Ten Trends in Elite & High Performance in ANZ
Jonathan Harris & Dr. Craig Duncan
SRI’s ANZ team recently had the pleasure of hosting events in Sydney and Melbourne where leaders in Elite, Technical and High-Performance sport discussed the status of their industry and identified opportunities for improvement.
We welcomed professionals from a variety of sporting organisations, across AFL, NRL, Football, Hockey, Athletics, Tennis, Netball, Basketball, Rugby, as well as Sport Australia and the SIS/SAS network. The lively discussion brought to light ten key themes and trends that are impacting the high-performance domain.
was a consistent view that there is a dearth of opportunities to connect with fellow high-performance experts. Whereas the Commercial or Operational aspects of Sport might be more ‘open’, historically, we have seen a reluctance to share insights and a level of secrecy preventing open and honest discussion. The group challenged this trend and there was widespread agreement that it was inhibiting development for the ‘whole’ of Sport and Clubs / Teams and the community as a whole.
- Sophistication of recruitment
Recruitment strategies and processes for high performance hires are sometimes poorly defined. Often hires are ‘personality driven’ with little governance or rigour. Ultimately, subjective decisions on key people can be detrimental to a team’s performance and have a negative effect on the club’s key assets i.e. players. There was widespread recognition of the need for objective, well organised recruitment processes to ensure key hires are properly vetted and the successful candidate is culturally aligned with the club.
- Recycling talent and succession strategies
The rotation of Staff from one organisation to another begs the question; where will next generation leaders come from if we don’t invest in succession strategies? The group saw the benefits of considering a broader set of talent for positions in sports to fuel the future leadership pipeline. National Governing Bodies must invest in Coach & HP Development programs and strategies.
- Breaking down silos
There can be a tendency for high-performance functions to be somewhat ‘siloed’ from other areas of the club. It is beneficial for the corporate or non-sport functions to have an understanding of high-performance. There can be disconnect between these key areas of the organisation. There is an opportunity for greater effec-tiveness and growth when high performance and other functions collaborate and share information. This silo effect is often reflected in an organisations governance structure with too much emphasis placed on business pedigree and not enough Sport High-Performance professionals succeeding into Board roles.
- Education and training
The role of universities and overall education in the high-performance space was raised. Are students ‘work ready’ when they complete their studies? Can grass roots or junior level training improve? Too many graduates are oriented to the Eliteend of Sport, more graduates should be prepared to enter in to grass-roots, or Talent Development and Identification. This is an area that needs significant attention to increase the quality of our athletes.
- Spending / budgets
Budgets and spending were omnipresent topics during our discussions. Lack of budget is often raised by High-Performance departments, but is this the real issue? The absence of strategic decisions and systems thinking in some High-Performance departments has led to short term spending on technologies and equipment that make little difference in the long term. The core issue is not in fact level of budget, but whether organisations are spending wisely? Interestingly the implementation of caps on football department spend was largely seen as a good thing, and leading to increased efficiency and creating advances in strategy and innovation.
Obviously Data has become central to high-performance practice, but has this correlated with more relevant insight? Whilst there have been major advances with the increased availability of data, there is also the risk of ‘data overload’ inhibiting high performance leaders to extract the relevant insight that will have a material impact on performance. Numerous organisations spoke about ‘paralysis by analysis’ – and recognised that there is still a place for instinct and ‘experience’, particularly in player recruitment and development.
- Athlete well-being
The group agreed that athlete well-being must be considered more holistically. We are seeing great investment in athlete development and psychology, but less in ‘the person’. Although there has been more focus on athletes’ lives after their professional sports career, there was recognition that more could be done in this area. There was an intriguing follow-on to this debate in relation to coaches and other high-performance professionals – with so much investment in the athlete, who is looking out for the physiological and psychological state of Coaches and High Performance staff?
- The short and long term
How can you persevere with a long-term strategy if you are losing every weekend? There is a real challenge for High-Performance leads in keeping Board, CEO, media and fans/members engaged – it requires excellent communication and stakeholder management. A need to understand this cycle for Head Coach and HPD exercises is imperative. If improvements are not demonstrated or understood, long-term strategy will be questioned and there could be a need to pivot. How do you keep winning on a Saturday while overhauling your player roster?
- The double-edged sword in Women’s sport
Everyone welcomes the momentum across women’s sports, however there is the reality of resource limitations. There is optimism in relation to the creation of new commercial opportunities. Currently, some clubs are now effectively running two teams, with the same budget as they had to run one. The current model of relying on the goodwill of existing, dedicated staff is not sustainable. There are specificities for managing men’s and woman’s teams that need to be recognised and respected. There is a real opportunity for more females to join High-Performance teams.