In this episode, we discuss the latest trends and challenges with Youth Talent Development and ID. We explore what makes working with youth talent unique and how data and analytics are being used to help young athletes progress.





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Mark Dyer 0:00
So one of the biggest things that I think we’re seeing is the use of maturation as a terms for identification of talent. So using things like maturation offset, or peak height velocity or percentage of a predicted adult height are starting to be used. I know USA football and a lot of the clubs over in Europe are using it as well.

Emma Ostermann 0:21
Welcome to the Vanguard roundtable podcast, where we discuss the latest trends driving the human performance industry forward. I’m your host Emma Ostermann.

In this episode, we discuss the latest trends and challenges with youth talent development ID. We explore what makes working with youth how unique and how data and analytics are being used to help young athletes progress.

Today’s roundtable guests include James viel, AFL Academy’s data analyst

Mark Dyer athletic development coordinator for the Alpine D team at US Ski and Snowboard, and Jack Halley, Principal Consultant at Fusion sport.

The views expressed today are those of the individual guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of fusion sport or the guests’ organization. Enjoy the episode.

The Vanguard roundtable podcast is brought to you by fusion sport maker smartabase, the premier human performance optimization platform for elite sports and military organizations.

To help make sense of the ever-growing human performance tech landscape smartabase has created the HBO tech stack.

This resource organizes hundreds of performance tech on the market today into outcome-based categories such as external load monitoring, hydration, performance tracking, musculoskeletal screening, and more. To download your free copy of the HBO tech stack, visit perform dot fusion forward slash HPO dash tech dash stat. Now back to the episode. James, Mark and Jack. Welcome to the Vanguard roundtable podcast. Before we dive into the questions, we just want to get a little bit, just learn a little bit more about yourself kicked over to you Mark.

Mark Dyer 1:57
Yeah, thank you, Emma for making this happen. And excited to jump into this podcast and this topic with everybody. So my name is Mark Dyer on the athletic development coordinator at US Ski and Snowboard for our Alpine development team both on the men and women’s side. So I really work with our public club level athletes coming out of the our high performance clubs, and really kind of bring them in at the developmental level. And I work with them with their strength and conditioning as well as branched out resources for nutrition, dieticians,

sports psychology, and then you know, they’re really we kind of tried to push these athletes through our development system and give them all the resources and support they need as we push them further through our pipeline. So that’s kind of the group of athletes that I work Alpine skiers and really passionate about youth athletic development as well kind of came from the club level myself, I worked at Palisades Tahoe right before this, which was one of our high performance clubs. So I worked with you 12 All the way to unite team big mountain and alpine athletes on youth athletic development. So did all their programming and really took a holistic approach on performance as a whole trying to cover all those areas and really just passionate about this area. And looking forward to getting into this topic with you guys.

Emma Ostermann 3:07
Absolutely perfect. James, take it over to you.

James Veale 3:10
Hey guys, I’m James Veale, can also thank you for having me on. Marks if I just replaced my name with Mark. And with the sport with AFL. It’s almost a perfect summation as to who I am and what I’ve done as well. I will limit my age group to use extend through UAC. So in the AFL system, we have what’s called a talent pathway. So equivalent of maybe the senior high school years, for those that are listening over in America. And we skip the college or the collegiate sporting link and go straight into the senior camp. So I’ve always worked in our talent pathway space in those last years of development and progression into their senior competitions. And I’ve also tied that in way back in the day with a PhD to the use of fitness testing in talent ID so numbers, statistics, data analytics, and how we can use that information to I guess, not only progress development, understand the individual athlete work through those challenges of combining life, school education, and individualization in programs where we’re working with large groups, in small amounts of time has been a key area that I liked, whilst also trying to help that next level of recruiter. Understand, I guess, the athletes that they have coming through and how we can make that seamless transition from junior to senior, so really have that information on hand so that when they rock up, it’s like they’d been at the club for two or three years previous.

Emma Ostermann 4:44
Excellent, perfect. Yeah. And then kick it over to you, Jack.

Jack Halley 4:48
Everyone. My name is Jack Kelly. I’m a sports science consultant with Fusion sport, work in the APAC region. So just down here in Australia. I work with some of our bigger clients in the Regents. So, I support the Australian Institute of Sport, rugby, Australia, the All Blacks, and then several of our AFL teams, Australian football, and one of those clients being the AFL Academy. So I work closely with James veal, and I’m his day to day support to help put together a system to capture this data to help these athletes progress through the pathways. I’m also a former athlete myself, represented Australia volleyball. So I’ve been through that continuum of entering into the participation level, and then progressing all the way to international competition. And I’ve also represented Sorry, I’ve also competed at a professional level overseas as well. So yeah, really looking forward to the conversation today and discussing all points along that continuum.

