So, 2 years to go. Everything, maybe a little worryingly, appears to be on track. The facilities look incredible and all the building works are ahead of schedule, that’s never been an issue though. The real work comes in convincing the British public that the games are a worthy expenditure and something they should get excited about. Not an issue for me, the press coverage for the 2 year countdown did the trick, I got my ass into gear and registered for tickets yesterday. I think I ticked every event on the list bar equestrian (not a horse person) and got excited just thinking about being there.
From what I hear regarding the amount of people who have registered for tickets and the volunteer spaces the rest of the British public seems to be catching the bug too. It’s an incredible opportunity for some of the smaller sports to get some real exposure and for the public to experience what elite sporting competition in those sports is like at first hand. As a result I hope that participation in all those sports explodes, hopefully Olympians will be the new celebrities and children will see them as role models rather than reality TV stars and footballers wives.
It’s a chance to get kids back into sport in a big way and I expect to see plenty of coverage in the media over the next 2 years of the British athletes and their background stories. They should show the commitment and dedication it takes to be an elite sportsperson and the support structures in place to help them get there. Get it right and the benefits from this could be huge; better public health being the most striking…and a further growth in S&C in the UK would be a nice little side effect too!
I listened to couple of pieces on five live this morning and evening, both were discussing pre-season football training. The interview this morning was with an ex pro turned personal trainer talking about body image and how, in his opinion, players in the lower leagues were more interested in body image as a result of their training rather than performance outcomes. The second this evening was with several ex pros and a couple of managers discussing pre-season and different methods.
The body image point is a good one and I’m sure body image is a factor with the majority of athletes, I know it’s something that has come up one way or another with probably every athlete I’ve worked with. I explain to my athletes that an athletic physique is a natural by product of training and eating well and pointing to examples of other athletes within the sport is a useful way to demonstrate this. It seems that the culture within the sport could be to blame. A lot of footballers I know (I haven’t worked with any on a professional basis yet) don’t know what strength and conditioning is and wouldn’t lift weights if they couldn’t sit down on a large machine to do it. This is shown through the media, I’ve never seen strength and conditioning getting a mention in any article, every team seems to have a fitness trainer who will put the team through their paces though. The majority of other sports seem to have bought into S&C and athletes when interviewed will name drop the field at least.
Relating to this, the evening discussion was full of 7 mile runs in a different location each day so the lads didn’t get bored, 8 week breaks after the season and even the suggestion of playing a full game every 2 days throughout pre-season (you’d have to change the name to the pre-season season though). It leads me to conclude that football, particularly in the lower leagues, is in dyer need of some education as to what proper preparation to play a multi-sprint, multi-direction, field team ball game is. It would be interesting to measure the effect on injury rates by comparing clubs who brought in S&C coaches to work with their players against those who didn’t. I’ll bet if you were able to present the benefits in terms of playing hours and related to wage bills you’s suddenly find a lot more demand for S&C.
The British open golf at St. Andrews this week is the major sporting event in town. Lots of column inches devoted to alterations to the course layout, speculation regarding weather and whether we’ll see a British winner (looking good as I write as Rory McIlroy is -8). Oh yeah…and a small amount on Tiger Woods. It’s testament to his profile that given his recent average form he is the dominant talking point wherever he goes, this week a little more due to his choice of putter than his choice of woman (a cynic might suggest that this week has been a huge Nike marketing campaign complete with quotes from his caddy). His personal life aside, Woods has done a lot for golf worldwide, including a change of culture surrounding physical preparation.
There’s a contemporary group of British players including Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Ross Fisher (I’ve probably missed a couple of names that could also be included), who walk onto the course as athletes with a physique to match instead of the more traditional golfing shape (see Colin Montgomery and John Daly for details). I think that this is in no small part due to Tiger’s influence.
When he first came onto the scene, the distance he was driving the ball alone gave him a massive edge, he looked every part the professional athlete and was obviously in much better condition than his peers, he raised the bar. In the years since, other players on the tour have been playing catch up and putting more and more emphasis on the gains that can be made in the gym as well as time spent on the course. As a result we’ve seen schemes like the Titleist Performance Institute spreading strength and conditioning to mainstream golf as well as around the professional circuit.
Hopefully, as a result we’ll see a reduction in injuries in golfers (professional and amateur) and an increase in performance. Unfortunately, that will more than likely result in course layout changes increasing difficulty as we’ve seen at St Andrews, and for those golfers (I’m including myself in this) who are more lacking in the skill rather than conditioning component, this is less than ideal!