National Accreditation Schemes: Australian Sport

On 19 December, the Australian Sports Commission announced national accreditation schemes for sport scientists and strength and conditioning coaches.

The Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Institute of Sport will work in partnership with Exercise & Sports Science Australia and the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association “to apply the high standards of accreditation to Australian sporting organisations over the next 12 months”.

The announcement confirmed that, as a condition of the Australian Sports Commission’s sport investment agreements, all sport science and strength and conditioning staff working with national sporting organisations will be required to have the relevant accreditation with Exercise & Sports Science Australia and Australian Strength and Conditioning Association by the end of 2018.

The announcement added “High Performance managers and Sport Science Sport Medicine managers will also require accreditation with the relevant body where their job requires elements of applied practice”.

Information about sport science and medicine accreditation can be found on the Exercise & Sports Science Australia website. Information about strength and conditioning accreditation can be found on the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association website.

The Australian Institute of Sport will monitor compliance with the accreditation. The announcement noted that the accreditation scheme will be reviewed after two years to reassess progress in Australian sport science and strength and conditioning standards.

Sticking Together

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Introduction

I have been thinking about a collective noun I use a great deal, a ‘community of performance analysts’.

I tend to refer to ‘a community of practice’ too. Whenever I do so I am mindful of the contribution Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith (2009) have made to understanding communities, their practice and their stewardship in a digital age.

I enjoyed reading Bill Johnston’s (2013) discussion of attributes of thriving communities and noted that in response to a comment about his post he added “value exchange is at the heart of the strategy… and that done properly, communities can actually be generative – more value created than consumed”.

These are the attributes of thriving communities Bill identified:

  • Shared value
  • Shared identity
  • Vibrant participation
  • Community leadership
  • Quality content
  • Expertise
  • Culture of trust
  • Elegant experience
  • Growth and responsiveness

I am fascinated by the flourishing of performance analysis in sport. Contemplating if or how we might accredit performance analysts in digital habitats has added to my community reflections.

I do think our community is loosely connected but that we have some shared values and identities that might bring us close enough to stick together.

It would be fascinating to undertake a social network analysis of the performance analysis community to identify nodes and connectors.

Sticking?

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Anthony D Smith, one of my tutors at the London School of Economics, has explored in depth the concept of national identity. In The Ethnic Revival (1981, p.9), he wrote:

More and more people are realising that the world is ‘plural’; that is to say, the so-called ‘nation-state’ is rarely a true appellation, for very few states have ethnically homogenous populations … most of them are composed of two or more ethic communities, jostling for influence or power, or living in uneasy harmony within the same state borders.

In a more informal moment, he defined an ethic group as “that group that sticks together when the chips are down”. This idea has stayed with me and leads me to think that if we can perceive shared values and identity that enable us to stick together then our community can be coherent whilst retaining its dynamism and vibrancy.

A Connected Community?

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In a recent post, Stephen Downes (2014) discussed connectivism as a learning theory. In it, he argued that connectivists see a person learning as ‘a self-managed and autonomous seeker of opportunities to create, interact and have new experiences, where learning is not the accumulation of more and more facts or memories, but the ongoing development of a richer and richer neural tapestry’.

With the amount of data generated by 2.4 billion internet users every minute, connectivism is a very attractive approach for any community of practice. George Siemens (2005) identified the core principles of connectivism:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

Our loosely and closely community does nurture and maintain connections that facilitate continuous learning. I am intrigued by how all our nodes of knowledge and experience might be linked and visualised so that we might have a cartography of performance analysis practice.

I liked Anthony Gabriele’s (2013) view of his continuing professional development and thought it might resonate with lots of connectivist learners:

In regards to my professional life, I have considered myself very lucky to be where I am today. I’ve had great people to work with; people who have pushed, challenged, taught, guided and supported me. I have been in great situations; situations in which I have been given the freedom, tools and green light to ‘test the envelope’ with different teaching strategies, technology, curriculum, etc.  In all these instances what I began and continue to realize is that as times change and as new ‘stuff’ enters our world as educators, a key to staying sane and continuing to grow and learn is connecting with others. It is not just understanding that it is important to collaborate and share ideas, but to take action and actually do it.

