Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing

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Sport and Technology Research Group: December 2012

The Sport and Technology Research Group met at the University of Canberra this morning.

There were two presentations of work in progress:

Stephen used his blog, Swimming Bird, to share his work with the Group.

His talk included reference to:

Slide 1Gordon and Tracey shared their research on Snow Sports data acquisition. Their presentation (Personal Speed in Snow Sports) was a follow up to their attendance at the 5th Asia Pacific Congress on Sports Technology (they have published two papers from this conference: Evaluating the use of a GPS data logging device; Investigating head impacts).

The presentation has been published as a paper (2012). Gordon and Tracey have work together on other snow sports projects including this study of hydration.

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Ecologies in Danger: Part Two

4568873503_1ee5c98d0c_bOn Saturday I wrote about some parallels I saw between the Australian Sports Commission’s (ASC) announcement of The Winning Edge and Tim Flannery’s Quarterly Essay.

Overnight I have been thinking about the role lifeboat islands play in preserving eco systems and enabling them to flourish. I see further parallels between The Edge and The New Extinction Crisis.

In his essay, Tim writes about the work of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC).

In little over a decade the AWC has grown to the point where it manages over 3 million hectares. Its reserves are scattered throughout the nation, with particularly significant holdings in the tropical north and centre. On this land, the organisation conserves around two-thirds of Australia’s threatened mammal species, and 70 per cent of its threatened mainland bird species. And it manages to do this on an annual budget of around $12 million (page 61).

Tim points out that the AWC:

  • Has a clear vision: the protection of Australia’s biodiversity
  • Is committed to creating and maintaining a strong scientific base
  • Establish goals, monitor progress and report accurately


The AWC employs twenty-five ecologists and has fifteen students at work at any time. There is an internship program too.

Tim adds that:

A strong scientific basis means that the AWC an account for its successes and failures. It also means that it is today the only conservation organisation in Australia able to provide reliable estimates of the population sizes of each endangered species in its care. The ability to demonstrate the success of its operations is also a great magnet for staff: talented young people are keen to work for such a body (page 67).

In the Winning Edge, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is identified as Australia’s strategic high performance sport agency with responsibility and accountability for leading the delivery of Australia’s international sporting success. The AIS works in partnership with National Sporting Organisations (NSOs), state institutes and academies of sport (SIS/SAS)  and other sport partners to deliver international sporting success.

The AIS partners with NSOs to position high performance investment in order to support coaches and athletes to deliver Australia’s collective ambitions. This involves providing expertise in athlete preparation, performance science and medicine, innovation, coach and leadership development, performance strategy and planning, pathway support and athlete career and education. The AIS also works closely with the SIS/SAS to develop systematic national support for NSOs to deliver the daily training environment for Australia’s elite athletes. (Page 10)

The Winning Edge positions the AIS to grow its role as Australia’s national high performance agency. This involves:

  • A sharper focus on true podium potential athletes
  • Responsibility for all high performance funding within the ASC
  • Empowering sports to determine optimal high performance program delivery
  • A focus on: Strategy/Investment + Athlete/Sport Services + Research/Innovation


I thought there was an interesting example in Tim Flannery’s essay of how an agency can transform an eco system. In contrast to the Christmas island Pipistrelle, the Gouldian Finch is flourishing.

AWC research indicated that the threats to the Finch were linked to changed fire patterns “which had altered the availability of the grass seeds upon which the species feeds” (page 66). This meant that during the breeding season “birds were becoming stressed by the great distances they had to travel between their nesting hollows and the nearest seeding grasses” (page 66).

With research completed, AWC staff started to burn parts of their properties in ways that encouraged the seeding of grasses near nesting hollows of the finches. Today as a result of the program, Gouldian finches are thriving on Mornington, and blood analysis shows that nesting females are far less stressed than in years past and therefore more likely to survive into a second breeding year. (Page 67)

I do think there are enormous synergies between the work undertaken by AWC and the AIS. The flourishing of both requires a sensitive understanding of context and environment. The Edge is about Finches!

Photo Credit

Portrait of a Rainbow Finch (Raymond Larose, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Australian Eco Systems in Peril

WEI spent much of yesterday following up on the High Performance Plan, The Winning Edge, announced by the Australian Sports Commission. Towards the end of the day, I wrote this summary.

Since posting the summary I have been thinking about performance ecologies. During the last three years I have explored ecology ideas and their relevance to sport. I am particularly interested in island sanctuaries and Don Merton’s work. I have had a look at Coral Reef research too.

So it should come as little surprise that I started to contemplate the connections between The Winning Edge and Tim Flannery’s recent Quarterly essay, After the Future: Australia’s New Extinction Crisis.

