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World Class to World Best

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) hosted the World Class to World Best: Australia's high performance sports conference in Canberra, November 2016 (bi-annual event).

The conference brought together high performance coaches, directors, managers and support staff to address strategies to support Australia’s high performance sports system.

In this podcast, listen to:

  • The Rio Coach Panel with Michael Blackburn (2016 Coach of the Year, AIS Sport Performance Awards), Tim Decker, Andrea King and Brad Dubberley;
  • Stress, learning and performance execution with Professor Christian Cook; and
  • Sleep and stress - an essential detail to performance with Dr Charli Sargent.

 

AIS takes conference audience from World Class to World Best

The audience stepped away from the AIS World Class to World Best Conference in Canberra clear on one thing—taking time to celebrate achievements is a crucial part of weathering the peaks and troughs of high performance sport.

Over 300 elite coaches, performance directors and high performance specialists gathered for two days in Canberra to hear from some of the best speakers in the world, and to shake off the last remnants of any post-Rio hangover.

The top rated speakers at the event were Adam Alter, academic and author of Drunk Tank Pink, and Sir Graham Henry, All Blacks coach between 2003 and 2011.

Alter demonstrated how hidden forces in the world shape our thoughts, feeling and behaviours. He sent the audience off to consider how sporting colours can influence outcomes. Alter revealed research demonstrating that where athletes are evenly matched, athletes wearing red can be expected to win 55 per cent of the time against an athlete wearing blue.

Attune to the fact that the audience was grappling with the ability of the industry to stop and celebrate in a high pressure environment, Alter explored the phenomenon of ‘silver-medal face’—where silver medallists are less happy than bronze medallists.

He explained that while the latter are just happy to be on the podium, the former feel like they have missed out on the top spot. He urged the audience to be aware of these counter-intuitive findings and to work with athletes to ensure that the search for success does not overshadow success itself.

Sir Graham Henry rightly commanded the respect of the audience due to his achievements, but also because of his compelling stage presence. He shared with those present his own darkest moments, following the losses by the British and Irish Lions in Australia in 2001 when he then returned to New Zealand for a period of reflection.

He realised “if I didn’t change I would be history”. This reflection led to him moving from being an authoritarian coach to being a player-centric coach and it is this that he puts at the heart of his eventual success with the All Blacks.

The biggest lessons from Sir Henry were self-discipline and self-improvement “better never stops”, and the importance of culture whereby “culture easts strategy for breakfast”.

Feedback from the audience was how much they recognised the benefits of coming together to share ideas and insights. Audience members commented on the sometimes insular nature of the high performance profession, with one commenting “we are a specialist group doing specialist things”.

So the conference created the ideal space for creative and divergent thinking where attendees spoke of having “conversations without an agenda”.

A passion for the industry bubbled to the surface over and again at the event, with attendees sharing stories of the choices they made to devote themselves to high performance coaching.

A common theme was the choice that had to be made between a traditional or ‘normal’ job or coaching elite athletes, but each coach that had made the choice did not regret it. “Every day is challenging and I love the challenge,” said one coach.

A core focus of the conference was to bring the audience back to appreciating the fundamentals such as health, sleep and gratitude.

For many attendees it represented a break with the past and a bright new future. “I have been reflecting that if the AIS had done this 3 years ago it would have been a failure as not enough people would have been open to it,” said one attendee. “This is a revolution inside Australian sports development.”

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