VANGUARD ROUNDTABLE #12: ENGAGING STAKEHOLDERS IN HIGH-PERFORMANCE

In this episode, we discuss strategies for engaging stakeholders outside of your performance programs, such as athletes, coaches, administration, and the front office. We explore why this is critical to the success of the program and provide practical tips and real-life examples

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Haley Muller 0:21
Welcome to the Vanguard roundtable podcast where we discuss the latest trends driving the human performance industry forward. I’m your host, Hayley Mueller. In this episode, we discuss strategies for engaging stakeholders outside of your performance program such as athletes, coaches administration and front office, we explore why this is critical to the success of the program and provide practical tips and real life examples. Today’s roundtable guests include Alex Calder, head of sports science for the Houston Dynamo, and Scott Kuhn manager of applied Sport Science for Louisiana State football. The views expressed today are those of the individual guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of smartabase or the guests organizations. Enjoy the episode. The Vanguard roundtable podcast is brought to you by smartabase, the premier human performance optimization platform for elite sports teams and military organizations. Our clients are racing to build their human performance analytics team to help make data informed decisions better serve their customers, and give them a competitive advantage. That’s why we’ve published our latest guide building your human performance analytics team. This is the first comprehensive resource specifically for human performance leaders in sports and military environments. In it, you’ll find tips and best practices along with practical templates, tools and examples to help you build and evolve your analytics team. To download your free copy of building your human performance team, visit smartabase.com/resources. Now back to the episode. Alex Scott, welcome to the Vanguard roundtable podcast. So glad to have you guys here with us. Before we get started with some of the questions, why don’t we have you guys tell us a little bit about yourself? So Scott, we’ll start with you.

Scott Kuehn 2:02
Okay, yeah, thank you for having me on. So pretty long winded path to this point. So I’ll kind of give the brief over overview of where I’ve been and kind of what I’ve done. So started out as a high school head strength coach in the Chicago suburbs, which took me into my internship at the University of Kentucky with the football program there. That led me to a graduate assistantship at the University of Tulsa and then into my first full time position at the College of William and Mary. And that was also the point where I took on my first kind of dual role, both as a performance coach and then coordinator data science there. That led me into a very similar role with the University of Arizona football, where I was working hand in hand with both the performance side and in the sport science side, stay there and worked with the Olympic sports as well for a year. And that’s kind of led me into my time now with LSU football, which I took this job officially on paper on January 1 of this year. Six days and seven years, and hoping to settle down a little bit on that.

Haley Muller 3:00
Very nice. Thanks for that. Scott. What about you, Alex?

Alex Calder 3:04
Yeah, for me, sports science, Houston Dynamo, which is a football club in the MLS, Major League Soccer. In the league for six years, four of them spent two prior to that were with Orlando city in the same week, but different conference, and then leading up to that, as I’ve had different roles with the University of Louisville and Purdue University. And then prior to that, I was at home, working in a variety of different sporting environments and private facilities and stuff like that. So probably spent the last 10 years or so in high performance sports. And yeah, that’s it. That’s me in a nutshell, I suppose. Obviously, not from here from Melbourne, Australia. So, but I’ve been the stage now for seven to eight years, I think so.

Haley Muller 3:55
Very nice. Thanks for that, Alex. So today, we’re gonna be talking about engaging athletes, coaches, and front office and admin and people like that into human performance program. So to kind of outline for everyone, why is that important for us to do within that space?

Unknown Speaker 4:15
Yeah, I think like, as, like high performance, sport, and a variety of any sport really is growing, there’s more of a need for analysis for coaching for more staff, like if you look at sports, you know, 30 years ago, there was a head coach that was kind of doing everything the head coach at the time would be acting as a sports Psych and all that sort of stuff. Whereas now, there’s so many specialist roles that are within high performance sport, and I think there’s a lot of stakeholders in place, whether that’s I think, directors, technical directors, or general managers that all want the information but one thing is summarized and one thing is actionable and There’s a lot of different messages and opinions and obviously practitioners and clinicians all want a piece of the pie as well. So a lot of moving pieces now when it comes to sport and how high performance sport operates.

Haley Muller 5:16
Yeah, very nice. What about for you, Scott?

Scott Kuehn 5:18
Yeah. So, I mean, to me having the most fundamental stakeholders involved in, you know, the process from a standpoint of just understanding the efficacy of what you’re doing, understanding how it can guide the decision making processes, and ultimately getting buy in towards the utility of, you know, bringing in sports science technologies, and understanding how it can make for a more objective process to me is kind of paramount to validating why we use it, and how it can be a part of a good, you know, holistic, high performance ecosystem. So, you know, you need to be able to have understanding and influence, you know, not just a cross and below you, but you also need to have influence from the top down, I think, you know, organizations only go as far as the, the big chairs believe in what it is that you’re doing. And if you have somebody sitting at the top that doesn’t believe there’s a utility for sports science and its role that it can have in talent identification developments, performance optimization, you’re going to, you know, be running your head into the wall a few times over with trying to make any headway and trying to feel purpose in the work that you’re doing.

Haley Muller 6:30
Yeah, that makes sense. Going back to what you said about the fundamental stakeholders, you guys both come from slightly different fields that you’re in right now with Scott, you being in power five University, and Alex being in professional sport, who are some of those fundamental stakeholders that you’re having to get buy in from?

