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Coaches Corner by Alexis #9

Sports Science

The week after the coaching conference I previously mentioned, I was fortunate to attend a Sports Science Conference. There were presenters from around the world, including Australia, and, again, there were some common themes.


My favourite presenter was Dr John Sullivan, a neuro-scientist from the US. He had worked extensively with the New England Patriots, as well as the Armed Forces and English Premier League. Some keys from his presentation:

  • We feel first, then we think
  • The advantage we ignore:
    • Detrimental coaching climates are a huge limiting factor to development
    • Athletes in a fear response can’t learn
    • Safety is a critical part of a good learning culture. Athletes have to feel safe.
    • Tone of calm engages the receiver’s brain to listen
  • We over-rep physically!
  • Would you have learned maths better if someone was in your face screaming it at you?
  • Coaches need to understand how athletes learn
    • If coaches understand learning they get less stressed
  • “If you don’t perfect talent, it doesn’t matter that you identified it”

Next there were a few presenters discussing Sleep and Fatigue. Dr Shona Halsom, Dr Haresh Suppiah and Dr Ricco Swinbourne

  • Sometimes athletes are not lazy. They are tired.
  • Sometimes athletes quit when they are not getting better because they are tired.
  • Bottlenose dolphins sleep half a side at a time. Seriously, look it up, it’s amazing.
  • Learning can continue while you are asleep. The subconscious can chunk things more efficiently when asleep.
  • Daylight Savings affects health
    • 25% increased risk of heart attack in the week after daylight savings.
    • 21% decreased risk of heart attack in the week after daylight savings.
    • There is a Bundesliga football study showing increased injury rates after daylight savings change


As always, lots of interesting pieces of information in these conferences. The job of the coach is different to the job of the scientist, that is certainly true. But it helps a lot if the coach takes into account research-based facts, not just personal experience.


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