Olympic cycling coach Scott Gardner, joins Samir Abid on the Your Data Driven podcast. This show is all about performance. Ex-Team GB Scott Gardner has coached multiple Gold medal winners such as Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton Learn how professional coaches performance plan to develop Olympic athletes to win. Then understand how you can apply that learning to improve your own racing. Packed full of great advice. You will be thinking different after this one!
Jump Into Scott Gardners Episode:
[1:17] Welcome & who is Scott Gardner?
[8:58] Performance Planning & planning for your strengths
[14:58] Defining success & planning as a VERB !
[18:38] 3 key elements you need for high performance
[22:29] Ownership in truly successful teams
[26:35] What is coaching?
[44:34] Ground breaking shift to athletes owning their performance
[50:18] Performance under pressure in swimming
[56:53] Creating your own learning environment with a guided discovery approach
Links mentioned in the show
- Scott Gardner Business leadership coaching https://www.trackrecord.coach/
- @ChrisHoy @McLarenF1
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scott-gardner/
- Gearing spreadsheet: https://www.yourdatadriven.com/guide-to-choosing-the-best-gear-ratios-for-racing-cars/
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Scott Gardner – Your Data Driven Podcast
Samir Abid: [00:00:00] So welcome Scott,
Scott Gardner: [00:00:02] Thanks Samir. How are you?
Samir Abid: [00:00:04] I’m very well, buddy, I’m very, well, thank you so much in advance for taking the time to speak to us today, slightly different a person, a normal guest, but I think everyone will find this absolutely fascinating to listen to what you have to say.
I’m really excited to hear about some of your experience in Olympic sports and how that can translate into our world of club motor sport. And just listen to how you approach the different elements of racing. We both call it racing, but this ever so slightly different. Yeah. In the world of cycling as there is in motor sports, but ultimately we’re both trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible.
We’ve got a piece of equipment that has a big impact. Cycling, less impact, less of an impact than in rasing. But we also got the psychological side and how we can prepare and train for each of our events. And it would just be really interesting to hear a little bit about your backstory, so that for the benefit of people, you don’t know who you are.
And then we can try to maybe explore some of those topics, in a way that maybe people get one or two takeaways that they can then apply back into their own racing. How does that sound?
Scott Gardner: [00:01:16] Sounds great. I appreciate it. Thanks very much for having me. I’m all the way here at the moment from Tasmania on the bottom of the earth, fantastic.
It’s fantastic. Now I hope we can find some synergies because, ultimately I think. And I, the tactical technical, physiological and psychological elements all massively apply, certainly for us in Olympic sport. Whereas the physiological was probably just your engine horsepower in a car racing analogy.
So you have to understand. It’s range of, torque to, revs and where it produces its horsepower, and tactical, technical, physiological, psychological components all apply massively so
Samir Abid: [00:02:01] well. So that’s an interesting point you might have from the, the little bit of work that you and I have done together. It’s not only. about those basic kind of engine analogies, but it’s spotlight when you deploy the different peaks of energy that you have, particularly in a sort of track cycling environment.
And it’s a little bit, the analogy might be, when you would deploy some kind of electrical assistance, KERS type thing in your racing car, that kind of thing, or when to push and when to. holdback, whilst driving a car and a circle isn’t as physically demanding, aerobically anyway, mentally it’s very, challenging.
And I think that would be an interesting one. interesting little area to explore at some point later.
Scott Gardner: [00:02:47] Yeah, for sure.
Samir Abid: [00:02:48] So tell us about you,
Scott Gardner: [00:02:49] So my background is a sports science, started here in Australia. did my PhD, working with the Australian cycling team in Athens, which was a very successful Olympic campaign for the Australian team on the track.
And, that grabbed some attention, I think we won. Six gold medals or something. That’s not good. I can’t quite remember exactly how many, but it was hugely exciting. And I was mainly working with the sprint cyclist and had double Olympic champion, Ryan Bailey, Anna Meres, who, some Brits might know, from it and the rivalry, which I was very well from both sides at certain points.
