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Tips for parents of pre-elite athletes workshop 22 April 2018 – video transcript

Dr Juanita Weissensteiner:

Thank you, it’s just wonderful to be here, to see some familiar faces and to be back in Newcastle.

So I'll talk a little bit about me but I actually worked in a physio practice just up on the corner here in Broadmeadow Medical Centre and I had a practice up in Stockton as well - that was a different career I guess before this one. So it’s awesome to be back and wonderful to be talking to you guys because as has Amy said you guys are the critical drivers for your child’s sporting potential and their development - you guys are critical in that regard.

So I just want to give me a little bit of background about me. A long, long, long time ago I actually played for NSW. I was a young girl from Port Macquarie, Katrina, my dear buddy was from Dunbogan – so I’m actually there (in the photo) – so I’ve done the journey as a NSW athlete. I got to a pre elite athlete level – and I played volleyball. I played volleyball in the NSW team in the under ages and I was actually a talent transfer athlete. That’s why I had such a weird spike action – I was actually a Javelin athlete and the I was a Hockey player, and then I was brought into Volleyball.

We had a wonderful coach, Robert Savage, who used to take us up and down in his Kombi van, up and down the coast nearly every weekend. So I guess I just want to show you that bit of background. But I guess my claim to fame was a bit after that - I'm actually in the best of album of The Angels! So it's a bit hard to see but Doc Neeson, so the rocker Doc Neeson, bless him because he did pass, but he when I was on scholarship the AIS for volleyball, who would have thought that Doc was so passionate about women's volleyball.

He could see that our program was going to close down and we ended up playing this exhibition match at the AIS. I thought I was getting stitched up because they said ‘come and play The Angels’ and I thought ‘Yeah sure’….

So I guess I reached my peak as a pre-elite athlete - I think looking back now I probably got as far as I could have gotten I think with my stature and my technical ability.  I played in a junior fringe squad for Australia and I was more back court player a Libero - I was too small for the front court, and that's a picture of me there, number 3. But the problem was because I had that strange action with the javelin, so I had a very side on sort of spiking action and I guess we trained so hard on wooden floors like this I ended up with stress fractures in my back, which was quite prophetic because then I ended up studying that in cricket fast bowlers cricketers and I started a PhD actually looking at a stress fractures as well.

That then led me to stopping my volleyball career because we were having to go and train in Adelaide every second weekend and I was studying sports science and I wanted to do physio, so I ended up doing physio up at Sydney Uni. While I was doing the physio degree and I loved physio a lot of intrinsic satisfaction out of helping patients and it was wonderful having a practice at Stockton.

I guess I was always interested from a young age reading about the history of Olympians and about particularly Don Bradman. I was fascinated with Sir Donald Bradman - with the cricket stumps, the water tank and the golf ball. I was really interested in the development expertise. How does that happen? How does Don go from being a young child - and I've got a great picture of him and you can already see how in tune he is as a wiki in this particular picture - how did he become such an amazing expert?

So I was given an opportunity, the first Cricket Australia scholarship, so I did my PHD with Cricket Australia and that was interesting. I was actually at Del Monte in Adelaide. Shane Watson was in that crew, Ben Hilfenhaus - some really notable cricketers and I was the only female in that dormitory, which was quite interesting with all the male cricketers. But I lived and breathed their journey for 3 months at Del Monte and that was part of my PHD.


Because I wanted to learn about Brad Don Bradman and how did he become an expert, I spoke to Allan Border, I got to speak to Greg Chappell and I got to hang out with Justin Langer. And I'm talking to those guys and learning about the development of expertise and how they developed their expertise. So I ended up putting together a bit of a test battery based on what they thought was important and I was able to test 111 batsman from the age of 10 all the way up to Australian senior level, looking at their technical ability, their anticipatory ability, how they could read the bowler and make it a good decision, their anthropometrics, their sociodevelopmental background - the whole gambit - this holistic test battery.

And I put it together, it was published as a model of expertise for Cricket batting  and it was used for cricket Australia, who ended up doing a similar thing for bowling and wicket keeping. This then wet my appetite - it was through the PhD I was really interested in how do experts in sport develop. That then lead me to working with the AIS - the national Talent ID program and then the pathways program.

