My name is Keith Lyons. I am a Professor of Sport Studies at the University of Canberra.

I think of myself as an educational technologist.

Clyde Street

Moving from for to with



I relish the opportunity to meet people and talk about performance environments in sport.

Today was one of those days for me. I met remarkable people and had an opportunity to share experiences as a performance observer and analyst.

I have been able to have more of these conversations in recent years. I am struck constantly by the skill sets and understanding performance analysts have.

Some things do not change.

One recurring theme for me over the last thirty-five years has been the timing of the move from analysis for the coach to analysis with the coach.

Today’s conversation underlined for me the enormous opportunities for analysts to lead conversations with players with the blessing of the coach.

All of the analysts I have met are acutely sensitive to their role as a follower of a coach as leader. I am keen to encourage the discussions of how analysts become leaders at important moments within performance environments.

I see this as an intermediate step to empowering players to lead discussions about performance. The best organisations have made this change some time ago.

I am writing this brief post to celebrate the possibilities of with.

The move to ‘with’ is imbued with humility, I believe.

John Dickson‘s in his book Humiltas suggests that “the most influential and inspiring people are often marked by humility”. He defines humility as “the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself”.

I am hopeful that the open online course #UCSIA15 will provide opportunities to share how this humble  ‘withness’ occurs in a variety of contexts.

Photo Credit

You Turn (gfpeck, CC BY-ND 2.0)

#UCSIA15 Exploring Feedforward and Mental Time Travel



There are four themes in the open online #UCSIA15 course, Sport Informatics and Analytics.

One of the themes is Audiences and Messages. I am keen to explore Feedforward within this theme.

I wrote about Feedforward back in 2009 and I have enjoyed extending my interest for #UCSIA15.

These are some of the newer links I have added:



In a 2012 paper, Peter Dowrick observes:

The most rapid learning by humans can be achieved by mental simulations of future events, based on reconfigured preexisting component skills. These reconsiderations of learning from the future, emphasizing learning from oneself, have coincided with developments in neurocognitive theories of mirror neurons and mental time travel.

I am fascinated by his suggestion that we can learn from the future and engage in mental time travel.

The mindmap for #UCSIA15 gives me an opportunity to explore some of the neurophysiological evidence Peter identifies. A 2014 paper, in which Peter is a co-author, considers how video self modelling can contribute to rapid learning.

Ross Vanderwat (2013) has looked at the place of mirror neurons in this rapid learning.

I am hopeful that the #UCSIA15 node structure will encourage this kind of exploration and contemplation. For example, it provides an opportunity to look at functional near-infrared spectroscropy.

The theme will allow us to consider performance anxiety. Lisa Moody’s (2014) thesis is a real bonus find.

I am looking forward to the topic of feedforward being enriched by the crowdsourced discoveries made by participants in the course.

Photo Credit

Soldier Field Tilt Shift (Michael Baird, CC BY-SA 2.0)




I have been listening to Classic FM on my driving trips in England.

Yesterday, I heard Chad Lawson play one of his Chopin Variations.

One review of his recordings noted:

Lawson has drawn out a different side to the composer, stripping down and reducing the traditional Chopin, and re-constructing a wholly different narrative.

I think this is a great example of a “less is more” approach to sharing a story. The same review observes “Where Chopin embellished his core melody, Lawson has reduced it, stripping it down to its core”.

This is an example of a core script with Chad’s notation:


In an interview about his variations, Chad said:

I love space. That’s probably my favorite note – the time where you’re able to actually just listen to what just happened.

The Variations are recorded from within the piano to transform the form of the sound (an example).

On a very busy M25 motorway in heavy rain I thought this was a fascinating, bold approach to communication.



Photo Credits

Chad Lawson Chopin Variations (notesonnotes, Tania Halban)

And in this crazy life, you are my everything (alongfor the ride, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

ECB Leading to Performance Day 3: Sport Science and Sport Medicine



Day 3 of the ECB’s Leading to Performance Conference at St George’s Park brought together the network of sport science and sport medicine practitioners servicing cricket.

