This is the seventh instalment of a series of interviews with industry leaders in fields such as Strength & Conditioning, Coaching, Physical Therapy, Sports Psychology, Nutrition & Physical Education.
In this latest post we hear from Melbourne based Strength & Conditioning coach, Adrian Mott. Being involved in the Aussie track and field scene, I came to know of ‘Motty’ after he destroyed the field in the 2006 Stawell Gift (see below) and took home the $40,000 winners cheque. Soon after this, we both ended up being enrolled in the same Masters of Exercise Science (S&C) course at ECU in Perth WA. Throughout this time, I not only got to know Motty on a personal level, and became good mates, but was always so impressed on a professional level with his vast knowledge across the spectrum of all facets which encompasses Sport Science and Strength & Conditioning.
As an athlete, Adrian progressed to a very high level in Australian sprinting, while learning and training with some of the best athletes this country has to offer. Now, due to his background in an elite environment, he brings a wealth of ‘first-hand’ knowledge and experience to the cricket athletes’ he works with on a day-to-day basis. ‘Motty’ is an S&C who (is quite modest) has a great understanding of the evidenced based research in his field but he also looks outside the box, does not lose sight of having a ‘coaches eye’ and uses the ‘art of coaching’ to enhance the physical performance of his team. Enjoy this fantastic interview from a great coach and all-round good bloke.
Can you share with the readers a little bit of your background (education, sports, previous/current role)?
Through my junior days I played Aussie Rules Football during the winter and joined my local athletics club to keep fit over the summer. After getting tired of hanging out the back of the pack for the loose ball get, I decided to ditch the boots for the spikes. Post high school, I completed my bachelor of Exercise Science at ACU before going on to complete my Masters in Exercise Science (strength and conditioning) via ECU.
My first S&C role was as Head S&C Coach for Coburg Tigers VFL team (then Richmond FC reserves). This role was the catalyst for me in a networking sense which would lead to further opportunities with Richmond FC as a running coach and S&C opportunities within Cricket Victoria. Throughout the years I have been privileged to train international Alpine skiers, nationally ranked boxers and national level footballers (soccer).
Who are some of your major past & present influences/mentors in the S&C field?
Early on in my S&C career I picked up a lot of invaluable information communicating with Australia’s elite track and field coaches and their various physical preparation coaches including Olympic weight lifting coaches. As I commenced working in cricket, David Bailey provided a great deal of mentorship with relating the knowledge back to the game of cricket.
Most readers wouldn’t know that you had an excellent school-boy sprinting career, then as a 19yo went on to win Australia’s richest professional footrace (2006 Stawell Gift – see below), then had a successful senior career by making National 100m finals and being in the 4×100 relay program for the 2008 Beijing Olympics; can you describe how your personal experience of being an athlete has influenced you in the profession and now as a coach.
One of the major assets I have been able to constantly apply from my sprinting background is being able to empathise with athletes. Having been through similar physical and emotional rollercoasters that sport inevitably brings to the table, this opens the door for honest communication. Understanding how a particular sporting situation can positively or negatively affect an athlete’s mood plays a role in exercise prescription.
Another major benefit which has application to a broad range of sports is understanding the body’s movement patterns. Observing an athlete’s gait mechanics and using this as an unofficial movement screen plays a role in exercise prescription in the strong room. Then, being able to implement an intervention movement pattern program will increase an athlete’s movement efficiency in their chosen sport.
Regardless of the sport, what’s your overall philosophy to Strength & Conditioning?
If you can have a positive impact on an athletes behavioural patterns, that athlete will go on and get the best out of themselves.
You are currently the Head of High Performance for the Victorian Bushrangers and Melbourne Stars Cricket teams, can you explain how you ended up in this role?
My involvement with cricket came through my time with Coburg Tigers VFL team. Then head coach, Andy Collins was the Cricket Victoria Player Welfare Manager. He provided my details to the Bushrangers S&C coach David Bailey who was on the lookout for a running coach. After developing a relationship with David, I was offered the new role of Academy S&C coach. From this point it snowballed over the years to being part time assistant with Bushrangers. David then left to become the Australian team S&C coach which I was then appointed as his replacement. During my time as Bushrangers S&C coach, I was afforded the time off to work as the ‘Australia A’ S&C coach for the tour of UK which took place just prior to the 2013 Ashes series.
The Melbourne Stars is an interesting role. For the inaugural BBL season, the entire Bushrangers high performance staff was split down the line and worked with either the Renegades or the Stars. Fortunately, I was on the green half of the office working with then coach Greg Shipperd. BBL is an interesting period in Australian Cricket which is scheduled directly in the middle of the domestic cricket season. For a 6 week period, you are working with a completely different team with different support staff and coaches. All Bushrangers players who are not involved in the Stars (20 out of 27 players) are provided with a program to implement with their respective BBL franchises and their coaches.
Stereotypically, the sport of Cricket would not generally be well-renowned for time spent doing S&C. Can you explain how the culture towards S&C has changed during the time you have been involved in the sport?
The mindset and culture of cricket has definitely evolved over the years. In saying that, the ‘old-school’ culture of post-match beers (2 beers max!!!) is something I believe makes cricket such a unique sport and should not be left behind. That small time frame immediately post-match is a time the players can truly let their guard down and embrace their team mates to discuss all things cricket. A lot of up and coming players learn a lot about the game in this small period of time which is an element that cannot be underestimated. In saying that, players are well disciplined these days to go on and complete their respective recovery protocols.
