Interview with Apollo’s Dr.Tony Strudwick
Tell me a little bit about your career?
Following a degree in Sports Science at Loughborough University, I spent 2 years living in the United States working as a full-time soccer coach. On return to the UK, I enrolled in a Masters programme at Loughborough University (Sports Science) that led to a research PhD with Liverpool John Moores University under the mentorship of Professor Tom Reilly. I was based in an applied field setting and had 3 excellent years with Coventry City Football Club learning the role and combining research responsibilities. My role encapsulated the whole club and I had the privilege of working from 1st team down to the Academy.
Following Coventry City, I had 3 years working with the English FA. This role was split into 3 separate areas of team support, research and coach education. While team support led me to working up to U21 level, I gained an excellent understanding of Tournament match-play experiencing Youth World and European Championships.
I left the FA in 2003 to join West Ham United where I spent 3 seasons working in London. Following West Ham, I moved to Blackburn Rovers and enjoyed another 3 seasons working with Mark Hughes and his coaching staff.
I joined Manchester United FC in 2007 and had 11 years working across all levels of the club. My latest Role is Head of Performance at FAW working with Ryan Giggs. See Bio attached for extra information.
Who are the big influences in your career as a sports scientist?
Two key figures outside of my family and education have been Sir Alex Ferguson and Professor Tom Reilly. Sir Alex Ferguson supported the sports science programme at Manchester United and empowered us to continually innovate in the space of sports science and athlete development.
As a Sports Scientist, the late Professor Tom Reilly had a profound influence on my personal development and passion for sports science. Along the journey, Professor Jens Bangsbo and Paul Balsom, have helped shape my ideas around science and football.
Outside of science, Vern Gambetta and Kelvin Giles have certainly stimulated ideas that I believe should support athlete development. Then of course, the biggest influence on my career have been coaches players alike. I have been extremely lucky to work with some excellent head coaches and assistants in my career.
And of course, the players at all of the aforementioned clubs influenced the how and why of sports science and athlete management.
What lessons would you give to someone wanting to be the very best sports scientist and strength coach in professional sport?
Work hard, study hard and do more than expected! Connect with as many industry practitioners as possible and keep knocking on doors. Badger them and pick their brains. The best people in the business are often the best human beings who will be more than happy to share their time and ideas. Be original and develop your own ideas through intuitive craft knowledge and basic scientific principles. Don’t take yourself too seriously and never think your way is the only way. High performance sport is very rewarding but is a very pressured environment. Prepare yourself for that and make sure you balance work and life. It takes years and years of sustained applied experience to build craft knowledge. There are no shortcuts to the top and it takes time, patience and luck!
In your career, you have won several titles… what are the differences between being a good team and being a great team?
Great teams have a culture of sustained winning performance that allows them to win over an extended period of time. In these great teams, there will be a commitment model where every member of the team is aligned to core processes. Good teams may have temporary success, that can be manufactured by resources or short terms goals, but great teams have a performance resilience over years of development. Often, these great teams have clarity and understanding and are led by authentic leaders. These are what we call High-Performance teams. High-performance is a concept within organization development referring to teams, organizations, that are highly focused on their goals and that achieve superior business results. There are a number of critical facets of great high-performance teams, including:
Good teams may exhibit one or two of the but do not share these consistently over time.
1. Personal and team goals achieved
2. Work ethic and preparation
3. Courage to face the challenge
4. Commitment - excellence is a choice
5. Willingness to keep learning
With so much data being collected in the world of sport, what things have you learned to do with that data and where do you think people are going wrong with collecting data?
We now live in an information rich world where the decision-making process is complicated. The traditional bases of sport are changing fast. Innovation in products and services is more challenging by the day. Expectations go on rising. Sporting clubs have more and more data on hand but they have far less room for errors in execution, so decision-making has to be sharper and better informed. All in all, these factors call for superior analytics and deeper scientific insights into what makes a team successful. Analytics will involve the extensive use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, explanatory and predictive model, and fact based management to drive decisions and actions.
The analytics may be input for human decisions or may drive fully automated decisions. It must be stressed that analytics and intuitive decision-making need not represent two diametrically opposed paradigms. Nonetheless, contemporary coaches and sports scientists will have first-hand experience of how the intelligent use of analytics can improve asset acquisition and management, talent management, operational performance, and even injury prediction. It is imperative then, that sports science in sport continues to promote itself as a positive service. The alternative is an oversubscribed, under-valued service that fails to engage with players, coaches and clubs alike.
One of the biggest learnings for me in recent years is to combine data with intuitive decision making. We train athletes not spreadsheets, so it is critical to engage with the athlete rather than treating them as performance metrics. This is the art of athlete management and often where some practitioners fail to utilise both analytics and intuition.
Why have you chosen to join the Apollo team?
Following years of iteration, I believe the Apollo platform is the best in the market space.
I have chosen to join the Apollo team because I feel the company will be at the forefront of improving athlete management and performance through sharper and better-informed insights. Athlete management is fast becoming a game changer in terms of developing a competitive advantage.
Apollo will co-exist and help support this process. Then of course, it comes back to why we have a purpose in professional sport. To help support the individual and team to maximise performance.
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