Sports Science Roundtable by Daniel Martinez
Cory Innes (Victorian Institute of Sport – Lead S&C T&F/Badminton)
Cory is the Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach for Track and Field and Badminton at the Victorian Institute of Sport in Melbourne, Australia. He provides strength and conditioning support to nationally identified athletes in these sports, and develops programs for training camps and education to national junior squads. Additionally, he operates as the National Sport Science and Medicine Manager for Badminton and sits on the High-Performance Committee, which involves the development of a national structure and framework around strength and conditioning and medical support.
Cory Kennedy (Institut National du Sport du Québec – Head of S&C)
Cory is the Head of Strength and Conditioning at Institut National du Sport du Québec. This role includes being the lead for certain training groups, as well as managing the delivery of strength and conditioning as a whole within the Institut. This means helping to guide other team members in their journey in strength and conditioning, as well as managing the logistics and equipment within the training space.
Devan McConnell (UMass Lowell – Head of Hockey Performance)
Devan serves as the Head of Hockey Performance at UMass Lowell. His role is essentially to oversee everything that goes into development off the ice. This includes strength and conditioning, recovery and regeneration, nutrition, sport science data collection and interpretation, and continuing education for the staff and players.
Jonas Dodoo (Speed Works – Head Coach of Athletics and High Performance Consultant)
Jonas is the Head Coach of Speed Works, a track group based in London. He is also a high-performance advisor to professional sports teams (mainly rugby and soccer).
Mike Boykin (ALTIS – Sprints & Hurdles Coach/Sports Science Lead)
Mike is currently a Sprints and Hurdles Coach at ALTIS, overseeing the development of a group of 200m and 400m sprinters, and 400m hurdlers. He also serves as the sports science lead on The ALTIS performance team.
Nate Brookreson (NC State University – Director of Olympic Sports)
Nate is currently the Director of Olympic Sports at North Carolina State University, where his primary team responsibilities are with women’s basketball, swimming, and men and women’s golf. As a coach, his job is athlete management, which consists of the planning and implementation of training programs; the review of the plans through observation of performance qualities to determine if they are producing expected outcomes; and making changes based on testing, monitoring and performance results. As a supervisor, he assists staff in the: creation of needs analyses for the respective sports; centralization and management of performance and monitoring data; dissemination of information to improve the staff’s knowledge and programming; and creation of opportunities for the staff to complete departmental projects to positively impact the Pack Performance unit.
Patrick Ward (Sports Science Analyst at Seattle Seahawks)
Patrick is a Sport Scientist for the Seattle Seahawks and was formerly with Nike’s SPARQ Division in Portland.
Strength and conditioning coach, Daniel Martinez, recently talked to a roundtable of coaches and trainers from four different countries about several sports science topics. We will be presenting these questions, and their answers, in a series of Sports Science Roundtable articles, starting with this one on the definition of success.
Daniel Martinez: How do you define success for your team and your role?
Cory Innes: Success is defined by performance. If the sport performance is not improving, then
we are not doing all we can to help facilitate that. My role involves helping create individual performance plans (IPPs), in consultation with the coaches, national sport organizations (NSOs), and a wider support team (sport science, physiotherapy, psychology, nutrition, etc.), which focus on identifying areas of improvement within the athlete’s performance and then developing ways of measuring improvement in each area.
This is an integrated approach with accountability from each contributing team member, and these are reviewed and adjusted as required. This allows us to see specifically where or if we have been successful in our contribution to performance. In my role, I look at specific measures that identify whether my contribution is successful at a strength and conditioning level, but also whether this improvement transferred to the sports performance.
Cory Kennedy: Success as a strength and conditioning staff member (or a sport scientist) is difficult to define, as some colleagues regularly remind us. So, we look at success in a few different areas. Approval and trust from an athlete can sometimes be the low-hanging fruit, but it is essential. You need their trust, and they need yours. Matching each other’s expectations is so important. Secondly, you need to have the coaches’ approval. Sometimes we think the coaches are wrong, and vice versa. Yet, we have to trust each other and get along.
Lastly, are we offering something to the sport that they never had before? Is there a legacy that we are providing? We tirelessly shake every tree for research and innovation opportunities, because we are learning new things about different sports, training methods, equipment, and human beings. This means that there will always be opportunities to improve on processes. This could be the way coaches view training and practice, or tests used to identify or track talent, or they could be validating equipment that enters the marketplace.
If we can publish reviews or original research, this is a huge success. Even if it’s not published, if the sport assimilates it into their way of doing things, that is a big win for us. Within those principles, we have an Integrated Support Team (IST) around each sport (think of the different specialists), and we do our best to really get on the same page, collaborate on projects, and share similar perspectives, so we can offer a sport a well-functioning team.
