At what point does the integrity of competition become tarnished by the intrusion of science? Elite sport’s mission is to push the boundaries of human performance, but if those boundaries are bridged by variables beyond the realm of physical ability, does sport lose its purpose? With the help of world renowned sports scientist Ross Tucker, CONQA addresses these important questions.
After making history with Leicester City last season, Claudio Ranieri is now out of a job after the Foxes parted ways with the Italian manager after a woeful defence of their English Premier League Crown. Half a world away, a cricket coach offers a sympathetic voice. Paddy Upton, coach of several cricket sides around the globe including the Sydney Thunder, helps CONQA unpack the struggles a championship winning coach can go through.
The true test for any elite athlete is bouncing back from adversity. For the Lions half back pair of Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk, the climb up from last season’s poor showing with the national side will be an arduous journey. With high performance coach, Tim Goodenough, CONQA explores the process of rebuilding confidence to return to the top.
Modern day sport is a monstrous machine that is driven by money in order to churn out results. That is an inescapable truth. So why then has there been so much pushback from traditional powerhouses of football at the rise of RB Leipzig in the German Bundesliga and the exorbitant amount of money being spent in the Chinese Super League. CONQA explores the hypocrisy in modern sport.
The world game’s global showpiece is set to expand from 32 to 40 teams as of the 2026 edition, a decision that has divided opinion across the world. Here, two writers with very different opinions weigh in on the debate and offer compelling arguments for both sides of the divide.
We spend roughly 23 minutes of every hour at work trying to move people in a certain direction. We might be driven by selfish motives or we might be altruistic in nature. Either way, the process of exerting influence over another human being is something we spend close to half of our working time trying to accomplish. Tom Bird, best-selling author and speaker on the art of influence, speaks to CONQA and outlines the key attributes a leader must possess in order to influence people. As you would imagine, there is no one size fits all model but by following a general formula, anyone can become influential.
Rather than look back on the year that was, CONQA Sport is casting an eye on 2017 and calling on the powers that be to make some changes to improve the games we love. In the cutthroat world of top level sport, stagnation is suicide and so, along with some of the leading figures in the industry, we have compiled a 2017 wish list for a happy and elite new year.
It’s a throwaway term for pundits and scribes whenever a coach bumbles his way through a press conference after his team has lost another game, but what does “losing the dressing room” actually mean? CONQA Sport explores this fascinating concept and calls on two legends in their field to help out. Next time you hear this phrase, you will have a better understanding of its meaning and nuance.
Two giants of world sport have recently felt the painful bump of reaching bedrock and now have to make some dramatic changes if they want to taste the glories of the past. South African rugby and Australian cricket sides used to command respect from opposition by virtue of their dominance. Today they are both facing unprecedented crises. CONQA Sport offers a way out for both of these once proud juggernauts.
In elite sport, all athletes are equal; some however are undoubtedly more equal than others. In a world where human beings are separated by their abilities on the field, is it fair to treat everyone equally? Is this egalitarian utopia even worth pursuing? Would this approach negatively impact the creativity and flair of star athletes and how can coaches navigate this dilemma without alienating the rest of the squad? CONQA Sport explores these questions and more.
If something is broken it must be fixed. How a coach or manager seeks to do so can either steady the ship or send it to the brink much sooner than anticipated. Wholesale changes might grab headlines and demonstrate that the person in charge is being proactive, but almost always it is much wiser to implement incremental changes to steadily improve every facet of performance.
In a somewhat unprecedented move, this summer’s South African. domestic T20 competition will go ahead without a title sponsor – unless something drastically changes in the next few weeks. This sheds some light on cricket’s relevance and the country’s economic climate, but that does not mean all hope is lost. Antoinette Muller from the Daily Maverick explores this thorny issue which can be viewed as a microcosm of the broader financial narrative in the nation in particular, and the globe in general.
Golf is the most popular sport for people 50 years and up. Makes sense right? Golf is mostly taking a pleasant stroll through manicured fields interspersed with the occasional swing of a lightweight stick. Obviously professional golfers are getting more and more athletic but where else do you find a fully professional Senior Tour? Well it turns out that the twilight years come much sooner for female golfers and more and more young women are dominating the game. CONQA Sport examines the societal reasons behind the phenomenon and finds that they are more worrying than first imagined.
