletes start hitting my radar at around 13/14 years of age. I now want to spend more time developing better pathways from U19s so that Australia becomes more competitive at World Championships and Olympic Games.
LAST MINUTE STRATEGIES My role as National Men’s Road Coach is like a Sports Director role. We have 25 professional riders on the World Tour this year who are all privately coached and very well managed. They’re my pool of talent. Predominately they are European-based, but because of the nature of professional cycling, they could be racing anywhere on the planet at any particular time. I only go handson coaching when we go to campaign mode in the weeks prior to a World Championships or Olympics. My recommendations for Rio team were submitted on the 28th June. I only had to select 3 athletes, with the fourth member to be chosen from outside road cycling. My 3 (Richie Porte, Simon Gerrans, Rohan Dennis) are all currently in the Tour de France and we will start communicating a couple of days after www.coachinglife.com.au
the Tour finishes. We will then have two weeks to prepare for Rio. We don’t want to lose momentum coming out of Tour, so we have one more race, in San Sebastian, in the week prior to the Olympics. The riders need it to keep their performance level up. No one wins anything in road cycling without teamwork and team strategy. Being such a small team has its challenges. We’ve kept all options open for strategy which will be determined by condition of the guys coming out of Tour. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but myself and the athletes are used to working on strategies the night before a competition, so two weeks is considerable. These athletes compete between 80-120 days a year and have been on the circuit for years. Having the Tour de France just prior to the Games is such an influencing factor that there’s no point going too far with strategy until they finish. The athletes have been selected based on what we know of the nature of the course, and now we have to wait to see what level of condition our line up are in.
RIO COULD BE ANYONE’S RACE At the London 2012 Olympics, we had a big rivalry with the UK, purely based on the course at London. We usually have a rivalry with the Spanish, and the Italians are always up there too. Columbia have a particularly strong team this year. Compared to other, bigger teams, we’re short on riders. It can work in our favour, but I’d still rather have 5 riders than 4. There’s lots of cat and mouse,
controlling, attacking, manoeuvring, games of chess in a road race. 5, 4, or 3 riders is a small team by anyone’s measure compared to the 9 we have for a normal World Championship event. We went to the test event in August last year to see the course, and it’s very challenging. It’s got a lot of differing attributes. The first half is similar to a Spring Classic in northern Europe with cobblestones, wind and steep inclines, and the remaining half is similar to an alpine/Pyrenees style. It will challenge every bike rider. Normally you have a long list of 8-10 riders as potential podium finishers but this will be a really hard one to pick. For the first time at an Olympic Games in modern cycling, we’ll have all of our best road riders in the world – classic, flat, Tour – having a crack.
Bradley McGee is one of Australia’s most decorated cyclists. First a Junior World Champion in 1993, he then represented Australia at Olympic level in the Men’s Team and Individual Pursuit, winning 5 Olympic medals at 3 Olympic Games. He was a Team Directeur Sportif on the UCI World Tour for several years as is now the Head Coach for Cycling at NSWIS. He was awarded the Order of Australia medal in 2005.
NO SHORTCUT TO SUCCESS
ROWING – CHRIS O’BRIEN, National Team Performance Director and Head Coach, Rowing Australia
GROWING UP, MY FATHER WAS A ROWING COACH AND I SPENT MANY YEARS SITTING IN THE COACHING LAUNCH WITH HIM, EVENTUALLY PROGRESSING FROM COX TO ROWING THROUGH SCHOOL AND IN TURN CLUB. MY OWN ATHLETIC PURSUITS, HOWEVER, WERE RAPIDLY OVERTAKEN AS I FOUND AN AFFINITY FOR COACHING THROUGH PICKING UP A PART-TIME ROLE WITH A SCHOOL PROGRAM IN BALLARAT. I STARTED HAVING SUCCESS WITH THE SCHOOL CREWS AND ENDED UP IN CHARGE OF THE SCHOOL PROGRAM AT AGE 20.
fter 7 years in the role, I felt it was time to cut my teeth so decided in 1996 to take a year off from full-time work so I could move to Melbourne, enrol in a Grad. Dip. in Sport Science and coach full-time in rowing. There were very few paid coaching roles in the country and they were very secure positions. That year, I tried to build my profile as a coach in the club environment. I checked out the main clubs along the Yarra and saw that while Melbourne University’s club had not had a lot of recent success, they did have good backing. I decided to join them, and started coaching their athletes along with some athletes from my school program who had come with me. We rapidly built a good stable of athletes, one of which I ended up taking to the U23 World Championships within 6 months of starting. It all happened very quickly. I also secured a position on the board of Rowing Victoria and became a selector for the State youth teams. This meant I was building brand and identity around myself
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as a coach. After the first year, the University engaged me to do the club administration, which then built to coaching and administration, and finally into a full-time position. I also picked up a role with Melbourne Girl’s Grammar’s rowing program and ran both this and the University club program concurrently. We created entry points for young athletes to come in, and started targeting talented people to join the club. We created a mission statement of what we wanted to do and how we were going to do it. One measure of my coaching success is when I have to tell people to go home! That’s when you can tell that they’re really enjoying the journey.