Scott Kuehn 6:48
First and foremost, the the athletes, I think, you know, since they’re the ones that are on the receiving end, if you will, of the, you know, all the work that you are doing, they have to believe in, in what you’re doing. And then kind of, you know, I would say they’re kind of on equal footing as far as importance, but it’s, you know, the the head coach believing in it. Now, I’m very fortunate to be in an organization that there’s a huge premium placed on the value of sports science, and what it can give you in terms of a return on investment in decision making. And so, you know, having the buy in of the athlete that you’re working with, and then the support of the head coach behind everything that you want to be able to do and actually utilizing the data. To me, those are the most fundamental stakeholders, but then, you know, especially in an organization as big as mine, I mean, we, there’s 100, plus, on the payment itself, you have probably about 25, that work in a football coach role, another 10, within athletic development, nutrition, sports medicine, and then you have, you know, sports stuff on the periphery that they may not necessarily have direct influence or interaction with the high performance ecosystem, but they do bear consequence on what emerges out of that system. And so, you know, they have to have somewhat of an understanding of what’s going on and how their role fits into the bigger picture of what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. So, you know, we have an organization of probably about 200, that we need to make sure that everyone understands what’s going on, and what our aim is, and the direction that we’re trying to go in, you know, with respect to what their proximity is to the day to day utility of sports science. But everybody has to understand so they can be doing their part in terms of rowing the boat in the same direction.

Haley Muller 8:37
Yeah, that makes sense. What about you, Alex? Is it similar stakeholders that you’re dealing with in the professional realm? Or is it slightly different?

Unknown Speaker 8:45
Yeah, for the most part, it’s the same as what Scott mentioned, I think, like, the only thing that’s probably different from from my end is the approach and the amount of stakeholders their own place, and maybe the the intensity of discussions I think, like, because for example, for me, we have we have such an array of of players and coaches. So we have players that come out of a four year college program, American guys that are pretty disciplined. And if we’re talking about buy in, for example, then then they’re pretty well tuned in and go to the gym and maybe one feedback and ask feedback and you know, need to hear about their results or whatever. And on the other side of things, we might have like a 30 year old guy that doesn’t speak English that we pull out of Paraguay or something that’s never seen inside of a gym and don’t know what a GPS, is there any of this but doesn’t care for it, we’ll do it. Maybe you won’t care for it. So whether they want the information or not, sometimes they’re a bit more autonomous in their process. They do do things the way they want to do it, but they’ll, they’ll do what’s asked to them and so forth. And then the same thing goes with the coaching staff, there’s a, in our league, there’s a lot of coaches now that are former players that perhaps like to do things their way to win their, how, compared to how when they played, for example, which could be like 20 years ago, right, where a lot of this technology and things didn’t exist. So it’s a little hard to, you know, dive into those conversations. Whereas some, you know, younger coaches coming through that, that maybe understand it a bit better. And the same thing goes to the administration, like technical directors that are pretty well tuned in and front office staff and things like that, even even to the other extreme, you can even get into stakeholders, technical directors and sporting directors that maybe know, a little bit information that’s a little bit dangerous, because then they also don’t know what they don’t know. And then you’re almost trying to not withhold data. But you know, along those lines of know, a little bit information could be dangerous, and too much could be a little too dangerous. So being careful and picky of what you share and whatnot. So yeah, it’s there’s a lot of moving pieces, I think, when it comes to engaging in a variety of stakeholders, and it’s probably the same amount of variety of different conversations that I would have.

Haley Muller 11:34
For myself, right. Now, that makes sense. Thanks, guys, for that, starting with the athletes first, what are some strategies that you’ve seen work well, to engage athletes with their data, and then the overall performance program? Scott, we’re gonna start with you for this one.