Long before sport turned professional, elite athletes have acted as ambassadors for the societies they represent. As such, they have been labelled as role models and moral compasses whether or not they are deserving of those titles. But is this fair? Do we as the public hold our athletes to impossible standards not reserved for any other industry? How does being a role model impact performance and is the status even worth pursuing? CONQA Sport answers these questions and more.
Every single one of us gets lambasted for a job poorly done from time to time. Criticism can severely impact performance but luckily for most of us, the amount of people who have access to our shame is very small. Imagine that all your work, good or bad, was public knowledge. Imagine that everyone with a smartphone could vent how terrible they thought you were at your job. Imagine newspapers, radio stations and online blogs were about to call you out for a perceived ineptitude to millions of people around the world. Now you have a taste of what being an under fire head coach of an elite sports team feels like when results aren’t going their way. CONQA Sport explores how owning and directing the narrative can help coaches navigate these difficult times.
Change takes time, and more often than not is a difficult and arduous process. In the realm of elite sport, a ruthless industry to begin with, change often means sacrificing results in order to change course and head in a new direction. For the Springboks, South Africa’s proud national rugby team, a change in identity has coincided with a dramatic downturn in performances. Naturally, the media and public are up in arms, but should they be showing a touch more patience and understanding? CONQA Sport unpacks this rebuilding phase that South African rugby is going through and offers a sympathetic and measured view on the situation.
If succeeding as an elite athlete was easy, we’d all be doing it. So many variables have to go exactly right for a young talent to make it to the top. Hard work, struggle, sacrifice; talent means nothing if a young prospect is not willing to go the extra mile. But if what if the key to success meant going further than a mile? What if the path to greatness lay outside the boundaries of one’s home country and was paved in a foreign land? CONQA Sport explores why youth development needs travel and why so many young English footballers are unwilling to leave the nest.
Every year, new teams are crowned champions over a wide spectrum of sports, but there are only a handful that will forever echo throughout eternity as conquerors. The Brazilian footballers of the 1960s, the West Indian cricketers of the 1970s and ‘80s, the current New Zealand All Blacks who dominate rugby union; these reigns, as mighty as they appear, pale in comparison to an empire that stretches back to the very beginning. US Swimming has exerted a stranglehold on their sport since the first Olympic Games and haven’t let go since. Thanks to a dominant mindset, they won’t be letting go any time soon.
What is it about certain sports fans that compel them take success for granted? Is it simply the desire to see your team succeed that obscures the truth, or is it something more complex? Once a nation or club enjoys a spell of dominance, expectations rise and leave a high water mark for future generations. Unfortunately, the natural ebb and flow of success means that on field performances do not always match expectations. CONQA Sport explores how accomplished legacies often breed entitlement.
We all know the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, right? How, using maths, the second poorest team in Major League Baseball went on a record-breaking winning streak and changed the way baseball scouts and general managers operated. The story was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster and the word ‘Moneyball’ became synonymous with statistical analysis in sport. Well, a similar story is underway in football. By combining the roles of head of scouting and head of analysis, Daniel Stenz is changing the game. CONQA Sport spoke with Stenz ahead of his move to the Hungarian Football Federation.
The winds of change are sweeping through the world of coaching and structural hierarchies are being torn down. Coaches and managers are no longer the authoritative rulers who dole out knowledge and wisdom to players like a mother bird feeds her chicks. Today, coaches are facilitators: respected figures who help guide elite teams and athletes down the path to knowledge but leave the problem solving up to those who have to perform on the field of play. CONQA Sport speaks with John Pitts, an elite coach with experience in a wide variety of sports, to unpack this modern approach.
It is hard to disagree that South African sport has failed to transform at the top level, butcricket’s political association in South Africa stretches way further back than apartheid. Daily Maverick’s Antoinette Muller and Chronicle’s Leila Dee Dougan visited the heartlands of black cricket in South Africa to explore why cricket and politics will always be bedfellows; the work being done by CSA at grassroots, and how high performance and transformation go hand in hand.
