There is an inevitable point in every athlete’s life where sport becomes less important. This could be a student or junior athlete giving up on their dreams of becoming a professional athlete, a professional athlete realising that they are no longer competitive, or the Olympic champion succumbing to injury; no matter what the situation, there is a transition from athlete to human being.
Entries by Craig Pickering
I started a new series last month called the Sports Science Monthly with the goal of translating the latest sports science research into information that coaches can use. In this month’s edition we take a look at five new topics ranging from sled pulls to sleep patterns. The full Sports Science Monthly is available exclusively to HMMR Plus Members, however we have included the first overview free to everyone below. Sign up now to read about all the research. To get an idea of what Sports Science Monthly is all about, our April 2016 edition is available in its entirety for free.
Talent identification is often a hot topic within sports science and sports coaching. If you could find a way to identify people who have the ability to be elite, you could better focus your resources on them, increasing the chances of their success. It also means you can focus less resources on those that likely won’t make it, as cut-throat as that may be. In recent years, a conversation has started to occur regarding the use of genetic testing in talent identification. The thought process being that, if you test a promising athlete’s genes, you can see whether they have the genetic ability to be a world class athlete or not.
Welcome to a new monthly collection that I will be writing, looking at sports science for coaches. In today’s sporting climate, coaches aren’t just supposed to coach – they are expected to keep up-to-date with new trends within sports science, including (but not limited to) strength and conditioning, nutrition, biomechanics, and psychology. This creates a lot of problems; many coaches are too busy coaching to sit down and find the correct research. Often, research is presented without context, so the coach doesn’t quite know what the study means. Through these series of articles, I hope to create a resource for coaches to be able to find recent articles that are applicable to them, and be able to place them in context. I will also report on research that isn’t always specifically applicable to a coach, but is a great example of the scientific method in action – including the limitations of science. This isn’t meant to be an overview of the whole sports science field, as time constraints mean I only report on a small number of the research published each month. However, I aim to pick the ones that might be most relevant and applicable. As always, I would welcome your feedback going forward on how to improve the roundup.
You might have noticed that I felt quite passionate about the topic of overtraining syndrome (OTS) in last week’s blog. The reason for this is that I suffered with bouts of non-functional overreaching (NFO) and OTS throughout my career. I believe it stunted my progression within sport, at least for a period of 18 months, and it really was a miserable time for me. I’m eager to prevent other athletes from going through what I did, so here is my story.
When we design a training programme for athletes, our ultimate goal is to enable them to perform at their best. Inherent within this, we understand that it might involve some hard work. Indeed, the goal of a training programme is to create a stress on the athlete, which results in acute fatigue. The athlete then undergoes a period of recovery, and during this recovery adapts to the stress. Training, therefore, can be viewed as a constant cycle of stress (training) and rest (recovery). At times, it might be appropriate to bias that cycle one way or the other; during periods of high training load we are deliberately placing more stress on the athlete than they can tolerate – ordinarily this would require an increased rest period, but instead we attenuate that rest period to provide more stress. Again, this is good, and part of the training process. When we then bias the cycle towards rest, such as in a taper, the athletes recover, hopefully get some supercompensation, and performance improves. This is known as functional overreaching, and is an important part of training. Often, performance rebounds from a slightly depressed position during the heavy loading to the improved position after a few weeks.
For those of you who have followed my career, you might know that I am responsible for one very large mistake. I was responsible for my country, the reigning Olympic Champions, to be disqualified in the 4x100m relay at the 2008 Olympics. I, personally, made a mistake which most likely cost myself and my team mates an Olympic medal. I’ve written about this elsewhere, so I won’t belabour the point too much, but following this mistake I had two options.
Are you an athlete? Then I’ve got some bad news for you; you’re going to get injured. But you likely knew that already. Estimates of injury rates in sports people vary, but one injury per 100 hours in training or competition is a fairly moderate estimate; anyone doing any sort of training for a length of time will eventually get some sort of injury.
We’ve all been there. Stood over the bath (or bin), full of ice, psyching ourselves up to get in and endure the minute of cold in order to improve our recovery.
Have you ever heard the phrase “you can’t teach speed”? In my youth, and despite my complete lack of any technical ability, I was reasonably effective at both soccer and rugby. Notice that I said effective, and not good. Playing rugby at school there actually was a pre-planned move which involved giving me the ball, and getting me to run without even considering passing until I either scored or was tackled. Playing soccer, I was moved to the wing, and my team would just punt the ball into space for me to run on to. No talent required. I was successful only because of my speed – I was already a national age group champion at that point. It was here that I would hear my teachers, coaches and team-mates comment “you can’t teach speed.”
But can you?