Scott Kuehn 11:49
So it’s been pretty interesting being here, because we came into a situation where there wasn’t really a any sort of premium placed on sport science and in you know, more, I think, fundamentally, tying it all together and representing it kind of as the big world that it exists within, in terms of, of sport. And so we really had a great opportunity here from kind of scratch to, you know, with a clean slate, bring them into and figure out what are, you know, how we’re going to disseminate information, because it’s, you know, in the same way that we want to return on investment from the products that we choose to invest in, the athletes want to return on investment in the time that you’re asking them. So if you’re gonna ask them to come to, you know, a countermovement jump test prior to practice, or if you’re gonna have them do weekly Nordborg testing, they, you know, to an extent they want information back from it, they want action back from it. So we, you know, to me, the two kind of big points that we hit on are the timeliness of getting them the information and then the utility of the information. And so, you know, we started really, really high level with stuff that really easily resonates with them, things like max velocity outputs, things like jump heights, obviously, they they know, strength numbers really well, because it’s kind of the culture of American football. And it’s been a very slow unraveling of, Okay, now let’s roll out a new score for them or a new number to them to be attuned to. So we we took the concept of momentum, we call it a hit score for them, just from purely a physics standpoint, being bigger and faster, means you’re gonna have more momentum going into a collision, which means you’re more likely to win that collision. So calling it a hit score for them and giving them that back that yeah, you may be faster. But if you only weigh 150 pounds, you know, it’s going to be like a other blown into somebody else. So we want them to, you know, we started getting them to talk smack to each other about their hit scores, or explaining the value of, you know, an RSI mod and what it may indicate about how they perform their jumps and explaining that, you know, the speed at which they perform the jump is just as important as the output of the jump itself. So, you know, we’ve been pointed to be very, very timely with getting some information back. And that’s where my boss Jake Flynn’s been awesome about consists of a sports science role than I am in as opposed to being a dual performance coach and sports scientist, he’s been very deliberate in making sure that I understand that the priority is getting that piece of it done first, which is awesome for me, because, you know, if we run a speed session outside, I come in kind of process and break down the information that we got from the training session. And I can get him some numbers to talk about to the guys before the sessions done. So now he’s bringing it up to them, they’re able to see the results real time we throw them up on a leaderboard, and they see exactly you know, what they just did in the training session. So they have that information right back if you wait too long to give them the information. They’ve got dozens of other things on their plate between academics, their social lives, you know, like Alex said, you know, everybody kind of wash their chunk of skin and your moment or your opportunity is kind of lost if you don’t act on it in a timely manner. So we make sure that we when we do training, or if we have, you know, points of emphasis that we’re working on throughout The inseason, we get them back that information really, really quick. And then we also make sure that if it’s information that may need to be acted on that the right stakeholders have that information to approach them with. And you know, it’s not always necessarily that you’re taking action, but also at least, that they’re aware that you’re looking at the information. So my job may sometimes be making sure that coaches that work a little more hand in hand with particular athletes, just have an awareness that the guy didn’t sleep well last night, and that is reporting higher amounts of stress than normal. And so then he can engage them about it, and then they know that we’re looking at the information where we’re utilizing it, we just may not be readily making a decision off of it, because it’s, you know, what’s expected, or at the end of the day, just culturally, it’s, you know, you got to put your head down and work a little bit. So I think it’s the the timeliness of kind of your, your acute reporting strategies, and then on a chronic, you know, timeframe, what you report to them to show and demonstrate the progress they’ve made. And so we’ve been pointed about that as well at the end season, because obviously, we’re not necessarily looking to, you know, make physical training adaptations throughout the season. But just showing them, hey, this is why we continue to test so we can see what your your offseason values look like and how we’re preserving or even improving them in season. And that, you know, training and physical outcomes are not the goal. They’re a byproduct of kind of a very holistic approach to sport preparation. But you know, when we bring all this together, we look at it very holistically, you can still get some favorable outcomes in terms of the physical markers that we have a you know, direct measure on is we we go through our, our off cycle cycle to

Haley Muller 16:37
thanks got Alex, what about for you?

Unknown Speaker 16:40
Yeah, I think I think so maybe even alter the question a little bit, because I think I’ve not only fast strategies, the work that I’ve also to maybe tell you things that haven’t worked for me, but I applied, trying a variety of things to gauge athletes and showing their data sets for them. But I think like, to exactly what Scott said, the utilization of data sets and information is, is for me the integral piece, so it’s providing context to what the data is. So from us, maybe it’s a little difference. And probably at times are harder to track because we, our sport, being soccer is traditionally done. There’s a lot of old school concepts, and it’s traditionally very technically and tactically driven with probably physical being the last element, even though the sport is growing and getting faster and players are required to be stronger and more physically robust, especially against injury and things like that. So however, this lagging mindset of of the, you know, not not necessity of physicality still exists. So for us providing contexts to data sets is is vital. So even when we’re talking about what was say, for example, Scott’s talking about some of the performance markers, whether it’s speed or strength, profiling, or repeated credibility and stuff like that. There’s a lot of our guys, especially our South American guys, if we’re trying to provide context of a guy, this is your jumps for that they often don’t care. So they’ll say I don’t care how high a jump, I scored three goals last week, you’re like, Well, you’re right. But so there is there is context providing context is massive for us. So the verbiage for me majors drastically grateful that I played football for 20 years as well. So when I’ve verbalized things to them, I’m like, this is the same, this will help you better play a one on one. This will help if we’re doing some endurance testing, getting this score high. We’ll help you in the 70 ideas minute, track that ball down and defend our verb, verbalize it like that, so they can bridge the gap between what we’re trying to do. So I guess that the other part of my answer here would be some things that I’ve done that hadn’t worked in my favor. Maybe five or six years ago, I used to print the GPS game reports and put it up in the locker room. There were certain individuals that liked that. And certain ones that didn’t, but they didn’t care. So I used to pin it up there. And then there was a point where that kind of backfired on me, because one player, for example, got dropped from the lineup. And he actually pulled one of those reports down and took it to management and said, Look at this, I’ve run 10k and I’m 30 years old and your 18 year olds Don’t run 10k Why we get dropped. So by having that sort of feedback and not providing context, really backfired for me. And that that ended in me having a conversation with management. So now when I don’t hide information, but I don’t do that anymore where I make it readily available, and I, I tell every player if they want to see it, come see me in the office. So then there’s now a player’s postgame. A lot of them will come in, say, How am I numbers and I’ll say take a seat. These are numbers. Now let me provide context to it. So I’m like, let’s say if we looking at the GPS numbers, or whatever their their sprint was 30% below their average game, right? And like in other sit on the bench game day, so I have a bit of context to it. And I say, look, there was there was a big period there where we’re, we’re sitting back, and there was no need to sprint so and then I’ve engaged them in context as well. So so how do you feel in that that player may say, like, Oh, this is the best I felt. And I was like, Okay, well, your fitness is getting better. Your Wellness scores look to be improving, like when we have in our big acquisition sessions. So, like, we’re on the right track, and you’re able to still output this and look good. So that’s the most important thing, regardless of what the numbers are. So I think, yeah, that’s how I engage with them now and in providing an hour and I kind of learned the hard way by getting my ass kicked by management here four years ago. But that’s, that’s probably why no one shut it down.