We could see that my next challenge was addressing a bit of an unhealthy athlete pathway in Australia across many sports. And we can see that if you look at the red is below 50, the amber’s about 51 to 70%, we could see through different evidence gathering that we were really battling with a bit of an unhealthy pathway. We can then see that that was leading to constraints on individual athletes potential - their development because of those constraints in the pathway. This was leading to a compromised profile for those athletes, it was leading to a limit in their physical literacy, to burn out to drop out, to injury like that I grappled with as a per elite athlete - but also importantly unfilled talent potential.

So we realised that we needed to do something about that. There were issues at the strategy level across Australia within all the major national sporting organisations collectively that we had to address. There were issues in terms of coaching and intensive support of athletes and that really was the impetus to put together FTEM, which stands for Foundation, Talent, Elite, Mastery and really is a strategic framework that helps sporting organisations and stakeholders to better understand what does a healthy pathway look like. What do we need in terms of strategy and support and coaching and so forth. To really make it more seamless for athletes, to better support athletes and that athletes are happier they’re fulfilled, they're not injured and then reaching that talent potential so that we've got a more healthy talent pipeline.

I got an invitation to present FTEM to the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, in 2014 and it was on April Fools Day and thought ‘alright I've been stitched up here!’ Why would they want to talk to me – I mean I’d read about the IOC, I had books as a young kid,  about Olympians and I knew about (Pierre) de Couteban. Anyway, I got it (the invite) and it was fair dinkum and then I thought I went through a few months of soul searching, thinking it's going to be a bit nerve wracking, presenting FTEM. But they were particularly interested in FTEM, because there is the LTAD (Long Term Athlete Development) model, the Canadian model. So they knew there was some issues a long term athlete development model in Canada, so they were very interested to hear what the Aussies had in terms of the FTEAM athlete development framework.

You can read a bit more about it - I've got a book chapter if you’re interested that's really great content if you want to go to sleep at night, but it will explain all about the FTEM Framework and what the best practice is…

So it is a really impressive group with these amazing international experts that I'd read about at uni and then I was mixing it with them - I was like ‘oh my goodness this is this is real? This is like kicking off my bucket list!’ But there's a certain fellow at the back and I’d heard that he was on the list of attendees, and that was Gary Hall Jr. Gary Hall Jr from Sydney 2000, 5 time Olympic gold medallist swimmer - amazing guy - and I thought I was going to turn up and he's going to be dressed like this (on screen picture in American outfit). Somehow I thought that… and he’d be doing the shadow boxing that he was known for, but then I realise it was actually persona. He's the most gentle, modest, humble guy and he's a dear friend. This was I guess performer persona - he's actually quite a shy lovely fellow and he's an amazing guy doing amazing things for athletes in America. He really cares about health and well-being and welfare. He actually had diabetes so he does a lot of work in terms of education and research in diabetes.

So I was really daunted – I was like ‘oh my goodness’ in that entourage and Gary Hall as well. Through that (conference), we were able to put together a consensus statement and that's why I was there. So to put together there's some consensus statement on Youth athlete development in the IOC and that's a good read. I mean I am a bit biased because I did contribute to it but it is a pretty simple and good read as it talks about all the key issues that are facing our athletes and what needs to be done in terms of strategy and practice to help address burnout, injury, psychological burnout and so forth. A fantastic fellow did this wonderful infographic and I have that as a poster, so it's a good reminder. It has some good messaging in there about the key things that are required for a healthy and fulfilling enjoyable sport experience for young athletes.

I was so inspired by Gary. Gary opened up the address - he spoke about warts and all his own experiences, what he went through as an athlete and what he witnessed. He had fellow swimmers that really battled with their health, in terms of their psychological health, intensive eating disorders…. their issues with coaches. He’s very passionate about athletes not going to the same experience and that's really want drive him to the work that he does now.

And it inspired me so much that I realised in Australia we need to do a better job of listening to our athletes and to listen to our developing athletes about their experiences and get their perspectives. Commonly in terms of strategy we can make assumptions but we're not living the experience. We really need to be in touch with those that a living experience and understand what's working what's not working for them rather than make assumptions as to what we think is important or what should be done. So I put this paper editorial paper that is alongside the IOC consent paper but that paper then lead to subsequent work that I did at the AIS about tapping in an engaging the Athletes voice.

