Thursday, 24 April 2014

ICaP Symposium attracts sport's finest

A number of top sporting names joined almost 300 delegates as ICaP hosted its first ever Talent Identification Symposium at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Brian Ashton MBE, the former England RFU Head Coach, and Danny Grewcock MBE, Academy Director at Bath Rugby, were amongst an influential gathering which included representatives from Manchester City FC and British Athletics.

ICaP researchers presented findings which showed natural talent plays only a small part in a complex web of influential factors when developing elite athletes.

They suggested athletes who have a slow and bumpy progression in the early stages of their career tend to eventually succeed at a far higher level than those tipped to be the next big thing from the start.

By avoiding this 'simply the best' syndrome and positively reacting to challenges and setbacks, athletes are more likely to be independent, adaptable and resilient leading to greater long-term achievements.

Professor Dave Collins, Director of ICaP and former Performance Director of UK Athletics, headed up the conference. He said: "There is no magic answer as to what makes an elite performer. Too many people are looking for straightforward solutions such as the idea that practising for 10,000 hours is the secret to success.

"There are many 'gifted' individuals that don't make it whilst those who are committed and work hard do. By considering the psychological characteristics of developing excellence such as completing realistic performance evaluations, learning how to cope with pressure and taking responsibility for your own learning, we can develop a 'curriculum' for helping people to achieve at the highest levels of their potential.

"The findings also showed the relationship between a coach and parents needs to be turned on its head - a coach should ask what a parent would like to know about their child's performance to enable them to offer support, rather than assuming what they need to know and what their existing knowledge is."

Anne Pankhurst, Education Consultant to the Professional Tennis Registry, Development consultant for USA Football and previously the Coach Education Director for the Lawn Tennis Association, is a Doctoral student with ICaP and presented on the parent-coach relationship at the conference.

She commented: "Parents generally want to know what competition their child is up against, how much and what sort of practise they need to do and more generally, what their job is in enabling the development of their child. Most coaches tend to assume parents have a pre-existing knowledge of what this is when of course why would they? It's this focus that needs to change so the coach can help parents play a more supportive role in the whole process."

Other ICaP findings were:
  • Young athletes need to focus on a breadth of activity, done with a depth of commitment, rather than specialise early in their career
  • Sports people who take more responsibility for their own learning rather than relying heavily on coaching and those that receive less pressure from their parents tend to make the transition to professional athlete much more successfully
  • Having a sibling who has succeeded in sport can be a catalyst for success but it can also have a negative impact by influencing the talent development process before the coach comes into contact with the athlete causing perceived favouritism.
Other ICaP researchers to present their findings included Neil McCarthy, Head of Academy at Leicester Tigers RUFC, British Cycling's Coaching and Education manager Vinny Webb and Will Tullett, Movement Specialist at Chelsea FC Academy. The trio are all Doctoral students at UCLan.

Brian Ashton praised the event: "It’s great for young coaches to see the variety of ways that coaching can be approached. For some, it will be a reaffirmation that they are doing things right and highlight there isn’t one set way to coach because many different strands make up an elite athlete."

Danny Grewcock said: "As a coach you are constantly looking to improve performance levels and listening to the experts today has provided snippets of gold I can embed into our performance programme."