NO SUCCESS SHORTCUTS FOR COACHES After the 2000 Olympics, due to top coach movements overseas and Noel Donaldson stepping up a role, there were a number of senior men like James Tomkins and Drew Ginn who found themselves without a coach. They unexpectedly approached me, given www.coachinglife.com.au
ONES TO WATCH
some were already Olympic medallists. I chose to go down the path of coaching pairs, which led me to becoming Head Coach at the Victorian Institute of Sport in 2004 and then Performance Director for Rowing Australia in 2012 (a noncoaching role). Often, young coaches seem to expect things to happen too quickly, meaning they miss out on the breadth of experiences and skills they could be building. For instance, coaching a school program has the benefits
of learning to deal with a parent group and run a program. Itâ€™s one of the greatest opportunities for skill development as a coach.
Definitely the British, who are the world No.1 team. The British coach has had his crews win gold medals at every Olympics since 1972! The Italians are also strong and are the current World Champions. We will be the No.3 seeded crew after those two. Then come the USA, Dutch and Canadians.
Weâ€™re also seeing changes to the role of coaching in rowing with the broader development of other roles within sport: sports psychologists, physiologists, biomechanists, skill acquisition experts, and any number of other experts/specialists. This can potentially have the effect of diluting
the coach role, circumventing it, or get in the way of delivering performance with the amount of information that needs to be sifted through. The coach should be the project leader of the boat they are looking after. Growth in the sports industry is great, but also poses
a threat to the dilution of the skill set of the coach. The coach needs to ensure their own continual development in these areas so they can engage appropriately with these experts and bring all the relevant information together for developing the athlete. The experts should be working toward the coach’s objective, not hindering it. The coach needs to see the bigger picture and target the expert information as necessary. Therefore, they need people management skills and the ability to apply the information in a coordinated manner for the best outcome.
FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR OUR BEST PERFORMANCE Since the start of 2016, I’ve been coaching and program managing to be more hands-on with the program delivery. Our most important thing as a sport is to achieve medals in Rio and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable to be leading a team of coaches and having a direct impact on athletes. My deputy Performance Director is picking up some of the administrative parts while I stay purely focused on our senior/Olympic team to deliver our best performance.
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We have 8 boats qualified for Rio and have a number of coaches working on delivering those boats. I lead the group of coaches and am also the specific coach for the Men’s Four. Each training session, I’m looking at biomechanical data and analysis, GPS data, comparing it to previous workouts and to other crews, video, and feeding back information to the crews. I have lots of catch ups with the other coaches to ensure their teams are progressing and they’re making good decisions, and medical meetings with the team doctors to run through injuries and illnesses. We have one dedicated coach meeting each week devoted to our Rio plan. All of this information is pared down into a manageable size that can then be shared with the athletes, usually at our weekly athlete meeting.
limited period last year, but this will
It’s not just about knowing individual athletes, but getting them to work together well as a team. My team of four ranges from age 23-28. We have a citrus farmer, a med student, an engineering student, and an event manager. It’s a real mixed bag of people. 3 have rowed together for a
trust those decisions.
be the first time this crew will have raced together internationally. We’ve had 7 guys that have rotated through this boat in different cycles, and we’ve medalled in this boat every year since 2011. While there’s some common thread in people working together, it hasn’t always worked, so we’re trying to ensure we have the right team for Rio. We have an expectation of medalling at Rio, and will have a crack at winning it. There are certainly some challenging opposition: Great Britain has their No.1 crew who we haven’t beaten this year. On our best day though, we think we’re capable of achieving it. We train the athletes to be able to make decisions mid-race, using their problem-solving skills under pressure, and the team
We want them to get to the end of it all and say, “I did the best I could do” or “I didn’t quite get it right, because X”. If we don’t develop those skills on a daily basis in training, they can’t cope when things don’t go to plan in performance. www.coachinglife.com.au
SWIMMING: MICHAEL BOHL, Coach, Swimming Australia
THE OLYMPICS ARE NOT A UTOPIA POTENTIAL DISTRACTIONS WITH AN OLYMPIC GAMES, THERE ARE MANY DISTRACTIONS. I WASN’T REALLY PREPARED FOR THESE WHEN I WENT TO MY FIRST OLYMPICS IN BARCELONA, AT 29 YEARS OF AGE. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. IT’S AN ENORMOUS EVENT. IN THE VILLAGE, THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF ATHLETES FROM ALL DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES OF SPORT, ALL DIFFERENT SHAPES AND SIZES. IT’S AMAZING TO SEE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT ARE THERE.