Haley Muller 21:27
Very nice. I like the holistic approach depot seem to take what this where it’s not just here’s the numbers, do what you want with them. But it’s, here’s the numbers, and let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about where they are, what they are, let’s make decisions about it. And let’s kind of approach this from a holistic aspect to look at maybe other things like how the players were feeling in those moments, besides just here’s what the hard numbers were. Scott, a question for you kind of being in the university setting? Have you seen any benefits to like recruiting efforts, based on data that you’re collecting or how you’re reporting it or buying that you’re getting from the athletes have you noticed that at all,

Scott Kuehn 22:02
that’s actually been a very kind of central piece of our recruiting pitch, especially when the athletes come through for their their talk with, you know, depending on the size of the group, and you know, the the caliber of the athletes coming in, we’ll try to have the entire staff or at the minimum, they’ll meet with our Director of Athletic development. And what we’ve been able to build out in smartabase, particularly the most representative of what we do is kind of this player profile page that it’s very, you know, keep coming back to the buzzword of the podcast, holistic, it’s just, it showcases their demographic information, goals they provided for us in several different domains of their lives, athletic performance numbers. Like what else there anthropometric data from DEXA, scans from weigh ins way out. And then we have our accountability program that we call Swat. That’s just it’s, you know, on the field off the field performance, they gain and lose points for kind of the most succinct way to piece that all together for you all. And they’re able to see a visual representation of you know, where they gain the points where they lose their points. But it’s a very, you know, one stop shop, almost kind of Madden profile for the coaches to see. And then the athletes have a similar but obviously adapted version that they can do on their phone that shows them all the exact same information, just reformat it to fit on a phone screen, not a desktop screen. And that’s always one of the pieces that Jake, my boss brings out and recruiting to show you, hey, here are the things that are important to us here is how we’re going to show that you’re improving. And we’re not just going to, you know, put the book behind the scenes, to make you look better everything that we’re doing automated. And as soon as the numbers come in, they flow in and they show how you’re you’re adapting how you’re changing. And, you know, this is what’s important to us. And this is, you know, we’re going to make sure that you have ownership of your information you can understand and see the way that you are progressing. And that if you have a question, you’re able to look at it, you’re able to come to us and ask the questions of why and understand why a certain number may be trending in a certain direction, why maybe your sleep numbers are down from what they’ve normally been. And so that’s been the the feedback we’ve gotten from parents and from prospective athletes that have come in is that they’ve not seen anything like this at any of the other organizations that they’ve visited. So we do feel that it’s a really kind of defining piece for us as an organization. And again, that comes from the top down coach Kelly preaches total preparation as part of how we’re our developmental model, if you will, and he talks about the mental, the physical, the technical and the tactical. And that’s, you know, on our walls in our team meeting room, and he always, you know, speaks to development through those four kind of collectives. And so it’s, you know, important for him that what we’re doing is representative of that holistic model. And so, again, to have somebody at the very top that believes in that that very synchronized, very holistic approach. It makes the job a whole lot easier and it helps to create It kind of a lens or a muse for how we develop our our systems for reporting and for you know, athlete feedback. Very nice. Thanks

Haley Muller 25:10
for that, Scott. I’m moving away from the athletes just a little bit. Now let’s kind of talk about the coaching staff on how to get them on board. So Alex, we’ll start with you. Have you kind of learned over the years anyways, that is good to get them involved? And like any strategies you’ve used before, that have been helpful in that realm?

Unknown Speaker 25:31
Yeah, I think, again, the main thing is, is the context and even timing of delivery, I think, again, like, a lot of the coaching staff in our field, tend tend to be old school. So it’s, it’s the delivery of information and verbiage use is vital. Because if I go in and say, you know, we out ran out opponents, this is great, but we lost, I probably get a backhand from the coaching staff. So there’s, there’s, the timing is essential, too, because then on the flip side of that, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna go in there and say, Ah, we got our run, and you can turn to me and be like, I just won. So I don’t care, because then you lose credibility instantly. So it’s, it’s more so about bridging the gap with everything. And I tend to just try to answer questions, and then try to ask appropriate questions. So for me, it’s gauging what the coach is interested in. After I’ve done enough of this, because I think now I’ve worked with eight coaches across six years, which is not good. But I have learned along the way that that I tend to just engage in what they’re interested in first. And if they’re interested in whole team outputs, or individuals or how they performed or even some coaches are more interested in things that could be indicative of fatigue, whatever it is, I’ll do the investigation, I tend to only provided when asked upon, because there’s times after games after training, where it’s very tense and heated. And there’s not a time in place for me to be providing that information. But when there is when I’m in the coach’s office, and we’re discussing it, when asked and that’s it’s a good opportunity to discuss. But again, I just try to angle all the verbiage to be towards a what the club organization model is and our club philosophy and then be what the coach is really looking to say. So I don’t fudge any data ever. Because there’s things maybe that he anticipates seeing, and he could be off, and I provide the objective information. But then I’d follow up with, potentially, because of this, there’s this. So the same example we use earlier, if there’s an individual and he, he may turn to me after games, or How’s his sprint numbers, anticipated to be high, and I said, there are 20%, below his average. But his first half was much higher, I’d probably lean towards that as chasing the game in the first half or something like this, I’d make some not correlations, I’d make some suggestions to it, to provide context, because if, if that’s not the case, then they can tend to hit the panic button. And then you could lose credibility quite quickly in our position. Which is, which is never good. So that’s, that’s probably my strategy for getting them on board. But does that mean?