But I guess my proudest achievement to date, and my little guys in here, are my two little boys. I guess I'm still learning - oh my goodness I thought I had it sorted in terms of development, but as a parent as you know, you’re learning everyday. I relish that learning everyday and having to adapt. I think just as well I did the cricket PhD because my boys love playing cricket and we play in all different environments, so I'm using some of that in a funny way though my guinea pigs a little bit too in the corridor when they were babies, but it’s been wonderful- the journey as a parent - learning and adapting. And I know it's sometimes I gig, but it's the most fulfilling role that I've had in my life.

So – the My Sporting Journey Questionnaire – it’s a questionnaire we put together to source the athletes perspective. It's a big questionnaire-based inspired by Gary. We wanted to understand the whole developmental journey of athletes holistically and what we could do better at the AIS in terms of strategy and practice. We ended up getting over 1500 athletes who filled out the questionnaire, so huge a data set, and a good mix up of individual and team sports. We had a fantastic cohort and senior international athletes so we got 450 athletes that had a represented Australia as a junior or an adult and we have 160 athletes in that cohort that actually metalled at the World Championships, Olympics Paralympics. And in there we do have a line of questions for Paralympians as well as able bodied athletes. And the great thing about this questionnaire is that 84% of athletes who filled it out are still competing, so they were still living and breathing the experience and the journey – so a wonderful set of evidence and data.

That information has subsequently informed major reviews that we did while I was working at the AIS, with tennis Australia, with Athletics Australia, with Sailing Australia. That evidence - sourcing the athletes voice through that questionnaire - was the critical bits of evidence that we were using to really review the pathway operations of these organisations. It led to us tweaking our FTEM strategy looking at – that’s a bit of a 3D model of athlete development (Slide 9) - it is allowed us to really look at what the athlete profile looks like, what are the key environmental factors supporting that profile and what is the key system to support the athlete. It also allowed us to put together the top 10 tips for parents that I'll talk about a little bit later.

It informed the key strategy work that I touched on - I think about 30 national sporting organisations. One of the last ones was working the Tennis Australia which was wonderful. I shared a room with Lleyton Hewitt and it was amazing - just sharing and talking about his profile and how he developed, and he wasn't sure of me either - but it was good fun mixing it with him and talking about his developmental experiences, what is key to the young tennis players coming up now, what their profile looks like and how we can better nurture and support those tennis players. It also informed two other projects for the AIS. The Basecamp strategy - some of you might be aware of that because some regional academy athletes have had access to my AIS Basecamp last year - and also our self regulation strategy that really looks at honing psychological skills of athletes.

What we found from the My Sporting Journey questionnaire is that it's not a linear progression and development – it’s definitely not that at all. It's actually quite a lot of peaks and troughs in an athlete development and that's the realism of the pathway and it's a really important thing to remember - it's not always very smooth sailing.  A lot of our finest athletes have had disappointment but then that's inspired and that's made them passionate, really committed and enthusiastic to then go that next step - that's an important characteristic so I'll talk about that in a sec.

So we found that to get to the top you definitely need the strong foundations and I'll unpack that a little bit but those two things are as the launchpad for a successful journey up that developmental pathway, but also as a pre elite athlete it's about committing and identifying as a pre elite athlete, so really owning that identity and committing to it.  It's about managing peer dynamics, which can be tricky - where it can be very competitive - and we've got some very interesting data on that. It's about how to deal – how to communicate with the coach. It's about juggling - work, university, school with your sporting commitments. It's dealing with chance events – chance events are those events that are out of your control, they could be an injury or a loss of a coach so how do you bounce back and how can you be pragmatic about that.

It's about negotiating the transition from a junior to a senior, which is a massive jump at times. Dealing with stressors and also then your first time experience as a junior mixing it with senior elite athletes. You’re new kid on the block - how do you do that confidently and particularly on the world stage?  We learnt from our athletes that is very daunting. A lot of the time they don't have enough exposure and preparation, so what can we do to better support and expose them so that they can ultimately go up and be comfortable at the senior international level.