Caster Semenya is on a course with destiny and controversy at this year's Olympic Games in Rio. Gold in the 800m for the 25 year old South African is as close to a sure thing as you can get in sport. She has obliterated her opposition this season by running the fastest women's 800m in eight years. However, as has been the case since she burst on the scene in 2009 as a prodigal teenager, questions around Semenya's gender-identity and whether or not it is fair that she is competing will be brought up. CONQA Sport unpacks the debate and finds that in this case, there are many more questions than answers.
With less than a week to go to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, the integrity of sport and competition hangs by a thread. Every day, new information surrounding the developing Russian doping scandal emerges. President Vladimir Putin has remained steadfast in defence of his athletes and government while the whole debacle is getting uglier and more political as it progresses. In light of this, CONQA Sport takes a look at the relationship between sport and politics, and more specifically, war. For make no mistake, this is a 21st century imperial march on sport, and indeed, the world.
In elite sport, stagnation is a death knell. In order to stay ahead of the competition, new techniques and strategies must be actively sought and implemented. Every coach or athlete is after the next big thing that will propel them to greatness, but is it an idealistic dream to assume that innovation is something that can be taught? CONQA Sport examines the concept of innovation and finds that in the right environment, genius can flourish.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus, an ‘expert’ is defined as someone “having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced.” Elite sport is littered with experts, and countless others who fancy themselves as one. With all that expertise floating around, coaches and managers are often tempted to bring in an external source of knowledge to improve their athletes’ performance. But is this necessary? What if a shift in mindset turned the focus inward and tapped into the wealth of internal knowledge within the playing group? CONQA Sport speaks with Paddy Upton and discovers that the solution to the problem is often right under your nose.
With less than a month to go before the world descends on Rio for the 27th Summer Olympic Games, thousands of athletes, coaches and sports practitioners are gearing up for the flagship sporting event of the year. The largest contingent will be representing the red, white and blue of the United States of America and such a big team comes with a host of big challenges. Finbarr Kirwan is a High Performance Director at the United States Olympics Committee (USOC) heading up two of the largest teams at the Games: track and field and swimming. He walks us through some of the obstacles he faces and divulges how he and his team are plotting for gold.
Elite sport practitioners are constantly placed under immense pressure, and in the heat of the moment, tempers flare and harsh words are exchanged. Fortunately, the consequences of irrational actions are never life threatening. Not so for the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, where one misspoken word can result in untold misery and death. Gary Noesner spent 30 years with the FBI, ten of which he was the Chief Negotiator, handling delicate and dangerous situations every day. His unique insight could help athletes and coaches remain calm under pressure while others descend into chaos.
Elite sport is cutthroat industry where the only thing that matters is the success of the team. Coaches and managers who fail to meet the expectations of fans and stake holders all too often get the sack. This can be a difficult and painful process. Stuart Lancaster knows what this feels like as he was axed as England Rugby’s head coach last year and has been replaced by Eddie Jones. Jones has enjoyed a successful start to his tenure but as CONQA Sport discovers, part of that success may be due to an unprecedented show of maturity and goodwill from Lancaster. Hopefully, his selfless act can used as a model for coaches and federations in the future.
Go and Google “mental toughness quotes”. What you’ll find is scores of one liners from some of the greatest athletes, coaches and world leaders including Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Vince Lombardi and even Donald Trump. What you’ll find is a host of history makers who believe that the abstract concept of mental toughness plays a major role in success. If you ask Dr John Sullivan, a psychologist with experience in many leading teams around the world, what you’ll find are history makers with no idea what they’re talking about. In his recently published book, Why the Brain Always Wins, Sullivan debunks mental myths and shows why coaches and athletes have it all wrong. CONQA Sport explores and challenges this theory.
It’s turned into a case of he-said, she-said as violent clashes between England and Russian supporters have marred the Euro Championships in France. Russia has been fined and handed a “suspended disqualification” while England escaped any punishment. The situation requires strong leadership from both UEFA and FIFA as both governing bodies are responsible for rooting out the rise of hooliganism, often fuelled by right-wing supporters.