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  • Troy Flanagan

Planning for a Championship

Updated: Sep 24, 2021

When sport scientists were relatively new in elite sport and sometimes viewed as a luxury and not needed, I learned that if you fix things and solve problems, you quickly become useful.

Getting a team organized to do the daily stuff well is easy. The ability to recognize what is holding back the team’s performance and execute long term strategies to improve the team’s preparation is significantly more difficult. One of the key skills of a good high performance director, therefore, is the ability to strategically plan to help take a team from last to first.

The high performance staff behind the U.S. Olympic Team, for example, are masterful strategic planners and have outstanding processes and strategies in place to improve their team’s performance. I was lucky to be taught by many of them how to strategically plan. It’s a really simple process through three questions:

1. Where are we now?

2. Where do we need to be?

3. How do we get there?

Often the strategies that come out of this planning process are very simple. For example, one strategy for my team might be to become the fittest team in the NBA and to surprise other teams in the league with our players’ fitness and athleticism. These types of goals are relatively easy. But other strategies require major breakthroughs in sport science and technology and can be much more difficult.

When prioritizing problems to solve, it is really important to rank your problems in two different ways. Identify which problems are in your control and which are less/not in your control. Then look at them from another perspective: which problems have high impact on performance and which have a lower impact performance. Problems that are in your control and have high performance impact are the ones you should prioritize.

The key to good strategic planning is to aim for around 10 very impactful strategies to achieve in a relatively short period of time (1-3 years). A well presented, simplistic and impactful strategic plan also makes it easier for upper management to buy into your program as they see you tick each one off.

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