And just to reiterate the fact that that the pathway is quite nonlinear we had a paper in 2013 that really showed the trajectories of our finest Olympic athletes - 256 of them - and we found that the pathway is chaotic. We could see that it's not just a very pure ascent up in the junior ranks - it's not that at all. For a lot of sports it’s that you go up to a junior level then you drop down and then you go up the senior levels and then there's a lot of concurrent junior and senior exposure that happens too. That's an important catalyst for developing expertise but it has to be carefully managed.  When's the right timing for a talented junior to then step into the senior ranks? That has to be very carefully managed - that athlete has to be ready and they have to have a supportive environment. It's certainly a hallmark of a lot of our finest athlete, that they’ve mixed that junior and senior competitive exposure.

So, the athlete environmental profile - to get to the very top looks a bit like this so we know we have a very full profile. A key is psychological attributes and skills - you can have natural talent physically but you’ve got to be committed and motivated you’ve got to be able to learn and evolve with practice and competitive exposure, so psych attributes are really really critical. But as well - your genetics, how coordinated you are, your physical literacy, sport specific skills, your practice and competition exposure.

So it's quite a full profile but we know to nurture that profile you have to have all these key environmental catalysts working together and you guys are up the top there in terms of family and parents. You are key and fundamental, particularly in the foundation level and going through the pre elite levels. The support can change through the pathway but I'm about to touch on that a little bit later.

In terms of foundation - what do you need to have to really optimise the launchpad for an athlete?

We found from our data that strong parental support is important so encouraging parents but parents that have commonly done the journey themselves if played sport. It’s also a providing lots of resources to their children - it's emotional, it’s informational, it's monetary – it’s very very multi-factorial but a primary driver. The sibling effect - we found that it was interesting a lot of our finest athletes are younger born. So if you think about it - you've got the parent that's done the journey in sport and commonly these younger born athletes have got older siblings that have done the journey too, so this younger sibling has the parents that have done it and the older sibling, so it's quite nice in some regards because those people have done the journey and the younger one can learn from that and benefit from that – it’s very interesting.

Fundamentals – a lot of our finest have a wonderful fundamental movement skills - full proficiency - and they realised they had that full proficiency and that lead to a self confidence and self belief.

Lots of free play - this is really important in terms of what they called deliberate play. A lot of our finest athletes like Don Bradman did a lot of free play in the home environment, in the neighbourhood, at school. They weren't just going to training but they were honing their skills  in the home environment and that is really really critical. And I guess at a strategy practice level we go ‘well free play is important at home - how do we how do we keep that considering we’re getting smaller backyards and kids are in suburbia but how do we maintain that importance of free play through the pathway for older athletes too?’ You need to keep the fun and enjoyment and that’s a challenge.

Sample, sample, sample is a key one. Our finest athletes – they’ve sampled at least four to five different sports and they’ve attributed that to where they got to in their main sport. They’ve brought the skills from those former sports into that main sport so it’s really important. They specialise later too, so there's something until around the ages of 13 to 15 and they specialise around that age, so it's always a bit later.

They’re a sporty child. They’ve got the strong self belief in their ability but someone's tapped them on the shoulder too and says ‘look, you've got the goods’. They’re recognised as having that talent potential so their own belief is then verified, confirmed by that external supporting source.

This is an important one and we touched on it before -afforded progression. So a lot of these finest athletes in their foundational years, so early participation, were allowed to play and compete against older athletes. And that was important for developing their profile but as I said it has to be very carefully managed, because you don't want to propel an athlete up if they're not ready - if they're not psychologically ready, technically ready, physically ready - but that is certainly a Hallmark about finest athletes.

So we know that this combination of all these factors that really is that launchpad  for our finest athletes. In the pre elite athletes we know the self regulation is key and I'll talk about that in a minute - about being self-aware, about being good in terms of organisational skill, in terms of problem solving, in terms of continual reflection. It’s a really key set of attributes and skills that’s important for sport, but it's important for academia and it's important for life. 

Having the right coach-athlete match is important - and the athlete having some empowerment to make sure we got the right match as well.

