Athletics Australia has published its new high performance plan, leading up to the 2016 Olympics.
I was pleased to see statements (on pages 16 and 17) which suggest AA has ‘downgraded’ the importance of the U18 World Championships and only athletes who can easily qualify and are likely to do very well should be sent to this event (ie they should not have to train specifically and try very hard to qualify). As my own research has shown, a tiny minority of U18 World Championship participants will ever progress to make a senior team, let alone do well at a World Championships or Olympic Games. As I have argued for a long time, athletes hoping to one day participate and succeed at World Championships or Olympic Games (and hopefully do so repeatedly) should refrain from overly specific conditioning training at an age when they should instead be developing their overall athleticism and their technique.
AA will also seek to influence peak bodies to introduce an U23 World Championships. This would be a much more meaningful championships which would offer late developers and athletes in event groups where peak performances occur at a later age a welcome bridge to a successful seniors career.
5.9. Age Group Major Championships Program
The World U18 Championships is only appropriate for the most physically and mentally mature athletes. Only a few athletes will progress from this event to contribute to the overall aims of the HP program. Due to their relative immaturity athletes require careful age-appropriate management. For these reasons team size will be managed by setting AA specific selection standards that reflect a realistic top eight performance based on previous WU18 championships results.
Many of the comments above also apply to the World U20 Championships, however these athletes only have one Championships opportunity every other year and so relatively more athletes should be given the chance to compete. For these reasons team size will be managed by setting AA specific selection standards that reflect a realistic top sixteen performance based on previous WU20 championships results.
5.10. Influence International Calendar
Influence peak sporting bodies to re-evaluate the age group major championships calendar.
For a program of Championships see Appendix 4 – International Championships Calender.
This strategic initiative is less structured than the earlier parts of this plan. Wherever possible and appropriate
AA staff should seek to influence decision makers and decision making bodies within the peak sporting bodies
along the following lines:
- create international Championships opportunities for the U23 age group;
- balance the U20 T&F program by adding an international Championships opportunity in odd calendar
- reduce the U18 program and re-balance the Championships opportunities across the Olympiad.
Thanks to James Marshall (@CoachExcelsior) who shared this nice progressive routine via Twitter. I like exercises that combine strength, coordination and flexibility.
Fitness Buddyis essentially a training/exercises diary/log and features a large, well-organised, illustrated exercise library, but you can also easily add your own exercises, which makes this app suitable for serious athletes as well. There is a large library of pre-built workouts, but again, you can easily assemble your own routines.
Entering your workout data is as simple as it can be, thanks to the excellent workout library, where you can select exercises according to muscle group, muscle, even equipment. But you don’t even have to trawl through the entire library to find the relevant exercises, as you can also pick exercises from your list of favourites or most recently used exercises, or you can use the search box.
You enter data set by set into the template, using the number pad which has large enough keys for shaky fingers, or the additional buttons on the left which allows you to easily add to the number already in the template. Click ‘add log’ to add your set. You can review what you’ve entered and delete sets quite easily as well, but it would be nice if sets could be edited and reordered as well.
Another great feature is the direct access to your music library on your iPod/iPad.
When you set up your account, make sure you go to the ‘weight tracker’ before you start entering exercise data, even if you don’t intend to track your body weight . It seems that this is the only way you can change from the default ‘lb’ setting to ‘kg’. If you’ve been entering exercise data in lb because you didn’t know how to change the default, all your data will be automatically converted to kg.
Importantly, athletes can send their diary entries to their coaches via the ‘workout history’, which lists all your training dates in reverse chronological order. Essentially you will generate a spreadsheet and/or text file containing the exercise data of the chosen date which you can then directly send via email.
According to the recently released ASC/CSIRO report The future of Australian sport, people who want to participate in sport will increasingly do so on their own terms, when it suits them or in ad-hoc groups led by personal trainers/coaches and not necessarily for the purpose of competing but simply to stay fit, and they want to stay active for as long as they can well into old age.
Combined with the expectation that obesity rates will continue to rise (don’t count on governments to take heed of this report and finally enshrine school sport or some other sort of physical activity into the curriculum), and there is a proliferation of adventure sports, this can only mean that our talent pool for athletics, including high performance athletics, will shrink, as will our potential pool of officials. And clubs will also be under more pressure, especially considering yet another ASC report announced today by federal sports minister Kate Lundy, Market segmentation.
All the more reason to prepare for this future, which, if we are honest with ourselves, has already arrived.
We should instigate improvements and pool resources to not only compensate for the effects of the trends identified in the report, but make athletics in all its forms a great experience for people who like to compete against others, or only against themselves (e.g. chip timing), or not at all (e.g. jogging).
No doubt our under-resourced clubs will need to pool resources. The ASC has very recently put the writing on the wall through its Mandatory Sports Governance Principles and called for divided sports to unify. This can only mean one thing for Little A and senior athletics, and not only at governance level.
A unified sport would see senior clubs and Little A centres share venues, equipment and other resources. Unification would allow for a more sensible, long-term career path for athletes and coaches to be established, with a more attractive competition and training system for all involved, which would most likely also lead to an improved retention rate of potential and actual elite athletes.