Scott Kuehn 28:47
No, to that into like, you know, in the same way that that Alex spoke to earlier of providing context and being mindful of unintended consequences, especially with decision makers, you do have to be very selective about what you report and how you report it, because it’s sort of that that mental model of a good hearts law, when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to become a good measure. And, you know, if you orient them to, like, certain player loads, or you know, hitting 90% max velocity entries, if they don’t fully understand the context of, you know, 90% good every so often, you know, every, you know, three to five days, whatever it may be, the unintended consequence can be that you’ve got coaches trying to sprint their guys every single day, which we know is not a good recipe for for athlete health and performance. And so, that’s where you do have to think about the way you present information, the context you provide, and then the orientation of that information and how you kind of, I guess how you kind of present that information so that they have a more contextual understanding of what it does tell you that you know, 90% entries are are good for maintaining max velocity. And we generally want them to occur every two to three days, they shouldn’t occur every single day. And then explaining that, you know, for athletes that play closer to the ball on American football, their opportunities to get up to higher velocities aren’t there because of the technical technical constraints have their position, but your players on the periphery further removed from the ball that have more patterns that are long, their potential for achieving 90 percentile a lot easier. And then even the context of, you know, for a defensive back covering a wide receiver, oftentimes, if a defensive back is hitting 90%, it means that they’re they’re chasing somebody that beat them. So the same way that Alex just spoke to like, if you, you know, it can have an unintended consequence. If they think well, sweet, my DBS hit 90%. But then, you know, you missed the mark on what was happening outside of a laptop where they got beat for three touchdowns by the the offense. So it’s, you know, again, it’s all one big holistic picture that you have to have in mind and, you know, be strategic about your guardrails. But like you said, there’s no need to fudge the numbers, you just have to be very strategic about the context you provide, and the information that you do give and then have it set up in a way so that if they do get curious that they have to come to you for the conversation, rather than having access to all the information and being able to arrive at their own conclusions.

Haley Muller 31:23
It makes a lot of sense, it kind of seems like one of the things you guys both touched on a little bit was the education piece of it, we’re kind of getting the coaches to really understand the story behind the data, not just the data itself. So with that being a major part of it. What’s one of the what are some of the challenges with Coach turnover that you face when you’re kind of having to do that education piece over and over? Now, Alex, you touched on it briefly and kind of one of your strategies was just figuring out what the coach wants to know first, starting from there, so maybe kind of dive into that a little bit more for us.

Unknown Speaker 31:53
Yeah, I think like I can take even this year, for example, we had a coaching turnover, midseason and the new coach have come in is is a younger guy, but certainly very integrated and, and wants feedback and, and needs input from from a variety of sources. So suddenly, at our high performance manager, myself do is investigate the drills and see, you know, how that prepares players based on their outputs. And then also the, you know, fatigue markers, post those drills and etc. And then even positional demands, like like Scott was saying, with with certain drills. So, for example, there’s when we sit with the coaching staff, and we look at a day where he wants to play small sided games with and he has a drill in mind, and will simply ask, okay, what’s the tactical objective of this? And he said, I want to load small spaces to create more transitional moments or turnovers or whatever it is. Okay, great, can we? And then we’ll say, Okay, we would ideally, like the acceleration and deceleration components to be 80% of game load for this for this day, in this week, is there a chance that we can turn this into, into a pattern where it’s 40 hours longer, sorry, 40 hours long, as opposed to 30, if you had in mind, and then make a shooting component in there as well. And he says, Great, and then all of a sudden, that becomes a transitional drill. And then we ask for feedback afterwards? How did that go? Did you get your tactical objectives across, say yes or no, or whatever, we have a discussion. And then the same thing we say there’s a byproduct that physical outputs where we’re spot on to what, what we would alike. So you know, if we can reuse that drill, or, you know, it’s always integrated discussion from us. So that’s probably the best way for us to go about it. And that conversation has to be had with every single new coach comes in, because they all have a different style and different drills that they lean on. So it’s, it’s up the biggest challenges for us to ask a question, okay. What are you trying to, you know, what, what do you want the players to exhibit in this drill? And then we’ll give them feedback whether or whether or not that doesn’t fit into the physical parameters of the goals? And then what can we do to change it? And those are pretty tough conversations, because head coaches can be stubborn and can be stuck in their ways, especially when they just start out after a turnover because they want to do what they’re used to. And it’s very, very hard to have that discussion of like, this is great, but can we change the dimensions can we make it smaller or bigger, and if they’re used to one way or they want to hit the ground running with their way then it may take a little longer sometimes it takes weeks or months to get some input on changing that drill, but Um, yeah, that’s that’s how I’ve kind of gone about it.