QE31Like Phillip Adams, my breath was taken away by Tim’s opening paragraph (page 6) in The Extinction Problem part of the essay:

In late August 2009 a tiny, solitary bat fluttered about the rainforest … We don’t know precisely what happened to it. Perhaps it landed on a leaf at dawn … and was torn to pieces by invasive fire ants; perhaps it succumbed to a mounting toxic burden … Or maybe it was simply worn out with age and ceaseless activity, and died quietly in its tree hollow. But there is one important thing we do know: it was the very last Christmas Island pipistrelle on earth. With its passing an entire species winked out of existence.

The second paragraph of the section has an eerie resonance with The Winning Edge:

Two decades earlier the island’s population of pipistrelles had been healthy. A few scientists watched the species’ decline with concern … they could see that without action its demise was imminent.

In the Winning the Next Race section (page 2) of The Edge:

Australia’s international sporting achievements … over the past 30 years have been impressive … But the world is changing. International competition is intensifying and improving all the time. Many other nations have now replicated our innovations, tapped into our expertise and made strategic investments, and as a result have become strong competitors in international sport. This is true of developed and developing nations alike. … Our Olympic performance peaked nearly a decade ago. Since Athens in 2004 our place in the upper echelons of medal-winning nations has drifted downwards. The London Games provided clear signs that even in sports where we have had great success, there are new and re-emerging competitive challenges.

In his conclusion (page 76), Tim observes:

But what we need to remember is that we know how to solve this problem. It is not like many complex and social issues, where key factors lie outside Australia’s control. Furthermore, the costs are not great, and the expertise requires is in place. Nothing is keeping us from success except our failure to be accountable – to ourselves and future generations.

He has a way forward:

Quantify the problem, devise a plan to deal with it based on sound science, and report on the outcomes. And keep politics out of it.

The Game Plan (page 5) for Australian sport in The Edge:

  • Invest for success
  • Plan to perform
  • The right support
  • Good governance and capability
  • Evidence-based decisions


Both ecologies require us to accept their intrinsic value. Both are fragile. Both can flourish if we are prepared to defer and cooperate. There are enormous lessons to learn in sport from the experiences and expertise of ecologists.

Supporting either or both these ecologies requires enormous faith and trust. Imagine the conversations that the Australian Sports Commission Board could have with Tim Flannery as a member!

These conversations might start with the quote from Keith Hancock that Tim uses to introduce his essay (page 1):

When it suits them, men may take control and play fine tricks and hustle Nature. Yet we may believe that Australia, quietly and imperceptibly … is experimenting on the men … She will be satisfied at long last, and when she is satisfied an Australian nation will in truth exist.

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Reading The Winning Edge

I have had an opportunity to read through the the High Performance Plan, The Winning Edge, announced by the Australian Sports Commission earlier today (webcast).

A number of people have tweeted about the announcement at #winningedge.

I thought I would share some of the details of the Plan as I did with the Crawford Report.

My take on The Edge is …

High Performance (page 1) is about:

  • Consistent and sustainable success for Australian athletes and teams on the world stage
  • Greater levels of accountability for performance results
  • Improved governance structures and contemporary reporting and monitoring of performance
  • Engaging, uniting, inspiring and motivating all Australians.


Winning the Next Race (page 2)

 “Our Olympic performance peaked nearly a decade ago. Since Athens in 2004 our place in the upper echelons of medal-winning nations has drifted downwards. The London Games provided clear signs that even in sports where we have had great success, there are new and re-emerging competitive challenges.”

We are:

  • Winning fewer gold medals
  • Winning fewer total medals
  • Achieving less top-eight placings
  • Below the average of the top 15 nations at the Games for conversion of top-eight placings into medals

“The other measure of sustained success — annual world champions — tells a similar story and extends beyond Olympic sports. There is a trend downwards in priority sports, with 2012 likely to be the lowest result in the last 12 years.”

2012-2022 Performance Targets (page 3)

  • A top five nation at the Olympics and Paralympics
  • A top fifteen nation at the Winter Olympics and Paralympics
  • Number one at the Commonwealth Games
  • Have more than 20 world champions annually.


The Game Plan (pages 4, 5 and 6)

  • Invest for success
  • Plan to perform
  • Support
  • Good governance and capability
  • Evidence-based decisions


Priority Actions (page 8)

  1. Introduce a sharper, more robust national funding and accountability model.
  2. Help sports reduce costs/complexity and grow their capacity
  3. Invest dividends from efficiencies into three key areas: better direct support for athletes; greater investment in coaches and high performance personnel; renewed focus on unearthing and nurturing Australia’s talent
  4. Refocus the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to grow its role as Australia’s national high performance agency


Understanding High Performance Sport in Australia (pages 10 and 11)

 Australian Institute of Sport (“Australia’s strategic high performance sport agency with responsibility and accountability for leading the delivery of Australia’s international sporting success.”)