Managing peers in and out of sport - as I touched on, we asked questions about positive peer interaction, but also negative peer interaction. We found female in athletes in particular there was a high percentage - about a quarter said they had negative impact from peers so that alerted us to what can we do in terms of educating young female athletes and empowering them to deal with potentially negative peer dynamics. But also what do we do with coaches and in terms of the environments to make sure it's more positive, nurturing and more supportive, because if you think about it there could be a huge drop out because of that factor. There was a lot of female athletes talking about I've been bullied, being harassed and so forth and I think with the younger generation now with social media that's a really really critical thing we need to look at.

Managing workload - this is about the training competitive work load so that it’s not over the top and leading to injury and drop out and burnout,  but it's also about managing their life. There are academic commitments with their sport commitments and making sure that they got time to rest, to recover, to reflect, to regenerate - that's really really critical.

Having good athlete lifestyle skills - there's a whole suite of those that you guys can help empower your young charges in terms of learning and educating yourselves in terms of nutrition, recovery, hydration, and injury prevention. Having an effective support network is key.  You guys are critical in that but it's also friends, it’s peers, it's role models.

And then lastly the ability to bounce back from seemingly negative chance events and injury. How can we prevent injury better but how can we bounce back in a from injury as well, but minimise injury mostly.

And then at the top – these are the key things to get to the top - to podium. It's having the optimal preparation dedication. It’s that prior exposure before those key International Events. A lot of these athletes, when they go to their first event they’re sussing out what it's like but they’ve got this hunger - a very strong self belief that they deserve to be there, they want to be there and they’re committed and driven to getting back there. They’ll do everything to get there and to achieve. And critical too that is their psychological robustness and I'll talk about that in a minute - a very multifactorial profile that they’ve got psychologically.

With that, they can manage multiple stressors and do that with experience better and better each time. They’ve got the right support team, they’ve got a very strong individualised approach. At that level, they've got a voice, a very strong voice, in really dictating who is going to support them at key events, so they should be empowered and enabled to do that. They commonly reinvent themselves – there’s a longevity - they reinvent themselves and economise in training or they try different in a position within the team or a different event. So anyway that's a lot of the evidence that we’re finding and as you can see, that’s evidence that can really help us in terms of shaping the strategy of supporting athletes and the support and the education that we provide.

So I talked about stressors - in the questionnaire we asked the athletes what sort of stressors did they have to grapple with and we got, ranked from the top, lack of financial support, which is a no brainer. But this is ranked from the highest down to the lowest and we found that on average that pre elite athletes and elite athletes are dealing with 4-7 concurrent stressors. So 4-7 of these things all at the same time and you think that can be quite daunting for a pre elite athletes, they're still maturing and grappling with all these stressors, so this is the reality - a lot of these things you can't avoid. This is a reality of being a pre elite athlete or an elite athlete.

We learnt about the psychological profile of our finest. Again, we’re using this information to then look at how we profile younger athletes and how we can help support and develop this  psychological profile because we know it's key for them withstanding the journey and excelling at the very top. And it was a no brainer - we can see that they’re strong on self-regulation, they’ve got a growth mindset that it's always the half glass full, it's a more optimistic positive outlook. They love to learn and problem solve, they crave learning - that's really important. They practice mindfulness so being in the present. They’re mentally tough, they’re resilient, they’re hardy, they shall lot of grit. They've got exceptionally good coping skills but that's come through a lot of experience and support and developing those psychological skills, and importantly they have a lot of social support. They really perceive that they're their supported adequately - that's really key.

So it's not just their psychological profile but they got to have this external support to which is really important, and that optimistic outlook. They've got to be highly motivated, they're going to have to be so bit perfectionistic too with their training, with the preparation and be dedicated. So as you can see it's quite a big profile, but it's really really great to use this information when we ID young talent and we're developing that. We can start to work on some of these aspects and help nuture so that these athletes have this full gamut of a profile that helped them enjoy the journey and to perform well….