Haley Muller 35:04
Yeah, makes a lot of sense. Alex Scott, what about for you in the collegiate space.

Scott Kuehn 35:08
So I’ve been part of two different programs that dealt with coaching turnover in the midst of my tenure there. And I think the, the piece that was really unique about the first one was that the athletic director understood how central I was in what was going on with that program. It was a women’s lacrosse program. And she brought me into the the hiring process, and you know, knew that I could speak to what had been accomplished in that first year, there was a pretty notable change from a much more traditional approach to development to a high performance model that we truly undertook with that team and saw substantial improvements and on field success mitigations in injury, sustained and significant performance improvements. And so she knew that there was a that was something that was now part of that the culture of that team and brought me into the hiring process. So I think, you know, first and foremost, if you ever have to kind of, you know, precede the bringing in of somebody to being a part of the process of identifying the person that’s going to be a right fit and going to be receptive to the utilization of Sports Science within the program, and within the decision making process. To me, that’s one of the best strategies you can kind of have in terms of getting someone that’ll be willing to work with it. And so, you know, it’s something that we were able to ask questions about their familiarity with, you know, GPS, with performance monitoring with with several different, you know, common commonly utilized pieces of equipment and technology. And so, that was a, you know, obviously a great experience. And it was also great to learn how to bring somebody into, you know, what’s been established there with that team and with the way that we’ve done things, and then also figure out how to meet them where they’re at, and gradually bring them along to a similar mindset or approach. And it’s, you know, again, you always have the understanding in mind that at the end of the day, it’s their program, it’s their team, and that they are going to be charged with the decisions and, you know, bearing the most substantial consequence, if you will, for what occurs, whether that’s, you know, significant wins or losing. So you do have to approach it with with that in mind and realize that, you know, their heads on the chopping block for what occurs, and you do have to bear reverence to that in terms of how you communicate with them, and how you try to bring them into the fold, if you will. And, you know, you just try to, in the same way that you can’t use the same cues for every single athlete, you have to have a couple different ways to get him to do the same fundamental pattern, you have to have different interpersonal approaches for how you communicate, and the way you convey the, you know, GPS data to one coach may not work for the way you convey it to another coach. And so you have to, that’s where I think there’s still very much a coaching element to being a sports scientist, you’re just coaching across the organization, much more than you’re necessarily coaching down to the athletes, like you would have the conventional strength coach. And so that’s where, to me effective sports science is done is in the way that you communicate and having various ways to communicate the same information, or having to communicate it to you know, a head coach, that’s of one mindset and a head coach with another mindset that you may have, in a turnover circumstance like that.

Haley Muller 38:32
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks to both for all the information on that kind of Switching now to talk about the administration piece of this, what type of information are you presenting to people in admin positions that may not have as much of a sports science or performance background as like coaches and athletes would.

Scott Kuehn 38:50
So given the size of the organization I work in, there’s much less of a premium placed on reporting to administration, so I can speak more from prior experiences about being able to give administration information. And, you know, again, you have to think about the context of their role and what they exactly are responsible for and what their background is. And like you said, if you’re lucky enough, you may work for an athletic director that used to be a strength coach that just isn’t like, you know, the director of high performance or, you know, health and wellness is another commonly thrown around term. Those are becoming more commonplace at the university level, and you’re seeing people who have been in the trenches, if you will, of being a strength coach, go into those roles. So then you have a little bit more comfort of knowing that you do have somebody that understands the profession and understand you know, what sort of markers you should look at, in terms of who’s effective within their roles. And, you know, the the time that I didn’t have that, I think you have to then kind of put it in context that the common person can understand but then also, things that are you know, more relevant to them into their decision making processes. So when I presented information to our athletic director with that lacrosse program, we talked about the improvements in speed because everybody knows speed you drive car you run if you people run marathons, and they talked about the speed, it’s a very layperson metric that you can speak to. And so when you’re able to say, you know, we saw an average increase of, you know, I think it was point five miles per hour, in max velocity across the entire semester, we’ve just made that vague. And we put together a list that said, you know, here were the number of girls that ran 16 1718 miles an hour, here’s number of girls that are running 1780 90 miles an hour, and just really clearly showed kind of the, the shift and distribution of Max velocities. And then we did a similar thing with I think, the strength numbers. And then we also did some that now start to speak a little more holistically, we did the injury reductions. And it was like we did, we had a really, really good goal. But that first year, because I was helping with designing the practices and making sure that we were getting proper exposures when needed to higher intensity training days, but then backing it up with with lower intensity training days, and we had a 3% reduction, I believe in inseason injury incidences and no catastrophic injuries. So being able to put that you know, 83% reduction, and that, you know, zero season ending injuries, really, really big on the report was also awesome. And then the thing that I did off of that was I spoke to the reduction in insurance claim cost where there’s like a 98% reduction, and, you know, admin speaks dollars. And if you can show them, hey, we’re cutting claim cost by 90%. With the interventions that we drove through this past year, that’s going to bear on the insurance premiums paid by the school in the future. And so if you’re able to speak to we’re saving the school money by undertaking this approach. That’s something that they’re very, very well versed in. So kind of just this holistic appraisal of the entire process of we saw physical performance improvements, we saw reductions in injury, we saw increases in wins and just competitiveness, if you looked at scoring margins, and then oh, by the way, from a dollars and cents standpoint, we significantly cut costs for the school in the future. So that’s the extent of exposure I’ve had to presenting to administration. And you know, now I’m in a situation where the highest, I’ll probably present this to our head coach, and then anything beyond that, again, because of the size of the organization, it’s, you know, going to be much more likely to be filtered through my boss or through the head coach himself.