State Institutes and Academies of Sport (“provide high performance services and support in partnership with NSOs in their respective state and territory jurisdictions with a view to delivering high quality daily training environments for athletes and teams with podium potential.”)

Peak Bodies (“Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) and Australian Commonwealth Games Association (ACGA) support sports to access significant international competitions, including the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and Commonwealth Games. In addition, the APC manages high performance programs for several sports, provides direct funding to national federations and other high performance sector partners, and delivers programs that value add to this investment.”)

The Edge has a schematic for the High Performance System and Performance Outcomes (page 12):

There are four other documents available in The Edge announcement:


The AIS Centre for Performance Coaching and Leadership will be established to:

“improve and formalise a pathway designed for professional development for our high performance coaches and sport leaders, and drive research and innovation. The Centre will systematically integrate and build on successful approaches and programs, such as the National Coaching Scholarship Program, coach profiling and coach study tours, and provide a platform for long-term capability development, with a flexible approach to learning. The Centre will position the AIS as a global leader in high performance coaching and leadership development, acknowledging the potential for rapid growth in high performance coaching.”

The Athlete Pathway (Talent) Development Initiatives are:

  • Sports draft and second chance programs
  • Talent pool expansion
  • Full-time dedicated pathway managers
  • Talent enrichment team
  • Multi-sport centre of excellence


The Innovation Funding Pool aims to:

“encourage innovation and a greater commitment to investment in coaching and high performance personnel, a new pool of funding will be set aside for competitive bids from national sporting organisations (NSO) in high priority sports. The focus of the funding will be on new proposals, and is in addition to a sport’s existing investment in coaching and high performance staff. Funding will extend to encourage technology-related initiatives that will benefit in the areas of coaching and on-field performance. Depending on the nature of proposals, NSOs could be supported for one-off initiatives or multi-year initiatives where evidence of need is justified.”

There are eight High Performance Investment Principles:

  1. The ASC’s investment objective is podium-level results for Australians in international sporting competitions consistent with the targets set out in Australia’s Winning Edge. Investment will be directly linked to a sport’s ability to provide evidence of how it will contribute to the targets in Australia’s Winning Edge.
  2. ASC investment is dependent on sports, athletes, coaches and support personnel demonstrating the highest possible standards of integrity in sport, including anti-doping, that will enhance the reputation of Australia internationally and provide a positive example to all Australians.
  3. Sports must operate with high quality governance, administrative and financial practices that will give the ASC confidence that public funds will be spent effectively. The ASC expects sports to operate at best practice, taking account of an individual sport’s particular circumstances.
  4. The ASC will only invest in sports that have best practice high performance plans in place with clearly agreed key performance indicators across a range of areas. Once agreed, sports will be accountable for achieving progress against milestones.
  5. Sports must co-invest in high performance and will be expected to grow their share of investment over time from other revenue sources such as commercial, philanthropic and sponsorship opportunities. The ASC will work closely with NSOs to assist in achieving progress.
  6. In making investment decisions, the ASC will consider the totality of a sport’s funding position, including broadcast revenues and the efficiency with which funds are being spent.
  7. In making investment decisions for NSO high performance plans, the ASC will consider a sport’s international competitive environment, including differences in competition opportunities, medals available, the differing needs of teams and individual athletes, depth of fields, and athlete pathways.
  8. ASC investment seeks to achieve sustained success aligned to Australia’s Winning Edge targets. The ASC will invest over the long term where a sport can demonstrate a strong talent pipeline and a support structure to help athletes realise their potential.



A Winning Edge?

Australia’s Winning Edge 2012-2022 high performance plan was announced at the Melbourne Cricket Ground this morning.

In a press statement it was reported that the Winning Edge :

  • Outlines a new business model for Australia’s high performance sport system
  • Sets targets for Australia to be: a top five nation at the Olympics and Paralympics;  a top 15 nation at the Winter Olympics and Paralympics; number one at the Commonwealth Games; and have more than 20 world champions annually.

The plan confirms that funding to sports will be based on “a new set of investment principles that will assess sports’ ability to provide sound evidence that they can contribute to the targets”. There will be an annual State of Sports report that will provide details of how sports perform against their plans.

The Edge affirms that there will be “a greater focus on investing, developing and retaining coaches and more money invested in supporting more athletes”. The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) will allocate an additional $20 million in these areas in the forthcoming Olympic and Paralympic cycle. The AIS will open its campus to more athletes to use its training environment, sports science, recovery and rehabilitation facilities.

