South West Talent Support Day – April 8th 2010

Another great day at Exeter University’s Streatham Sports Centre.

Working again with the brilliant team of S & C coach James Marshall and Physiotherapist Dave MacLellan.

Fitness and Performance Testing

We  had a great talk on sports testing from Bert at Exercise Science Consulting.

The aim was to not just tell the young athletes what tests are used, but more importantly why they are used and how they should digest the results.  As Bert said “A lot of athletes get tested into ground, but dont get told why its important to them and their performance”.

The main aim of testing is to help identify any areas of weakness an athlete has and help to monitor improvement in those areas.

I also learnt about some interesting new tests being used – the Yo-Yo test and the 505 agility test being the two that most caught my attention.

The process and aims of improving sporting performance are summised brilliantly by this quote from David Brailsford (the current British Cycling performance director)

“The ongoing pursuit of the aggregation of marginal gains and improvements”

Bert also mentioned that there is some exciting new research being carried out into eye tracking in sports and how eye movement can affect performance.

Physio Assessments

In the afternoon we conducted some more postural and movement assessments with athletes on an individual basis. Again, I was amazed as ever at the amount of young athletes who are great at their sport and yet struggle to sit into a chair without falling into it!

We had one very interesting case of a young female hockey player who had developed a slight lumber scoliosis, due to her back muscles having become over developed on one side – a common problem in one side dominant sports.

The case that I was most concerned about, however, involved a talented multi-sport female athlete who had a persistant history of lower back and leg injuries.

Her and  her mum had thrown everything they could in terms of time and money at the problem. They had seen at least 4 different physios, one specialist and even were making regular trips to London in the attempt to rectify the problem.

Two things struck me about the situation. Firstly just how determined and supportive the family had been, ensuring that they would exhaust every single avenue in their quest to rectify the issues. Secondly, just how frustrated they were, that despite all their efforts they had not managed to rectify the underlying issues.

Some of the issues we identified during the interview and assessment were:

  • Playing 3, 4 or even more competitive games a week – sometimes whole weekends on squad selection camps!
  • Poor standing posture – anterior pelvic tilt and a slight twist towards the left side
  • Zero common sense and true coaching skill from her coaches and PE instructors at school, none of whom were looking at the bigger picture as to the amount of training and competitive games she was having back-to-back.
  • Being instructed to do heavy bar-bell movements – including power cleans! – with her bad posture and one-sided muscular dominance.

This very much was a case of a talented young athlete, who through sheer grit and determination, was succeeding despite being subjected to awful coaching and mentoring.

I look forward to seeing how Dave and James work together to improve her situation and get her on the road to being a happy and healthy athlete for years to come.

Video and Photos

As some of the athletes were under the age of sixteen – we thought it best not to risk getting into trouble by taking footage without prior consent from the parents and guardians.

Hopefully I can arrange a couple of interviews at the next camp with James, Dave and hopefully Paula who runs the project to help explain just how good and important this project is.