The sports science universe is an ever-evolving sector with constant innovations positively impacting the development, performance and recovery rate of athletes and teams. This, while prolonging their potential careers.
When looking at world-class teams and professional athletes, new-age tech and equipment have offered them the opportunity of reaching once unobtainable goals through the use of these revolutionary advancements. Such as real-time data to monitor players and their developments on clinical levels, thereby preventing injury while increasing the athlete’s outputs on previous data inputs.
But when looking to the sculptors of all great athletes, school coaches, who work with aspiring athletes from a young age, what have they noted in terms of advances in sports science in their respective fields over recent years, plus how have sports and players changed?
The Newcastillian-Online News chatted with three respected, local sports coaches on the subject, this what they had to say:
Johan Jacobs being a well-known athlete within the sports community spearheads sport at St Dominics Newcastle and is an avid cricket player himself.
Soaking up a wealth of knowledge from professional cricket players, Johan explains, he was fortunate in the sense he was able to participate in several webinars with legendary players such as Jonty Rhodes. These webinars not only focused on improving players’ skills but also equipping coaches with new skills in high-performance cricket.
When delving into the topic of high-performance cricket and sporting equipment, Johan goes on to say, “A lot of smaller brands are now popping up, when compared to previous years. Coaching tools are also becoming more cost-effective, seeing prices steadily decline.”
One of the pieces of tech to hit the market which he feels is noteworthy is the latest Robotic Side Arm Ball throwers. Saying, “This is a training device, which helps both the bowler and batsman with accuracy and stamina. Furthermore, it saves the bowler’s shoulder during training sessions and still allows him or her to throw the ball at speeds of 150km, with less effort.” Adding, this is also more cost-effective than a bowling machine.
Another piece of equipment which he feels is proving to be a popular tool is the non-electrical bowling machine. Johan says, “It works with levers and springs to create the bowling effect. It can be adjusted to bowl at speeds from 100km to 150km.” And what makes this machine special is the fact, it is both portable and does not require plug points.
He highlights that one-on-one coaching is also making a major comeback, allowing developing cricket players to benefit from individual training in order to enhance their gameplay.
In regard to boosting players’ performance and the use of supplements, Johan says he personally prefers Collagen for Athletes. “It is great for muscle recovery and stamina, and does not necessarily bulk up your size.”
With new advances in tech and supplements for cricket players, he states, the game has changed dramatically over recent years.
Concluding with, “In the school front, cricket in smaller towns is not as big as it used to be. It has become more centralised in the bigger hubs such as Pietermaritzburg. However, cricket has become more competitive. These days, you can link a player from the under 9 division to a player from the under 13 division, seeing younger players development more, than those from previous years.’
When jumping across to hockey, Dean Bond being a pronounced athlete within the hockey community, holds the sport close to his heart.
As a hockey coach at Ferrum High School and the head of New Age Hockey Academy, he is no stranger to development within the world of hockey, Dean explains, the change from grass to Astro Turfs is making the game a lot faster. Elaborating, “The ball travels a lot quicker and fitness plays an important role in the game. The rules have also changed to help speed up the game and encourage more goals.”
But these are not the only changes hockey players are enjoying. Dean points out, hockey sticks have also evolved, moving away from wood to carbon fibre. Emphasising, “They are much lighter now and packed with more power.” Stressing that training has substantially changed as more equipment has been made available. This all fueled by the new age of resistance training, which sees players focusing on their agility and speed.”
Resistance training includes using bungee cords and parachutes. Pointing out some of the latest equipment such as stamina poles, crazy catch nets, alongside the resistance training, all helps generate more power in players’ legs.
As with every sport which looks at preserving and growing its participants and of course fan base, making the sport more exciting ensures viewership and participation continue to increase. In light of this Dean explains, “Hockey is being made more spectator orientated as it is unfortunately not as big in South Africa as sports such as rugby and football.”
On the topic of supplements, Dean admits he is not a big fan of using sports enhancing supplements. Stateing, “I prefer a more natural approach when it comes to boosting one’s body. I believe in eating right, consuming foods such as bananas and even dark chocolate when looking at boosting your fitness and recovery rate.”
Giving us some insight into the beloved South African past-time, rugby. Head of sports and the renowned coach for the 1st team rugby at Ferrum High School, Deon van Rooyen explains, “The demand on players can be classified as semi-pro. Players from as young as 14 years old, are now gymming hard. The demand is so much, that it has taken some of the joy away from the sport.”
As a sport with a strong competitive nature coupled with a potentially high-paying career after school, these young rugby players are so focused on their game performance and the success therein that, “Due to the pressure put on the players to win, some have begun taking steroids, which I am totally against as it is bad for their health,” affrims Deon.
Because of the strain put on rugby players at a school level, Deon emphasises that he often focuses on the love of rugby with his team. This is to ensure they do not lose focus on why they are really playing.
But when it comes to equipment which enhances performance, he says, there are tools which not only minimise injuries but also assist players in becoming stronger and more adept at gameplay.
Elaborating, “There is the new hydraulic scrumming machine, which is designed in such a way that it can’t hurt the players’ necks or backs. There is also the star bag, which is used for tackling. Unlike older tackling bags, one does not need to pick up the star bag every time someone tackles it. Players can tackle it straight after each other.”
The safety aspect of the game has seen a massive leap, with Deon saying safety has become such a vital part of rugby with coaches now having to undergo courses every two years to renew their knowledge.
This, all to ensure players do not sustain major trauma or injuries through playing rugby with a concussion or any other rugby-related injury. The main purpose of the strict safety protocols are to protect the children and to ensure they can enjoy rugby for as long as possible.
In conclusion and with regards to supplements within the sport, The rugby coach says, he is not keen on products which could be detrimental to the children’s health. However, if need be, he explains he would rather see his players use scientifically and health approved protein and grow shakes from accredited retailers or medical practitioners. This is to ensure there are no long-term health-related issues.
The developments within sports are elevating players on a scale which is incomparable when compared to bygone years. With the sporting world constantly evolving, these three coaches make it clear, school sports are no longer just about playing with friends on the sports grounds. It is now a world of highly competitive and ever-increasing levels of excellence which one is working to obtain, while limiting the possibility of injury.
Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer
Edited: Calvin Swemmer