Hosted in conjunction with the Wits Counselling and Careers Development Unit, the inaugural Wits Sports Peak-Performance Summit – held from 24 to 25 November – invited a number of key professional sporting individuals to impart crucial knowledge and skills around how to inject and sustain a successful high-performance culture within any designated sporting environment.
Representatives from universities, schools and provincial federations were also in attendance, including the University of Johannesburg, North-West University, Monash South Africa, St John’s College, King Edward VII School (Kes), St Mary’s School, Parktown Girls’ High School, the Gauteng Cricket Board and the Golden Lions Rugby Union. Speakers at the two-day event included former New Zealand, USA and Golden Lions rugby head coach, John Mitchell, who showed why he is considered, by many, as the best coach in the country.
Mitchell said at least two things needed to be present in a good team – excellence and meeting expectations consistently. He stressed the importance of trust and said that failure is often only an opportunity in disguise.
Wits 1st team basketball team coach, Tshiamo Ngakane, added that talent is usually overrated when recruiting it in a negative way. “Talent will always disappoint you. It is all about getting the right people for your team. Having exceptional people will give you an exceptional team.”
Conversely, Varsity Cup Dream Team conditioning coach Jacques Durandt illustrated how a lack of money and resources should not limit the high-performance sporting programme. He also offered possible practical solutions to some of the more obvious stumbling blocks that school teams face in the high-performance environment. A panel discussion on the values of sport at schools saw representatives from Kes, St Mary’s and Jeppe Boys, emphasise the need to strike a clean balance between sports and academics.
Peak-performance life coach Rob Yates’s discussion, however, centred around the language of the mind. “The mind is like the body’s supercomputer. It’s able to put out whatever you put into it out until it breaks at some point in time.
“But that’s actually a sporting problem because quite often coaches say ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’, and it hits the mind, and for some reason, performers blank and then they don’t act on whatever it is that the coach has asked them to do.”
Jeff Lunsky, who is the fitness trainer for the Highveld Lions, discussed the importance of strength and conditioning in the professional and school cricket environment in relation to achieving peak performance, while Wits’ 1st team rugby coaches, Hugo van As and Johannes Mongalo discussed the foundations for high-performance success. Mongalo stressed that coaches should strive to understand the whole person – explaining that the scholar or athlete needed to be understood in the physically, emotionally and mentally.