Emma Ostermann 5:48
Excellent. Jack, Mark, and James, we’re excited to have each of you join us today. And yeah, we’re gonna dive right into it should be an exciting conversation. This first question I am gonna pose to James first, but do invite Jack and mark to definitely weigh in on their opinions as well. But James, what are some of the biggest differences working with young athletes versus older or professional athletes? James,

James Veale 6:08
I think we could talk for hours on just this single topic. So please feel free to cut me off, you know, start playing the the Oscars music to you know, do to hook me off the stage. But I from working in this space, one of the biggest ones is time. So you know, we get our athletes or our players from maybe two nights a week in preseason, we’ll get them three nights a week. So that’s roughly two hour sessions. So in season at the moment, which is what we are, we’re right in the in the thick of our footy season, we say these boys four hours a week, and then on game day, which again, will roughly be a three to four hour period. So in a space of that hands on contact, where you have maybe 12 hours a week of delivering, and in that we also have a squad of around 40 or so players. So how you get that real connection of who they are, what makes it tick, where their strengths and weaknesses are, where you can get their development needs met, how we plan, what their programming should look like, what their load management should look like, where they’re going off to do it, getting them to do it on their own, in their own time, and helping them for me formulate, I guess, their calendar around their school and their life and all the rest. That’s, that’s a really big one. So working out which buttons to press when it comes to those who are fully driven, and then those who aren’t. And then, you know, we can go on to facility access. So there’s a lot of resourcing thrown at the the senior competitions, which completely makes sense. But then our juniors, are often in where thankfully, we’re really starting to develop our infrastructure, which is brilliant. But the second key one from time for me is also the number of programs that some validly talented youth participate in. So over in our system over here are our players, both male and female will participate in a weekly competition in what we call our state League teams. From there, if they’re good enough, they will be selected into their State Academy. So they will represent our state now, I guess, our national championships. So that’s more of a carnival format. If they’re good enough, again, they might also be given a contract for 12 months into our National Academy. And then there are some who are also attending elite private schools over here. So they have their own football competition. So if you’re in that really elite space, there’s every chance that you’ll be participating in four different competitions, at the same time with four different coaches, four different HPs, four different medical teams, as well as potentially your own some private staff, as well. So trying to get everyone on the same page with who this athlete is with what their training plan is with, where we’re all trying to, I guess help progress, their development, and what their needs are, can often be challenging, to say the least when there are multiple opinions flying around, and everyone thinks that they know best. So time and influence, I think, a really big ones in this space.

Emma Ostermann 9:30
So that’s really great insight, James, and Mark, I do want to like hear from your side as well, especially with some of the points that James touched on, especially in terms of like resourcing and the number of individuals that can help influence you know, the athlete trajectory. Mark, would love to hear your thoughts on that.

Mark Dyer 9:47
Yeah, like James said, I think time is the biggest resources as you get into that elite and professional level, I mean, the amount of commitments that they have throughout a calendar year between training camps and travel, just trying to get some time for The family themselves, it becomes so limited in what you’re actually able to influence that I think you have to be very methodical and calculated with what you’re trying to achieve with your elite athlete group. And you have to be really concise and consistent on on those bases. I think with the youth athletic development group, you really have the freedom and the flexibility to build longer sustainable programs that can influence the next group that comes up that next group that comes up to you 12 To 14 to 16. So you can structure a really good program from that you 12 To united team, when you get in some of these high level, elite ski racers, like I said, their time is so limited that you may just have a six to eight week block with them. And that’s your biggest block all year. And then everything else, you’re just trying to dial in red flags and other injuries and working with, you know, the sports medicine team on keeping these athletes healthy and able to compete at a high level consistently throughout their their crazy travel schedule. So I think that’s kind of where the difference goes is just the time and resources available, I think you can build a little bit better program that flows really well. Whereas with that elite, everyone’s you know, from all over different parts of the nation has different commitments to sponsors to other coaches to training. So it becomes very limited in what you actually can achieve with it. So you just have to be really dialed in and try to really push your athletes in the limited time that you can.

James Veale 11:24
I love what you were saying there as well mark in regards to that senior competition is really performance based. So it’s all about in our sport anyway wins and losses. So the ebbs and flows within our programs based on how the team is going at a senior level is quite impacting on all the departments and your programming, as well as your motivation levels, and even just the emotion that’s involved in a program. Whereas one of the beauties that I’ve really found in that talent space is that whilst Yes, Winning is important in any type of competition, or at least having that competitive edge. And that’s, that’s the fundamental goal. In our talent space is really about individual athlete development. So, you know, when it all boils down, is will this player continue on into a senior rank, whether it is at the elite, or the highest level competition in our country, or whether they’ll just go back to local football and play for another 15 years and really give back to the industry and, you know, particularly one of our participants, and our brilliant, you know, local league players? You know, we’ve really got that opportunity just to focus on their goals, their development, their progress, without having to worry about those external pressures of, you know, bottom line, are we winning? Are we losing? Where are we on the ladder? What are our corporate sponsors, saying and so on? So forth?

Emma Ostermann 12:54
Absolutely, absolutely. James, or mark, you know, even Jack coming from your athlete perspective, what role do parents or agents play within this? You know, within this idea of? Yeah, just everything you have to take into consideration? What what role? Would those those two things play? Not everybody wants, I can see you guys are all just you. You guys all have thoughts. Yeah, Mark, and Mark, just kick it over to you first.