Raph Brandon

Raph Brandon, the recently appointed Head of ECB Sport Science and Sport Medicine (formerly Director of Performance Solutions at the EIS) opened the day’s proceedings. Raph has been with the EIS for twelve years and he discussed his move within the organisation from a strength and conditioning service provider to the role of Director of Performance Solutions.


Raph presented a case study of service support for Jenny Jones, a Slopestyle Snowboarder, to explore an integrated approach to athlete flourishing. He mapped out the Why? How? What? approach taken to integrate the service to Jenny.

Raph suggested that the keys to success in this process were:

  • Working with Jenny to ensure that she had a full understanding of the process and had opportunities to ask questions to affirm this understanding.
  • Jenny made her own choices based on expert advice and leadership.
  • Information and communication were as important as content.

I enjoyed Raph’s closing remarks:

Choose an impact area AND deliver excellence. Chunk it up to performance. Nail it!

Andrew Strauss


Raph’s presentation was followed by a Keynote address from Andrew Strauss. Andrew gave his perspective on Sport Science and Sport Medicine service provision in cricket.

I thought Andrew’s presentation was an excellent guide to service providers. I was particularly interested in his perspective as a captain of a team accessing a diverse range of sport science and sport medicine support. I thought Andrew’s honesty about mistakes and successes as a captain were most refreshing.

Key points from his talk for me were:

  • Trust is a vital commodity.
  • The aim of any service provision is to help each player play better.
  • Coach and captain must be active in inducting support staff into the team.
  • Appreciate that players are self-reliant and avoid ‘telling’.
  • Be clear about any short term intervention. If in doubt defer to a longer time scale.
  • Embrace player-led choices.

Andrew concluded his presentation in conversation with Mark Bawden. I was interested to learn that one of Andrew’s choices for service support if he were playing now would be to develop his mindfulness, particularly in his role as captain.

It was fascinating hearing Andrew’s story after Andy Flower’s presentation on Day 1 of the conference. Both talks were outstanding triangulation points for thinking about the practice of leadership. I thought the quality of both presentations were of the highest order.


The remainder of Day 3 was allocated to workshops.


I was delighted to be able to attend Mike Mustoe‘s presentation on Data Visualisation (with input from Liam Sanders).

It was a very timely workshop for me. Next year I am facilitating a Sport Informatics and Analytics open online course. One of the four structured attention themes will be Audiences and Messages of which visualisation is an integral part.

Mike took the workshop group through:

  • Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom taxonomy
  • Science and art in visualisation

I enjoyed Mike’s discussion of crafting visualisation and liked his and Liam’s use of sketched storyboards prior to formalising their visualisations.I read into Mike’s comments that he was using a semantic approach to colour (I read this 2013 paper recently). This took me off to think about semantic resonance and perception constraints in visualisation. I revisited my post on Roy de Mestre too and his colour wheel.

Mike discussed the use of interactive visualisations and shared some examples from his use of iBooks authoring and Tableau software.

I admired Mike’s approach to visualisation. I left the workshop thinking about the remarkable skill sets service providers have to offer.

I am looking forward to many more audience and message discussions.

Photo Credit

Adelaide Oval (Jenny Scott, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Wonderful Play


Each day I receive recommendations from Medium of articles to read.

It is an excellent service that leads me to some great writing. Each post has a reading time indication.

Today, I followed up on Amanda Ripley’s discussion with Elizabeth Green (10 minutes) about The Smartest Teachers in the World.

Elizabeth shared this short video (1m 05s) from Japan in the post.

I thought it was a great example of wonderful play.

As I watched it I contemplated what Iona and Peter Opie would make of the play taking place.

Elizabeth observed of her experience:

The idea of walking on stilts or struggling with a difficult problem is such a good example because that Japanese recess was like an entrée to Japanese lessons. In both cases, it seemed like the teacher was invisible. But really what was happening is the teacher was making assumptions about the tasks that kids were capable of and structuring an experience for them that would be really engaging.

I have just spent three days at an ECB Conference in England. The theme was Leading to Performance. One of the major conversations there was about player-led leadership. Elizabeth’s video would have been a great trigger for conversation about leadership at an early age.

… now where is my unicycle?


