The 4th annual Leaders in Performance conference once again brought together a sell-out audience of 350 top practitioners responsible for identifying, developing and managing elite talent worldwide last month. The ground-breaking agenda was opened by Stuart Lancaster, head coach of the England national rugby team, who told the story of driving a culture change from the failure and off-field incidents that marred the 2011 World Cup, through to the rebuilding of the 6 Nations in 2012, up to the current day. He was followed by two of the world’s most renowned coaches, Charles van Commenee, head of UK Athletics at the 2012 Games, and Mark Verstegen, coach to countless US and world sports stars, who shared ideas on how best to prepare an athlete for a major event.
The organisers then hosted a fascinating and in-depth debate into the role and impact of innovation and technology on performance with a stellar panel of experts which included a top scientist from NASA, the Managing Director of McLaren F1 and UK Sport’s head of research and innovation, revealing the benchmark for how new systems can be implemented to deliver the extra 1%. Finishing an enthralling first day was an insight into the scope and depth of athlete testing that identify opportunities and threats to delivering a winning performance, with the founder of the world-renowned MilanLab at AC Milan, a top physiologist at sports medicine experts Aspetar, and a personal story from former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba, who tragically suffered an on-pitch cardiac incident earlier this year.
With a reputation for bringing new ideas to the industry and exploring performance from unconventional perspectives, the second day began with a revealing speech on leadership, culture and pressure by the Royal Marines General who led British forces in Basra, Iraq. He was followed on stage by an eye-opening view on how multi-billion pound business are built on, and driven by, statistics and analytics from the heads of a financial services firm and a hedge fund. The use of analytics to drive sports performance was then explored by two leading practitioners from the Boston Celtics and Paris St Germain FC.
The ground-breaking agenda was capped off by two of the most recognised names in the industry, Gary Kirsten, who had just taken his South African national cricket team to number 1 in the world rankings, and Steve McClaren, former England football manager whose FC Twente were flying high at the top of the dutch national league. In a vibrant discussion they shared their experiences of coaching top teams and players, working abroad and unique aspects of their leadership styles.
The attendance of the conference was strictly limited to 350 with 50% attending from outside the UK, over 35 different countries and 23 sports represented and a buyer/seller ratio of 60:40. The feedback from the event has been overwhelmingly positive with over 81% declaring it the best forum for discussing techniques and ideas for the pursuit of sporting excellence.
The planning is already in place for 2013 with an expanded programme of high level and workshop sessions due to be announced in the coming months.