The food hall is open 24 hours a day, which can be a distraction for people who like to eat a lot, which can then also be detrimental to their performance. There are a lot of activities going on all across the day, such as flag-raising ceremonies, bowling alleys, games rooms, pool tables, so young people who are on their first team want to be part of everything as they’re so excited. All these things can zap their focus and take the energy away from them. What we have to try to do, as coaches, is let them go for the first few days. Usually we arrive at the Olympic Village the week before, so the first two days we let them roam around, and then start to focus after that. We are very lucky in Australia with our championship and state events where the warm up pool is very structured with specific pace lanes and so on. When you go to an Olympic Games or a World Championships, the warm up pool and lanes are not policed well, so when you try to do pace work, you might have to weave around 5 or 6 people! Swimmers
who have been very spoilt in Australia with their own lane, really struggle to come to terms with other people getting in their road and can struggle with the choppy water. What we now tend to do in summer, is have a warm up with 15 people and only two lanes once a week or every two weeks. These very crowded conditions are what they’ll experience in a World Championships. You need to keep your athletes calm and expecting this when they come in, otherwise it can be a distraction. The general noise is just incredible. You find that quite a lot of people don’t perform at their best at an Olympics. Many go for the trip and the experience of the Olympic Village, and don’t take it seriously. They are the ones making noise until 1 or 2am. This time, we’re very aware of when the finals will be swum, at 10pm through to 12am. By the time some of these people have swum, they won’t be in bed until the early hours of the morning. It can be a big distraction when the swimmers aren’t used to it. Our state and national finals are usually around 7pm, so staying up COACHINGLIFE
the extra hours can be difficult to cope with, unless you’re used to working through these strategies with your athletes. The swimmers must be very wellversed to handle any situation that crops up. You always try to prepare for the best, but it’s always the worst things that happen. Maddie Wilson, who won a silver medal at the World Championships last year, ran into the swimmer in front of her while warming up and split the webbing of her finger open just 45-50 minutes prior to her race. I had to keep her calm on the spot. Things can and do go wrong!
IT’S NOT A UTOPIA The Olympics is not Utopia. My expectation on my first was that we would be moving into the Sheraton Hotel with comfy beds and soft fluffy pillows, but as we now know, there are actually usually 6 people to an apartment, so it can get very cramped. In the food halls, you have to line up
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As coaches, we are trying to prepare our swimmers to handle all the expectations that will be heaped on the team. for food for sometimes 10-15 minutes, and you have to put your dishes away at the end of every meal. There is also a lot of extra walking – from your apartment, to the food hall, to the bus stop to get to the pool. Our swimmers are used to parking their car at the pool and walking the odd 50m inside. So the kids end up walking an extra 3-4km each day which you need to prepare for.
DEALING WITH THE WEIGHT OF EXPECTATION As coaches, we are trying to prepare our swimmers to handle all the expectations that will be heaped on the team. Swimming is Australia’s No.1
Olympic sport, and there are media expectations and media requirements for all the athletes, so the kids need to be focused on process rather than the medals. You have to shield them from too much results-related pressure. The AOC has expectations. They’re funding Swimming Australia’s athletes and coaches quite significantly, and there are high expectations on the team to deliver good results at Rio. Swimming Australia have laid out a great plan for us, and we, as coaches, are responsible for delivering this plan. Families also put in a lot of effort and monetary investment into the swimmers, so of course the swimmers do not want to let their families down when they’re competing. These are all factors that are very hard to control. As a coach, I’m trying to make the swimmers aware of this and at the end of every season, we have a group meeting with all the swimmers and then meet with each individually.
Media expectations for each swimmer will be different, so I’m able to talk through specifically with each of them. As coaches, we have our own expectations, and then of course there’s the expectations the swimmers place on themselves as well. As a coach, you need to understand the individuality of the swimmers in your program to get the best results and ensure they cope.
CREATING THE RACE PROGRAM In coaching and planning for the lead up, what I try to do is break my season up into 3 parts. I come up with a training plan for each part and a racing plan that leads up to a big competition such as the Short Course Championships, State Championships or National Championships. Swimmers can train well, but you can’t undersell how important racing fitness is. If we go back 4 years, that was one of the mistakes we made for London. We only had one competition in the winter at which the London swimmers could compete, which had an outbreak of whooping cough. Hindsight is a great thing, but perhaps we should have moved the event to Melbourne or Sydney, or cancelled it entirely. Unfortunately, it meant that the swimmers were underdone in terms of racing fitness coming in to the Olympics. When you go to the Olympic Games, you can have your kids really conditioned, but in the end they’re racing against
others from all over the world who perhaps they haven’t raced before, which can put them off their race. By going to more races, against different people, it benefits and prepares the swimmers. I expect that at the first pre-meet for Rio, they will be a bit rusty. They will get to a pretty good level prior, and then fine tune their performance with race practice. All the kids are individuals, and we try to get them to perform in-season best times in the first meet, and then perhaps under that at the next. We are taking our kids to the Santa Clara meet prior to Rio, which is to get them travelling eastwards early. They will have to come to terms with the jet lag and get over it, and we may have to do sleep strategy work with some athletes who are used to getting up very early. It also has the obvious benefits of competition. The way I approach every swimmer that I coach, is that I’m trying to take them from September to the following September to a better place. Not simply marking time, not repeating performances, but showing an improvement. We want to advance their strength and flexibility, their consistency and how hard they work from one session to the next. They should have a great attitude and be enthusiastic. Bad moods affect training and the atmosphere of the whole team. We don’t
EDITION DID OLYMPIC OU KNOYW ?
