Lately a few things have given me food for thought regarding the benefit of sports science in the overall performance, club and sports organisation picture.
Monty Python gave some food for thought as did a chat with one of the commercial leaders of a soccer club.
What has Monty Python then to do with sports science and its merits or perceived lack of???
The short clip above is famous for asking ‘what have the Romans ever done for us’. Similarly the same conversation is happening at a business/commercial level in clubs/sports bodies which see sports science solely as an expense and/or ‘toys for the boys’……”What has Sports Science ever done for us???”
It was insightful to chat with one of the commercial leads from a soccer club to get his insights on this. What came through strongly is that the sports science and coaching functions really only ever have their hand out but ultimately he was really curious as to what they deliver apart from invoices. Quite a polarised position by my reckoning and further questioning revealed that he’d had a similar chat with his counterparts in other clubs. Sure there may have been an element of confirmation bias on his behalf but nonetheless his perception was his reality.
Of course I tried not to be biased and to listen and understand. What I was hearing was that his view was that Sports Science was spending the club’s money to achieve their own goals and objectives.
Then it got interesting!
A little more coffee and conversation later we established that the primary goals of the commercial arm of the club were to generate increased revenues from (primarily) ticket sales and sponsorships. We further agreed that central to this is a successful and/or progressing parent team that is appealing to fans and sponsors alike. Peeling back another layer we agreed that a large part of achieving this sustained success/progress was (i) having players prepared to a high-level in order to prepare at a high-level and (ii) having all your players available as often as possible through having as few non-contact injuries as possible and (iii) ensuring that homegrown players were, broadly, ‘ready to perform’ when they entered the first-team.
Sounds remarkably like the brief of the sports science and coaching teams!!!
So Sports Science and it’s practices help understand performance demands, help monitor training programs to ensure effectiveness, help understand performance levels of players, help generate intelligent questions regarding training and performance, help monitor fatigue to cut down injury risk, help understand ‘worst-case scenario’ demands so that players are brought to that place in training, help create a profile or development ‘passport’ for younger players so that their development is planned, appropriate and responsible. But apart from that what does it deliver????
It was telling that the guy I was chatting with had never joined the dots in this fashion before and more telling that he had never been prompted to.
Perhaps then we need to not only operate in the full fashion of a ‘performance team’ but also through the prism of sports science, coaching etc being key stakeholders in the commercial success of the club. Establishing these relations though is a two-way street – there is a real need for the sports science and coaching leadership to develop the relations so that they can articulate not just what they are doing and how they are doing it but ‘why’ they are doing it i.e. what is the link with the overall strategic/commercial goals of the organisation.
Through this lens sports science and coaching resources are no longer a cost but a firm investment. Equally well the opportunity can be grasped to reverse engineer strategic goals of a club or Academy towards a point where the wider performance team can deliver exact insights and correlations towards how they are helping achieve not only on the pitch but off it also.
Success – you have to do it alone but you can not achieve it on your own!
Paul Clarke is founder of performance and coaching consultancy,Match-Fit. Match-Fit work as EU partners with VX Sport – VX Sport is a player/athlete monitoring solution that has been trusted globally by clubs, teams and coaches for over eight years. Through world-class GPS platform VX Sport offers solutions to suit all budgets that allows for a fuller understanding of performance and the preparations, training and coaching interventions in place. Ultimately, VX Sport, allied with the expertise of Match-Fit, offers insights to coaches and performance staff that help enhance performance preparations as well as lowering the risk of non-contact injury…..key pillars for both on and off field success. Paul has not written any books…..yet!! Contact Paul today firstname.lastname@example.org or +353 86 8595155