Devan McConnell: Success, in a general sense for our team, comes from the basic premise of wins/losses, just as with any other athletic organization. At the end of the day, our staff and program are judged by how we finish within our league, and if and how we earn an opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament. On a more specific level to my position, in addition to our team success, the success of my role is reflected by our “man games lost” statistic, or what our injury ratio is. I am also judged, from an athletic development perspective, by how many of our players move on to play professional hockey after their college career.
Finally, in addition to all this, I personally view success as how “successful” my athletes are once they are done being athletes…. Do they leave us as a better version of themselves? I measure their success by how much more mature, worldly, and prepared they are to be productive members of our society; and by the depth of the relationships they have formed along the way.I personally view success as how ‘successful’ my athletes are once they are done being athletes. Click To Tweet
Jonas Dodoo: Success is always measured by the progression of performance. Running fast and winning games are essentially what stake holders will measure players, athletes, teams, and coaches by. But, within our team, we measure our success by progression towards high performance. Some may talk about this being culture and some may just call this being professional. Either way, we identify the behaviors, processes, and benchmarks of high performance, then work on bridging the gap between where we want to be and where we are now. If we are doing everything in our power to close this gap, then we expect to see more wins, faster times, and healthy athletes.
Mike Boykin: When we sat down as a performance team in September, which was the start of our 2016-2017 training season, the No. 1 goal for this year was international level success of our athletes. While success in this context can be defined numerous ways, in track and field and in our situation, it was simply having athletes performing their best in meets, with a long-term focus on premier competitions, while staying healthy.
There are multiple ways to achieve this and certain landmarks must be hit along the way, as it requires doing things correctly when it comes to supporting the athlete group. Many people have written and spoken about this before and Good to Great by Jim Collins is a fantastic reference on the topic, but it begins with the people involved. ALTIS’ infrastructure was built on high-level coaches and therapists working together with the athlete, in what Dan Pfaff and Gerry Ramogida have aptly termed the “Coach-Athlete-Therapist Triad.”
The keystone to success in this model is the ability of all three members to communicate openly with each other and put ego aside to best serve the athlete and their goals. All other support services are just that—support. Things that are classically defined as “sports science,” whether it be some sort of physiological, biomechanical, psychological, nutritional, etc. information, must inform the coach and therapist, and, where appropriate, the athlete. These support services are present to give the team increased access to a wealth of information that they theoretically would not have due to lack of expertise in a particular area.
Anything that aids in best practice must be put in a framework that the coach and therapist can apply (or at least file away for a later date), rather than an isolated factoid that simply feeds that athlete with additional information.
Nate Brookreson: Success in my role is multifaceted. In the role of support staff to a sport coach, my primary responsibility is to optimize the development of our student-athletes to be able to compete for conference and national championships. While this topic has been discussed in detail in recent months, my success in this role is related to athlete availability and measurable performance improvement. Athlete availability is quantified in missed practices and competitions, as well as missed training opportunities in the off-season. Measurable performance diagnostics are separated into orthopedic, strength, power, speed, and fitness categories, and further subcategorized from there.
Developmental emphasis is placed in certain categories depending on the sport, time of year (i.e., basketball movement/orthopedic early off-season, strength, power, and fitness late off-season), and developmental stage of the athlete. All performance testing is evaluated based on the work of Will Hopkins and his magnitude-based inferential statistics to determine meaningful performance changes. We then compile this information into detailed performance profiles for our athletes that we can share with sport coaches and administrators.
Patrick Ward: Defining success in any support role is always challenging in team sport. It isn’t like individual endurance sports where, as a physiologist/coach/strength coach, there may be a more direct link between what you do and how it impacts successful performances. Team sport is inherently “noisy” because success, in the form of winning games, is dependent on a variety of factors that can often be outside your control.
For myself, I think success is more defined by my contributions back to the four main departments in a pro sports team: Management/Scouting, Coaching, Strength Coach, and Medical/ATC. I look at the role of a sport science department as an information services role (to steal from the business world), whereby you are helping people in those departments answer relevant questions that may aid them in making decisions. If I am able to listen to people in those departments, understand what is relevant and important to them, and then use a scientific approach to answer questions for them and set up analysis that may explain some sort of phenomenon or uncover information that is not directly observable to the human eye that allows them to take action, then I feel pretty successful.
The next installment of this Sports Science Roundtable series is: “The Challenges of the Work Environment for Coaches and Trainers.”