AT TH E 19 GAME 28 AMSTE HENR S, AUSTR RDAM ALIA Y PE ROWI ARCE STO ’S NG PPE FAMI LY OF TO ALLOW D A DUCK SAFEL ST Y BOAT IN FRONT O PASS . HE S OF HI T S GOLD ILL WON TH MEDA E L.
always make overall improvements, but it’s what we aim for. Bill Sweetenham and Laurie Lawrence were my old swim coaches and had a huge influence on both my swimming and coaching. Both taught me many lessons, which I feel has stood me in really good stead over the last 28 years of coaching. If you weren’t tough, you didn’t survive in their programs! When I was swimming with Bill, one of the best things he taught me was that everyday there will be people out there who will try to put you off your game. Bill used to say to us, “You need to have the mindset that no one out there is good enough to put you off.” It’s the mindset that successful athletes have coming into an Olympic Games, and a good life lesson at that.
As a coach, you need to understand the individuality of the swimmers in your program to get the best results and ensure they cope.
COACHINGLIFE COACHINGLIFE LIFElL
GOLD MEDALS START IN THE MIND BEACH VOLLEYBALL – KERRI POTTHARST, 3 time Olympian and gold medallist
I GOT INVOLVED IN VOLLEYBALL BY ACCIDENT. I WAS A LANKY, SKINNY, 6-FOOT-TALL TEENAGER, AND WAS TEASED A LOT FOR BEING MUCH TALLER THAN EVERYBODY ELSE. ONE NIGHT, MY BROTHER ASKED ME TO FILL IN AT THE LOCAL REC CENTRE FOR AN INDOOR VOLLEYBALL TEAM. “COME AND STAND ON THE COURT,” HE SAID, “AND WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS, GET OUT OF THE WAY.” I WENT DOWN AND MUCKED AROUND A LITTLE, AND SEEING SOME POTENTIAL, MY BROTHER SUGGESTED I COME ALONG TO THE CLUB TRAINING.
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hey were happy to have another tall player in the team, so suddenly my confidence grew. I was lucky enough to grow up in South Australia with some of the best coaches in the country at the time, including Sue Dansie, the best indoor coach. She took me under her wing and I played indoor volleyball for 10 years before I even went out onto the beach. In that time, I went from strength to strength. In the beginning, to be honest, my reason for playing was because there were a lot of tall boys around (haha!). But, I did get good at it pretty quickly and we started travelling around the world. I played for Australia for 10 years from age 17, and captained the side for a couple of years as one of the best players in the country... but I wanted more. I’m the kind of person who always wants to get better and better. So I went to Italy to play a season professionally in a club team, and grew in skills again.
When I came back to Australia between seasons, I completely wrecked my knee in the Australian National Championships. Cruciate and medial ligaments, meniscus cartilage –I tore it all to shreds in one landing from a spike jump. At the time, I didn’t know what the future would be. After 3 surgeries and losing a lot of muscle, I realised it would be difficult to get back into playing. So I set some goals, did rehabilitation, moved to Perth thinking I’d get back on the court, but a year later I still couldn’t play anything like I used to. My knee just couldn’t cope. www.coachinglife.com.au
wrote a script empowering ourselves in our beliefs and desired achievements, creating a picture for ourselves using statements such as “I am an Olympic gold medallist”, “I am the best server in the world”, “I feel X about my partner”. We would read those scripts frequently and lived into it. Every single day we acted like Olympians.
Natalie and I ended up splitting as a pair in 1998 for a season to play with other partners. We still ended up being the No.1 and 2 teams in the country. In that year, Natalie did a lot of personal development and improved her game. My new partner and I didn’t gel as well as we should have on paper, and while we tried to make it work, in the end Natalie and I got back together for the Sydney 2000 Games and won the Gold!
I decided to give beach volleyball a try, just for some fun. There was an event going on, and when I played, my knee didn’t hurt. Just then, in 1992, Volleyball Australia announced that beach volleyball would be a full medal sport in the 1996 Olympic Games. So I quit indoor completely and started out on the beach with my best friend at the time, who’d also just quit the indoor team. We started playing on World Tour events and did really well. The hardest decision was when, after about a year of beach volleyball, I realised that I could be good enough to go to the Olympics. However, I decided I needed to have a better partner to get there. I had to literally “dump” my best friend to pick up the talented Natalie Cook as a partner. It was a business decision, and a very difficult thing to do, but I had a gut feeling that I had to go with. After winning our first medal in 1996 (bronze), we got a bit complacent in our skills and our relationship went downhill. www.coachinglife.com.au
Beach volleyball is all about relationships. You have to have both the physical, strategic and mental stuff really nailed to be successful. We’ve got a team going to Rio who are very similar to Natalie and I. One is 10 or more years older than her partner, as we were, so one experienced player and one younger. They have a great chance of medalling.