Haley Muller 42:33
Yeah, makes a lot of sense. Alex, what about for you dealing with front office staff? What are some of the things you found that they’re interested in, from sports performance setting,

Unknown Speaker 42:43
it was a knows probably, like, the sensitivity is probably a touchy one for me, because I think, in our sport, and our, in this league, and a lot of their technical directors, sporting directors and general managers, or former players, or at least have some sort of playing experience, whether it’s in his league or not, so like coaches, they all have their perception and, and opinion, and even summary of, of performance, outputs and data and everything. So, for example, coaches will have their own interpretation of what fitness is. So even, even previously, I’ve seen a lot of people in our field, fitness coaches, strength coaches, whatever your title is be scapegoats because coach will turn around and say they’re not fit. And that’s just subjective. And they just have their opinion on what what it is. So without any objective information. There’s there’s often people in our role that get let go, because players are not in quotations fit. So to similar similar mindsets have that in upper management. Tiny bit sensitive now because we’re in the offseason and in a lot of meetings with them at the moment. So it is a delicate topic, because they do have, like I said, their conclusions on on things. Whether or not it’s supported by data. There always is a conclusion and an opinion and a subjective piece to it. So it’s done delicate. But let’s say take takes Scott’s information for example, like if I were, which I do present, injury information availability. It often doesn’t matter. Because we can often be told the return plates are too long. Because if it’s a big player, the club loses X amount of money for every game. They’re out so they’re there. In, you know, their doors have been pounded on by ownership. They’re pounding on our doors, and we may shorten that return to play by a week. But it’s still not good enough because it clubs lost $500,000 Based on our player missing two games. So and then even at the end of the year, if your availabilities sensational, and you’re in the top three in the league, and you finish last doesn’t matter, you need to have a job finish law. So everyone’s in a bad job, which I think is reasonable to an extent. But when you try and present that information and try to highlight some improvements that your department’s done, you have to be very delicate of how that’s presented in a result based industry like this. And especially when there’s only opinion, so even for example, they watch the game, upper management, watch the game and say, we can’t run or this player can’t run or we’re not fit, and then maybe look at the GPS data. And it’s it’s above average. They have this notion, this already preconceived notion that we didn’t run or whatever or been in Houston, for example, we have questions of we can’t run in the heats, not even question statements, we can’t run in the heat. Or we can there’s there’s potential, you know, pacing strategies or context that a game there’s, there’s a lot of things that it’s multifactorial, but as soon as one thing is thrown out by management, it’s, it’s hard to have a discussion talking about the cliff and then also, you know, showcase some objective information to get some points across again, providing context. So when it comes to information presenting, I try to present what’s relevant, even though all of it is but what’s relevant in in the, in the moments, I suppose. Safe for example, we went back to back years finishing last and I wasn’t about to show management and say we did all this stuff better. And use those words and and try and put a massive positive spin on it. Because at the end of the day, we’ve we finished in the same points, points per game, if that makes sense. So I’m not sure if I’m answering your question or beat around the bush a little bit, but it’s very delicate on my end, I think because there’s certainly some performance markers and things that that go well, you know, a player can play incredibly poor and have a massive physical output and vice versa. So there’s not much correlation there. It’s just kind of a byproduct of how the games played. And if we’re just talking GPS, and the same thing injury wise, like, you can have great availability. But if if you have poor players available, then it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t only takes you so far. So there’s a there’s a delicate line to flirt with, in conversations with with management, especially if they’ve already got this, this set, you know, this rigid mindset of this is the opinion this is what happened. Not sure. But

Haley Muller 48:27
no, it definitely does. It kind of seems like something like the both of you touched on was kind of learning how to speak the language of whoever it is that you’re talking to, whether that’s from the administrators, to the coaches, to the athletes, kind of being able to speak to all three of their knowledge levels to their own curiosities and what they’re actually interested in. I’m just kind of going off that I’ll start with you for this one, what some piece of advice that you would give to a leader of their performance team. So someone in your position or similar, always trying to better engage people outside of just their team that they work on. So if you’re trying to better engage the athletes and coaches and front office staff, how would you? Or what advice would you give them on how to better do that and how to better speak the language of those that they’re talking to?