Mark Dyer 13:21
Yeah, definitely. So when I was working in the club level, I mean, parents were key there, I guess, said, they’re the ones that are currently athletes around to the practices into the strength sessions. So really building them into a part of the high performance program, letting them know your philosophy, letting them know why training is important for the their youth athlete, when I would structure the beginning of a preparation period, for my whole program, when I was working in Tahoe, I would have just a meeting to go bring, you know, all the kids and the parents in and have a meeting with me. And then I would give a presentation on my training philosophy, my coaching philosophy, what we expected to go get through the preparation program, how that fits into their ski racing, how it’s going to benefit their ski racing, and really just making it a part of the community because especially in this in the skiing industry, community is huge. I mean, skiing is a culture in itself. And so bringing that aspect of strength and conditioning and high performance and to that culture, and to have athletes wants to take care of themselves and want to get stronger. I think if you build that, I mean, a lot of the parents appreciate that as well. So if you make them feel a part of that community and connected to your high performance program is only going to benefit you in the long run. I does let let itself to a lot more questions from parents. I’ve definitely once you open that door, you just start getting emails and hammered. So you do have to kind of create those boundary lines. But you know, it’s good to have that support from the parents as well. But that’s kind of how I see the parent role and, and there and as it kind of I’m in this development team role. Now obviously the parents are taking a little bit more backseat but some of them are still like Consider concerned with like, how are you going to take my my kids in this D team level? What should they expect? So you still have to have those conversations and be ready to give those those calls to the parents and the athletes and really be precise on what you want to get down with your preparation and your training.

James Veale 15:18
Yeah, well, Saima, were really well said, little stories that that I’ve got, you know, some of the families in our regional groups, so from boys who have to travel, obviously, Australia is a reasonably large country with large masses of nothingness. So we are quite spread out as a country. So, you know, we have families who invest a car, in their development of their kids. So you know, by the time they’re finished the three or four years in the program, they’ve literally burned the car out in the kilometers that they have to drive. So one of the boys in our state program he’s currently competing at the moment is four hours away. So he’ll be driving for hours for to roll into camp for the weekend, and then four hours home and and do that for, you know, the next month or two. So there’s a heck of a lot of investment that’s obviously time away from other siblings. So one parents splitting parent roles, time out of work, attending their training sessions. So that’s huge. One of the other areas that we really focus on in this 16 to 18 bracket down here is the nutrition side of things with our parents, knowing that whilst we try and do a lot of education with our players to be that independent, responsible athlete and really to take ownership over their, their program development, so to be the ones who jump on the phone with us, rather than to get mom or dad to make those phone calls. One of the areas that we do understand is that often mom and dad still are the people in the kitchen for the majority of the time. So knowing that performance nutrition is such a key component of their athletic development at this age that, you know, we’ve noticed in the last few years that we actually take their parents through some sessions in that regard as well. And try to provide a bit of information in regards to how how they can help in a space that can also be so over information gathering is possible and they could go down so many different rabbit holes, if we can help the parents in understanding what their athletes on their sons and daughters, sorry, might need them. That’s just as much a win from our specs.

Jack Halley 17:32
Just one from me on that even JV like I think of myself coming through the pathways from participation level, and then into representative playing volleyball as a junior, and there weren’t really a lot of resources back in, I guess, the early 2000s, when I was in that sort of age bracket where, you know, parents could lean upon to help foster the development, development of their kids in terms of load management or nutrition or, you know, s&c and exercise and things like that. So that’s changed a lot, I feel in the last 10 years, I was lucky enough to have parents from athletic backgrounds who had some knowledge to help guide me in that, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine some of these families where parents don’t have any of that, that background. And you know, they’re pushing their kids to go to all of these trainings and, and to eat whatever. And you get a lot of coaches at that entry level or the participation level where they might just be volunteers that they’re not full time employees, they don’t have necessarily really extensive background and understanding the fundamentals of how to coach that sport or that alone everything that goes with physical development and nutrition. So that’s really where I see systems like smartabase being such a great value add these days were for these coaches and employees that are part time or volunteers, they can lean upon a greater system that has been developed top down and it’s saving them time by having these resources readily available to distribute amongst the masses and amongst the parents that are driving these kids to and from training and even give the kids something that you know, every kid these days has a cell phone available to them. So that’s a another network that they can lead against some leverage to push that information back.

James Veale 19:25
One of the other things that we really jump on is at that in the final stages for the parents to really focus on being their parents. So there are so many coaches and so many support staff who are I guess elite and educated and focus there on getting the best out of their their children and giving the their children the best opportunities that if parents are able to actually for lack of a better term, like give up some of that investment or feeling of I need to also be coaching my child, or in the car ride home, you know, talking about the good things that they did in the game or the bad things or analyzing, reviewing, or so on and so forth. But if they can actually be that parent, that that support role, that loving when things are going wrong, or that person, you know, the shoulder to cry on all that, you know, really caring and sharing and safe space, what that can also give the athletes an even greater opportunity of, you know, having a more balanced approach to their, I guess, their experience in the bathroom.