And, it grabbed some attention. And then that was really where Dave Brailsford in the UK said, no, the UK is going to dominate and we’re going to go and get all the best people on the planet and put them into the velodrome set up in Manchester. And so in 2005, I moved over to the UK.
Started working with the British cycling team, went through that Beijing cycle, ended up, And ended up working with some other sports in the UK post that I’m very, even more well successful Olympics than record breaking groundbreaking. Sir Chris Hoy with Victoria Pendleton, And, and Jason Kenney, who, most people, you know, who is actually one of Britain’s most decorated Olympians, certainly doesn’t get the publicity that Chris Hoy he gets,
Samir Abid: [00:04:18] Chris Hoy, always a motor racing guy.
So we were big fans of Chris.
Scott Gardner: [00:04:21] I went to Bolivia with Chris at one point, we went and did this amazing thing where he went to break the standing kilometer world record. And, this was a documentary only bub pub. Yeah. broadcasting, BBC, Scotland. So other people in the UK probably haven’t seen this unless you’re Scottish.
Gill Douglas did the voiceover and ended up in Florida with us at one point as we did it. And, yeah, he went for the Columbia world record. We went to Bolivia to 3000, 200 meters above sea level because of the air density. because it’s the right place to be. If you want to go for a kilometer on a bike really fast, it just happened that the track we were using, we spec a field, all the cracks and holes and they all concrete track.
now they have a 250 indoor. Amazing thing up there in Lopez. But, at this stage it wasn’t quite like that. yeah, we did that anyway. He missed by 5000th of a second to attempt and, it was probably the reason. Oh, certainly for me, one of the reasons, he had such a successful Olympics in 2008.
It really, trained and supported us in understanding attention to detail. We did two debriefs after that and came up with about nine places. He could have found that five thousandths of a second, quite easily. And I’m still not over it. I’m really still in the not over it. He got over it much quicker than I did, which is the sense of, champion athlete being able to move on and focus on the next thing.
I certainly couldn’t, on some of the decisions, but, it, we all learnt so much from it. and the party at the end was fantastic.
Samir Abid: [00:06:01] Sure.
Scott Gardner: [00:06:01] I’d call it in my life anyway. How did we get onto that
Samir Abid: [00:06:05] Chris Hoy? He’s a racing driver.
Scott Gardner: [00:06:07] Yeah. So I worked with Chris Hoy, who is a racing driver who has done a Le Mans.
He has done lots of things, in racing and, worked also following that, did a year with Brittney swimming was head coach for British canoeing for a couple of years, and then found myself back in, Olympic sport in all sorts of various consulting while starting up a leadership. Coaching company, Track Record Coaching, out of the UK, which in London, which, uses some of those things experiences and this whole concept of performance planning in Olympics sport, to support leaders, ship teams in business.
And it’s been really successful when, so certain, with the Olympics, we started that up with David Carey, former swimmer and other Scottish something. I don’t know what that means.
Samir Abid: [00:06:57] Maybe there’s a thing there,
Scott Gardner: [00:06:59] But also with Catherine Moore, who was a head physio for us at British canoeing for a long time and has worked with Ed McKeever, worked with Liam heath, worked with Olympic champions. And I’m Tim Robbins. Some people might’ve heard of Dr. Tim Robbins. so I worked with a series of Olympic champions over years and their coaches, and Hannah McLeod also does quite a lot of work with us. So she was a member of the GB hockey team, that famously won gold in 2016.
And, a fantastic example of performance planning and understanding your strengths and knowing how you’re going to win. And, Yeah. Quite closely with the coach, Danny Carey, who was really part of the mastermind of that.
Samir Abid: [00:07:41] So let’s just, can we explore that a little bit? Because as a, I think it’s just things fascinating and again, it’s humbling to, so to have you on the show ready to talk to us, but how can we take some of that performance
what do you really mean by that? And how can someone who. Who’s like an amateur sport. take some of that because so cycling, which is your primary in terms of, if it’s like thing, is, has a lot of stigma priorities with motor sport, there’s a strong profile, actionable level of competition, those the amateurs, and then there’s the very serious.
Amateurs as well. And so how can we learn from that performance planning element that would apply equally to a club level cyclist as it would do to a club level racing job?