Unknown Speaker 49:13
Yes, for me, it’s obviously have an emotional intelligence about yourself, I suppose. Adaptability questions, I think these are these integral pieces, I think, to provide an anecdote I’ve had a young practitioner in the past that worked at our academy put together Microsoft sorry, macrocycle the very excited about it, went to the head coach and said, you know, we can we can push intensity of drills this week and this week, because these games aren’t as important. But as soon as he said the words games aren’t as important. I understood where he was getting that that a head coach Turner said every game is important. It goes while some is more important than others, like if they’re home and away and I say Oh my You’re going downhill. This Though small things like that, I think, I think if there’s any advice would be like, yeah, just I think there’s there’s a level of being passionate and proud of the role, but certainly understand the environment and have some as easy as it sounds, yeah, have emotional intelligence, but try and get a good rate of people and have a have an idea of how they may react under certain situations, which is not easy, and it comes with experience. But it kind of comes down to patience, I think, having a bit of patience and verbalizing things carefully. would be my advice.

Haley Muller 50:45
Makes a lot of sense. Scott, what about for you?

Scott Kuehn 50:48
Yeah, I think he hit it on the head, you have to be able to be very much a second order effect thinker with how you communicate to a given stakeholder. And if you say this, what might they say back? So in the instance of the coach that he alluded to, thinking through that, and saying, the games aren’t as important this week, very, you know, commonly held notion, and rightfully so, of a sport coach is going to be that no, the games are important. In fact, it’s the most important thing in the entirety of everything that we’re doing. But being able to, you know, kind of work through the, the interactions you’re going to have, especially with with very key stakeholders, like a head coach, and, and consider what might their responses be? And then what’s my response to their response, and what’s their response to my response to their response, and so on. So you kind of play that, that conversation out and tease it out, you know, obviously, knowing who the person is, and you know, once you’ve gotten a good sense for who they are, and what’s important to them, and how they view, your role and the information that you present, the more you’re able to tease those conversations out and dress rehearse those conversations, I think the better chance you stand at being able to go into it, and not be one surprise or taken aback by a response they give and to be able to respond, because you’ve thought through how they might respond. And in turn, it’s at least kind of gotten some ideas flowing in your head for how you go through that conversation. And so, you know, like, you spoke to emotional intelligence and knowing the people that you’re working with, you know, I think one of the questions I get very commonly from people is, you know, well, you just get lost behind the laptop of, you know, working in sports science. And, you know, no, it’s quite the opposite. Oftentimes, I’m communicating with my colleagues, I’m communicating with athletes, I’m communicating with coaches. And you, in the same way, like I spoke to earlier, that you have to be able to use different cues to convey the same information for an exercise, you have to be able to use different vessels of communication, to get information across the different stakeholders. And so having kind of that, that toolbox to pull from, when you speak with others, and, you know, expanding that toolbox as a practitioner, that’s what still makes sports science very much an art and a coaching science, and not just, you know, I’m behind a laptop, running numbers, and that’s it. Obviously, there’s going to be people that speak, you know, for me, in certain situations, like when we have our big staff meetings, I’m probably not speaking it’s more often they’re not going to be my boss. But making sure that I can give him the the points that he needs to take away from the information that he can, you know, really quickly, you know, answer questions and maybe shout back to him or, you know, he thoroughly understands what he’s looking at. So that when he does speak to it, he’s not, you know, blind, if you will, talking about it, he’s speaking from it, because he understands it and is just conveying the information in that environment. So yeah, that’s probably the biggest piece of expanding your your social toolbox and having a high level of emotional intelligence and still seeing yourself as a coach, it’s just the coach in a different capacity than what’s conventionally expected.

Haley Muller 53:56
Your nose Yeah, well, thanks to you both for that great advice. I know it’ll be super helpful for a lot of our listeners. Um, if anyone would like to connect with you after this podcast to kind of asking more questions or allowing them to learn a little bit more about your philosophy, what would be the best way for them to do that?

Scott Kuehn 54:11
So my socials are my first name last name Scott Kuhn KU, eh n 88. And that’s for Twitter, Instagram. I don’t have anything else I think but that may be TBD. My email is on my Instagram as well so you can get in contact with me there. And then I also have a YouTube channel that I put out, demonstration videos have a bunch of different exercises so your different ways you can see my work and see my stuff. And yeah, I’m always down a few somebody wants to shoot me a direct message and start talking.

Haley Muller 54:41
Nice. Thanks, God. What about for you Alex? How can people connect with you?

Unknown Speaker 54:44
Yeah, for one on one socials. Not great at it, but it’s my last name underscore 05. So call that underscore 05. And then yeah, on top of that, look, I think anyone that’s in football and wants to reach out like So I just wrote a book, which comes out in the first of December two. So feel free to reach out and I’ll try and get some copies out as well. So that would be. Yeah, that’s it for me.

Haley Muller 55:12
Awesome. Well, thanks again to you both very much. Thanks, Scott. Thanks, Alex. It’s a great discussion. I know our listeners will really enjoy this. And also if for anyone listening if you found this conversation valuable, please follow the Vanguard read roundtable podcast on your favorite platform, and share with your friends and colleagues. We’ll be back next month. Thanks, everyone. The Vanguard roundtable podcast is brought to you by smartabase, the premier human performance optimization platform for elite sports teams and military organizations. Our clients are racing to build their human performance analytics team to help make data-informed decisions better serve their customers, and give them a competitive advantage. That’s why we’ve published our latest guide building your human performance analytics team. This is the first comprehensive resource specifically for human performance leaders in sports and military environments. In it, you’ll find tips and best practices along with practical templates, tools and examples to help you build and evolve your analytics. To download your free copy of building your human performance team, visit smartabase.com/resources

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