Emma Ostermann 20:35
Absolutely, those are really great points, especially when you, when you put it to the point of nutrition, that was something you don’t even just kind of goes over your head, you’re like, oh, we can’t utilize the parents and help them in the space that you know, someone who might be 1213, even 16 years old, they don’t have enough knowledge in this area, but we can communicate with the parents to help guide them and educate them. Within that. I want to ask you, James remark are agents at that level, do they get incorporated with the athletes at that young of an age,

James Veale 21:05
you know, you know, through down in the NFL, we have strict guidelines, and rules in regards to when agents can tap into the system. So I couldn’t be, I could be a little bit wrong in the actual specifics, but it’s something around about their final age of before the draft. So you have to turn 18 In your year of the draft in order to be eligible in our sport. So I think it’s by the 17th year, agents are allowed to actually start reaching out to players to see whether they can or they want to connect in with them. We also have a slightly different set up in the AFL where all of our contracts. at the senior level if you are fortunate enough to be drafted, predetermined by the AFL CIO, the first few years, you have a set wage and a set salary based on when you are selected. So the role of an agent is very different to what I see over in American sport where you might be drafted, but you’re not actually on the team yet until you have negotiated contracts and deals and so on and so forth. So that sort of smoothes out that process a lot more and focuses more, I guess I’m just getting there is all that we we really need to work out. So there’s a lot of pros and cons. And I think I will reserve a little bit of my judgment in some of this space, because I can get a little bit passionate. But for me, agents, the really good agents are the ones who know how to be that supportive, I guess, extra family member. And then the over reaching agents are the ones who are providing some strength or conditioning programs in the offseason that they’ve got from their six year or seventh year senior vet. So who says alright, this is what I’ve got from my AFL club to do over the offseason. So because they’re a superstar of the game. And I knew your potential draftee has just seen his name on a piece of paper with a no need to go off and do that program, which has majority of us would understand that seven years of historical pre seasons is a well and truly different program to what a 17 year old developing couldn’t be. So there are some who are well meaning in there. Someone just missed the mark. And I think what their role should be.

Emma Ostermann 23:25
Absolutely. Mark, do you see agents with the within the US Ski and Snowboard side?

Mark Dyer 23:31
Yeah, so alpine ski racing is kind of different beast in that there’s not really agents who are dedicated towards going after athletes to making deals, it’s mainly just us as the national team that are providing all the travel and support for the athletes. And then sponsorships are mainly one of the biggest resources for athletes. So the sponsorship level really starts at that you 16 Because just as we want to foster development with the youth, a lot of these alpine ski racing brands also do that as well. They kind of get into that use system and bring up athletes through that way they can raise their gear as they progress on into the system. So I’d say and that’s we, you know, we encourage our athletes to go find sponsors that you know, are appropriate for them as well. But then we do have resources here that if they need to sit down with a wrap and talk about what that looks like what a sponsorship deal looks like, we have those resources as well to have somebody at the table for that athlete. But with the agent system, it’s not so much of a an issue in the US Ski and Snowboard because I think the biggest thing is just providing the actual resources for athletes to get to the races all over Europe and the international competitions. So we don’t deal with that as much on the alpine ski racing side.

Emma Ostermann 24:42
Absolutely. You know, and that’s just an interesting point. Because, you know, over here in the States, you do start seeing these organizations that are coming to light where you’re actually paying youth athletes a very high salary and that’s where you know, you might start seeing more and more agent involvement. Maybe more like a traditional like basketball sense or another city Any sport like that, but just an interesting conversation that definitely can be had in the near future. But such a great conversation so far on this, and I want to keep it going. Mark, I do want to kick this next question over to you. What are some of the biggest trends you’re seeing in youth talent ID and development? Mark?

Mark Dyer 25:17
Yeah, so one of the biggest things that I think we’re seeing is the use of maturation as a terms for identification of talent. So using things like maturation offset, or peak height, velocity, or percentage of a percentage of a predicted adult height, are starting to are starting to be used. I know USA football and a lot of the clubs over in Europe are using it as well, to put a maturation level onto what talent is, and, and general fitness as well. So I think that’s something that’s coming in to not only see what’s happening next, so that relative age effect isn’t so much of a factor, but actually seeing what is causing that talent, it may just be because that athlete is three years above their maturity level and as a quick mature, so I think and that’s something we’re trying to incorporate in our in our fitness testing, as well as just to see what those maturation offsets are, because we do have a fitness test that goes into criteria for certain types of camps and invitees. So we use that as a criteria for ourselves and our programs and our camps that rerun. So we want to start adding in some of that maturation offset to see if it is something that is a short term or long term gain in terms of a talent identification. But I think what a lot of programs are doing now is kind of taking that holistic approach, right, and they’re seeing what the actual talent in the sport is, what their talent and fitness and the strength and conditioning and high performance is. And then also getting a sense of who the athlete is and what they mean and what they stand for, and how they just present themselves in the day to day. I know in our development system. You know, we have regional coaches as well. And our director at chip night, he kind of has his finger on the pulse with all the regions. And we’ll have those conversations, you know, annually throughout the year, where we’re where we want to invite athletes to a camp and then we get the coaches on the phone, the regional coaches on the phone, we see their fitness scores, and we kind of like break down if if this athlete is able to come to a camp, so we kind of have that Trifecta in there. And I think a lot of clubs are starting to do this as take that more holistic approach. Because, you know, through talent identification, it’s so hard to say like this 12 year old is going to be the next Michaela Schifrin. Right, it’s so hard to put a pinpoint on that. And I think a lot of people are trying to search for that kind of answer. But in ski racing, it’s, it’s it’s a gamble, it’s so hard to tell, because a lot of what happens is people put so much weight into the specialization they see there, you 12 There you 14 Crushing everybody in the region, then they just stick to ski racing. And by the time they hit that second or third year phys, these athletes are burnt out. And the later athletes who are maybe later matures, come up. And that’s where we start to see those athletes really produce results. I mean, we don’t even see our best World Cup results until late 20s to early 30s For most of our athletes. So it’s really just taking that slow cook approach and how we develop these athletes. And I think a lot of these systems are being developed that way, right, you have to develop a good youth athletic development system that produces these athletes that gives the athletes those opportunities to run through the pipeline.

