For this session we looked into the art and science of building modern day athletes through a holistic lens. We were joined by the LTA’s Head of Performance Science & Medicine, Dan Lewindon, who shared this thoughts on: understanding your athlete and the demands of the sport, principles for delivering effective and holistic performance support, using technology with a purpose in developing athletes and how might the future look and how might we as practitioners and coaches need to adapt to thrive in a changing world.
1. Understand & value the individual
- This is fundamental to the LTA’s success in supporting athletes and coaches and leading teams of people. We need to understand people as individuals and there is a growing understanding and awareness across all sports, throughout all stages of an athlete’s career, that wellbeing and resilience play key roles in the achievement and sustaining of success.
- We’re also giving them an individually-tailored approach; taking time to establish a relationship will reap dividends, especially if we’re asking them to do something they do not want to do.
- Abilities: physical profile, individual risk factors, injury history, areas of opportunity to drive progress.
- Drivers: who are they are, how they are, what makes them tick, motivations, interests; what do they need from us?
- Context: background, experiences, age profile; this is important for building trust and influence.
2. Shape your environment and communication
- This is principally about how support staff work together in support of the athlete and coach and create the right balance of communication with each other and coaches.
- There has been an explosion in specialisms, which creates opportunities for dedicated expertise and diverse thinking in problem-solving; equally, there is the risk of silo working and unnecessary noise. How do we harness that expertise into a single, cohesive view?
3. Interdisciplinary vs multidisciplinary
- The former is more about integration, those pieces working together. It requires a structured and safe environment where support staff and all stakeholders can share their views and feel valued for doing so, which requires a funnel for doing this in a cohesive fashion.
- Get it right and it produces clarity for the athletes, reduces the noise.
- This style of approach allows you to be bold in your recruitment to facilitate this model of interdisciplinary working.
4. Communicate with care
- It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to sound clever when speaking to coaches or using unnecessarily technical language to make a point; it cannot be about your needs but your athletes’ holistic needs.
- The use of overly medical language, even in a rehab context, can put you on the back foot in terms of helping an athlete to return to play.
- Do not medicalise, confuse, be contradicting or irritating!
- When influencing and getting your point across, think before you speak:
- What is your core message?
- Can you describe it simply?
- Why should they care as much as you do?
- Use stories to drive action; can you make them part of the process?
5. Understand all demands
- You need to understand the game: the technical, tactical, physical and psychological demands as dictated by such considerations as game style, position.
- You also need to understand the unique burdens of the sport: the season length, composition, complexity, constraints, injury trends, travel demands, financial constraints and even culture.
- If you stand back further you can also understand the lifestyle this presents: the sacrifices, responsibilities from family and self, to fans and even the sport, and the time demands put upon them.
- In tennis we’re still working with an incomplete picture in terms of the availability of data or perhaps wearables. It is important to understand the changes that people are ready to make, as well as whether you have given them a clear ‘why’. Then consider: what will be your next small win? Be ready to answer this question: how is this going to make me better?
6. Have clear plans and processes
- What behavioural, athletic and resilience (physical/psychological) qualities are required for an athlete to succeed?
- How can we shape our training programme and environment to support the coach and athlete to develop these qualities?
- Is it obvious why they are doing everything? This includes testing, monitoring, drills, warm-up, recovery, placement in the training day.
- Does your environment facilitate constant feedback and opportunities to compete?
- Have we considered when and how the work gets done in-training, out-of-training, in-season, out-of-season, at base, and on the road?
- Have we removed as many barriers as possible?