This is a wonderful project through the UK where they interviewed - and I strongly recommend you read it, I can give you the link to it - they interviewed 31 gold medallists some from the from Great Britain and it was a really interesting what I touched on before. A commonality - a lot of these athletes is that they had to deal with massive setbacks early on in their career. But that really then propelled them up to get to where they got too, so it's really interesting – we found it in our data too. So these athletes, they seem to grapple with a lot of negative, seemingly chance events – injury, loss of someone, but it for some reason their psyche makes them more determined, seeking more of meeting that challenge. So it’s very interesting to learn about the psyche, but knowing that setbacks and disappointment  and dealing with it pragmatically and looking at it in a true perspective a really is a hallmark,  commonly, of the very best who get to the top.

This is another great paper you can look, where this model here, and it looks a bit abstract here, but basically it was a great paper where again these authors interviewed some Olympic gold medallists from the UK. Again they can see that these medallists had to deal with stressors which we know is another commonality of the athlete experience. With the right psychological profile and then also with the right social support, and the more experience that you develop dealing with those stressors, the more facility response that these athletes have. So every time they get to negotiate another chance event they've got that psychological profile, that experience, that support to better cope and deal and meet the challenge of subsequent stressors. So this is a great paper and I think has a lot of inference for how we know expose a young athletes and to help develop their coping skills but with the right support, so that they can really autonomously endure the journey.

So team podium - we know family, partner, support staff is important but also the coach - we learnt about what the coach athlete partnership looks like, and it truly is a partnership. The athletes were saying that really needed a confidant at the very top for a coach. At the very top it's not about instruction but it's about someone listening to you and sharing the journey, and an outlet as well. With peers, we touched on that - peers as I said can be wonderful in terms of support but it has to be carefully managed as well. And mentors - we found that mentors are critical as a catalyst for the journey and they could be another athlete or retired competitor, a teacher. Again, they provide all these different types of support.

And then we got some great information about role models. So we can see the role models were really inspiring a lot of our very great athletes as well. They really observed a lot from these role models and then utilised a lot of that information for their own journey as well.

All and information led to the development of our top 10 tips for parents resource. On the left here, I put together an online resource with information and links so you can go to that, and on the right here I did a whole series of podcasts so you can listen to each of the top 10 tips and I address each of them in the podcast. So that was lots of fun doing it – it was the first time I had done it so it was quite interesting. In the top 10 tips, we talk about how can you promote fundamental movement skills at home with your young children, how can you foster the free play at home. At that time I talked a bit of flag in the media…. but I think they cottoned on that I was doing a bit of corridor cricket with the little fellas, so I copped a bit of flack from the ABC when this was launched. But I still maintain the corridor’s pretty good actually if you got the right balls to play.

There’s information about how you can be a positive support for your kids in sport. Finding the right sport format in regards to the maturation level of your kid, but also the right sport equipment as well - because if you don't have the right sport equipment, it can really constrain the skill development as well and lead to injury. (The podcasts also include information) about sampling - how you can promote sport sampling.

Practice - it's not about the 10000 hour rule - too much quantity can lead to drop out, to burn out, to injury. It’s about quality - being smart in terms of practice. Practicing how you'd compete - using your full profile so I took a bit about that. About being a positive role model -so what you can do to help as a parent to sell a more positive self…. I guess it’s about understanding kids are very good observational learners so you’ve got to be careful with what you say. You can be passionate and encouraging - so just a few words of wisdom I guess from my own learning in that regard.

The right questions to ask – this is about promoting self regulation and I'll talk about that in a minute. Being sport ready - having that full gamut of education about what it takes to be a good athlete, and then finally finding the right fit and developmental environment. What's the right fit as coach and club for your kid in terms of their maturation and their enjoyment and fun in sport and that's really critical. So I strongly urge you to go, and if you haven't seen it, go and look at the website and listen to the podcasts.

Just to finish off I'll focus on two of these points and I'll talk about questions the right questions to ask, and how to be sport ready. I'll talk about how you guys as parents can help facilitate both of these. You can empower these in your young charges, your kids.

So the right questions to ask - really that's all about self reflection and learning. How you can help your child to better learn from practice, from training, from their competitive experiences, and how you can help them to self reflect. To think about what they did, what they can do better, to problem solve what they can do next time – it’s a whole suite of questions that you could ask to help promote that. And I’ve found that through doing this it’s actually helped me and I realised I was doing self-reflection too and self-regulation in the work that I do too. So I guess it's a bit of a cyclical process where you plan for an event, you think you've got it all sorted, you do the event and your self awareness is there and you can work out where you might have missed or you might have done really well, and then it's about evaluating - how you went what you could do better. As you can see, it's a bit of a cyclical process that could be applied to a sporting event, a training or competition event, it could be preparing for a test or a life event. It’s a really critical suite of questions and  cognitive thinking.