Emma Ostermann 28:25
Absolutely, that’s a really great point and brings up a point, you know, in terms of, you know, you’ve probably heard about it within you know, the environment of you have an athlete who maybe is really good at, say your team sport will say basketball, and then they just focus on that they don’t do anything else. But they’re probably losing out on skills that they could have gained from, you know, maybe being a two three sport athlete. James, I see, I see you have some thoughts as well, I’d love to hear from your side.

James Veale 28:49
Absolutely. So our draft age being an 18 being their senior year of school. That’s really the only time where where’s the pathway will start to suggest that that athletes will start to look at narrowing their focus across sports. So we’re really big on load management and not burning athletes out or having those overuse injuries. That’s the other traditional or big sports down here in Australia. So cricket is a big one, which has quite a lot of stress related injuries specially through back. So we get a little bit of concern and got that load, as well as just on the athlete from playing sports, as well as basketball. But the better players arguably are the ones who come from multi sport backgrounds. So we’re always getting those questions of if we’re going up the pathway, when are you going to tell them to stop playing cricket when he’s going to tell me to stop playing basketball so on and so forth that might be concerned concerning questions, but we’re really big on the strengths that you can gain from so many other different sports which crossover but then just making sure in that final year that you really haven’t found yourself in a situation where all you’re doing is playing sport and you’re forgetting You also need to train, and you need to develop and you need time in the gym. And if you’re constantly just trying to play, recover, play, recover, play recover, then your ability to actually continue to progress, your, your body’s natural development will really be stalled, which is what’s either going to really push you into that injury space for, really, I guess in the gate, the speed at which that first second third year in your senior career, if you’re fortunate, can really take off. One of the things that the AFL is really bounced about around about that, it almost sounds like it’s been going around for a very long time. But these are draft age. So we have to turn 18 In your year of the draft. So you could either be first of Jan, talking about that relative age effect, or December 31. But as long as you’ve turned 18, in that period, then you’re eligible. And there’s always been arguments as to whether we should actually push that up to 90 or beyond. So you know, a little bit more in that American sport, let’s say American football, where you have to do your two or three years in the collegiate level before you’re able to move in and know whether having that as a part of ours will give longevity, decrease injury risks, put a little bit less stress and pressure, knowing that final year high school exams are around the same time. So to digress slightly, say that 10 or 15 years ago, the actual draft itself was on the first day of the exam period for our kids, so to try and be able to focus in both aspects of life was always a challenge. Not for those who were your top two years, who, in a sense, knew they were going to get drafted. But I guess even in those, were they going to be drafted in state? Would they have to pack up their bags and move by the time they finish their last exam? So all of that is constantly being then questioned with Okay, well, then, how much more? Do we have to invest in the pathway to keep players in there for another year? Do you have your absolute superstars who could potentially play at the age of 70? Do they have to spin their wheels in the talent pathway for another 12 months, when really, they would actually be lining it up? In the senior competition? So can you have a tiered approach? Or do you just trust your second tier competition so that the guys who don’t get drafted are the girls who don’t get drafted at the age of 18? You know, make it as a 2021 22 year old, and can often forge some of our best players. Historically, there have been some who have had to have that resilience, have those extra years of development and come through absolute superstars to get so ironically, it’s actually our women’s draft tonight. So there’ll be a stack of heroes who will be really excited, and there’ll be others who will have to be looking for that next pathway.

Emma Ostermann 32:49
Absolutely, a lot of really good points made and one that came up was the idea of burnout. We you know, that’s, you know, especially starting from a very young age, you know, athletes are at risk, you know, if they’re only staying within this one sport, and then they are in that sport, and that’s all they’re doing, whether it’s, you know, going to tournaments every weekend, every like year round, or chasing snow in the offseason, just to maintain, you know, that ability from your guyses. And how do you help prevent burnout or help educate or given resources on how to prevent it?

James Veale 33:22
We have sorry, Mike, if you’re? Well, no, go ahead. we’ve chatted a lot of resources in the last couple of years, and probably would have been a lot further down the track COVID didn’t interrupt our progress, but in the wellbeing space in the welfare space and identifying the need for designated staff members to be there in regards to looking after their how they’re going with their education, constant communication with schools constant communication with their, the players themselves and family members. So whilst our coaches are usually got a finger on the pulse on a lot of stuff, it also enables that coach to be fully focused on the coach on the coaching side of things and our welfare person can really be that point of contact when a player might want to have a conversation with how they’re tracking on things. For more mental space without having to go to the Coach smartabase has been a huge one for us in our pathway. So having a daily wellness, which flags as to how players are playing, allowing them to communicate, centralizing our, the wide variety of staff are all linked into the one athlete so they don’t have to go and communicate to four different places for different places or people make six different phone calls to say I’m not doing well. They just log in once and we’ve already got our workflows in place to be makes contact who reaches out as well as just their basic training load. So keeping an eye on having a look at their acute and chronic training loads, keeping an eye on how their development is going any of the testing scores that we do as a pre screening measure to see if we can’t, you know, there’s that, that wonderful concept or idea that one day data might allow us to predict, the answer might allow us to really identify. And we might come across that magic formula that says for player A, that, you know, if a plus b is going to equal c, but if that’s even possible, at least we can start to hopefully identify the trends where we can start to have those conversations. And we use motivates in that way as our real conversation starter, something seems a bit odd, something seems a bit off. How are you tracking? What’s going on? Is it a headspace? Is it a stuff going outside? Is it that you’ve just been pushing too hard? And what have you been up to?