Scott Gardner: [00:08:35] Yeah, it’s interesting. You say cycling is definitely more specialist area and, but I’ve been lucky enough to not work in cycling for a while.
And, work through understanding the process that we go through in order to performance plan and the experiences to work within swimming. So you get in your own conventional wisdom when you work within one area and then they’re able to then work in another sport and then another sport to be a head coach is all about starting to help people get the sense of what’s a win and a wins, not winning a gold medal.
A win cause that’s a moveable target. You don’t know how anyone else is going to turn up. You don’t know all those other constraints. So it is what do you need to do? And what would you be satisfied in having win, lose or draw, to be able to, so in his end in mind, and really having these strong conversations about what is that?
So in a cycling sense, I might want to be able to, ride 9.6 seconds for a flying 200 with a tactical ability to race from the front and the back. And let’s have a chat through that. In that hockey example, I spoke about there before. One part of that was about penalties. And, it was a really interesting thing.
They won the Olympics on penalties. Now, actually I remember hearing on a 5 live, I was driving along the motorway when the girls would come back to them more on the, on 5 live. And they all, I had Sam Alladyce, who there was about that period where the England football team was in a bit of chaos and big Sam had just been.
it hadn’t been sacked yet. I think he was in and he was interviewed and he was saying, you can’t make players practice penalties. And I was like, Whoa, this is football, Is this true? You, these women were then asked straight after. After they’d won the Olympic gold medal. What do you think of what Sam said?
And then they’re like, we can’t comment on what he said, but what we can tell you about is what we did. And we practice penalties. We studied every goalkeeper. We were going to come up against. We knew, that 98% of the time or however, and whatever the percentage was for each goalkeeper, they went to their strengths.
We practice that, we mimic that, we trained all those elements of that. And so then when it came to having this penalty shootout, it was like, all I was doing was I was with my group of girls back at Bisham Abbey. I wasn’t at the Olympic games in that moment. I’d practice that rehearsed that under pressure.
To be able to walk out. I knew the goalkeeper back to strong because we one practiced it and all played against them and, or studied and watch footage and everything. So I had a fair sense of where to hit the ball and I went out and I hit it as though it was. Another day of training because I understood what that was going to be.
And then you hear this whole thing of prayers and all this being, all this stuff you hear from football. And it’s no. And then they’re like, and then the girls who were amazing, they were like, and it came down to a whole team approach. It wasn’t just us out on the pitch. It was the whole squad that had done that.
And there was a massive thank you to the three other goalkeepers who didn’t get to play on the day, but had been a massive part in creating that Olympic gold medal. So it’s a long way, just short of, or long story to tell you about getting in that moment, understanding what are the elements that are going to help you to win.
And just becoming really expert in those and not getting carried away and worried in all these other areas.
Samir Abid: [00:12:26] So there’s actually two things that I’ve picked up on that is: defining what success looks like for yourself at the moment. And that’s a really big deal because I see a lot of glum faces around a motor sport was paddock.
because there’s 30 odd cars come out for a race or whatever, hopefully that manage 30 or 40 cars. Whenever I put that kinda it’d be one winner and that can only be three people in there. So everyone else is emotionally lost. and I think there’s a lot of benefit in terms of being able to be realistic. I think that’s the thing that people use the term. I think it’s quite a negative register personally, just to set some goals. And then it’s about the other bit is trying to play to your strengths. or at least work out part of the puzzle that you feel is going to be, have a big impact on the performance. And then just working on that, it sounds like you put a lot of effort into, Pelosi’s a lot, it’s not new. It’s not just, we finished the training session.
Scott Gardner: [00:13:27] I wasn’t a part of it, but certainly that team. Spent a lot of time over the years, knowing that was a huge part and a potential part of winning.
And ultimate, you can only be satisfied if you performance plan well, which is ended mind planning as well, verb in terms of a process that you continuously go through. in order to understand what it is that takes you, it’s gonna help. We need to win. If you are, if you achieve everything you set out to achieve in terms of I can ride this fast, I’ve improved my arrow by this much.
