Entries by Craig Pickering

The Pressure Principle

Many years ago, in 2003, I raced at the World Youth Championships in Canada. Just sixteen years old, and having only been doing athletics for two and a half years, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Going into those championships, I wasn’t really a medal hopeful; I had, at best, an outside chance. I had run 10.54 earlier that year, but then suffered a bad hamstring injury, and missed a number of races in the run up the championships. I can’t remember exactly where I was ranked going in, but on the end-of-year rankings I was equal 14th in the World (alongside Daniel Bailey), a good way back from the World Leader, Oluwole Ogunde from Nigeria, who had run 10.38 that season. As I didn’t know what to expect, I was quite nervous before my heat, which led to me running a personal best of 10.53, and feeling pretty comfortable. I was the fastest qualifier was the semi-final, which was to take place the next day.

Is Coaching an Art or a Science?

When I was 14, I started my GCSE programme at school (for those of you that aren’t British, this is a series of exams taken at age 16 called General Certificates of Secondary Education), and one of the subjects I chose to study was physical education. As part of this subject, we had a one lesson a week dedicated to the theory aspect of PE, of which physiology, biomechanics and psychology were a big part. I remember being enthralled by all of this, and I read the textbook we were given over the course of a weekend; something that both my teachers and the other students found very weird. But I was fascinated because what I was learning was helping to explain things that I had noticed over the course of my two year athletics career – the reason I was quick was because of fast twitch muscle fibres, things like that. But I also saw the enormous potential that all this knowledge could give me in improving my sports performance. As an example, I learned about sports training principles, which go by the acronym SPORT: Specificity, Progression, Overload, Reversibility, & Tedium. The specificity principle was incredibly important to me at that point in time, because I was doing the “old-school” method of sprint training, which involved lots of long, slow runs. I hated this type of training, and what I learned gave me the knowledge, and confidence, to try and find a better way.

Sports Science Monthly – July 2016

Welcome back to the fourth installment of Sports Science Monthly. This month we will be taking a closer look at a wide range of recent research on topics ranging from sleep to social media for athletes. The first overview is free. To access the summaries other the remaining topics you need to be a HMMR Plus Member. HMMR Plus is a new offering we have that gives users access to exclusive content like our article archive, webinars, online meet ups, and of course Sports Science Monthly. Therefore sign up now to gain access to Sports Science Monthly and more.

Confirmation Bias in Coaching

You’re a rational human being aren’t you? You evaluate the evidence, and then make a decision based on the strength on that evidence. You have an open mind. Except you’re human, and that means that you’re perhaps not as rational as you might think. You see, there’s something called confirmation bias. This is where we tend to search for information that supports our preconceptions. If we come across new information, we tend to interpret it in such a way that it will confirm our previously held beliefs. This is one of many biases that together it impossible humans from being rational in our day to day lives.

Sports Science Monthly – June 2016

Welcome back to Sports Science Monthly. Over the last few months we have used this new feature to bring you the latest update on sports science research in terms coaches can actually use. If you missed the first issues, go back and check out what we found in April and May.

The Limits of Human Performance and The Evolution of Athletes

When I was just starting to get involved in athletes, I remember two studies getting a lot of attention. The first stated the the physiological limits of humans meant that the 100-meter world record could not be lower than 9.64 seconds. At the time it was 9.79 seconds. The second was that women were catching up with men in 100-meter performance, and would one day overtake them. Fast forward over 10 years, and we can see that these studies have largely been proved false. For a start, the 100m World Record for men is now 9.58 seconds, faster than was projected to be possible. Secondly, women are not catching men up in performance; if anything men are moving further away.

The Athlete’s Guide to Retirement

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.

Sports Science Monthly – May 2016

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.

Can You Use Genetic Testing For Talent Identification?

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.

Sports Science Monthly – April 2016

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.