Emma Ostermann 35:48
Absolutely, Mark, what about from your guys’s side? curious to hear your thoughts as well?

Mark Dyer 35:53
Yeah, so I’ll kind of cover it on two aspects. So from like, the club level, and the youth level, I think it’s really kind of like I pointed to before is building that community. So not just seeing it as just strength training, but building it to be a diverse sense of skill building, right. So going on mountain bikes with the kids, as well as incorporating, you know, fun training sessions, other types of games, I think just building that physical well being around just doesn’t seem like the monotonous training, and then on Hill, and then training off Hill, and then on Hill. So I think at the youth level comes from a lot of the programming that you do, and the education that you give your athletes. And then of course, once they start moving up into that development system, it becomes so hard because what they have to commit to is terms of camps. And you know, they have to get that on on Hill time. So that’s where things like smartabase really do. Help us out with much monitoring, training loads. So like James was pointing to, we can have those conversations with an athlete. That’s one of the nice parts about once you get to the elite, you know, I have 12 athletes total that I work with on the DC team, six men, six women. So it’s really, it’s good that you can really keep your eye on what’s happening with an athlete, you see them day in and day out through their training. And you can tell when things are a little off. And then it’s nice to have that data that kind of supportive back and like listen, you’ve hit, you know, three weeks consistent where we’re starting to drop numbers. So like, let’s, let’s reframe what we’re doing here. And then having bringing the sport coaches in and they’re very receptive to, they understand very well like what we’re doing. And then how those numbers affect their overall chronic low throughout the year. So I think it’s an athlete, just giving them that education at the development level. And then understanding that and then knowing when to back off that rev limiter, there are times where we definitely want to hit that rev limiter, but we have to educate these athletes on proper recovery blocks. And to know that we need to take those recovery blocks to sustain you throughout your long term career, rather than just the short term results that we’re looking for. And this near future this next season, right, trying to take that long view in their in their career.

Emma Ostermann 38:01
Absolutely, absolutely. That’s a great segue. And, Jack, I do want to pose this next question to you, especially around data and analytics, as we all know, you know, it’s definitely taken off in the last several years. And in Jack, what, what are some of the most effective ways data and analytics can be used to support youth talent development? Jack,

Jack Halley 38:18
I think the important stepping stone that you really have to cover off on particularly in the participation levels is actually just having a centralized system to store all that data. And so let alone having, you know, an expert to interpret the data or the staff on hand, you really need that, that centralized platform to collect it. And, and often, that’s a really big challenge. You know, you have you have these, these volunteers, and these part time coaches that are at an earlier entry level, and they don’t necessarily have the expertise in capturing this data and storing this data at the end like said, let alone interpreting it. And, you know, often the insights that you’re wanting to get, particularly for, like a national sporting or organization that is looking to cap capture a lot of data, like a real breadth across, you know, all entry level sport, entry level athletes for their sport. So you really want to cast that wide net, but if you’re trying to, you know, store all that data in multiple different places, and if it’s a system that, you know, it’s not easy to pick up, or if you’ve got high turnover with staff, and it’s just getting dropped off from one coach to another, then you lose that ability to centralize it and then track that over time. So those key insights, markers leading to around the maturity of an athlete and their physical profile, as they go through their adolescence, you don’t get the ability to actually capture that information. So I think that’s where I really try and put myself in the end users shoes, working with people like JV on the AFL Academy site, for example, where I’m always trying I put myself in the lens of the end user. Like, if we’ve got someone who’s not familiar with the system coming in to use it, can they easily pick it up? Can they enter the data about their group with as few clicks as possible, is formatted in a way that it serves a purpose for these guys as an entry level group, but also for people higher up that organization higher up in the National Sporting organization that they can build these models, they can work with this data, it’s clean, it’s it’s valuable. There’s some consistency around how it’s been captured so that it can provide these greater insights. Sports are always looking and and clubs always looking for these unicorn athletes these days. So we’re trying to predict, you know, someone at the age of 15, are they going to be the next superstar by the time they hit 1920? And they’re coming into the League for the first time? What are the key things that we’re looking for in that maturity model? And if we don’t have that consistency of data capture, through their adolescence pathways through starting at that participation level, then we’re losing some really valuable insights there. So that’s definitely one of the biggest challenges. That’s yeah, like I said, with our role, and I know you do the same, and we were over there and states, we’re always trying to think, from that end user perspective, is this going to be a system that can withstand time withstand coaching staff turnover? It’s not going to be difficult for someone to pick up. And, and that’s really important, because if he, if you have that drop off, then before you know it, you’ve got data stored in four or five different locations, and people aren’t getting the quality that they want out of it. They’re not getting the insights.