We’ve found that it will really help in terms of motivating the athlete, but also helping in terms of focusing their effort and also their self efficacy - how they feel, their confidence in themselves and in their potential. In in the podcast and the website material I talk about what you can do to plan better. So it's about smart goal setting - how do you do that? How do you prepare routines and rituals? We’ve seen Rafael Nadal do his routine and rituals, which is interesting, but it’s there for a reason, and it’s understanding that. The grade cricketers did that too and it was keen for them switching on and switching off, so it’s actually a really important thing psychologically for athletes.

It’s about visualisation. Imagery - imagery is actually watching yourself in your mind's eye from different perspectives. I used that in volleyball - if I couldn't do a certain hit and I used to practice it in my mind - and it's so powerful and it's so underutilised. Using that to perfect a skill, so there's some really good (techniques). I'll show you some great resources on the AIS Brainwaves – they’ve got some really great resources there. So while we focus a lot of physical and technical skill development, don't forget about visualisation and importance of psychological skill development – that’s really really key.

We can about self awareness and comparing to benchmark. How to control your anxiety and arousal? How much of that do you need? Concentration, positive self-talk is another big one, and you’ll see a lot of athletes said doing that positive self-talk externally  and internally is really important. And then finally after the event, how do you look at the results pragmatically? How do you draw on external feedback to compliment your own feedback? And how do you recalibrate? How do you go ‘OK well I need to address this issue’? Who are going to source? What are your solutions, your problem solving techniques to deal with and to attend to that issue? And how are you going to put that back into your next event, and that's really critical.

I've been very fortunate in this job to work with Lauren Burns. Lauren Burns won the gold medal, Taekwondo Sydney 2000. so I'm actually one of her supervisors for her PhD. She's interviewed 10 Australian Olympians - amazing athletes, I can't tell you who they are - but we found that those athletes, their commonality was this. They were able to do this intensely. This cyclical reflection, self learning, problem solving - they did it in training, they do in a competition, but they do it for the rest of their life. All aspects of their life is so fine tuned that they work on solutions and experiment with solutions. They afford themselves to do that until they get it right, and that's where they can be perfectionistic and meticulous in their preparation. It’s been wonderful working with her, but it really highlighted how important is suite of skills is.

So this is a great tool - Gibbs reflective cycle. Some of you guys would probably be aware of this great tool but again it's a suite of questions cyclical progression that you could help with your kids after a key event, after competition, after a test at school, and walk them through those questions. And they can start to learn and use those questions themselves to really propagate that self reflection, learning and problem-solving so this really handy tool.

Number 9 - we talked about being sport ready. So there's a lot to grapple with here, to be sport ready in a holistic sense for an athlete. But this something that you guys can really help out with, with your kids, but I reckon you'll get something out of it too. I’ve found that I have, I've learnt a lot. So there are some great resources where you can learn about importance of having a sound athletic base, so fundamental movement skills and physical literacy - why that's so important to minimise injury, and to help fulfil talent potential. There's great information on how to do a warm up and cool down appropriately the timing of that.  Information on how to minimise injury but how to manage injury, as well understand the importance of good nutritional habits – that’s really really important - good nutrition is so critical in terms of regeneration and fuel as you know.

In terms of hydration - hydration is commonly missed. One of the fellows at the IOC is the guru on hydration for tennis. He'd work with Pat Rafter, because Pat Rafter realised that he was losing points because he wasn't hydrating properly, so Michael Bergin was working with him on how to better hydrate in terms of drinking enough, because you lose so much in terms of competition, so it's a really critical thing. And also about exercising safely in hot and cold environments. The importance of not overtraining or over-competing is really key, understanding the importance of rest and recovery - that is just as important - sleep, recovery and nutrition to actually doing the activity, training and competition. It's so important for these growing body and growing minds, that they’ve got enough time to regenerate and recoup - it's so important. And then finally how to maintain a healthy sport life balance. That it's not just all sport, that there's a balance to the rest of life, to family, to friends - that's so important.