THE GOLD MEDAL EXCELLENCE PLAN Work on mindset has to be done years before the Olympics. It’s a gradual build up. You can’t fix it with only 4 weeks to go. One thing I used to say to the teams I coached before their big matches, was that they had done all the work. You can get very nervous before a big event and forget all the hard work you did to get there. Just remembering that you are prepared gives you more confidence. In the years before the Olympics, Natalie and I had designed what those next couple of years looked like. A lot centred around how we felt about ourselves and what words came after, “I am…”. We
We created a Gold Medal Excellence Plan for ourselves and it included our purpose and our ‘why’. We wanted to win a gold medal to use as a vehicle to inspire others. It also included a code of conduct for ourselves – rules around what we should do as a team, respecting others, commitment to improvement, being focused, and importantly, enjoy the journey. When you’re striving for success in any area, you can get so driven and bogged down that you forget to actually have fun and be balanced. We also detailed what we needed to do to beat every team in the world to win that gold medal. We made sure we’d notched up a win against every team we would compete against at the Olympics, which gave us confidence that we were capable. And then we set out who we had to become as people to be good enough to be worthy of gold medallist before we even made it to the Games. We looked at people who had already achieved success, athletes and also top business people, to see what they had done. It was all about Gold Medal Excellence – having a focus on all the things we needed to be and do to be actual gold medallists. By the time we got to the gold medal match at the Olympics, we weren’t scared or nervous, we were excited and could envision how it would feel and look at the end of the game. The Brazilian team we played, we’d only beaten once in 17 matches over the previous 3 years, but that was all we needed. We knew we could do it. While we were behind in both sets, we had no fear, and plugged away to win a close match. 15 years on, I haven’t come down from that! COACHINGLIFE
FOR BEST RESULTS, UNDERSTAND YOUR ATHLETE
ATHLETICS – CRAIG HILLIARD, Head Coach, Athletics Australia
I WAS FORMERLY A 110M AND 400M HURDLER BUT HURT MY KNEE PLAYING AUSSIE RULES AND HAD TO HAVE TWO KNEE RECONSTRUCTIONS. I KNEW I WAS GOING TO BE IN A BIT OF TROUBLE COMING BACK FROM THE SECOND RECONSTRUCTION, AND I’D ALWAYS HAD COACHING IN MIND AS SOMETHING I’D LIKE TO TRY LATER ON, BUT NOT AT AGE 23..
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really enjoyed the technical, physiological and biomechanical aspects of sport, especially athletics. I had qualified with a Bachelor in Physical Education and Grad. Dip. in Sport Science, and was teaching at Ivanhoe Grammar School when an opportunity arose at the Australian Institute of Sport as an apprentice coach position in athletics. Thinking I’d never get it, I was encouraged by a fellow teaching colleague, Reg Hatch (the Olympic kayaking coach at the time) to apply while I was still undergoing physiotherapy for my knee. The next thing you know, 3 weeks later I was flying to Canberra to be interviewed
by Kelvin Giles. I was offered the job by Don Talbot, the Executive Director. I immediately moved away from my comfortable situation in Melbourne (a scary thought!). I thought I would move up for year to give it a go, but 33 years later, I’m still at the Australian Institute of Sport, having progressed to the role of Athletics Australia Head Coach in 2015. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to be immersed in something that was so new, flying by the seat of my pants, but also with the ability to put my stamp on where athletics in this country was heading. It was an exciting time. I was pretty much 'thrown' race walking to start. I was given the coaching duties of then world record holder, Sue Cook. I applied the sport science knowledge I’d acquired, and Sue kept improving and breaking records, which helped my confidence. More athletes came and this created a strong walking culture. Gradually I took on further athletic disciplines, such as hurdles, long jump and heptathlon, and included athletes such as Kerry Saxby-Junna, Flemming, Nicole Boegman and Rohan Robinson. These were formative years for me in establishing my coaching approach and philosophy. I was very fortunate to be able to develop in more than one area and have success.
A COACH’S EDUCATION NEVER ENDS Coaching is a constant evolution. I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot with the AIS and with Athletics Australia’s national teams, mixing with overseas coaches and observing the athletes they’re working with. That’s been the real education – to chat with them, see their athletes training, discussing a range of topics and philosophies. You can learn a lot from other sports, not just other track and field coaches. No matter what knowledge you have or what courses you’ve done, if you don’t www.coachinglife.com.au
understand the people, the athletes you’re working with and communicate effectively, then you won’t succeed. You need to understand what makes them tick, and how to build their trust in you to be a more effective coach. Working at the AIS in the early days particularly was great for this, as you were surrounded by other coaches, including Bill Sweetenham, all with the mindset and purpose, sharing knowledge across sports and the unique challenges that confronted each of us. There are more opportunities for coaches now, however it’s still difficult to make a career out of it. That's why it is certainly an aim of mine to employ more coaches in the future in the high performance environment. We need more coaches to drive our sport and athletes, and ultimately impact on the daily training environment and performance. The best way we can upskill our coaches is not just in theory, but out on the track, in the weight room, being mentored by other coaches across the country. There’s no secrets out there – it’s about the application of one’s knowledge relative to the athlete that you are coaching.