Emma Ostermann 41:47
Absolutely, absolutely. And you brought up a really good point, Jack, especially from the end user side, whether it is an adult athlete or youth athlete, I think one of the biggest questions is what data do you share? And so our recommendation either Jack mark, or James, love to hear everyone here is what what type of data points or visualizations? Do you recommend sharing with a youth athlete? Who would be curious if you are putting them through these testing measures of okay, you are collecting this data on me? Can I see it? What do you guys recommend? Or how to navigate those types of conversations?

Jack Halley 42:18
I just jump in real quick, just with a few thoughts. You know, again, Emma, you’re in a similar situation. So we’re pretty privileged to be able to see how multiple different organizations do it we’re working across that entire spectrum that I spoke about a couple of times from participation to elite. So I really do think it does, you do have to factor in the age of the athlete, the nature of the data that you are capturing. So the emotional intelligence of the athlete, but also the importance, you know, is this, are they at a level where their performance is really critical to what they’re trying to achieve? Or is it just about them competing and enjoying the sport and continuing to develop? So I think as you progress down that spectrum, you’re really wanting to towards the elite level, yes, you’re then trying to give feedback around, you know, performance compared to a standard or compared to your peers. And that is constructive information. You know, I’ve been at that level. And I know there are high end athletes that just want to ingest as much information as they can about their own performance. And, and they’re really good at just breaking that down consuming that and gaining insights they need and going on to their to their next performance. But also know that there’s that there are a lot of athletes at that level that don’t care at all, it’s a real detractor for them. They don’t want to, they don’t want to dive into that that’s their, that’s a play and they’ve got a job to do. And, you know, that’s the data is for other people to interpret into to gain insights. But, you know, they receive that coaching, but they don’t need to get into the the numbers and the figures of it all. And I think at the other end at that participation level, you know, it’s really, it’s really something you have to be careful about, you know, you don’t want athletes interpreting that that data in the wrong way, you know, it can be really detrimental. Those athletes aren’t necessarily going to realize that, you know, peers the same age as them are at different maturity levels. So it’s not unexpected to think that someone who’s going through puberty at an earlier age, they’re going to be bigger, stronger, taller, their performance, it’s going to be arguably at a higher level then, and someone else and some of their other peers at the same age. It’s not maybe necessarily the best thing to be showing that comparison data at an early age and it’s about them just participating and enjoying and growing. So yeah, and the nature of the data is really important as well, again, back at that elite level, I’ll use some of the anthropometric data that we collect in the system and I’ve had conversations with proteins about what exactly that they will feed back and you know, someone that might have a slightly higher BMI or as miss their skinfolds target. At an extreme, some athletes will interpret that as I’m overweight, and I’m or I’m obese, and I need to lose all this weight. And it can have a really negative stigma about how they’re doing everything and how they’re eating and how they’re training. And you can quickly see how that can spiral and then looking for those 1% edges at that level. So you got to be really considerate about, am I going to feed any information back? And if I am? Is it a comparison between my peers? What what is the nature of that data? So I’m sure Mark and Jay, they’ve got more subject matter expert opinions to share on that topic.

James Veale 45:44
Just spoken really well, then Jack. It’s almost like you know, our system. So one of the things that I would just add to what Jack said, Because I fully agree, is that at a bare minimum, we take a lot of our state guys through or, and want it to be fed down through our state leaks, you know, basic presentations of why certain information had been collected. So it doesn’t need to be a full in depth over the top university in code style lecture. But it’s more to give them an understanding of why do I have a GPS unit on my back when I go out and play a game? What are those numbers being collected? Why am I doing fitness testing? Why am I filling out some basic player information? Questions? And how does the AFL industry who I guess are the people that are looking to recruit me? And I’m looking to impress? How are they using this information or reading this information? Or at the end of the day? Why? Why does that information exist? So if we can give them some basic understandings, then it I guess it destigmatizing some of it, it makes it a little bit more understood. And then it opens up the door for those who are really keen to properly I guess, digested and delve into it, as Jack said, to come up with more targeted questions. So I think obviously, information for me is power, but only for those who are really keen to know that information. And if we’re asking them to, to do something to record something to enter info, to where different wearables, then we also have that duty to give them a really clear, simple understanding of, of why we’re asking them to do that. And how we as either their coaches, or where’s that collective industry? are utilizing that information?

Emma Ostermann 47:46
Absolutely, absolutely. Mark, do you have anything else to add?

Mark Dyer 47:49
Yeah, I’ll just touch on that. You guys brought up great points about how to use it with the athletes. And one, one thing that we I share a lot of the information of is what have returned to play athletes, it’s something that when an athlete is injured This is is huge for them to understand what we’re looking for in terms of criteria for them to make it back into progress on from stage three to stage four to stage five to back to play. So it gives us like James said, the information is power. And when we get them on ForcePlates. And under the bar, and they can see what they’re actually doing right to left, it gives us a real concise validation of why the athlete is in the stage and helps us really solidify that criteria and have those tough conversations with athletes, as they, you know, you’re not ready to move on to the stage yet, you know, and it’s hard. But if you show them the data, and that these are the numbers that we’re trying to hit them, they only buy into the strength and conditioning program more. And they understand those pieces of technology are there to help them return to sport at a better level than before. So when it comes to that return to sport piece, I think it’s so critical that we have that information. And it really helps us as coaches relay that message to not rush the process and to see these actual trends in this data that we get them back into the right into the right form into the right play. So I think that’s a huge benefit to having that information.

