Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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Exploring sport coaching and psychology

6 What conversations do coaches and psychologists have?

In the two activities that follow, you are placed into two very different sporting environments to consider the types of topics coaches and psychologists might discuss.

Activity 4 Injury rehab in rugby: keeping it personal

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Watch the following video, which shows two coaches, a sport scientist and a head of medical, outline the technology used with injured players at Saracens, a championship-winning rugby club.

Download this video clip.Video player: Injury rehab in rugby: keeping it personal with devices and data
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Transcript: Injury rehab in rugby: keeping it personal with devices and data


We pride ourselves here at Saracens about looking for new ways to get an edge. And if sport science is one avenue, then we'll explore that avenue. The players are the resource so the rehabilitation and injury prevention of our best players and all our players is paramount to our success over a 10, 11-month season.
And for that, we have one-to-one rehabilitation. We've got guys that see them through every step of the way. And our players actually come back, I'm proud to say, stronger, better, physically better specimens than they were when they were injured because of the amount of resources and energy and time we put into the rehab of players. And part of that is technology.
Rugby is an extremely progressive sport. It marries innovation with the art of coaching and science extremely well and that's versus any other sport that I've seen. I came from professional football and Olympic sports to rugby union. And actually, I was very surprised about how advanced the sport was, really, in terms of screening, monitoring, injury prevention, load management, the use of GPS-- essentially, the holistic management of a pro rugby player.
The aim of the game for us really is to balance innovation with doing the basics incredibly well. We're definitely an analytics-based club. So we use stats and information gathering on a whole variety of different parameters on the players-- so their wellness, their recovery, their readiness to trade and play-- and then balance that with the art of knowing the player, how ready they are in themselves really to get back on the pitch. So there's a whole degree of information collection that we'll have here.
This is the GPS receiver and the heart rate receiver. It picks up all the information from the equipment the lads are wearing. We have 30 GPS units, they're the ones they wear in the bra tops. They sit in between the shoulder blades and they transmit information around distance and speed and these days will pick up accelerations, impacts, tackles, and changes of direction. So it's a mechanical load.
And they've all got their heart rate straps that they wear under their shirt. In session, we'll just look at how much time they spend above 85 per cent of their max heart rate. If you want to get a conditioning element out of it or if you want to keep it low-intensity, make sure they're below that threshold. So that all comes in real time to the laptop.
The guys who've been here a while, they've got four or five years’ worth of data. So we can start seeing if there's any trends, as if they do pick up an injury, is it related to any sort of common features of how we load them and try and avoid that in the future?
The game of rugby, is it brutal on the body? I think it kind of feels like you've been in a car accident every weekend. Your body is just wrecked for two days off. And I think the way we are looked after scientifically and how the game has evolved in itself, it's incredible. And I think it's something that's really helped me in my professional career.
It used to be, can they sprint and can they cover 4K? But a lot of people can do that and can't play a half of rugby. So it's how you get to that 4K or how you get to that speed and how many times you get to that speed, which is where we're at now. So it's a very sort of individual process.
Because of the sport science, because of GPS, because of heart rate monitors, we can measure them more accurately in terms of what they're actually putting their body through. We now recognise that it's not just what you do training-wise. It's the rest. It's the recovery. It's the nutrition. It's the sleep-- these things that weren't really spoken about 15, 20 years ago.
We thought, more is good. More is good. More is good. We now understand less is more. The boys actually train way less but are bigger, faster, stronger, heavier, and more powerful.
End transcript: Injury rehab in rugby: keeping it personal with devices and data
Injury rehab in rugby: keeping it personal with devices and data
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How does technology support the rehabilitation of injuries and what injury-related topics might the coaches and psychologist discuss off-screen?


Devices and data at Saracens contribute to monitoring each individual training load and help design an appropriate intensity of training. In this situation, a coach and psychologist might discuss the balance between physical challenge and the amount and type of support provided by those around the injured players. If you have ever had an injury, you will appreciate that there is a mental aspect to getting over the injury and fears that it may reoccur. Academic research is increasingly influencing the psychological aspects of recovery.

In this next sporting environment, technology is used to identify and develop talent.

Activity 5 2020 vision: exploring talent development for Tokyo

Timing: Allow 10 minutes

Watch the video Are these future gold medallists? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . It features the four-phase Girls4Gold talent identification programme for canoeing, which is aiming to develop female athletes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. As you watch the video consider:

  • i.how coaches, using their knowledge of psychology, designed an environment that was mentally and physically challenging
  • ii.what those leading the programme were looking for in the athletes.


  • i.The characteristics of the learning environment were all about providing challenges and learning opportunities in a structured way. The fact that this was held in colder winter months, living and training away from home and learning a new skill in front of others made it more demanding.
  • ii.The coaches were looking for the athletes’ determination to continue despite setbacks, their willingness to learn and accept coaching guidance and their ability to set realistic goals.

If you are interested in finding out more, take a look at the article London 2012 champion launches new Girls4gold Talent ID campaign.

Alex describes her experiences with regards to the previous activity in the box below.

Alex says …

Five months before the Olympic Games, I dislocated my thumb, rupturing my ulnar collateral ligament. This required surgery and a 12–16 week rehab period. At the time, my initial thoughts were negative, full of worry and my mind was telling me that I would not make it back in time for Rio. Very quickly, with the support of our sports psychologist, Andrea Furst, and coach, Danny Kerry, I had set myself some challenging goals that would maintain my focus and put me in the best physical shape to aid my return. Working closely with our strength and conditioning coach, Tom Drowley, on a daily programme, I was able to continue with many areas of my physical development.

I completed a monitoring form every morning that Danny, Andrea and Tom could all access, which presented my physical condition, tiredness, wellbeing, motivation and all the training I undertook. This joined-up approach of coaching meant I was well supported and the coaches at all times knew about my training load and my wellbeing. The collection of data and monitoring, as well as good communication between all coaches, was paramount to my rehabilitation. It ensured I still felt part of the team, was supported, made progress and returned on schedule.

You can begin to see that coaching and psychology interact when challenge is appropriately applied with individual goal setting. Coaches and teachers can support rich learning environments with good coach/teacher–athlete/pupil relationships.


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