Players are now playing competitive cricket 12 months of the year representing various teams as opposed to only being a summer sport. A player’s body is their greatest asset. The durable cricketer who is able to stay on the park will have greater opportunities to maximise their potential.
With the introduction of T20 cricket, the game has evolved with players now performing a greater volume of higher intensity efforts with decreased recovery time relative to 50-over and red ball cricket. A player who possesses superior athletic capabilities are an invaluable asset out on the field. These are a just a couple of the attributes resulting in buy in to S&C programs.
Since you grew up in an individual sport environment and have now moved into professional team setting; how did the contrast of these settings influence your approach and philosophy to S&C?
Having played Aussie Rules up to the age of 17 and then working with a semi-professional Aussie Rules team from the age of 21, I was able to simultaneously experience both sides of the spectrum. The majority of individual sports have selfish athletes and rightly so. At times, team sport athletes need to be reminded that they cannot rely on other players to pick up their slack with preparation and diligence to the task at hand.
Can you describe the current climate of how Strength & Conditioning/Physical Preparation is delivered in elite cricket?
Within Cricket Victoria, the resources available for players across all pathway programs from youth to the Bushrangers is continually expanding. Bowling and Youth State coaches now demand and select players who possess the physical attributes and resilience to sustain an underage tournament (7 games in 10 days) or be able to concurrently play local Premier cricket on top of 2nd XI 4 day matches. S&C is now part of an athlete’s training day along with the skills component.
The sport clearly has high motor learning and skill acquisition demands; can you detail how Physical Preparation is integrated into the overall high performance program?
Cricket will always be a skills based sport. You cannot train ‘an athlete’ into a cricketer. We know that losing as little as 2% bodyweight negatively impacts a person’s cognitive performance. We also know that the greater control a player has on their heart rate, the clearer their mind will be out in the middle. These 2 major performance factors are taken into consideration when prescribing and implementing specific conditioning programs.
Within High Performance Cricket, what are some of the KPI’s which must be addressed from a Physical Preparation perspective to prepare the players for the ‘season’?
We have a various testing protocols throughout the season. My favourite 4 tests (all within the Cricket Australia testing protocols) in no particular order are:
- 2km TT to measure aerobic fitness.
- Isometric Mid-Thigh Pull – the importance of lower limb strength is well known. However this is of extra importance to fast bowlers to sustain the 6-9x bodyweight forces transmitted through their body at front foot impact.
- 1RM bench pull – a strong back is the foundation to a healthy throwing arm. We set all players a goal of being to lift over 1x bodyweight for this test. Anecdotal data suggests those unable reach this standard are those with an inferior arm and increased throwing pain.
- Skinfolds – all players have their individual goals. Anecdotal evidence highlights players with above average skinfold readings tend to have a greater soft tissue injury prevalence. We expect fast bowlers to have the lowest in the squad given their superior workloads. This test provides great insight into the preparation and diligence a player is doing outside of training hours.
Extending on the previous question, can you explain the periodization/programming model used in preparation for the season?
For the squad members involved in our pre-season winter program, I prefer to use the traditional model of periodisation in 4 week training blocks. Once the season rolls around, this will change to an undulating model. With 4 day matches and travel being taken into account, selection has a big bearing on a players training workloads.
Can you briefly detail what an in-season week would look like for the Bushrangers?
During the pre-season, we train 5x days a week.
- Monday: gym / skills / fielding / running
- Tuesday: skills / off legs conditioning / pilates
- Wednesday: gym / fielding / running
- Thursday: Rest day
- Friday: gym / skills / off-legs conditioning
- Saturday: running
With the frequency of matches, game formats and travel, can you explain which type of recovery modalities you use to prepare the players for the next training or match?
My philosophy is any form of recovery is better than none. Given players across the cricket team can have such contrasting training and match day loads, players will either perform ice baths / hydro therapy / foam roller / massage. During periods of high travel and match loads, a sleep in and a day away from cricket is utilised to mentally refresh the player.
There has been an influx of analytics, technology and sport science into almost every major sporting code around the world; what transfer has there been in elite Cricket?
Catapult Sports have been involved in Cricket Australia for the past couple of seasons. Whilst still in the early phases of data collection, we are able to quantify the variability in intensity between the 3 formats of the game. T20 > 50 over > Test Cricket. Bowlers are able to quantify their run up velocities and determine an optimal intensity with respective coaches. From a rehab perspective, GPS has allowed greater precision in return to play progressions.
Cricket Australia also launched an app (AMS) a few years back allowing players to input training data via their smartphone regardless of their position around the world. This has allowed training and pace bowlers bowling loads to be monitored on a more consistent level allowing coaches the option to make proactive decisions going forward.
What have you found to be the most bang for buck type of ‘Strength’ or ‘Conditioning’ work for the players you work with?
Consistent implementation of the strength foundations to maintain player fitness levels throughout the season
Just before we finish up, can you recommend to the readers your favourite blogs/books to read?
I enjoy reading the thoughts and research from Brett Contreras, Mike Reinold and Eric Cressey. Gray Cook’s text Functional Movement Screen challenged my mindset on program prescription whilst opening up my knowledge bank in rehab prescriptive exercises.
Thanks to Adrian for contributing to the College Strength & Conditioning Blog. We wish him, the Victorian Bushrangers and the Melbourne Stars all the best over the upcoming Summer of Cricket.
Follow Adrian – Twitter: @Adrian_Mott
We have a BIG coaching interview coming soon, so stay tuned folks!