Sean van Staden
Columnist
3 minute read
27 Nov 2015
9:54 am

Heightening fun factor and cutting training

Sean van Staden

We are heading for some exciting times in youth and professional athletic development.

I have had a pretty productive week and part of my time was spent at the annual Sports Industry Summit held at Vodaworld in Johannesburg. The idea behind having a summit of this nature is to see where sport and sponsorship currently lie, and leveraging key technologies to be a player in Africa.

One of the international speakers was Lance Walker, the co-founder of the Michael Johnson Performance (MJP) training facility in Texas. I had the privilege to listen to Lance talk on sports performance and had a chance to interview him. A few months back, I wrote on MJP using technology to leverage athletic performance live within a training session. This is where I believe the industry is moving for sport development.

I have a keen eye for industry greats, I pegged Mark Verstegen from Athletes Performance as someone to look out for and five years later the Stormers brought AP over to South Africa. I believe the next big household names in the States are going to be MJP and Lance Walker. Impressively enough, Manchester United, under Sir Alex Ferguson, have been sending players to them for several years for athletic development.

MJP have positioned their business as a cut above the rest, and have strategic technology partners to allow them to play in a league of their own. Imagine coming to training and there are cameras throughout the facility tracking your every movement, your gait analysis, your heart rate, your intensity zone levels. In areas that the cameras can’t track, MPJ use personal wearables and have a team of dedicated professionals to measure, assess and give instant feedback to their athlete.

What is amazing about Lance is that his insight and knowledge about performance training is world class. He mentioned to me he also has a passion for developing young athletes and doesn’t believe in the 10 000 hour principle. “In the past it probably took athletes that amount of time to perfect their craft. Why should athletes not have a life, because all they are doing is training to meet their 10 000 hours deadline? We are working very hard to leverage technology, training techniques and management of athletes so we can bring down the amount of hours it takes to learn a new skill.”

Just think about that for a moment, what happens if you could activate or prime the brain through gentle cranial stimulation to allow you to learn better? Instead of learning a new technique in 3 000 hours, the athlete could possibly do it in 300 hours. Technology like this is already in existence and Lance and his team have being experimenting with this on their elite athletes. He would not go into more detail about the magnitude of the performance gains until the product becomes commercially available, but he did mention they had some interesting performance anomalies in their well-conditioned and veteran athletes.

Lance believes engagement with athletes and training is paramount to athletes staying engaged and he believes the industry is moving towards gamification. “There are three reasons why young athletes play sport. The answers are fun, fun and I think you guessed it, fun. The minute kids don’t find their sport fun, they don’t want to play it anymore and that should be no different when they work on their athletic development,” according to Lance.

There is going to be a lot of development in this space to make training fun, to compete with friends and team-mates and share your scores on social platforms.

We are heading for some exciting times in youth and professional athletic development and just when you think the industry has done it all, someone breaks the status quo and brings a whole new level to the market.