I’ve my horsepower has gone up by this much. I’ve understood that the things that might be thrown at me and you go out and you don’t win, but you’ve got all the things that you thought you might need. You can’t be not satisfied.
It’s yeah, because it’s a win and it’s about finding this process, controlling the controllables process focus in terms of those are your wins.
I watch a lot of motor sport. I watch a lot of formula one, but I also see it in cycling with teams that haven’t got it quite right. Where the people put these false expectations, that winning is not the only win. This is everything we do in life and we have to find the small things.
What would be a win for you today? Samir?,
Samir Abid: [00:14:50] Talking to you is a win!
Scott Gardner: [00:14:52] We know we’re not going to win the race today. So what would be a win? What are you going to be satisfied with?
Make sure it’s ambitious. Make sure it’s high expectation. Make sure that the support level is matched in terms of what’s required to be able to achieve it.
It’s gotta be audacious. It’s gotta be ambitious. But it certainly doesn’t have to be winning in terms of crossing the line first because it’s what would you be satisfied with? That is really stretch.
Samir Abid: [00:15:23] You pull up a really good point there, and I’ve circled here is about support. And one of the things that motor sport has traditionally, and I would say still lacks is support from a coaching perspective, and I’d be really interested for you to.
Share with us, your definition of coaching and how that plays into this. Because just to put that into some context, in racing, people call themselves a coach, but really they’re an instructor trying to help you drive a better. Yeah. So did it help you work out how to go round the track? Faster than you can go.
And the credentials are that they can do it quicker than you. And so they can show you and then they sit next to you and then shout to you or talk to you in different ways to try and get you to match what they do. But in sport it’s a slightly different relationship, I would say.
And I do understand they’re different levels depending on where you’re at. So if you’re starting out. You need some instruction, but equally I think that the concept of having a support team. is still, still particularly novel, I would say definitely at a, at an ominous level. So how would you understand that?
Scott Gardner: [00:16:46] It’s from two parts before I get to the coaching bit, I’m going to just, there’s a fantastic little piece of research that actually happened in, I think it was County cricket clubs or something long time ago. And it was Simon Timpson was a big part of it. Who is head of UK sport for awhile. He’s think he’s not Manchester city he and a lot of people were part of a big piece of research, which was all around transformational leadership and understanding, how to correct performance and leaders through leadership. And it is this whole thing.
I see this. Poorly done, usually in motor sport, I’d think, but also say it poorly done in all other sports, but because motor sport and your watch the formula one channel a lot, I make a lot of thoughts around it, but, higher performance, or extraordinary performance outcomes come from, like a three legged chair when there are three things in place.
First is high expectation. Our performance expectation. It’s not outcome focused, but it is about all these things that we were talking about there before it is.
What are the things that it’s going to take. and, in order to be successful, matched with. Support and high levels of it support that we that we just spoke about there.
And that is not all poor you’re having a bad day today. That is in order to achieve what we set out to achieve. And our expectation is here. What do you need in order to be able to achieve that? I’m here to support you to help you too, whatever it is that you need, but you have to identify those things that you’re going to need and creating some form of growth mindset around that. Into, from leadership values based role modeling.
So we value this support, these expectations, and some other things. And if we can match all those now, the research showed. If you don’t have support, you don’t have role modeling and you have high expectation. You are worse off. Then having nothing or having low levels of everything. And it’s the same with too much support.
If you’ve just got a massive amount of support with no expectation and no role modeling, then you need all three matched. And when teams get that we see it in sports teams. We see it in probably in motor sport teams too, when you get the high levels of all right. Then that is when the magic happens.
Samir Abid: [00:19:26] What do you mean by role modeling?
Scott Gardner: [00:19:29] So role modeling is from leaders and leadership change and performance is done by you. It’s not done by, so people will stand there and I’ve been a part. I did some coaching at one point with the McLaren race team. a few years back when they were in the doldrums. A little bit, that, I know that I knew their physio therapist,
Samir Abid: [00:19:48] Just, all the formula one teams all left, they all listened to the show. yeah.
Scott Gardner: [00:19:53] Our members, because we had them in a way we had them, we went to st. George’s park to the FFA and, and we were in a locker room downstairs
Samir Abid: [00:20:04] a facilitator and a half. Oh my God.