There will be an annual Sports Draft Camp to identify potential champions in Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports.

The Australian Sports Commission’s website has a downloadable copy of the plan with additional documents on:

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Looking Back: A 1992 Take on Notational Analysis

In the Autumn of 1992, I was invited to write an article for the Sports Council of Wales’ In Touch magazine for coaches. I had been at Cardiff College for just under a year and had established a Centre for Notational Analysis there with the help of Peter Treadwell, Dave Cobner, Sean Power and Jeff Young. I had started my work with the Welsh Rugby Union as a notational analyst.

The article was titled The Use of Notational Analysis in Sport Performance. I reproduce it here to coincide with the start of week four of the small open online course, Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport.

Coaches use a variety of methods to remember and recall the fleeting moments of sport performance. Video is a particularly effective way of recording events for subsequent analysis and reflection. Some coaches are also making use of what is termed ‘notational analysis’ to extend their knowledge of performance.

Notational analysts seek to:

  • Accurately observe performance
  • Collate and analyse observations
  • Facilitate recall of observed performance


The aim of such analysis is to support coaches. In pre-video and computer days, notational analysis relied on pen and paper methods to record events. Some coaches used cine film to provide a visual record of performance. More recently notational analysis has made use of video and computer technology although pen and paper are still used.

Today, all sports are amenable to notational analysis. The notating of performance can take place at the same time as the performance or after the event by making use of a video recording. Information produced in these ways can provide quantitative and qualitative feedback for coaches during, after or some considerable time after performance.

Notational analysis can be either an academic exercise or applied sports science in support of coaching. The former enables an ‘objective’ look at a sport and provides some baseline measurement of what occurs in that sport. The latter is usually undertaken in collaboration with coaches who identify what is to be analysed. It is no less objective than academic investigation but has the advantage of being focused by a coach’s perceived needs.

Notational analysis can be presented in written or visual form. Coaches can use the information to feedback to performers and to evaluate their own effectiveness. It is important to stress that such analysis is carried out in a creative and supportive manner.

Some coaches are blessed with excellent recall but the evidence from research into eyewitness testimony suggests that most of us experience memory decay after an event. Notational analysis can help fill in some of the forgotten elements. Like video, it is a tool for the coach to use.

The exciting challenge for notational analysis is to describe an activity or sport accurately. The next step is to model performance using the quantitative and qualitative information available. With sufficient data and experience it then becomes possible to start to predict performance. The ultimate goal is perhaps to transform performance.

Notational analysis can effectively map the terrain of all sports but it is essential that the guides remain the coaches. Without the insight and intuition of good coaches, any map is less than helpful.

Photo Credit

The National Stadium, Cardiff

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Back in 1989 when I was writing up my PhD thesis:

It occurred to me that if I wanted to encourage opportunities for many voices in this thesis, I ought to find a space for those not in the leading parts. Michael Frayn’s play Noises Off provides a stimulating motif in this respect.

During my fieldwork I saw similar teaching scenes being rehearsed and acted. My role, sometimes as participant, sometimes as observer, offered opportunities to see the drama from a variety of vantage points.

In Noises Off, the cast perform a scene from a play ‘Nothing On’. Throughout Noises Off the scene is the same but the perspective changes. Act One is set as if being seen by the audience. Act Two is set backstage. Act Three is set as in Act One. As the play progresses, the rehearsed and measured performance starts to disintegrate …

I wrote up these voices in a chapter in my thesis.

Memories of this writing experience came back to me yesterday whilst listening to Michala Banas and Jason Chatfield  talking with Michael Cathcart on Radio National’s Book and Arts Daily. They were discussing the Kin Collective’s play, Glimpse.

The Australian Stage says of the play:

Imagine catching the eye of a stranger in a public place. We do it every day. Now imagine what would happen if you didn’t look away, but took that glimpse and followed it to its end. Created and performed by an assembly of some of theatre and television’s most interesting and engaging performers, Glimpse is The Kin Collective’s first production playing at fortyfivedownstairs from 14 November – 2 December.

Glimpse is a study of ourselves and the moments we share, told through the stories of eight strangers whose worlds are not as far apart as they seem. Glimpse delves into these characters to see what would happen if we let those moments blossom and bloom. If a casual glance became a heartfelt conversation, if a chance meeting grew into a lifelong relationship.

Michala described the stage arrangement for the play. I was intrigued to learn that all the off stage activities that actors do are brought to the wings of the play … and the improvisation process that led to this form of performance.

In the podcast Michael Cathcart brings up the issue of focus of attention. I thought Michala’s response was an excellent example of how we can explain decision-making in sport.

Jason has a short video about Glimpse here.