April 2018, Articles

Team Behind the Team: Performance support

Providing athletes and coaches with holistic support tailored to their precise needs

Pole vault ace Eliza McCartney may star in an individual sport but her rise to the top would not have been possible without the support of her dedicated team, which she describes as like “a family.”

From her inspirational and innovative coach, Jeremy McColl, to her group of highly valued High Performance Sport NZ service providers; which include Physio Lou Johnson, Jane Knobloch, Doctor Dan Exeter, Performance and Technical Analyst, Deborah Sides, Nutritionist Jeni Pearce, Life Advisor Carolyn Donaldson and Sports Psychologist, Campbell Thompson, the Olympic bronze medallist has an enviable number of experts in her corner to aid her push for the podium.

Eliza McCartney and Coach Jeremy McColl

Leading the programme, to ensure Eliza optimises her training performance, is Jeremy, who makes the vaulter’s key planning decisions, determines her daily training programme and who also works closely with her team of High Performance Sport NZ service providers.

With Eliza also offering regular input the task for Jeremy is to maximise the use of the rich resources at his disposal.

“I need to find the balance and making sure the different service providers are doing certain things at the right times because Eliza’s needs differ depending on the time of the season,” he explains. “Juggling the services around this is probably the biggest challenge.”

Jeremy will organise case management meetings with the various providers to work out a plan but much of the day-to-day management between Jeremy and the High Performance Sport NZ staff is carried out by Athletics NZ High Performance Coach Manager, Michelle Wood.

Her role – described by Jeremy as “critical” – is to liaise with High Performance Sport NZ staff on Jeremy’s behalf to ensure Eliza is given the necessary and timely support she requires.

Eliza McCartney | AUT Millennium

“There are many moving parts to it but a lot of it comes down to good communication, which is easily achievable here in Auckland as the Athletics NZ building are both based out of the same site at AUT Millennium,” she says.

With a High Performance Sport NZ service provider tagged to athletics for every discipline, the level of expertise Eliza can draw upon is extensive and it is something the Aucklander genuinely appreciates.

“I’m very lucky to have such an incredible team supporting me,” she says. “It is also very helpful they are all based out of the same place where I train, which means I can fit everything comfortable into one day rather than driving all over the city.”

Following the highs of a sensational 2016 season when Eliza emerged on to the global pole vaulting scene, the Takapuna-based athlete, unfortunately, endured a nagging Achilles tendon issue, which restricted her from producing her very best at the 2017 IAAF World Championships.

Nonetheless, the 21-year-old knows she has access to the very best medical support via physio Lou Johnson and doctor Dan Exeter.

“I’ve been working extremely closely with at least one of my medical team every single day for the past few months,” she explains. “They’ve helped with my re-hab and monitored me closely, so that I’m ready for the season ahead. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Within the past 12 months, Eliza has also benefited from the introduction of Deborah Sides, to her team of High Performance Sport NZ service providers. The Performance and Technique Analyst has proved a hugely valuable addition providing instant and accurate feedback on everything from measuring runway speeds, timing of jumps and even how the brand and model of poles can impact upon the jump.

Jeremy sees her role as worth her weight in gold in offering top quality data to be used both during training and competition.

“Deborah provided video during the qualification rounds of the World Championships and having immediate access to that in terms of runway speeds and to check how everything is tracking correctly with hard numbers rather than purely visual feedback is vital,” he says. “I still use video, but there is no way I can provide the smart camera work with high-speed video and slow-motion replays that Debs can.”

Jeremy believes the formula of having “the right people in the right team environment” and being able to share information with High Performance Sport NZ is why the training and preparation model works so well.

For Eliza, the system has played an incalculable role in her success.

“High Performance Sport NZ take care of the little things, which leaves fewer things for me to worry about,” she says. “For piece of mind, that is quite a big component (in my success). The support is like a family and knowing I have that backing is very motivating.”