Stronger clubs could offer local competition where athletes from other clubs are welcome to participate for a small fee. In this way, all available athletics venues would be utilised for training and competition.
But this would only work where all athletes and coaches contribute to the organisation of the competition from time to time.
A little excursion here: I joined a volleyball club a while ago. At the social competitions organised by that club it is a matter of course that teams take turns to set up the playing fields, more experienced players officiate (and the rules of volleyball are way more complicated than athletics rules) and another team puts away the equipment after the last match – it’s simply part of the games roster. Many hands make light work…
These club-based competitions should be coordinated and supported with technology by the state body. Club independent officials/volunteers who perhaps live locally could be allocated and dispatched to these local comps to give them official status so performances can count towards qualifiers for national and minor international events.
This would free up stretched state bodies to focus on organising and hosting championship competitions, a high-performance event or two, and a few weeks of inter-club competition held at a central, high quality venue that can cater for all events.
But I can also envisage athletes and coaches using social media or apps to organise their own competitions (see page 10 of the ASC/CSIRO report), especially if athletes and especially coaches as part of their career path and education completed an officials course (a basic officials course should be included in coach education anyway in my view). This would provide additional competition opportunities when athletes and coaches want them at little or no extra expense and effort for the state body.
Let’s say a bunch of long and triple jumpers decide they are all in great shape and would like to compete, but there are no scheduled competitions for another few weeks, so they use a social media tool to decide on a place, date and time, and which athletes and coach(es) are willing and able to act as officials. They ask the state body for one independent official if they want their performances to count. They might even ask the state body to spread the news and invite others so the cost of venue hire can be shared, or the state body might even partially subsidise such ad-hoc meets. The standard competition sheet would be downloaded by the chief official for that comp, completed during the course of the competition, and sent in to state body for uploading the results. Within a day athletes and coaches could view the results on the state body’s website. There would also be an app people can use to find upcoming competitions in their event(s) anywhere in the country with ease and through which results are available in a standardised format, and which can also be used to graph performances.
Flexibility will also be key when it comes to distributing resources. Michael Johnson, an ardent promoter of our sport suggests a balanced distribution of funds between high performance and participation. In order to provide a great experience to more of our participants, to keep them interested in athletics, and to hopefully see more of them become marketable role models and sponsor-magnets, we will need more qualified coaches.
How about subsidising coaching courses and facilitating mentoring, for instance (learning is most effective ‘on the job’)? How about supporting clubs more directly so they can provide adequate equipment to their members?
Also, coaches should be actively encouraged to join their own professional association (as most professionals do), which would be the current Track & Field Coaches Association. This association already contains a wealth of collective experience and know-how which, if supported by state and national bodies, could contribute a lot more not only to coach education but to continuing education through publications, conferences etc..
There are many ways we can take athletics forward and meet the challenges of the megatrends the ASC/CSIRO report has identifed.
I just wanted to throw a few ideas out there. It might be worth starting a public discussion about some of these pressing issues now.
Declaration: I am a board member of Athletics New South Wales and an editor of the ATFCA’s Modern Athlete and Coach. The opinions I express here are entirely my own.
Well done to all my athletes who competed at State Champs this year.
First up on Friday night Michael Taylor in his last appearance in Little A’s came 4th in the U17 discus with a PB of 46.03m.
In the same competition Alec Diamond finished 7th with a good distance of 42.51m.
On Saturday, Sally Shokry won a bronze medal in the U11 shot put with a new PB of 10.25m.
Alex Murdocca clinched the gold medal in the boy’s U11 shot put with his second round effort of exactly 12.00m, another PB. Jack McFadden, who also had to race over hurdles during this comp (he later won the final), finished a respectable 4th with a good distance of 10.85m in his last attempt.
Michael Taylor then took to the shot put circle where on his last attempt with the 5kg shot he came within a few centimetres of the silver medal – 15.82m and PB.
On Sunday Michael threw 55.03m with the 700g javelin to finish 5th.
In the U11 boys’ discus Alex Murdocca posted another big PB with 38.28m to claim the gold medal. Jack McFadden finished in third with 32.77m.
Sally Shokry finished her season on a high by winning the girls’ U11 discus with 32.61m.
The Australian Junior Championships are currently under way in Perth. Well done Claudia Steiner who finished in 7th spot in the U20 discus with a very consistent series and a very good best throw of 38.87m, and Alec Diamond who also finished 7th in the U17 discus with 41.49m.
Recently the German sports world was rocked by a study on elite sports, which was published not long after in Australia a can of worms was opened by a report of the Australian Crime Commission, which alleges widespread doping and criminal behaviour within Australian sport.
Commissioned by Germany’s sports foundation “Deutsche Sporthilfe”, that country’s premier sports education institution, the “Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln”, conducted a survey on elite sports, and the resulting report, Dysfunctions within elite sports, published on 21 February, revealed some interesting but also some rather alarming results.