Scott Gardner: [00:20:06] So brilliant. this was the race team they’d been practicing chain, pit stops and other things. and they were going through a bunch of work in terms of how to be better at what they did now. Of course, they were really, they focused on, did we have a good car this year, rather than are we ready to win?
Even if we don’t have a good car, are we training and being prepared to win in terms of. if we don’t, then we won’t necessarily or whatever. so it is change in performance is done by everyone.
So people then go, Oh, it was management’s fault. it’s not always management’s fault or there, so yes, role modeling from leadership is the key is important, but also it is a matter of understanding that if you want things to be better, you own and control your part of that.
And if something needs to be said, then something needs to be said, or it is a part, it is a choice. To be somewhere or, it’s a tough choice to leave particularly a place like that, but it is a choice to be there. And if people would want, and in true successful teams, everyone owns their role and owns their part of the performance. and it’s values based. There are things that you do the value in that culture.
And the reason we get a clash often is clash of values. whether it’s a communication style or whether it’s a, whatever, it is values based. So decide on the values, be clear on the values, for us, the best teams in the world also have a common purpose. Whey’re not, And purposes are different to a win.
So often people go out, the purpose is to win races. It’s not. what will winning get you? What’s what, what’s your passion, what’s your, who do you serve? What, who, questions like that allow you to find purpose and meaning in the, in the role, in the job, in the wherever you’re trying to go.
And you need to have a semi Cox.
Samir Abid: [00:22:01] This is really fascinating. cause I’ve just taken on a, a driver is, I’m doing a bit of coaching too, and he’s really successful this guy. He’s a winner. So it was like, alright, what is it that you want? What is it that’s going to make, take you to that next step?
What is it that you’re almost worried about in the sense of why would you need this extra help or support? And therefore … he found it really difficult to articulate.
Scott Gardner: [00:22:33] It is because we’re always, we get into sport because we want to win. Like we’re talking about winning here, but what does winning get you? When winning finished when you’re done, what’s the next phase?
And can you follow your same path and, give back or leave a legacy or whatever it is that’s there. So winning is not purpose. Winning is a goal. Winning, it’s just something along the way that helps you fulfill part of your purpose. And and you’re a long time retired when you finish a lot of these things, particularly in Olympic sport. And so how are you going to continue to follow that purpose?
So the best teams have purpose. They have common values. they then align and have clarity in what they’re trying to achieve. So everyone’s trying to achieve the same thing, not different things. Which you’d be amazed how often people are trying to achieve different things, even though we think you’re trying to achieve the same thing.
And then it’s all about planning and putting those things at the end, I’m working through a process of what’s important prioritization and dealing with that.
So then you can check in on how you’re a little bit off track. What do you need? We’ve agreed where we’re going and it’s either not good enough. And that becomes a performance conversation, not a difficult one, because we’ve all agreed and we know where we’re going.
And some people might say, look, I just need this. I’ve got this issue. And other people might go, I’m just not in this anymore. I don’t agree with the purpose. I’m really not up for that win and sorry guys. I’m out.
And so often when you track record, we’ve worked with leadership teams in the first place. We have those conversations over a period of time and one or two people actually just opt out themselves because they got to do different dream. I’ve got a different ambition and all, they don’t have enough energy for that challenge because we’ve set pretty audacious and high.
High expectations. got into that expectation, support and role modeling part. But it is that constant conversation about what it’s going to take to win.
Going to your actual question, which was around coaching and what is coaching and. cause that definition is wide open. And like you say, so many people come, you say like in motor sport, like an instructor
Samir Abid: [00:24:52] Exactly. I’m just describing myself as coach. I said, I’ll do a bit of coaching on it, but I’m not a coach. Like I’m an engineer, but it’s just, I’m coaching
Scott Gardner: [00:25:04] scientist. And I was head coach for British canoeing. Yeah. And I probably, if I’m actually, but I’ve also started up a leadership coaching business.
