Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Pumpkin Festival 2013

Photo by Johnathan Taylor
Anyone that comes from a small country town will understand the prestige and hype that is associated with the local show/festival. The Collector Village Pumpkin Festival was on this past weekend and this is an event that attracts many people from all over the country and it has built up quiet a reputation over the years. As per it's name sake the aim of the day is to celebrate pumpkin whether it be something more traditional such as a pumpkin scone or a cup of pumpkin soup or something a a bit more adventurous such as pumpkin icecream.

As with all country festivals the day brings locals out of the wood work all keen to lend a helping hand to ensure the day is a success. This could mean growing pumpkins to donate to soup, judging delicious home cooking (pumpkin flavoured of course!), providing directions at the information tent or serving soup, me? I had many jobs over the weekend but on the day of the festival I was helping officiate the scarecrow competition, a role I have shared for a couple of years now and a job that is a great deal of fun it is always exciting to see how creative everyone is and what amazing creations can be created from a steel picket with a pumpkin head.

I snuck away from the scarecrow competition long enough to compete in the live scone baking competition on stage in the hall. All contestants had 15mins preparation time and then 15mins cooking time after which we needed to remove our scones from the oven and serve to the judges as well as members of the public. We had to make 6 pumpkin scones and six scones of any variety. I was very nervous before the competition, I really enjoy cooking and was reasonably prepared but I have never cooked in front of an audience before. My initial thoughts were "what if I do something wrong?" "Will anyone notice?" "what if they don't turn out and I have nothing to serve?". However once I got I stage I started to relax and I really enjoyed chatting to the announcer and explaining what I was doing to the audience. After my scones were in the oven, I had a lady from the audience come and ask me a question about a particular method I had used during my preparation we chatted for a little while and when she left she thanked me for showing her something new. It was then I realised it wasn't a case of me doing something right or wrong it was just different. Through doing something differently I had opened another person's eyes up to new opportunity.

This might sound silly when talking about something as simple as a scone baking competition but it can be applied to so many things in life. Keith has always talked about the notion of sharing information and how important it is for development of all coaches both professional and amateur. What is the point of keeping secrets as a way of trying to make ourselves better than anyone else? If we share the ideas we have this can then built on by others to make the idea better than what it was in the first place and this new invention can then be used by everyone. Just a thought but I believe it makes sense and would allow for many more developments on the sporting field.

I would like to finish by thanking Collector for another great pumpkin Festival, I hope everyone was able to enjoy the day I know I did.

more on the Collector Village Pumpkin Festival can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/CollectorVillagePumpkinFestival

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Parental Influence on Child Physical Activity

I read an article (reference at bottom of post) recently on how parents levels of physical activity impact on their children's physical activity involvement. This got me thinking about the role of parents in promoting physical activity in children, and as true with many things in life, children look to their parents as the major influence for their own behaviour.

There are many interventions implemented in schools and preschools focusing on improving the physical activity levels of children. But without parental support it would be very unrealistic to assume that physical activity levels will stay elevated outside the school environment. So therefore perhaps education interventions should focus more on parents lifestyle changes and the changes that parents implement into their lives would than be filtered down to make changes to the child.

It has been proven that parents particularly mothers who are physically active at least once per week and have a healthy diet, have children who participate in a greater amount of organised physical activity, a greater amount of unorganised physical activity, eat a healthier diet and in general lead a healthier lifestyle compared to children of inactive parents. Physical active parents are also more likely to engage in whole family activities such as a family game of soccer.

There are many interventions to promote physical activity in both adults and child and at the end of the day everyone shares the same common goal of increasing childhood activity.

Lee, S. A., Nihiser, A., Strouse, D., Das, B., Michael, S. & Huhman, M. (2010). Correlates of children and parents being physically active together. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 7(6):776-784.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Physiological Testing

Part of my role as the Senior Intern with the South East Regional Academy of Sport is to oversee the Physiological Testing of all athletes on Scholarship. Yesterday myself and three of the other interns travelled to Bermagui to test all the athletes that live on the South Coast. Majority of the athletes were from the netball program with a couple of golfers and a lawn bowler also included in the testing. For most of these athletes it was their second round of testing for the year, the aim of this testing was to determine any improvements from the start of the year and after an 8 week strength and conditioning program.

I am pleased to report the day ran very smoothly, majority of athletes put in an outstanding effort and really push themselves especially in the endurance tests. The athletes showed great interest in the tests, regularly asking questions about how they can improve their performance in certain tests. They are also very good at pushing each other along especially in the Yo-Yo Intermittent Endurance Test. It was very pleasing to note how determined several of the girls were to push themselves harder then they thought they could. It is great to see majority of the athletes making the most of the opportunity SERAS is offering them. I would also like to thank the other interns for conducting the testing in a professional manner and to all the parents who drove the athletes to Bermagui as everyone knows junior athletes cannot succeed without the dedication and support of their families.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Natural Leaders

I had a thought watching a junior game of football recently about the notion of team captains of junior sports teams. Some children are natural leaders so should we as coaches let these children flourish by providing them greater responsibility within the team. Or to keep the more traditional view of rotating the role between all children in the team.

I understand grassroots sport has a high emphasis on enjoyment and sampling all aspects of sport which is vitally important. However development of all athletes is important so therefore maybe its an idea to allow those children that feel naturally comfortable in this role to have the opportunity on a more regular basis to allow them to take control and step up. This method also allows children that don't like having attention drawn to them be happy with just playing the game.

