Athletic Evolution Conference Review – Andy Bruce (Guest Post)

While I have a moment on the plane home, I just wanted to put together a few thoughts on the Athletic Evolution Conference I attended this weekend. Now I go to quite a lot of CPD events, not actually for the ‘points’, but because I get intrinsic enjoyment out of the process of learning. So when the opportunity to learn about something I’m particularly interested in comes up, its a win-win. With youth athletic development events being reasonably few and far between, when I saw that this conference was arranged, I was booked up and ready to go almost straight away.

Simon Brundish – Building Superheroes – Developing a system to overcome poor physical literacy
Although I was familiar with Simon’s superheroes model, I hadn’t actually had the opportunity to see him present upon it, so this was a further opportunity to assess the programme’s potential value in a school setting. Working in a school predominantly with boys from 11 years old onwards, I constantly ponder a missed opportunity at the feeder schools, such is the variance in athletic capability on their arrival. I couldn’t help but get excited about the potential implications and thought of an entire cohort of pupils that could demonstrate competence even half way through his 24-level model! Getting this programme implemented at our feeder schools is something I’ll definitely be exploring further. Failing that, like any good S&C coach, looking through his demo page, there is tonnes of stuff I’ll unashamedly steal and use this term too! Simon ran a really practical session in limited space, which only further went to demonstrate with minimal resources how applicable the work can be.
Shane Fitzgibbon – Training for a bulletproof trunk
While I had seen Shane present before at the Proformance Child to Champion conference last year, there were still new things to pick up on. In addition to the novelty, one of the benefits of a more practical session is that no two ever end up exactly the same. Watching other coaches actually coach is one of my favourite methods of learning and there were at least two or three new cues to pick up on that I’d not come across before. In my opinion, the ability to brace is an absolutely foundational skill for good athletic development and its always great to see and hear other coaches discuss their thoughts on the topic. It seems to be a clear delineator between the less and more athletic in the population I work with, so its always great to expand the coaching tool kit. Unsurprisingly, there were yet more ideas I could take away and immediately implement into the school curriculum, something I am looking forward to doing.
Howard Green – The use of coordination training to enhance development
The first afternoon session was delivered by Howard Green. What I particularly liked about his presentation were the use of models, mnemonics and acronyms to conceptualise agility and coordination. These systems really help to simplify the problem solving and decision making progress when working with any athlete in what often seems a complex and combined expression of multiple movements. At the start of the talk, he told us not to be magpies, but scaffolders. So instead of cherry picking drills or small details from the talk, he encouraged us to think more systemically and use the information to link together our thinking to support the broader goal. Coordination and agility training is definitely an aspect of S&C that slips through the net in many contexts, but the using his RB RADIO acronym to distill the components of coordination is something that will help de-mystify the area for future programming.
The components of coordination – ‘RB RADIO’
* Rhythm
* Balance
* Reaction
* Adaptability
* Differentiation
* Interoperability
* Orientation
While my lasting impressions of the talk will be the models that can help a coach to simplify and navigate the complexities or coordination in sport, there were definitely some shiny things that we ran through in the outdoor practical that I will 100% be stealing too.
Dr Jonathan Griffin – Growing up strong – maturation monitoring in a professional football academy
Dr. Jonathan Griffin of Fulham FC complemented the day’s talks with a discussion around growth maturation and its application to running the academy programme at Fulham. For all its sins, growth and maturation is actually something that football does incredibly well and as such there is a lot to learn. Granted, the resources of tier 1 teams and teams of S&C staff can mean that many of the systems they run are impractical to consider for most, but even simple maturation data can help provide a layer of information that could be deployed to safeguard the psychological, emotional, social and intellectual aspects of an athlete’s development. The discussion also nicely evolved to the more existential considerations and the future implications of rapidly advancing field of growth and maturation. With the advent of genetic testing, and ‘big data’ how will this shape sport and athletic development as we know it? Only time will tell.


Speaker Q+A
Although this was short, this was a brilliant insight into the thoughts and philosophies of the speakers and a great feature of the conference – like listening to a 4 person podcast! While almost none of speakers showed the ability to stay on the topic of the original questions ?, the answers were still of huge value. In fact my most valuable take home of the conference came from this section of the conference. What also became apparent was that all the speakers spoke candidly about the importance of humility, honesty and the importance of relationship building
All in all it was a solid day of CPD, well-organised, informal and understated. While there wasn’t an explicit or deliberate synchronisation of the talks, they flowed well from one another and the day offered are really nice blend of applied, practical and academic learning outcomes. This is a difficult balance to strike, often missed at bigger conferences, perhaps due to practicalities of bigger numbers, but an aspect of conferences I will certainly be drawn towards in future.
As ever I look forward to applying these learnings over the coming weeks and fingers crossed this conference will repeat next year!
Thankyou to Andy Bruce for giving us his review!
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