So I now call myself a coach, but, so what is it. And in an Olympic sport, if you can imagine sort of two axes, you’ve got on the X axis, you’ve got technical knowledge. So you’ve got low technical knowledge and we’ve got high tech, knowledge.
Okay. and then on the Y axis, if we say we’ve got different corrective behavior, so we’ve got low directive behavior, which is, I ask really open questions. How are you today? Samir.
And it’s up to you to answer that in whatever way up to really directive behavior, which is on that turn. Make sure. You take the apex at that point, if that makes sense ?
Samir Abid: [00:26:01] Yes really makes sense
Scott Gardner: [00:26:02] That might be something like you might say. so traditionally in sport we get into what coaching has been is really high directive behavior.
And really high technical knowledge. So I can say to you on that apex, pick that point on that bit and go for it. , so at certain points, in football might be, go and stand on the wing and make sure you’re at exactly this point, watch for his right foot. And we will try and step you at this point because that person knows and can help you.
So what that has done though, what that does is. Every time you do that, you just try and do the same thing. But if a different constraint is thrown at you at our point, I’m still, I’ve gone ahead. The guy wants to make an overtake, but yet I’m still trying to get that point on that apex. It doesn’t always allow us to be in a, create a learning environment.
the definition in sport is though directive behavior and high technical knowledge. In business coaching. Usually it is low technical knowledge and low directive behavior. So I can go into business and I can coach a leadership team and I’ve coached FSTE 30 leadership teams and CEOs with no knowledge of business.
With no understanding of their day to day. And I’m not even pretending to be it, in to be or understand what they do. But by asking open questions:
What are you trying to achieve? How are you trying to get there? What are the things that are going to get in your way? What would be the mitigating circumstances for us to be able to deal with the causes of consequences of that issue, etc.
And they’re up to them and you’re coaching someone to understand from their own environment and ask them. Questions that help them particularly open questions that help them to create their plan. And by knowing a bit of process associated, you can work through it.
Samir Abid: [00:27:59] I think your point on the learning environment is really good because again, even in fairness, even in my work in sports teams, they don’t always consider that they have a learning environment and this is an Olympic level.
So one of the things I say, cause I’m an engineer or a data guy. And so people expect if they have a low technical knowledge, they expect the data, people, whatever, the geeks, to be able to give them a definite answer on some simple questions and that’s really reasonable expectations.
And the problem that data people and the geeks have is that isn’t a way of robustly giving a simple. Straightforward answer to those simple, straightforward questions. And I think that’s sometimes where the confusion comes in between, those kinds of groups of people. And therefore it’s a case of how do you deal with that?
Because you might say right, if you make this change to the car, I expect you’re going to go faster and then you drive out and you go slower.
And then, so then we’ve got a problem. Potentially if we haven’t created a learning environment. So if we haven’t created the expectation that this could go either way, it’s a hypothesis, not a given, we’ve done everything we can. And it’s based on solid reasoning and physics and experience and everything we said, but it might still might not work, but we will still learn from it either way. That doesn’t matter if we go slower, because cause we went to a game and we’ll understand why we went slower. By doing this experiment and creating motor racing as a kind of science experiment or going racing as a science experiment, but people don’t want to do a science.
So maybe a learning environment is, more, softer approach. But I think the concept is the same, both in terms of functional changes to the car, but also experimented with your driving and improving. And it’s a much more positive. Environment for me.
Scott Gardner: [00:30:02] Go back to the experience Chris Hoy, he missed the world record in Bolivia by five thousandths of a second.
What would you do differently next time? Now that we’ve had a conversation that we’ve found nine different. Elements that might’ve been in skin suit in whale, in helmet, in line, on the track on day that we got there in, also the things. And so therefore it doesn’t end that all these are all the things that might’ve happened the end is the next part of the conversation, which is now that you’ve got that.
Okay. What are your options and what, and then specifically, what are you going to do differently next time? and what question do you want me to ask you next time? I see you about what you tried and how that went? And it’s a continuous loop of what are you trying to achieve?
Why is it important? What are our options and what are we going to do?
Samir Abid: [00:30:56] I think there’s an ownership piece about that actually.