I would add ‘co-operation‘ to Anthony’s observation. Stephen Downes (2010) suggests:

Collaboration belongs to groups, while cooperation is typical of a network. The significant difference is that, in the former, the individual is subsumed under the whole, and becomes a part of the whole, which is created by conjoining a collection of largely identical members, while in the latter, the individual retains his or her individuality, while the whole is an emergent property of the collection of individuals.

I do think this group-network relationship offers us an opportunity to define how we practice as ‘a community of performance analysts’.

Does It Matter?

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I grew up at a time when voluntary associations made local sport possible. Many people gave up their personal time as a civic responsibility. It was a time when everyone felt like Zygmunt Bauman (2001, p.1):

Words have meanings: some words, however, also have a ‘feel’. The word ‘community’ is one of them. It feels good: whatever the word ‘community’ may mean, it is good ‘to have a community’, ‘to be in a community’.

This kind of community is a warm place.

It raises some fundamental issues for us in digital habitats. We have global connectivity now and remarkable opportunities to develop personal learning networks.

Is there a place for aggregating these PLNs to enhance the practice of performance analysis that goes beyond serendipity?

Or are we at the sharp end of megatrends that make learning an individual pursuit and formal membership of voluntary associations unappealing?

Thinking about accreditation, the sphere of influence of organisations and the growing number of connectors in a virtual performance analysis space has taken me back to contemplate ‘community’ and stickiness.

Perhaps it is just an issue for me as an inveterate aggregator and curator of digital resources and narratives.

My interest in open sharing encourages me to think it does matter but perhaps we can contemplate how our loose connections might lead to exciting generative ideas mentioned in the Introduction.

Thanks for reading this post. I wonder what you think about the issues raised.

Photo Credits

Scaffolding Sculpture (Patrick, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

IACSS Shanghai 2011 (Keith Lyons, CC By 4.0)

Frame Grab from Submarine Cable Map 2013

Wooburn Green – Little Marlow (Peter, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Accreditation

Introduction

I saw this alert five days ago

I went to Charlie’s blog post on the Visual Performance Analysis site and tried to comment on a delightful, challenging post. At that time, the site thought I was a Spambot. I am not but I missed the opportunity to support and reply to Charlie immediately.

I applaud Charlie’s willingness to address the accreditation issues head on.

In the intervening time Jason Lear and Rob Carroll have responded in detail. My post is a contribution to the discussion.

I am really pleased Charlie has shared the findings of his investigation into performance analysis. His post notes that respondents to his questionnaire about the role of performance analyst considered “being accredited was ranked the least important personal attribute required for the role”.

Charlie suggests that we need accreditation “to be relevant and current to meet the expectations of the growing number of analysts and potentially provide a broader remit”. He cites the example of the United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA). This Association aims to:

  • Establish and maintain high professional standards for UK Strength and Conditioning Practitioners;
  • Promote and disseminate good practice, knowledge and research appropriate to strength and conditioning practitioners;
  • Facilitate communication among UKSCA members;
  • Represent the interests of the membership of the UKSCA.

The UKSA website indicates that there are 2700 members of the Association and 590 accredited members. I learned that “The UKSCA is a not-for-profit, limited by guarantee company and is managed by a voluntary Board of Directors, elected from and by the Accredited membership”.

I agree with Charlie (and Jason’s detailed response) that we must value, encourage and support continuing professional development (CPD). My hope has always been that the open sharing of CPD will enrich our performance analysis community of practice. I think these experiences can become the progressive learning programs Jason envisages that “will ensure the industry and members see accreditation as a career driver and goal setter and not just a retrospective acknowledger”.