WHEN INJURIES STRIKE The pressure to perform as a coach is always there, and I think through my naiveté in my early years, failure was never part of the equation. I believe that not being obsessed about everything has helped me survive this long in a performance-based environment. You can only control so much, and the rest is up to the athlete. You can only prepare the athlete as best you can through sound preparation and planning, and establishing that trust in the relationship. A stressed coach is no use to any athlete. It’s been a great journey, but sport can be fickle. Injuries strike at the last minute, such as with my squad for the Barcelona Olympics. Of the 8 athletes I www.coachinglife.com.au
had on the team, every athlete ended up with something wrong with them, leading into the Games, such as Jane Flemming tearing her hamstring 10 days out. Every athlete underperformed because the injury interrupted preparation. It was a really dark period of coaching for me. Prior to that moment, I’d enjoyed a very good run of success with the athletes performing when it counted, so that was a real reality check for me. It was a wake-up call for looking at what I was doing, how I was preparing and planning, and what I really had control over. On the flip side, there are the successes, like Kerry SaxbyJunna’s world records, Jai Taurima’s Sydney silver and Nathan Deakes’ World Championship 50km gold medal. That’s the highs and lows of sport. You’re always trying to the push the
boundary to extract the best out of the athlete, so you’re on a knife edge all the time with respect to potential injury. At the same time, you have to keep refining and understanding what’s going on and make on-the-ground decisions for the athlete and program direction based on the conditions on the day and the physical and emotional state of the athlete. The athlete needs to understand their body to give you accurate feedback on a session, to share the physiological responses they’re feeling, the differences from the previous day. Then you’ll get a far more effective result in managing the load across sessions, the training block, and eventually the Olympic cycle. That comes through building that trust with the athlete, and is absolutely paramount to performance. If you do that, you’ll increase the chance of success and COACHINGLIFE
OLYMPIC EDITION Australian athletes are competitive beings. Often, the harder the fight, the better we perform. I think it’s part of our culture and how we approach competition.
decrease the chance of athletes getting hurt. You’re always better off counselling an athlete to miss 3-4 days of training through caution than pushing through and ending up missing 6 weeks through injury.
RIO IS NOT WITHOUT ITS CHALLENGES We’ve got a large team of 61 athletes with a good mix of youth and experience. The majority of athletes have their personal coaches attending our holding camp in Florida, which Athletics Australia is funding, to make sure each athlete performs at their best. A number of the young debutants have previously competed at the World Juniors or Commonwealth Games. This is very much a transitional time for our sport with a lot of new athletes coming through. There is a very good atmosphere around the team with a strong athlete leadership group. Role models in sports are important and inspire younger athletes. It builds their self-belief in being able to achieve the same results.
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If we keep the momentum going from the domestic season, I’m confident that our team will produce some very encouraging results. Australian athletes are competitive beings. Often, the harder the fight, the better we perform. I think it’s part of our culture and how we approach competition. We want to get out there and give it our best crack – which is an important attitude and quality to possess. The Olympic Games as the biggest sporting event in the world present logistical challenges for the delivery of high performance. Access to the same number of accreditations we enjoy at events like the world championships is unrealistic, but with Australian Olympic Committee support we have been able to accommodate a large number of personal coaches through restricted access accreditations, like those that provide entry to training venues. This allows them to work with their charges through to competition day which is a great result.
MY TOP TIPS 1 2 Never stop learning and continue to challenge yourself.
Back yourself. Have the courage of your convictions and understand the sport inside and out, including the biomechanics, the physiology, and what makes athletes tick. If you understand this, and communicate effectively, you’ll extract a much better result from the athlete. www.coachinglife.com.au
WHAT IT TAKES TO FOLLOW THE DREAM BASKETBALL – ANDREJ LEMANIS, Head Coach, Australian Men’s Basketball Team (Boomers), Basketball Australia
I STARTED PLAYING AT AGE 6 IN THE U10S AT COBURG. MY PARENTS ARE LATVIAN AND BASKETBALL IS A SIGNIFICANT SPORT THERE, SO BOTH MY BROTHER AND I PLAYED FROM A YOUNG AGE WITH MY DAD COACHING OUR JUNIOR TEAMS. I PROGRESSED TO CLUB BASKETBALL FOR THE ST KILDA SAINTS JUNIORS, WHERE I ALSO TRAINED WITH THE SENIOR TEAM. THEY ACTUALLY TOOK ME ON THE ROAD WITH THEM WHEN THEY HAD A FEW INJURIES SO I AM POSSIBLY STILL THE YOUNGEST PLAYER TO HAVE PLAYED IN THE NBL.
