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  • Writer's pictureMarc Portus

The High Performance Ecosystem: Insights into a Sustainable High Performance System in Sport

Updated: May 29, 2019

Marc Portus* and Derek Panchuk ^

Five part series delivered each Tuesday starting 14 May 2019

Wondering what the best high performance teams in sport do to keep producing results and champion teams and athletes? Are there common features? Is there a consistent approach? Is it coaching? Building a high performance system that fosters sustained success isn’t easy. It’s challenging and requires commitment from everyone involved.

Over the next several weeks we’ll take you through our series on the antecedents of a sustainable high performance sport system. We’ll address these questions and more through the lenses of leadership, strategy, coaching, talent identification, athlete development and support services by combining over 30 years’ experience in high performance sport. We’ll provide our experiential perspective along with the key research in each area to provide an outline of how sustainable high performance systems typically work. We don’t necessarily have all the answers, but we’ll get you thinking and allow you to test what you currently do with your sporting organisations, or even your teams in other business contexts.

So, what are the key pieces to a sustainable high performance system? We’ve broken it down to 5 components and will discuss what we think is best practice in each over the next 5 weeks.

1. Governance and planning (Week 1)

Sounds boring right? But if your governance, strategy and high performance plans are not right you will under-perform at some stage - probably sooner than later. You may have a great group of talented athletes sustaining current performance, but it’s likely to be volatile if you haven’t created the right environment with the right vision around them. To overlay all this, you need to map out your competition priorities and implement the key supporting projects with enough lead time to execute. We’ll discuss how and why these sports business fundamentals are so important for sustained sporting success, creating the nexus of high performance planning from the big picture, to the bottom up details, so important for athletes, coaches and support staff.

2. Talent pool and identification (Week 2)

This is a critical part of a sport’s high performance sustainability but its often considered too disconnected from the pointy end for high performance leaders to spend much time working on. How many people participate in your sport? Why do they choose your sport instead of another? What drives them to keep going? How do you identify the good ones and how do you provide ongoing opportunities for late bloomers? Understanding your talent pool is critical and how you attract them to your sport should be considered when planning your high performance strategy. Your strategy should articulate how you ‘join the dots’.

3. A pathway to inspire and develop (Week 3)

Once you’ve got them, you need to keep them, but how? Having a well-articulated performance pathway is critical from a number of perspectives – the athlete, the coaches, the parents, the support staff and the external stakeholders. A healthy pathway also provides a foundation for the sustainability of your sport, future performance depends on it. But should athletes specialise early, specialise late or only play like sports? We’ll take a look at the evidence and illustrate how it should inform how you structure your pathway to develop your athletes.

4. High quality daily training environments (Week 4)

A high quality training environment can be the difference between one-off successes and season success. This part will explore how creating an athlete-focused high-performance system maximises the chances of athletes performing at their best when it counts. The structure of training and practice will be discussed, the way coaches and support staff go about their business and how they interact with the athlete and each other. We’ll also look at key learnings from research in other industries that can inform high quality training environments and what should vary for individual athletes and why.

5. Innovation and R&D (Week 5)

Often one of the hardest things to get off the ground in a high performance sports system and many question if its really needed. How can it really help performance this week or this season given the time required to complete R&D projects? What’s the difference between innovation and R&D and should you emphasise one over the other, or not bother with either? After all the coach and many of the staff could be gone if the team/athlete doesn’t perform now. We’ll argue that an integrated R&D and innovation program is paramount for a sport to truly be a sustainable high performer. We’ll explain some different methods that sports can take to make it real, add value to the sport and keep it cost effective.

So stay tuned for the next five weeks where we'll outline how the best high performance sports go about their business. Hopefully it will create some good discussion and challenge a few long held mis-conceptions about high performance sport. If you would like to have an email alert delivered to your inbox when each part is released you can sign up here.

Till next Tuesday,

Marc and Derek.

Want to know how to optimise your daily training environment? Or understand how to harness technology to get the most out of your athletes? Chiron Performance can help you find solutions to embed the science of skill acquisition and player development into your team or organisation.

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