Charlie concludes his post with these observations:

I feel something needs to be done to safeguard our industry, while helping new analysts build a career. I believe this has to come partly through a functioning and structurally relevant accreditation and CPD programme. ISPAS could form part of the bigger picture of the industry, focussing on the elements it has historically delivered well i.e. facilitating academic conferences and publishing scientific proceedings, but is there potential for an alternative body to offer CPD/accreditation components that are crucial for the continued maturation of the industry?

Do we need accreditation?

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Rob Carroll has written a thoughtful post in reply to Charlie. Rob suggests “Considering how low employers are valuing accreditation and the effort required to establish a credible awarding body it seems unlikely that the situation will change any time soon. If employers are not valuing it – there is little incentive for people to get accredited” (my emphasis). Later, Rob adds “Accreditation would bring some benefits – not least if it forced people to undertake continuous professional development, but I’m not sure accreditation on it’s own solves many problems – not in the long-term anyway” (my emphasis).

Rob’s concluding points about a governance model for accreditation are well made. We do need industry wide inclusion if we are to have a gold standard for accreditation. This raises fundamental questions about constitutions, fees, accountability and sustainability.

I have been away from BASES for twelve years. I have read the Accreditation Guidelines (version 5, August 2013) and have noted the attention to detail in these guidelines (and for High Performance Sport Accreditation) including a very clear statement about competencies. I understand too the need for an unequivocal code of conduct.

There has been considerable discussion about accreditation of sport scientists in Australia in the last two years. In his discussion of the relevance of accreditation, Kevin Thompson points out:

Accreditation has to be worth possessing if it is to be of any value to a practitioner and a stipulation by an employer provides that value. Similarly an accreditation has to be of value to the industry it serves

I take this reciprocity between the practitioner and employer to be the key to an answer to the question about whether we need accreditation for performance analysis.

Small, Invitational, Transparent … and Compelling

Fifty More Shocks

Charlie, Jason, Rob and many others of late have helped me think about a dynamic accreditation system for performance analysis. I understand that the International Society of Performance Analysis of Sport (ISPAS) has a long standing interest and commitment to accreditation.

I have been wondering how a new approach to accreditation might extend the ISPAS reach in an industry that is now so diverse that many of the skills that are used are so specialist that they are developing their own practice in applied settings.

I am thinking that this new approach can be modest and small (to address Rob’s governance issues). We can use our shared expertise to promote a code of conduct and to be open about our practice. Using social media will give the group an extended reach and opportunities to share and connect through CPD or new practice.

By being open about what we do we could create a space that is sufficiently attractive to set up compelling reasons to participate and engage.

I envisage this space not to be about levels but to be about experience. We would have a knowledge network that is particularly adaptable to new forms of communicating and sharing.

If a small number of people can consent to a shared understanding of what it is to be accredited then the ripple effect could be significant.

In an era of open badges for accreditation we will be able to use our imagination for how we are and can be.

A Vinyl Record?

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So far, Charlie’s post has received two comments (mine would have been the third) and has generated a number of Twitter exchanges.

Our reach is small. Clarence Fisher helped me think about this scale today when he posted about Blogs are the Vinyl records of the Internet. He quotes a Washington Post observation:

Just as vinyl records are still listened to, and considered better than the digital format, they exist without having a real impact on the music industry. In effect, blogs are the vinyl records of the Internet.

I think we have a most remarkable industry. I was knocking on sport organisations’ doors from the mid-1980s hoping to persuade them that performance analysis was the future. In the 1990s I tried (with Mike Hughes) to persuade BASS and BASES that accreditation for notational performance analysis was innovative.

Now we have a most wonderfully diverse group of performance analysts who might like to share experience and practice … and without too much pressure consider an accreditation process that will evolve to include experience, expertise and continuing professional development.

It will be a space for sharing, receiving and giving. Our future is social.

Photo Credits

Rainbow Guard (Bui Linh Ngan, CC BY 2.0)

Fifty More Shocks (Jeremy Brooks, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Vinyl World (Tim, CC BY 2.0)