This research is probably the first of its kind. Over a year ago, fairly large samples of the general population as well as elite athletes were asked a series of questions relating to contentious issues within elite sports. One can always find faults within such studies, but I think the methodology is quite sound and the data was rigorously analysed, if not interpreted and discussed in as much depth as one would have hoped. Below are just some of the more interesting results of this study.
Just over 2,000 people from the general population were questioned on how they perceive elite sports, and how compatible certain behaviours such as the use of performance enhancing drugs, the use of pain killers, the use of supplements, deliberate rule infringements are with the values of the sports foundation.
When asked about how reconcilable the three values of performance, fair play, and team spirit and solidarity are with either all of the behaviours or none of the behaviours, these were the results:
The study included 1,154 athletes who participated in the annonymous survey. The results to the same question was as follows:
The perception of various negative behaviours or symptoms of elite sports within the general population is also interesting:
When asked about the reasons why athletes use performance enhancing drugs or cheat in other ways, 63% of respondents named the pressure to succeed, 41.5% the desire for recognition, 26.9% the pressure from the social environment, 32.5% said greed was at fault, 12.7% said existential fears were at play, but only 5.7% put it down to a lack of awareness of wrongdoing.
The respondents were also asked how prepared they were to lend personal financial support to elite athletes, and how much they would contribute.
Unsurprisingly, the greater a person believes the proportion of athletes to be who are taking performance enhancing drugs and/or are involved in match fixing, the less inclined they are to contribute financially to the elite athlete support program.
Truly alarming are some of the results from the athlete sample: 8.7% said they had been involved in match fixing, and 5.9% admitted to using performance enhancing substances on a regular basis. 11% admitted they were using pain medication on a regular basis, 40% of whom were quite aware of the risk involved in the prolonged use of such substances. Also quite worrying, 11.4% say they experience burn-out, over half of whom suffer under the condition. The full results are below:
A form of randomised response technique was used to evaluate the honesty of the answers to these sensitive questions.
What would a similar survey amongst Australian athletes reveal?
All translations mine, tables and graphs adapted from original study.
Another prominent athlete has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs: Udo Beyer, one of the best ever shot putters who competed for the former GDR and won the Olympic title in 1976.
Sandra Kadelka, herself a child growing up inside the GDR sports system, didn’t quite make it to international stardom as a diver, but she wanted to show the different sides of that particular sport system – that there was more to it than just doping. No doubt that is the case, but the fact that her one and a half hour documentary “Einzelkämpfer” (“lone fighter”) includes footage of a former Olympic champion, Udo Beyer, who for the first time admits to doping during his career, will inevitably have the effect of focusing the attention again on that aspect of the most successful sports system ever.
The fact that Beyer used performance enhancing drugs has been known since 1991 when Brigitte Berendonk published her book Doping-Dokumente – Von der Forschung zum Betrug, which includes documents showing steroid dosages of various prominent GDR sports stars, including those of Beyer.
But now we have a confession, though it comes without an apology.
In the film he says he made a conscious decision to take the steroids, that was his right, and he knew what was going on. But he maintains he was the deserved Olympic champion back in 1976, because “I was the best in that competition.” Perhaps, or probably, what he is alluding to here is that everyone else in East and West was doping at the time, and therefore there was a level playing field, at least for the elite athletes in his sport.
And he claims: “Doping and supplements make up perhaps 2-3% of the performance, the rest is hard work. And if you are not trained properly they can give you as many pills as you like. Then you might at best expand like a sponge or something like that, but you’ll never be a good athlete.” A valid point, but not exactly what many would have hoped for, namely some sign of remorse, and certainly not a helpful argument in the fight against doping.
He told the German newspaper “Bild” that he believes the fight against doping will never be successful: “In 50 years we’ll still be talking about the next generation of substances. Performance sports will always be trying to stretch the boundaries.”
Other prominent athletes featured in the film are GDR sprint stars Ines Geipel, who has for many years been active in the fight for the rights of the victims of the former GDR sports system, and current 400m world record holder Marita Koch, who according to the above-mentioned work by Berendonk had also been administered steroids during her career.
Translations of quotes are mine.
At the recent New South Wales Junior Championships held at Sydney Olympic Park my athletes made the most of the ideal conditions and performed remarkably well. The top results:
Claudia Steiner with limited preparation due to her university studies came 5th in the U20 discus with a solid series and a best throw of 38.01m.
Michael Taylor had a great weekend, clinching bronze in the U20 shot put with a first round effort of 14.38m, a surprising silver with 52.27m in his first ever javelin competition with the 800g, and finishing 4th in the discus with a new PB of 41.91m, just behind Ian Hutchinson, who claimed bronze with 42.01m.
Alec Diamond finished 6th in the U18 discus with a new PB of 43.94m, and James McFadden placed 6th in the U16 javelin with 41.28.
At the 2013 Trans Tasman Challenge held at the Campbelltown track on 13 January Jack McFadden won the U11 discus (750g) with 29.92m and the shot put (2kg) with 10.25m, and in the U11 girls throwing events, Sally Shokry came third in the shot put with 9.93m, before winning the discus competition with 31.05m.