Recently having spent a few mornings down at the Port Adelaide Football Club, being mentored by Ian McKeown, it has really consolidated my view on what high performance is all about; the Training Environment. Mainly the human-relationship element. Period.
If you don’t get this right, don’t expect your athletes to reach their potential. They will still achieve, but (in my opinion) it will be at a reduced level. From my experience, the best squads I was involved in had an amazing training environment; primarily starting with the make-up of the squad, the relationships and the interactions. It was full of a dynamic set of individuals who consistently challenged each other to be better. Everyone was striving to beat the next person in the pecking order. It was dog eat dog, but in a competitive setting, rather than from jealousy. Everyone worked hard, enjoyed each others company, validated and supported each other’s achievements (to start with anyway:), and kept each other accountable. It was more about the software than the hardware. It was a great time to be in the squad.
Getting back to PAFC, these are some of my observations of the human element from the past few weeks which demonstrate the exceptional Training Environment, which the Physical Preparation, Sport Science, Rehabilitation Staff and Players have established. It really is a credit to everyone involved.
ALL the players greet each other AND staff upon arriving in the gym
Each session a different player chooses the music or ‘tracks’
Talk to the players about more than just the ‘game’
Players consult the coaches for clarification; there is attention to detail
Open lines of communication between Sport Coach, S&C, Sport Science & Rehab
Training is designed from a holistic standpoint
The players have ‘choice’ in the exercise prescription; it builds buy-in and helps compliance
Understand when to push and when to keep it ‘Vanilla’
Explain the why just so they know
Pull from many areas; don’t be glued to the cultural biases of the sport
Have a growth mindset and a positive morale
Create healthy banter between players and coaching staff
Rivalry between players or groups works wonders to raise the intensity (and morale)
Provide structure and routine but do not be dogmatic about it
Give your all and show you care; it’s reciprocal
A friendly smile goes a long way
It is clear as day that PAFC have some of the country’s, if not, world’s best practitioners in their fields, walking the halls at Alberton, striving to create the most elite training environment for the players (and also a world class environment for the staff to work in). But, they are also great people! Like the saying goes, ‘No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.’
The staff at PAFC have created a conducive Training Environment, one which elicits high performance, and one based on the human element… All starting with building a foundation of good relationships.