Emma Ostermann 49:08
Absolutely. Absolutely. There has been a ton of great points made today. And you know, I would like to invite you know, Jack, Mark, or James, you guys have any other final thoughts you’d like to add? You know, just in terms of, you know, just the topic surrounding us talent development. Do you guys have any final thoughts you’d like to add to the conversation?

Mark Dyer 49:29
Yeah, go ahead and chime in some final thoughts here. We kind of touched on it too. And I think that the talent will come as long as we have the right systems set up and play right. I think as long as we have the right youth athletic development models and statements and high performance programs and along with the right sporting education and coaching I think all those things together really help develop systems that don’t let athletes feel left behind because they’re feeling supported and uplifted by all the coaches they see both on the sport side and the strength and conditioning side. So I think as long as we all keep driving and striving to develop bigger and better programs and have more intention and meaning behind the program that we’re programming that we’re doing, and how we can affect our youth athletic development, I think that talent will come. And I think it’s, I’ve, in the past five years, I’ve seen this area really spiking, it’s been awesome to be a part of it, and to see where it’s gonna go as well. So that’s what I would say kind of some final notes on that talent identification marker, as long as the system is there, and we keep striving for that that talent will come.

Jack Halley 50:33
I would say, just putting my smartabase cap on again, I’m in a position where I’m privileged to see entire national sporting organizations and their their pathways top down and how they’re structured. And that structure is really key. Like I’ve been sort of reiterating the some of my conversations throughout this chat. You know, at that participation level, when you have part time coaches, when you have volunteers, you know, they might not necessarily have that, that really well educated background on necessarily what to do with the athletes, they’re just there to because they put their hand up. But the national sporting organizations that have a structure in place that have some systems that can support all the way down that continuum down to the participation levels, I think they do best. And I’ve seen it at the other end, where they don’t have that top down support. And it’s, it’s really messy, you know, we see new clients coming on, they’re trying to collate all of their old data systems into one and it’s, it’s an absolute mess and, and ultimately, that’s going to affect the development of the athletes and the top tier talent that they can end up end up producing to go and represent their country at the at the highest level. So from my perspective, working with Fusion sport, and all of the different clubs and pro teams that we work with, I found that really important.

James Veale 51:55
To add to both of those communication collaboration, for me, a really huge, there are so many staff that are fantastic at what they do in our pathway programs. And we all have that same well meaning approach when it comes to that youth development. And we all literally are doing very, very similar things, it’s just we might use different terminology, we might call an exercise something slightly differently. Or we might do the same sort of acute chronic training, load monitoring, but we do it through different Excel formats, or through different graphs or through different ways, shapes or means and to be willing to, to have those really clear open conversations to, to bring everyone on board into a more unified approach, where it’s not so much a big brother coming in saying this is the only system you can use. But it’s really being collaborative in bringing everyone along the journey. And involving everyone from a work workers perspective, into that journey of here’s a centralized system, which has the benefits of being able to show you a, b and c both in your own single singular program, but also right across your state and right across your country and really open up if we were all jumping on board and working together, how we can get so much more information not just on your player aid, but how that player a, I guess is going in compared to their peers right across the state to give us lots of trends and gain a better insight into how we can help that player I get, I guess the best out of themselves. So leaving a little bit of ego at the door or being willing to find different ways or adjust our our ways and means just ever so slightly so that we can all be I guess working more in a more targeted approach.

Emma Ostermann 53:54
Absolutely, absolutely. So many great points and conversation starters that were made today and thank you to each of you for for joining us and if any of our listeners would like to connect with you what would be the best way? James going to get over to you first?

James Veale 54:08
Yeah, cool. I have quite a lonely a low key social media profiles. So easiest for me will be email, which is just my full name with the middle initial so James P for Phillip veal. So Hit me up and I’ll do my best to get back to you ASAP.

Emma Ostermann 54:28
Perfect. Mark, what about yourself?

Mark Dyer 54:32
Yeah, if anyone wants to reach out email is good for me as well at Mark

Emma Ostermann 54:41
Perfect. And finally, Jack, what’s the best way to connect with you?

Jack Halley 54:45
Likewise for me, so and I’m also on LinkedIn as well if you’re on that.

Emma Ostermann 54:52
Perfect, Jack, Mark and James, thank you so much for each of your guys’s time today. We appreciate it and the conversation was just as such To Great conversation. We look forward to more of these conversations in the future. Until next time, thank you all and if you found this conversation valuable please follow the Vanguard roundtable podcast on your favorite platform and share with your friends and colleagues. We’ll be back next month the Vanguard roundtable podcast is brought to you by fusion sport maker smartabase, the premier human performance optimization platform for elite sports and military organizations. This resource organizes hundreds of performance tech on the market today into outcome based categories such as external load monitoring, hydration, performance tracking, musculoskeletal screening, and more. To download your free copy of the HBO tech stack, visit form dot Dejan forward slash HBO dash tech dash stack


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