(Relatively) Fresh from attending, presenting, chairing a session, and making up the numbers at the SESNZ AGM, I thought it wise to jot down a couple of thoughts on my first SESNZ conference:
The 2017 SESNZ conference was held at the Avantidrome in Cambridge (pictured above), the home of New Zealand Track Cycling, with many of the other local High Performance Sport athletes operating in some capacity here too. The conference room was set overlooking the velodrome, and this certainly made for a unique set up as poster presentations and lunch were had overlooking some of New Zealand’s finest belt round the track. Speakers often used this as a point of reference too, which is a luxury we wouldn’t have had at other venues. The catering was provided by the Bikery Cafe, which adjoins the velodrome; Mrs Best and I have sampled their efforts multiple times prior, so I was especially pleased to see their fantastic array of delicious yet surprisingly healthy treats at tea breaks!
There were three presenters who really stood out (well four, see Best value for money for the fourth) over the two days.
First up Nic Gill, or Gilly, All Blacks Strength and Conditioning coach, and former WINTEC employee. Fresh from the longest game the current crop of All Blacks had ever played, Nic spoke about how he incorporates science in his practice and shared some honest truths about working at the coal face in the job every S&C graduate in the southern hemisphere thinks they want. Nic commands the room, irrespective of what he’s talking about…you listen. The key message from this session was don’t overscience, and leanness promotes meanness in a team: The All Blacks are the most successful team on the planet, yet employ a minimal staff of 5 full time members and live out of suitcases and containers. No base. No home. Just a tight-knit group working to be ‘ruthlessly effective’. There’s a form of clinical poetry to this – good teams become great teams when communication is effective, and Nic preached the value of being an effective communicator above all else.
On day two Rob Duffield of UTS, set the standard for every early morning presenter from here onwards. If there was a style of presenting I’d love to emulate this was it – passionate, knowledgable and dynamic…in a room that looked like most of its members needed an intravenous dose of caffeine, at 8:30am. Rob spoke on Recovery. Similar to Nic Gill’s message, Rob emphasised better basics and perhaps most impressively, managed to do so by largely citing his own work. Eat, sleep, move and worry about compression, hot, cold and all the rest once you’ve nailed that.
Thirdly, again on day two as part of a seminar block entitled Dopey Kiwi! chaired by Dr. Toby Mundel, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Emeritus Professor David Gerrard OBE. Prof. Gerrard spoke about the ethical obligations of prescribing substances that require a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to athletes. His talk was incredibly interesting, grounded in experience and practice but superbly delivered. A fascinating talk by a fascinating man.
On a personal note, presenting some PhD data was great (available via Researchgate).
However being pushed forward to chair a session on a series of running related talks was arguably the scariest opportunity a colleague has provided me to date. Dr Glynis Longurst (pictured below) was due to chair the session, but given my standing as a bit of a runner she kindly passed the session on to me.
Areas for growth and improvement
This idea was put forward at the AGM, with a view to increasing attendance and forming interest groups. I’ve seen this done to excellent effect at a number of conferences, especially ISENC in the UK. If a similar strategy could be achieved at SESNZ this would really increase its appeal, beyond sports science into sports medicine and associated professions.
This is a bit of a bugbear of mine. There were some excellent presentations and sessions, but sticking to time is part of delivering at a conference. All of the seasoned presenters did it, but a not small number of oral presentations overran – this disrupts the flow of the conference, and puts pressure on those presenting next, with those who have presented to time not rewarded for doing so.
Best value for money
This accolade has to go to Dr. John Hellemans. John delivered an extremely entertaining, largely autobiographical talk on all things triathlon. He has competed in the sport himself for many years, won age group world titles, and coached an extremely high standard of athletes in NZ and his native Netherlands, serving as an HPSNZ coach and a former dutch national coach. Perhaps his most notable protegee was Erin Baker, who won nine world titles and provided John with stories abound. The attention to detail, innovation and experimentation he employed in his own training and that of his athletes is a lesson to us all. Now living in the part of the world that gave birth to Arthur Lydiard and Percy Cerutty, British coaches by contrast seem reserved. Reflecting on John’s talk now, it seems as if he was almost daring us as sports scientists to drive towards solutions through self experimentation before athlete implementation…not a bad message at all.
If you can excuse the Fry and Laurie reference, I am pleased to share that my mate and colleague Regan Standing took home the gong for Best Poster. Regan is currently studying his Masters under Dr. Pete Maulder’s supervision, and had worked like a dog to get his data collected and processed to knock out this poster. He’s pictured here receiving his award from Dr. Glynis Longhurst, another WINTECee and board member of SESNZ.
I look forward to seeing SESNZ grow as a conference and organisation, and hope we at WINTEC can play our part through our Applied Practice Group sessions (see our Youtube channel here). There is also talk of SESNZ starting their own journal by early 2018. Superb.
SESNZ left me hungry to finish my PhD to be in a position to present further work next year. I look forward to maximising my membership over the next year, and hopefully seeing the conference grow whilst retaining the quality of keynote speakers. Let’s hope the scran is as good in Otago, as it was in Cambridge too!