ECB Leading to Performance: Day 2 Keynotes



There were three keynote addresses on Day 2 of the ECB’s Leading to Performance Conference at St George’s Park..

The Fellowship of Elite Coaches


Gordon Lord chaired this keynote session. In it he, Peter, Andy and Kevin discussed the first two years of the Fellowship of Elite Coaches. Peter, Andy and Kevin were the founding fellows nominated in 2012.

Gordon posed the following questions to the Fellows:

  • Why did you agree to join the Fellowship?
  • Why does the game need a Fellowship?
  • How does it work?
  • What kind of projects might be envisaged if there were no budgetary constraints?

In response to the fourth question, Andy suggested decision-making; Kevin blending research with expert insights; and Peter elite pathways.

The keynote concluded with the induction of six Fellows:

… and the playing of a video tribute for Damian D’Oliveira.

Gemma Morgan


Gemma shared a remarkable story of her service in Kosovo (1998-1999) and the aftermath of that service.

She spoke to five themes:

  • It starts with us.
  • Decide what really matters.
  • The little things are the big things.
  • Connect.
  • The difference makes a difference.

These themes were woven into a compelling story of understanding and being with people to create the stickiness of sound, sustainable relationships. Her discussion of an incident in 1999 underscored the vital importance of having connections with and the trust of the community in troubled and very dangerous times.

Stuart Lancaster


Stuart concluded a special day of keynotes. He provided a background to his time as England coach starting with a most comprehensive review of the 2011 World Cup performance.

His talk looked at three themes:

  • Leadership, Coaching and Management
  • Player responsibility
  • Culture

Stuart illustrated his talk with three videos: Tom Brady, Kansas City Chiefs and Henry Fraser.

He concluded his talk with a discussion of the importance of strong, inspirational leadership. His message resonated powerfully with Gemma’s points and Andy Flower’s focus on Day 1.

All three emphasised the importance of being a people person as a leader.

Whispers of Notation at St George’s Park



I mentioned in a recent post that I had spent a night with Billy Wright at St George’s Park.

Billy has a link with Charles Reep through Stan Cullis, the manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

This was the first whisper of notation for me at St George’s this week.

A second came on the way to my workshop room yesterday. I was in the Walter Winterbottom part of the building.

Graham Morse has written a biography of Walter (The Father of Modern English Football). It was published in the centenary of his birth in 1913.

My recollection is that Walter conducted one of the first real-time, time and motion notations in football. He wrote about his record of a Bobby Robson performance for England. (I do need go back to a primary source for the details of this analysis but I think it is reported in Allen Wade’s FA Guide to Training and Coaching.)

This is why it is a whisper … I need to follow this up but did not want to miss an opportunity to acknowledge his innovative thinking. Hopefully, a contribution to a ‘Who do you think you are?’ record of notation in sport.


Photo Credit

Walter Winterbottom (FA)

ECB Leading to Performance: Day 1 Keynotes



It has been a delightful, thought-provoking first day at the ECB Conference at St. George’s Park.

Paul Downton welcomed everyone. In his address he contrasted his experiences in cricket twenty years ago with his experiences now as Managing Director – English Cricket. I really enjoyed his discussion of the role teachers and coaches play in transforming people’s lives.

Andy Flower followed on from Paul’s welcome address. Andy talked about Learning to Lead. Andy is now the ECB’s Technical Director of Elite Coaching.


Andy’s talk was wide-ranging. He discussed:

  • Environments and culture
  • Winning and losing
  • Change
  • Sustaining success

I enjoyed learning about the significance of honesty, personal responsibility and respect in Andy’s plans for England. It was a very clear, fascinating account of a period of change in English cricket (2009-2014).

His talk reminded me of listening to Robbie Deans’ talk on his rugby journey earlier this year in France.

Simon Weston gave the third keynote of the day and shared his story with the Conference delegates. I think his is a remarkable story. I was particularly struck by his discussion of personal identity and the journey a young Welsh Guard has made from 8 June 1982 to the present day.

I met Simon in 1996 when he came to speak with the Welsh Rugby team. I am delighted that the vision he had then has continued to flourish and diversify.

