Q&A With Dr. Stephen Bird

I tell you what, having the pleasure of being able to speak with Birdy is a real treat. He’s been around this game long enough to drop a few gems. Here is what I asked him…


A) What is it that makes a brilliant high performance coach?


Your ability to communicate.  From pre-elite to elite youth athletes, from semi-pro to professional, from coaches and general managers and key stakeholders in the board room. It all comes down to your ability to communicate your message in a language that your audience will understand. Irrespective of the standard of athlete, you can design the best training program but if you cannot get the key messages across to engage your athlete in the training process, it will be extremely hard if not impossible to achieve your performance outcomes. Let’s not forget that communication is not just about the spoken or written language but also about your ability to listen. Your ability to listen is just as important, if not more important than your ability to speak. To highlight this point, lets reflect a great line from Jackie Chan in the movie Rush Hour: "I like to let people talk who like to talk. It lets me find out how full of s*** they are." I highlights this point, because in our industry there are a lot of coaches that do not have the athletes best interest at heart and they are usually the ones that like to talk and are often full of s*** !


B) For athletes, what are they training too much and not enough?


All that’s a really good question Coach Connolly. For me, it’s athletes and coaches looking for the quick fix, looking for the next gimmick, and just not putting in work. We need to ensure athletes train to produce force efficiently for their sport. I need to be strong. Look at the work from Dr Dan Baker and Prof. Greg Haff, strong athletes are more resilient. Let’s keep it simple, they need to push, pull, squat, lunch, hinge. My observations are that some coaches and athletes do not invest enough time in the weight room to get strong. Stop looking for the gimmicks and just lift!


C) Who are you top 3 most inspiring athletes and coaches?


Coach Connolly man you are testing me now ... Look, in our recently published book When Winning Matters: Lessoned Learned from Sport’s Elite, Coach Beveridge and I cover a number of athletes that possess unique traits that make them the best competitors, traits such as Emotional Intelligence, Self-belief, and Psychological Resilience. We outlines these in Chapter 5 – THE X FACTOR.  But if you are only going to give me three, well here they are: (1) Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens, NFL Hall of Fame, Super Bowl MVP; (2) Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics, 2X NBA ALL-STAR; and (3) Tracey Hannah (‘LittleTrace’), NS bikes UR Team Racing, UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup Champion; and Mick Hannah, NS bikes UR Team Racing, 21 year veteran and legend of Downhill Mountain Bike (‘Sik Mik’ has stood on the UCI World Cup podium 17 times with one victory, 3 medals at World Championships and 16 Crankworx medals). Man, I know that is four. All of these athletes inspire so many people, in so many ways and I have been privileged to train both Tracy and Mick.


From a coaching perspective, I have been very lucky to be around some of the best coaches from the NRL, NBL and WNBL and continue to watch, listen and learn. Coach Rob Beveridge (aka Bevo), is a standout for his ‘Athlete-centred’, ‘Coach-driven’ and ‘Administrative-supported’ philosophy. I’ve been fortunate to work with Bevo for early 10 years across the Perth Wildcats, Illawarra Hawks and Basketball Scotland. Coach Guy Molloy, Head Coach of Basketball New Zealand Tall Ferns, has an ability to get the most direct messages across in the most subtle way. As you know I just returned from the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup with Coach Molloy and the Tall Ferns. Coach Shawn Dennis, Head Coach of the Townsville Crocodiles. To see what Coach Dennis was unable to achieve with one of the youngest rosters in the NBL was truly unbelievable. And a testament to his coaching is to see the player development and growth in these young guns, like Mitch Norton, Clint Stindel, and Nick Kay. And finally Ivan Clearly (Penrith Panthers) and Craig Bellamy (Melbourne Storm).


D) What have you learned in the last 2 years that has become invaluable for you?


Collaborate, collaborate and collaborate some more. Find the best people in the field in the way of that area is that you’re trying to learn about, reach out to them and look for avenues to collaborate. For example, I reached out to a leading sleep physician in the US, Dr. Meeta Singh, MD. This has led to an international research collaboration and several publications international journals. Our publication, ‘Urgent wake up call for the National Basketball Association’ published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, receive significant media across the US.


E) What’s something you know, that others don’t know, that they should know?


You don’t know everything and it’s ok to admit that. With so much change in the field strength and conditioning and performance science is extremely challenging to stay across all that is going on. Find your area, that thing you’ll be known for, and become the expert in that area. Now, if athletes and coaches asked questions that you do not have the answers to, it is okay to say you don’t know. However, you must differentiate yourself from those that are  full of s***  and do your best to find to the answers. In doing so, stay true to yourself, you values and you beliefs.


How good is this???? If you want more of these, drop a comment below or message me privately with you who think needs to be on here. 

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