With a very clear target of podium success in Paris 2024, Birmingham 2022 gold medal high jumper Hamish Kerr has set up a performance support structure which could affectionately be entitled the management team of Kerr and Co.
With Hamish taking up the role of CEO, or Chairman of the Board, he is joined fortnightly for what he describes as the all-important face to face team meetings to ensure his support team are sitting in the same room in Christchurch, working collaboratively and are completely across everyone’s roles.
The management team at Kerr and Co HQ charged with helping Hamish achieve his goal is a big one – Athletics NZ coach Terry Lomax, HPSNZ Strength & Conditioning Coach Simeon Joplin, Bio-Mechanic specialist Matt Ingram, Physiotherapist Tamsin Chittock, Mental Skills Coach John Quinn (Quinny), Nutritionist Rebecca Cooke, S&C Performance Technical Analyst James Sandilands and Performance Life Coach Anna Simcic.
“I’ve set up a formal fortnightly meeting schedule with my support team so everyone is on the same page at all times,” says Hamish. “We go through what has happened in the previous two weeks and what needs to be done in the upcoming fortnight.
“I guess it is a bit like a business set up – I prepare the agenda and Quinny runs the meetings and takes notes. So at the end of each meeting everyone is really clear on what they need to do and what I need to do.”
Hamish says the role of each of his support team is very specific. “Terry does the technical stuff on the track and works extremely closely with S&C coach Simeon and Bio-Mechanist Matt to ensure there is the right focus on power and speed – in the gym and on the track – with the goal of delivering repeatable experiences.”
This group is joined by S&C Performance Technical Analyst James who works with Matt and Simeon and is what Hamish describes as the super-sub. “James’ athletics background and professional skills means he is across my whole programme and can fill in any gaps as and when needed.”
Physiotherapist Tamsin also works closely with Terry to forecast and minimise injury risk based on the phase Hamish is in.
Working alongside this group is Nutritrionist Rebecca whose role is primarily tracking Hamish’s body composition in different phases.
“She is constantly monitoring to identify additional things for my diet – food and supplements. Rebecca looks for ways to utilise my body to jump higher and to help me maintain my optimal body weight,” says Hamish.
“There are phases, for example, where we experiment with different body weights to identify impacts, including on recovery.”
Mental skills coach Quinny has been working with Hamish for four years. “I rely on Quinny a lot, especially when I’m competing. He is always on call when I’m overseas and plays a vital role in understanding how I am feeling, taking learnings, unpicking where my head is at and helping improve my mental tenacity,” says Hamish.
The final cog in the Kerr and Co wheel is Performance Life Coach Anna. While she sits slightly to the side Hamish says her role is particularly important to ensure he is getting the right balance in other areas of his life. “Her role is about me as a human, not as an athlete and she focusses on my identity, the journey I’m on and the contingency plans – if my sporting career ended what does life look like.”
HPSNZ spoke with two of the key members of Hamish’s performance support team – S&C Coach Simeon and Mental Skills Coach Quinny.
Simeon reiterated that collaboration was absolutely the key theme for the team. “I’ve only been working with Hamish for three months and a big focus has been building a relationship with Terry who has an amazingly collaborative approach.
“Typically a coach would write the S&C programme as well as be in charge of on the track technical aspects. We’ve rather turned that model upside down with Terry spending most time on his specialist technical area and me taking total responsibility for the S&C programme, albeit developed in conjunction with Terry. We meet weekly either at the high jump site or in the gym.”
Simeon reinforces the strong team focus with everyone playing their part to align programmes that will meet Hamish’s needs but not overload him or compromise his wellbeing.
While the face to face fortnightly meetings are important, so too is a cloud-based system the support team uses.
“Everyone can see all the same documents, see his calendar, when, where and what is in each session – whether at the track with Terry or in the gym with me.
“The idea of the team meetings is not unique however in my experience the execution is,” says Simeon. “The credit for that has to go to Hamish and especially Terry whose openness, willingness to cede control and commitment to sharing information is phenomenal.”
Mental skills coach Quinny takes up the Kerr & Co analogy. “I liken Hamish to the Chairman of the Board, or CEO, but he is also the worker.
“Like a good and effective board or management team, our role is to challenge and support Hamish, to allow him the autonomy to work towards his goals yet be there and have the conversations that can mean little, but critically important shifts and adaptations.”
As Hamish’s mental skills coach Quinny’s role varies depending on whether Hamish is home or abroad. “At home it is important that he builds up his mental skills toolbox to manage pressure and stress. Once he is overseas it is more about providing proactive support for an upcoming competition and fine tuning.”
Quinny says the fortnightly meetings cause a ripple effect. “Everyone knows where Hamish is at and we try to front foot any issues to, for example, prevent mental stress becoming physical stress and vice versa.”
Like Simeon, Quinny has nothing but praise for Terry.
“Maybe it is Terry who has been the CEO and it is the measure of the man and his humility to ‘stand down’ in what he sees as being the best interests of Hamish and his ability to achieve his goals.”
Whether it is the individual team members or the group at Kerr and Co, one thing is very clear. All agree the way they operate is a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
“Together we will be best placed to help me achieve what I need to do to get onto the podium in Paris,” says Hamish.