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represented Victorian Metro on the state team 5 times, 3 times as captain, before moving into the SEABL league with Bulleen and the St Kilda Saints, and then the NBL with Melbourne Magic from 1992-1993, winning a championship. During that time, Brian Goorjian was our coach and it was impossible not to improve as a player under Brian. He is both passionate and inspiring. Throughout my playing career, I had been coaching a few junior teams here and there, and by the end of the 1993 season with Melbourne Magic, Brian sat me down. While he didn’t have another playing contract for me, he did think I’d make a good coach and offered to help me as much as he could. With Brian’s encouragement, I decided to give coaching a try and picked up a position with the Sandringham Sailors in the Victorian League, coaching the senior men’s team, and then with my old club at Bulleen. I found that through coaching, I had a greater appreciation and understanding for the game. I wish I’d done more coaching as a player, as it would have improved my playing. In the early days, I was extremely raw and naïve, and didn’t really know how to
help the players. I was more their mate than their coach. Generally, an Assistant Coach can be a little more connected to the players on a social level and be a conduit to the Head Coach on the pulse of the team. However, by the nature of the situation, the Head Coach won’t always have the same closeness of relationship with the players due to their position controlling court time, player contracts and so on. While at Bulleen, Ian Stacker, who was the Assistant Coach for Melbourne Magic, received his first NBL head coaching role with the Geelong Supercats, and asked me to become his assistant. It was my first full-time coaching gig and I gave up my successful career with PricewaterhouseCoopers to follow the dream. Although I signed a 3-year deal, the owner ended up selling the club’s licence back to the league only a year later which left me without a job. I found my way to being an assistant coach for another SEABL team before eventually taking a management job with Basketball Victoria. 8 months in, Ian took up the Head Coach role at the Townsville Crocodiles and again I became his assistant, spending www.coachinglife.com.au
highs of those who are selected. In Australian basketball right now, we have tremendous depth of talent. It’s great for the sport but makes it harder to make selections.
7 great years building an amazing program, and learning from Ian. The Townsville administration was fantastic, contributing to both the on-court and off-court success. In my last few years at Townsville, Ian encouraged me to look for Head Coach roles in the NBL. The New Zealand Breakers took a punt on me, as a new NBL coach, and it was the start of an amazing time. Paul and Liz Blackwell had just taken over full ownership of the club, with Richard Clark as the GM. Together, we were able to set out a 5-year plan of the vision they had for the club, which included growth, development, and investment in its people. We recruited other staff who fitted with our desired values and skills, ones who would contribute positively to the program. The club supported me to go overseas and learn from other basketball programs, through which I met Brett Brown at the San Antonio Spurs. I stayed at the Breakers for 8 years, winning 3 consecutive championships. When Brett won the Australian Boomers position in 2009 and asked me to become his assistant, it was like a dream. Thankfully, the Breakers were 100% behind me, so for the next 4 years I was both their Head Coach and Assistant Coach for the Boomers. After the 2012 London Olympics, Brett decided not to continue for another cycle and supported my application for the top job. www.coachinglife.com.au
THE BEST AND THE WORST OF IT The great part of representing your country at the Olympics is that they’re wonderful, chaotic, overwhelming, and you see absolutely tremendous basketball. Singing the national anthem with the team before they go out to play gives you chills and is something I’ll always remember. The worst part, however, is telling players who have given their all, that they’ve not been selected for the team. You know they’ve invested time, effort, blood, sweat and tears. They’re all talented and have done all the right things, and yet you still can’t take them all. It’s often hard to give a reason for them to latch onto. Sometimes the guys in front of them are just a tiny bit better, or the balance of the team is better in a certain combination. We have a proactive plan with each player regarding who they will tell, how to tell it and how they might cope with disappointment. We also have a personal excellence person available and offer help with counselling services if required. It’s difficult and different for every person. Every player has contributed to the results of the team, not just over a training camp or a season, but over years. They are part of our organisation and it is our responsibility to support them. It’s a day I dread, and a tough day from both player and coach perspective. On the same day, you also have the absolute
Before Rio, we are going to Argentina for two games and then to Sao Paulo for another. Games expose areas of improvement and give us the opportunity to establish our trademark as a team. Our first game is on the very first day of the Games – August 6th – against France. Because of this, the team are yet to determine as a collective whether they will attend the opening ceremony or not. In our minds, we’re going to Rio to win the gold medal. I’m sure every team going has that same aspiration but with us, we believe we have the skill level and team chemistry to do it. Our aim is to play each game on its merits.
MY TOP TIPS 1 2 You’ve got to be who you are, don’t try to be someone else.
Keep learning. Every day, try to get a little bit better and take the same attitude with your team.
Don’t read social media, newspapers or anything else other than what you can control. Stay focused on that. Worrying about outside influences is just wasted energy.