I thought the choice of the keynotes was an excellent way to explore the Conference theme of Leading to Performance.

There are three keynote addresses on Day 2.


At St George’s Park with the ECB and Billy Wright



It is Day 1 at the ECB’s Leading to Performance Conference at St George’s Park.

Today’s program has three keynote presentations.

There are six workshops too:

I arrived at the Park last night and was delighted to discover that Billy Wright would be watching over me.


He was the first player I saw in my first copies of Football Monthly.

This is an earlier picture (not in my room at the hotel) of an epic game in football history, England v Hungary at Wembley in 1953. It was the first game England lost at home.


Billy Wright was part of all the informal games of football I played in the late 1950s. Everyone wanted to be him so it was competitive even to get to be him and then to play with composure.

Later, my vicarious connection with Billy was renewed when I discussed with Charles Reep his work with Stan Cullis at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Photo Credit

Billy Wright (Daily Telegraph)

Status and Impact



My friend, Gordon, has been following up on research articles for coaches.

One of his finds today is a SportsCoach UK summary of How a Coach’s Reputation Influences Player Behaviour. (A copy of the paper that prompted the summary can be found here.)

We have been exchanging ideas about the leadership and followership dimensions of two workshops I am facilitating at an ECB Conference this week at St George’s Park.

I have been working through some ethological studies of leading and following. One of the studies I am looking at is exploring the impact of personality on animal social behaviour.


Jolle Jolles was the lead author in the paper. His research aims “to understand individual differences in animal behaviour and how this affects the structure and functioning of social groups” and to increase “our understanding of the boldness and sociability personality traits and their role on leadership and group movements”.

Jolle and his colleagues have looked at the role of previous social experience on risk-taking and leadership in three-spined sticklebacks. Within his research, Jolle is looking at boldness and shyness as traits.


Enter Gordon and the paper on Reputation. The research report summarised a study by Andrew Manley and his colleagues of 35 players recruited for one coaching session. The group was divided into three sub-groups.

Research 1

The observations of the players in the session revealed that:

  • Players who thought the coach was experienced spent significantly more time gazing at the coach.
  • Players who thought the coach was experienced put in the most effort (they completed significantly more drill-specific activities on their own, spent less time standing still and retrieved the ball quickly on significantly more occasions).

Andrew and his colleagues posit that “expectancies based on positive information may be more powerful than negatively framed expectancies, and can be harnessed by coaches as a means of developing effective relationships with their athletes”.



These readings have prompted me to go back to look at Erving Goffman’s (1963) book Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. In it he observes that ““an individual who might have been received easily in normal social intercourse possesses a trait that can obtrude itself upon attention and turn those of us whom he meets away from him, breaking the claim that his other attributes have on us.”

I take this to be the force of Andrew and his colleagues’ research on coach reputation.

This stigma has social costs. Another ethological study draws attention to the health impact of these identity and reputation issues.

Jenny Tung and her colleagues propose that social environment is associated with gene regulatory variation in the rhesus macaque immune system.

They point out that:

  • In humans and other primates, adverse social environments often translate into lasting physiological costs.
  • Dominance rank results in a widespread, yet plastic, imprint on gene regulation, such that peripheral blood mononuclear cell gene expression data alone predict social status with 80% accuracy.
  • These results illuminate the importance of the molecular response to social conditions, particularly in the immune system, and demonstrate a key role for gene regulation in linking the social environment to individual physiology.

In the introduction to their paper they note:

Social status in nonhuman primates is encoded by dominance rank, which defines which individuals yield to other individuals during competitive encounters. In settings in which hierarchies are strongly enforced or subordinates have little social support, low dominance rank can lead to chronic stress, immune compromise, and reproductive dysregulation.

Leading and Following


Gordon’s find and my ethological ramblings do raise some fundamental issues about leading and following.

They have encouraged me to think about ascribed and achieved status too.

The ECB Conference is a great place to consider these issues. The theme is Leading to Performance.

Photo Credits

Feeding the Fish (Jolle Jolles)

Board Meeting (Nosha, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Peleton (Andrew Sides, CC BY-NC 2.0)

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