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Human Performance | May 25, 2016

What is a High Performance Unit (HPU) and How Do We Make It a Success?

Phil Coles, San Antonio Spurs

Phil Coles is the leader of the performance and medical staff at the San Antonio Spurs, and in this essay for ‘Performance’ he outlines what a High Performance Unit is, and how it should be structured to maximise success.


The HPU of an elite professional team is responsible for maximising the physical performance capabilities of that team. It ensures that the athletic development, sports science and sports medicine disciplines work closely together to achieve the overall aim of improved physical performance.

The three broad goals required to improved physical performance are:

  1. Athletic development;
  2. Injury prevention;
  3. Injury management.

Phil underlines the importance of having clear and specific methods for achieving these three goals. He says: “Those methods should then be implemented and evaluated, in a process driven, evidence based, integrated a practical way.”

He goes on to outline the principles that need to be established to ensure success can be best achieved. He explains how a HPU should be:

  • Process driven through defined strategies, methodologies and concepts;
  • Be evidence-based in its approach;
  • Be capable of integrating different departments and staff;
  • Organised through clear, central leadership;
  • Practical in its implementation;
  • Able to integrate into the coaches and players’ programmes;
  • Hold each of its components accountable to its results.

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