In the UK on Sunday we’ve just had the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, won this year by cyclist Bradley Wiggins, the first Briton ever to win the Tour de France and winner of Olympic gold medal for the time trial less than two weeks later.
All this years 12 contenders came from sports that are commonly seen as individual sports – cycling, tennis, athletics, golf, boxing, sailing, swimming, though winning the Tour de France is undoubtedly a team effort (more below). However, one consistent theme, as the 12 athletes were interviewed throughout the evening, was the credit that the athletes gave to their support teams. This extends beyond their coaches, Bradley Wiggins gave credit to both the Team Sky riders, coaches and the support staff. Fittingly, Dave Brailsford, principal of Team Sky and Performance Director for British Cycling, won the coach of the year award, where he also credited Shane Sutton (Head Coach), Rod Ellingworth (Race Coach) and Tim Kerrison (Head of Performance Support), as well as re-iterating the importance of support, this time for the coach:
“I am lucky because I get to collect the award but there is a great team behind me. It is about the athletes, it is about the riders and we have a brilliant team in British Cycling and Team Sky. My job is to look after other people and to get them to be better.”
Another example of the extended nature of the support team is British tennis player Andy Murray, who came third on the night. Winner of Olympic gold in 2012 in the men’s singles and, in winning the US Open in September, he became the first Briton to win a grand slam in 76 years. A look at Murray’s box during his matches shows the extent and varied nature of his support team. It consists of Ivan Lendl (coach), Danny Vallverdu (hitting partner & friend), Andy Ireland (physio), Matt Little (fitness trainer), Jez Green (movement trainer), Kim Sears (girlfriend), Judy Murray (mum) and Louise Irving (agent/commercial management).
Murray’s team illustrates the variety of those that provide support and that it is not just the technical support of his coaching team that he values but also his family and friends.
The nature of any team in elite sport is, as Dave Brailsford said, “to get them to be better”. We can all perform better but this performance improvement needs to be around specific goals. In cycling this year, the results of last years sports personality of the year, sprinter Mark Cavendish, suffered in the Tour de France, as his team focused on the overall win with Bradley Wiggins. The focus on getting a clean British winner within five years of the establishment of Team Sky (four years ago) has been achieved as Brailsford had the vision and planned rigorously to achieve that goal.
In 2013 Andy Murray’s team will be aiming to do better than 2012, with the focus being on the four grand slams. For us also, we should be establishing goals for 2013, planning for them by thinking through what performance is needed and working with our support team to achieve our goals. The support team may include a coach but we have other sources of support that we can tap into, including our family and friends and those we work with and for. Look for honest feedback on your capability and performance and not just in the annual or twice yearly review. Performance assessment should be on-going, not after the fact.