Olympic legend Michael Johnson and Rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward took to the Nolan Partners Sport Industry Breakfast Club stage on Monday morning and warned that many young athletes did not understand the responsibility required at elite level.
The pair discussed the desire and skills required to reach peak performance in front of a packed room of industry executives at The BT Centre, chaired by broadcaster Mark Pougatch.
‘Great teams are made of great individuals, so whilst it’s a team game each individual is essential. Using that theory, you can probably understand why we’re not there in international football at the moment. Being brutally honest, we don’t stack up individually,’ said Woodward.
'Most of the time they (athletes) are alone. The amount of the time a coach is physically with them is probably about 5%, which leaves 95% of time with them.’
Johnson, still a 400m world record holder, added: ‘Excellence in performance starts with consistency, and all of the things that support that. Excellence in training is difficult to achieve, so my coach and I were always looking for new ways to train.’
‘Lifestyle supports performance. A lot of athletes struggle with the marriage of training and lifestyle. It’s 24/7, you can’t clock out. As an athlete maturing you have to understand and develop that concept on your own.’
Speaking at the networking event, Johnson also announced that his performance brand, MJP, has been hired by the FA to collaborate with FA Learning in order to add supplemental ‘athlete development’ modules into the pre-existing skills and physical literacy programming currently being conducted in primary schools across England.
According to Johnson, the aim and purpose of the FA collaboration is to improve physical literacy in young students - athlete or otherwise - to help develop the best-possible athlete.
‘It’s a very interesting project for us based on our knowledge and experience in developing youth athletes across a number of sports. It’s a movement and athletic literacy programme that will be launched in January next year across schools across the UK.’
Woodward, Director of Sport for Team GB at Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010 and London 2012, agreed that each player or athlete should be treated on their own merit.
‘Every player is different, that’s the thing with team sports, so you can’t just sit down and say this is how you have to do it. There’s still some players that you don’t even need to manage – take Martin Johnson for example, you could trust him to do everything correctly, not just on the field but in his life as well.’
‘There is talent everywhere, but it’s understanding what it will take to get your talent to the next level that is the key. You can’t take someone off the street and make them a world champion, but in professional sport everyone has talent, so to win individually and collectively you have to take that talent to a new stage.’
Woodward also covered his latest venture, Captured, an online platform for players and coaches aiming to revolutionise the coaching process.
‘It’s something that we developed with the Olympics that we discussed in theory. Teaching sport is no different to teaching maths or history, the athletes and players have to really understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how they’re doing it. That comes down to coaching,’ concluded Woodward.
The Nolan Partners Sport Industry Breakfast Club is a quarterly networking event, bringing together an audience from across UK and European sport to meet, network and hear from key figures on a range of topical issues - all before the working day kicks in. To find out more, click here.