NESC Forum 2009: Panel Session

Patrick Hunt introduced Neil Craig, Ken Wallace, Gary Slater, Andrew Matheson as the panel members.

Patrick noted that the theme for the NESC Forum was relationships between coach, practitioner, manager, and athlete. This panel explored these relationships. Patrick worked as the facilitator for this panel.


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Andrew discussed how a diverse group of people worked together in a network for a performance outcome cohered in rowing.

Neil discussed how the system worked in a club culture. It is a culture that is results driven. It is strong on continuing improvement. Athletes deliver the product. The expectation of sports scientists is to fit into the culture. The club has decided to compete in all games. This needs innovation and the willingness to make errors. The expectation is that you must contribute to the health of the team: you must trust each other and work together. It is important to address any issues early. Neil emphasised accountability and responsibility.

Gary discussed his role as practitioner bringing teams together. He noted the dfferent role he played as a consultant.

Ken discussed his role as an athlete. Want to work closely with coach. Trust and communication. A lot of services happen away from me as athlete. Athlete wants everyone on same page and for me to be the best. Example of Beijing Games. Communications system as an example. Ken’s background doing it tough outside the system. Love and passion before HP system. Still discovering opportunities. Top end 1% quest.


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Neil discussed what would change the team dynamic. Losing He is getting better at being no different at all. Adversity is seen as an opportunity, and the voice of responsibility is encouraged. Players want a balanced approach from coach and from each other. Blame is transformed by responsibility. The club has a 24 hour rule about response to performance. After 24 hours next phase starts. Winning is a challenge particularly with a block of success (Geelong, Women’s Hockey) and can be seductive. There needs to be a rigorous, candid approach. AFL performance is very public. This is a whole club ethos and the senior coach’s responsibility. Neil defines and dictates the culture of the club. There are tough conversations to ensure no issues fester.

Andrew discussed his NZ experience and noted the strength of a centralised program. Everyone is in same place. It is easy to facilitate discussions and interactions. Centralisation helps simplify delivery. There are many enablers focused on performance.

Neil asked who controls this relationship? Who appoints? At the club Neil determines employment decisions. What if you are a sports scientist in a system? This led to a wide ranging discussions about sport scientists and coaching.

Andrew discussed chasing the 1% of innovation and missing the 95%: what if we get the right athletes and coaches; develop simple technical models from the first stroke: and the athletes are conditioned and nourished. They will be well prepared athletes. Andrew continued with his discussion of managing a data rich sport. It is very important to have critical wisdom to identify relevant, appropriate data.

Neil discussed managing interactions within a club and the importance to be attached to meetings and touching base. Gary discussed facilitating a network of practitioners. Ken discussed the occasional meetings with service staff and continuous daily work with coach.

Andrew, Ken, Gary and Neil discussed what excited them about their work.

Three Papers, Day Two at IACSS09

I chaired a final paper session on Day Two at IACSS09. The three presenters were Alexis Lebedew, Gerard Sierksma and Natalie Ruiz.

Alexis presentation was A Reconceptualisation of Traditional Volleyball Statistics To Provide a Coaching Tool for Setting.


Gerard presented on Talent Development, Performance Potential and Computer Support in Sports.


Natalie’s presentation was entitled Multimodal Cognitive Load Assessment for Athletes.


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There was a packed gathering to hear the three speakers and I thought their ideas and discussion was a great end to Day 2 of the conference. For me it meant a sleepless night pondering complexity and simplicity and how we might develop our understanding of performance in sport.

The other bookend to the day was Martin Lames‘s keynote. He started the fireworks of thoughts!

Coaching, Composition, Ecology and Big Pictures

Last week I was involved in a lot of discussions about coaching and coach development. For years I have been thinking about the vision that links people after reading an Arthur Koestler paper in the late 1980s entitled The Vision that Links the Poet, Artist and Scientist.


This week I have been thinking about the links between coaching and composition following a Graham Abbott program about Mozart. In 1788 he composed his last three symphonies, 39 (in E flat), 40 (in G minor)  and 41 (in C). In his analysis of these three symphonies Graham Abbott suggests that one refers back to the whole of Mozart’s work, one emphasises Mozart’s present occupations and one holds within it the next century of classical music. I was wondering if that is what great coaches do too in their coaching. Do they have three concurrent rhythms running through their work: the biography that positioned them to coach in the here and now and that allows them to envisage performance that can be?


By coincidence the Hubble Telescope was in the news last week. I wondered if coach education and development might set some Hubble type aspirations:

  • NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is back in business, ready to uncover new worlds, peer ever deeper into space, and even map the invisible backbone of the universe.
  • With its new imaging camera, Hubble can view galaxies, star clusters, and other objects across a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. A new spectrograph slices across billions of light-years to map the filamentary structure of the universe and trace the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life. The telescope’s new instruments also are more sensitive to light and can observe in ways that are significantly more efficient and require less observing time than previous generations of Hubble instruments.
  • Hubble also is now significantly more well-equipped to probe and further characterize the behavior of dark energy, a mysterious and little-understood repulsive force that is pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate.

If this kind of vision is what coaching is about then I think coaching is about first principles too. I wondered if the insights coaches have match those of a soil scientist like Christine Jones and an innovative farmer like Cam McKellar who appeared on Radio National’s Bush Telegraph program. If you have an opportunity to listen to the podcast then it will sound very familiar to coaches interested in grassroots development!


I am hopeful that the visions held by composers, astronomers and farmers can enrich our thinking about coaching.

Photo Sources (The Commons)

The St Raphael Team

An Orchestral Practice

Hubble Image

Planting Tomatoes