I've got listed on your hand out some really great resources, so you can go to the IOC consensus statement, that has some of the information on there. But the AIS psychology department put together Brainwaves. Brainwaves are some fact sheets that you guys can access, and it's got great information about concentration, motivation, self-regulation, imagery - so that's a really good start.

AIS nutrition resources - we have Professor Louise Burke, IOC recognised, heading up nutrition at the AIS. Go to these resources – they are world class, in terms of adequate nutrition, hydration, meal planning. Some of you probably saw the AIS cook books – they’re brilliant – but she’s world class, it’s a fantastic resource to go to. AIS performance recovery resources – again, a world class lady leading this, Dr Shona Halson.

In the Clearinghouse, at the Australian Sports Commission – if you’re not a member, you can sign up – you can get these great fact sheets about adequate sleep, about adequate recovery. All of this information is wonderful, evidence-based, and backed up be research.

And then lastly, the IOC. The consensus statement before we did ours, was on injury and injury prevention, and out of that they used that information to put together an app. So you can go to the IOC website, and I think it's in iTunes too, and it's called Get Set Train Smarter. It's a wonderful app that you can go to, and it gives you information about injury prevention for your key sports. So again it's informed by the consensus statement at an international level but also that key evidence so it's top notch advice.

I guess I touched on, there is another resource if you've got access to it if your young charges got access to this, or they might have access this year - but ask about it. It's my AIS Basecamp. It's like it online program that they developed at the AIS in the pathways area where I used to work and it has a lot of the information about the importance of postural strength, so there's a lot of video based information there about postural strength, about running technique, about strength training technique, and about ball skills. So a lot of information there, video based. And there's also the ability for the kids that once they go up a level - there's 5 levels with about 15 lessons in each of the 5 levels - once they finish a level they've got upload a video doing a competency test for each of these, and then it's scored. If they’re proficient enough they’re able to go up the next level and they get feedback provided by the AIS. A lot of thing investment went into this and there’s a lot of good content in there.

You can download the PDFs to and is some really great lesson plans in there for coaches as well. There’s great information in there for the kids on all the things we talked about – nutrition, psychology, hydration, performance analysis, how a video themselves, and how to get that feedback at their technique, recovery, personal excellence about time management, as it’s about balancing school and sport, how they do that effectively, and physical preparation. And the nice thing about this platform is there is an area to for Basecamp buddies, so you guys have what we deem Basecamp buddies. So you're someone like a coach, you’re facilitating the journey with your athlete and there's a special area for you to actually to grab some information too and help athlete, your young child or your kid on their journey as well. The great thing about this resources it has a lot of the athletes voice and it’s got some great learning some videos from Anna Meares, from Kim Crow -  all our great Olympians and Paralympians and there's sharing their own journey and their own advice, and we've found that that really resonates with the young athletes. Actually hearing it from Anna Meares, how important self regulation is and what she does, it's just so powerful so that's wonderful.

I might also showcase this wonderful resource. So I've done a bit of work with Swimming Australia but with Dan Kowalski and the Australian Swimmers Association, they put together a wonderful resource, because they realised they needed more resources for parents and for athletes about how they can better support them on the journey - and this is a wonderful website. So if you haven't seen it, definitely go to it - its got great video based content, a lot of our best Paralympic swimmers and Olympic swimmers sharing their story. There’s a lot of great things in here about body image, about nutrition, about dealing with peers, so it's a wonderful website – they’ve done a tremendous job so certainly have a look at that too.

And then finally working with Swimming Australia another great thing they did - if you go to that website, Swimming Queensland, they’ve got some great developmental resources I helped out with. A couple of those from the my sporting journey questionnaire and that evidence. And what they did is that put posters together. So they put one poster for recovery - so what are the key messages for parents and coaches for recovery, what are the key aspects for nutrition, and what are the key aspects in terms of development. And they put these posters poolside, which was really cool so their parents could see it, the kids can see it whenever they go to a swimming meet. So there’s all different ways that you can spread the message, that education, what the key things are to help support your athletes.


For more information, see: Supporting Pre-Elite Athletes