ING 200M SWIMM E OBSTACLE RAC a d to climb over Competitors ha of w mble over a ro pole, then scra ro her w im under anot boats, then sw , and ever held once of boats. Only it, on w erick Lane Australian Fred st be e th the stern was knowing that a boat. way to get over 00 Last seen : 19
– PETITION ART COM es : g 5 cate ori in n e iv g ic, Medals ture, Mus re, Litera tu c e it o h ly Arc . On ne Sculpture d n a g n ti Pain medal for on a gold w s a h n mpetition perso sports co d n a rt a eer and both the unning D (R s n a in W – Walter ). Sculpture : 1948 Last seen
ROPE C LIMB As part of the G ymnastic program s of the O lympics compet , itors rac ed to th of the ro e top pe in th e shorte possible s t time . When it was fi only two r s t held, compet itors rea ched th top of th e e rope! Last see n : 1932
ISTOL ING P L L uman E DU t at h o h s s in etitor ssed Comp s dre e t t ll’s e u silhou ts with a b a o . c chest frock n the eye o 1906 een : s t s a L
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PLUNGE FOR DISTAN CE SWIM MING E Compet VENT itors ma de a sta then ha nding d d to rem ive, ain mot underw ionless ater for one min their he ute, or u ads bro ntil ke the s urface, whichev er came first. Last see n : 1904
TUG OF WAR e 8 had to pull th Each team of der to feet along in or other team 6 1908 sy reigned in win. Controver am te e lic rpool Po when the Live s, so oe normous sh competed in “e eat , it was with gr heav y, in fact et from uld lift their fe effort they co the ground”. 20 Last seen : 19
STRANGE DISCONTINUED OLYMPIC EVENTS ISED HRON C N Y S SOLO MING SWIM swimming rson Can gle pe n i lone. s a A l l A lled sic. be ca l to mu l i t s ng? eally immi w s this r d e ronis 1992 synch een : s t L as
UNDERW ATER SWIMM IN G RACE Compet itors we r e awarde points fo d r every m travelle etre d and ev ery seco they sta nd yed und erwater. Last see n : 1900
CROQUE T Only eve r held o nce, and France won all the med unsurpr als isingly d ue to th overwhe e lming am ount of compet F r ench itors. It was not success a as only one spe ctator attende d. Last see n : 1900
T WO -HA NDED JA VELIN Compet itors did not thro with bo w th hand s togeth had to t e r, but hrow se parately left and with right ha nds, and combin the ed score determin ed the win ner. Last see n : 1912
100M R UNNING DEER S HOOTIN Shootin G g at a d eer-sha that ma p ed targe de 10x7 t 5 foot ru has bee n s. Swed n the m e n ost succ essful country in this e vent. Last see n : 1948
IGEON LIVE P ING SHOOT ly time and on t s r fi The ere imals w an live an ose in n purp o d le il . k event Olympic 00. en : 19 Last se www.coachinglife.com.au
THE LAST WORD… Don’t read social media, newspapers or anything else other than what you can control. Stay focused on that. Worrying about outside influences is just wasted energy.
Be resilient, because once you step into the coaching world, criticism of you is incredible.
Coaching has become a conversation, not a dictatorship.
Create the opportunity for them to excel but not dictate via measures and markers.
Fiona de Jong
It’s not the fittest that survive, but those able to adapt to change. Bob Crudgington
You need to really connect with your athletes. If the heart is not there in the relationship, it’s not going to happen. Chava Sobrino
If you cannot inspire, then you cannot coach.
In the old days, it was team feedback, but girls get more out of one-on-one.
When you’re prepared to invest yourself, it comes back to you in a range of different, unexpected ways. Steve Tutton
Every unique person needs a different approach.
To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re coaching men or women. It’s about coaching the individual and getting the best out of them.
You need to embody and stand for the values you expect from your players, of any age. Jens Lang
As a coach, you need to understand the individuality of the [athletes] in your program to get the best results and ensure they cope.
We really need to put the players at the centrepiece of our development programs and structures. Alen Stajcic
Michael Bohl Growth in the sports industry is great, but also poses a threat to the dilution of the skill set of the coach.
Take the good from the coaches you’ve experienced and try to incorporate that into your program, but stay true to yourself.
Coaching is a constant evolution. Craig Hilliard
Next issue... PARALYMPIC EDITION
THE RIO JOURNEY CONTINUES! FIND OUT HOW THE TOP PARALYMPIC COACHES INSPIRE OUR AUSSIE BEST FOR SUCCESS, AND LEARN ABOUT THE EVOLUTION AND BURGEONING BUSINESS OF COACHING DISABILITIES.
plus so much more!
www.coachinglife.com.au 76 // COACHINGLIFE
The first Olympics Edition of Coaching Life features over 20 Olympic Coaches, their secrets and top tips for gold medal performance.
Published on Aug 1, 2016
The first Olympics Edition of Coaching Life features over 20 Olympic Coaches, their secrets and top tips for gold medal performance.