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Photo by Emma Friend
My  apologies for the delay since my last post, I have recently returned from a trip to Thailand. I was travelling as the tour manager of the South East Regional Academy of Sport (SERAS) Golf Team, who were participating in the World Schools Golf Challenge (WSGC) in Hua Hin, Thailand.

Our touring group composed of 5 athletes, Head Coach Chris Hearn, parent Gerrad Hanscombe, Executive Director Garry Lane, Board Member Geoff King and myself. We were in Thailand for 8 days, with the athletes participating in 4 competition rounds and 1 practice round. The WSGC consisted of over 30 teams from around the world attracting teams from countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England, India and Thailand. The competitors had the privilege of playing on some of the best golf courses in Asia and probably some of the best in the world. For many of them it was also the first time they experienced playing on such magnificent course and also the first time using a caddy. All athletes learnt a lot from this trip on the golf course while experiencing very tough conditions that were rather different from what we are used to in Australia. This is included the greens were particularly hard to read and played differently as well as the very hot and humid weather conditions.

This experience was invaluable for our athletes, they learnt so much not only on the golf course, but off the golf course as well. The competition was held in a different country and for many of us in the group it was our first visit to Thailand and for a couple our first trip overseas. Hua Hin in Thailand provided us with a very cultural experience, and we were lucky we had time to participate in a few extra activities such as visiting the night markets, going elephant riding and catching a Tuk Tuk (a Thailand taxi). Simple tasks such as crossing the road on occasion proved to be a challenge with traffic/road rules very different from Australia. For many of the athletes it was their first trip away without family in attendance which provided a whole new challenge as they learnt the importance of  simple activities such as getting up and being ready on time each morning.

And myself? I also learnt a lot from the trip, I am not an avid golfer nor claim to be however being around the athletes as well as staff from other schools all week I was more than happy to listen and observe. I was amazed how much I could learn in such a short period of time. I can now take this knowledge back and apply this to my main job with the academy, overseeing the strength and conditioning of the athletes. The power of observation is a very important tool and I can now say I fully understand the benefit of not saying anything and just watching as so much can be learnt from this. From listening to conversation and slowly joining the dots between points to get a better understanding or hearing a comment and seeing it played out on the course.

I would like to finish by thanking everyone involved with the tournament - the WSGC organisers, the staff of Golf Asian, the staff from the other schools participating, all competitors and the SERAS staff and athletes for a great week. This was an experience that will live in my mind for a long time as I hope it does for everyone involved.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Familarity in Sport

"2012 BU Football" By Bethal Athletics
This morning our class was held in a tutorial room rather than in the sports hall which is our usual meeting place. The reason we were a classroom was to go over our assessment items as appose to participate in a practical class. However Keith did raise an interesting point about learning in a different environment and the stimulus a new environment may provide.

This got me thinking about familiarity, we as humans seem to be attracted to the notion of familiarity. I know myself I am more comfortable in an environment I am familiar with. Some personal examples of familiarity include finding my favourite coffee shop at uni and seldom daring to visit the four or five other coffee spots on campus. I have a particular section of the lecture theatre I always sit in depending on which room I'm in, and I have a particular seat at the dinner table I sit in every night when I enjoy a meal with my family.

Thinking of familiarity from a sporting perspective we know many athletes are the same. They have their own warm up procedures or rituals they participate in before training and competition. This preparation allows the athlete to gain the appropriate mind set before competition. Familiarity can also occur during a game (mainly in team sports), athletes may get used to a particular playing combination and can throw the ball knowing the other player is going to be there to receive it even without looking.

But what if something unforeseen was to happen that destroyed this familiarity the athlete had become accustom to? I'm not talking about playing an away game at a different venue as this happens regularly in most team sports at all levels of competition. But what if the team bus is late decreasing warm time or an athlete is injured during a game meaning a complete reshuffle of positions?
"Pigeons" By Ambernectar 13
It is often seen in professional sport, particularly team sports where something unexpected occurs and completely throws the players on the field, which is reflected in their performance.

So therefore is it an idea to on occasion to throw a cat among the pigeons at training? Throw the athletes a curve ball and see what response they can come up with?                                                 

There would of course be practical implications with this and coaching staff would have to think carefully about how this could be implemented in a safe setting.

However I do believe this would help to train athletes to respond to unforseen circumstance and to learn to expect the unexpected.

Friday, 15 March 2013

The Fight Againist Doping Continues

Following up from my last post on the Australians Sports Commissions intentions to have all athletes and officials who receive high performance funding, sign a statutory declaration to declare they are not participating in doping activities. I read an article in the Guardian a couple of days ago about United Kingdom Anti-Doping's Chief Executive Andy Parkinson supporting the suggestion of lie-detector use in catching out doping cheats. Parkinson stated the main advantage of this type of test was its innovative nature as he believes Anti-doping Organisations need to become more innovative if they are going to decrease doping in professional sport. The use of lie detectors as a recognised method of finding cheats would have to be approved by the World Anti-doping Authority (WADA) before it could be implemented.

This may be considered an extreme step, however, I do agree with Parkinson about the need for innovation. It is great to see the UK coming up with possible strategies to decrease doping use in sport, just as Australia and other nations around the world are attempting to do. At the end of the day isn't that what want to see? All athletes on a level playing field and competing to win because the are the fastest, strongest or have the best endurance not because they have access to the most advanced drug.

Original article - http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2013/mar/13/uk-anti-doping-lie-detectors