Performance Leadership summit

22 Oct 2013 Posted by

It’s with great pleasure that I announce the inaugural Performance Leadership Summit, to be held at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa in Cape Town, SA, on November 21 and 22 this year.

The summit, which is being jointly organized by the Sports Science Institute (SSISA) and The Science of Sport, aims to link leading minds in the sports performance space.  It will be highly focused, targeting all stakeholders in the high performance world.  This includes coaches, sports scientists, managers, strength & conditioning coaches and personal trainers, athletes, and even parents.  Our aim is to fire up a conversation and then provide the networking opportunities to solve those problems moving forward.


The topics

If there is a topic relevant to high performance sport, we’ll cover it over two days of presentation, debate and networking.  Some of those topics will include:

  • Leadership, coaching and management concepts
  • Creating a high performance culture on a shoe-string budget
  • Overcoming the mental errors in sport and accessing the unrealized 80%
  • Successfully integrating sports science into coaching and HP management
  • Drugs in sport – progress, problems and the future
  • Strength and conditioning for elite athletes
  • The risks and challenges of supplement use among athletes
  • Sports business and the media – how to optimally manage these stakeholders in an HP environment

The speakers

For each topic, we have tried to get dynamic, authoritative figures to present their experiences and insights.  I’m very excited to announce that our keynote speaker will be David Epstein, who regular readers here will know as the author of the recent best-selling book, “The Sports Gene”, and an investigative journalist formerly with Sports Illustrated and now with ProPublica.

David will speak on some of the concepts he covered so expertly in The Sports Gene, including the role of talent and training in performance, the use of genetic testing to identify talent and the fascinating questions behind elite sports performance.  Because of his extensive investigative past, he will also contribute to panel discussions on doping and supplement use, and should provide a fresh and stimulating view on all these topics.

In addition to David, we have the following to look forward to as Keynote speakers:

  • Paddy Upton – High performance and leadership coach, including India’s World Cup winning cricket team, South Africa’s number 1 ranked test team, and current coach of The Rajasthan Royals
  • Roger Barrow – London 2012 Olympic gold medal winning rowing coach
  • Yours truly – I’ll speak about sports science in high performance sport and why it leaves so many coaches disillusioned

We also have panel discussions on doping, supplement use, strength and conditioning principles, injury management, media, business and sponsorship and community involvement in HP sport to look forward to, and I will announce those topics and speakers in more detail in coming weeks.  You can read more about our speakers at the bottom of this post.

The full programme is available on the Summit website, where you can check back regularly for updates on speakers as we get closer to the event.


The invitation

Since The Science of Sport began, the delivery of science to coaches, athletes, managers, clinicians and physical trainers has been a primary purpose.  This conference, which I’m confident will become an annual event, is another means to achieve that.

I think that sports science has largely failed to add value to coaches, athletes and teams.  I think people in sports science have missed their value, or have over-valued things that contribute to a relatively small proportion of sporting success, and over-relied on technology at the expense of common sense and ‘softer skills’, and I hope that our keynote address from the list of speakers you see above)

I know the announcement is relatively short, and I know that many of you reading this are international.  I will say that Cape Town in November is well worth the visit (this applies to readers in other parts of SA too!), and it would be a great pleasure to welcome you to SSISA and Cape Town for what I know will be a very stimulating week.

We have kept the conference registration fees very low – only R700 ($70), because our aim is not to make a profit and build a company, but rather to create debate and build intellectual capital, so we wanted affordability, and realize that travel to Cape Town may be a larger expense.  Nevertheless, it will be money well spent, and so if you are reading this, if you are in South Africa (or anywhere else), I hope that you will consider being with us in November for a very important occasion!

See you in Cape Town in November!



Keynote speakers

David Epstein

David EpsteinDavid Epstein is an investigative journalist with ProPublica, an independent newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.  Previously, he was a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, where he co-authored the 2009 report that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez had used steroids, as well numerous articles on scientific aspects of sport, including Lance Armstrong and doping, the dangers of the dietary supplement industry, the Caster Semenya and Oscar Pistorius controversies, and the science of two Olympics Games. His science writing has won a number of awards, including the 2010 Society of Professional Journalists prize for science reporting for a story on the genetics of athletic performance. Most recently, he is author of the New York Times bestseller, The Sports Gene, which delves into fascinating questions of talent, genetics, training and sporting performance.  David is an accomplished middle-distance runner, who was twice NCAA All-East in track and field, and competed at 2003 US indoor nationals.  He will speak on talent, sports science, doping and supplements at the Leadership in Performance Summit

Paddy Upton

PaddyPaddy Upton is a Leadership Coach in elite sport and business, Mental Conditioning Coach to professional athletes and a Head Coach. His first Masters degree in Sport Science led him to work as fitness trainer for the South African cricket and Western Province rugby teams. After 5-years, he left the fitness profession to search for what he perceived to be ‘something missing’ in the preparation of elite athletes. Following a second Masters degree in Leadership and Business Coaching, he has spent over a decade working as a Leadership Coach in high performance businesses as well as with various international athletes and sports teams. He helped lead the Indian National cricket team to the World No 1 test ranking and to winning the 2011 Cricket World Cup. He then helped lead the South African cricket team to become the new World test champions. As a head coach he led the underdog Rajasthan Royals IPL cricket team from the bottom of the log to 3rd in the 2013 IPL and 2nd place in the 2013 Champions League T20 tournament. This was done without a batting, bowling or fielding coach or fitness trainer. His passions include his family, surfing, trail running, fishing and yoga

Roger Barrow


Roger Barrow has been the National Rowing coach since 2009, and masterminded the gold-medal triumph of South Africa’s lightweight four in London 2012.  He has been coaching rowing since 1997 when he started the St Andrews School for Girls Rowing Club, moving to St Johns College in 2000 to set up their rowing program and club. At the same time he started the women’s rowing program at RAU University as well as coaching crews for the Junior World Championships.  He began coaching crews for the senior national team in 2002 and set up the Rowing Academy at the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria in 2005. This enabled him to specialize in rowing at a high performance level, becoming more familiar with and recognizing the importance of sports science. He continued to coach crews for U23, Senior World Championships, the all Africa Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Roger took over as National coach of Rowing South Africa in 2009, and built and prepared crews for the London 2012 Olympic Games, achieving Olympic gold in the process. His main purpose has been to prepare and consolidate a pathway for up and coming athletes, building them to an elite level capable of winning at international competition.

Ross Tucker

Ross face 1Dr Ross Tucker is an exercise physiologist and high performance sports consultant who consults with teams and federations including the USA Olympic Committee, Great Britain Olympic Sports Federations, the International Rugby Board, SA Sevens Rugby and SA Kayaking.  Having obtained his PhD studying the limits of human performance and fatigue from UCT, he worked in sports marketing and sponsorship strategy for SAIL before rejoining the University of Cape Town in 2010, where he now works as a Senior Lecturer and researcher.  His current research areas include barefoot running, talent management, the physiology of elite East African runners, kayakers, and athletes with cerebral palsy. Dr Tucker is known for forthright and evidence-based views on sports science, strategy and management, running a website called The Science of Sport, writing for local and international publications, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian (UK) and The Times (SA).  He was recently named by Mail and Guardian as one of South Africa’s Top 200 Influential Young South Africans, and by the SA Minister of Sport as one of the 100 most influential South Africans in sport.

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