Scott Gardner: [00:30:59] That’s the coaching part of it. So I can ask you, what are you trying to achieve? I can ask you why is that important? It’s important to me for this reason, but why is it important to you?
You start to own it. You then go into, so what options have you got? And usually rather than me just tell you straight away. In that sort of coaching environment. I’m not going to tell you straight away, even though I probably know the answer I know to hit the apex at that point, but unless I’ve actually asked you, what would you do?
Where do you think you need to be? what would happen if she had a car . You on the inside of you, how would you handle that and get to the point of all the options that you’ve got. And then what are you going to end that will then ask you in that sort of coaching sense? They then start to go, what would you do?
And I’ll go, Oh, what I would do if I was, you would be do this, how does that sound to you? And then you also get into this, then they’re trusting. And you’ve got this cocreation and ownership. That’s on both parts to then get into what you’re going to do. Rather than I know you need to do this.
Samir Abid: [00:32:02] The trust it’s really important because, and I’ve never respect because depending on how you set the relationships up, They did. There’s always a question about it. So some of the stuff that engineers or whatever data people can do with it, this voodoo it’s like crazy stuff. It’s not easy to understand.
And honestly, I’m someone who’s meant to know what they’re doing and I still don’t get it like half the time. So the, if people rely on, hang on that instructional kind of relationship, I think that possibly that’s maybe where it breaks down. They want to be told what to do. So don’t have to think, but really what you’re saying is it’s much better.
If you take ownership of it, it’s more mature way of going about your sport. And therefore that will give you a much higher chance of. Of affects would be being successful and enjoying it more. Is that kind of .
Scott Gardner: [00:32:55] Yeah. at least they’ve, if they want you to tell you, at least you’ve given them the option to say, tell me.
So if it’s, they have worked with Olympic athletes who really don’t want to think, but then you work with someone like Chris Hoy, who is all about thinking. And he wants to know his options and he wants to be able to make his own decisions. And that’s a different moment. No, I’d say it’s a mature type relationship, but it doesn’t mean it’s not high challenge.
Samir Abid: [00:33:23] I’ve got another guy that I’m working with and he’s that he’s really analytical to the point where it, I think it can make him claustrophobic. When he’s racing and it’s you’re just. With that guy. You’ve got to take him back and just say, stop. But we worked it out one, two, three. Just do that. If everything else is fine.
Scott Gardner: [00:33:41] I work with a coach who is similar, people who love those details and your role in that sense is to, are you getting caught up in the details? Here way too much and to be able, but they have to, that has, that trust has to be given to you and you have to earn that. And that’s the way the conversation by running through an open conversation, more than just jumping straight in.
Too many people and too many young sports scientists in Olympic sport go straight in and they were working with Olympic coaches or whoever, and they just, I can say something, it shouldn’t be different, she’ll be better. And they know it. So then they just jump in and give advice. and I’ve had moments of that.
I was, years back actually, where I thought I was in Switzerland. I was in a velodrome Olympic cycling center. I was in my first big Australian trip. I’d been doing really well. I was in a meeting, which was in the workshop out the back.
And, it was a selection decision going into a. Into a Commonwealth games. I think it was back in Manchester and, in 2002 or something, I think it was. And, I offered advice maybe when I was in, quite asked, told me to who asked you. And then it was like, Oh I hadn’t been given permission. And I wasn’t in on that.
And. and we see that everywhere where advice is offered, but it’s actually not helpful,
Samir Abid: [00:35:10] but how do you deal with a situation where you’re put on the spot and there isn’t really a good answer to give. Or where you have a got one.
Scott Gardner: [00:35:21] Give me an example.
Samir Abid: [00:35:22] So I’m making this up, but basically.
What type of pressures should we run? We can run anything between 22 and 30 PSI. what should we run on? and we can have each type different. what is it that, we should do, we’re about to go out and we would to have a choice. We needed a decision. Now I’ve actually got an answer for that, but it’s you’re on the spot and there isn’t really a right answer.
Scott Gardner: [00:35:51] Yeah.
Samir Abid: [00:35:53] Yeah. It’s you could do this or you could do that or whatever, it would have a different impact on what the experience was like driving the circle. So how, how would you tackle that?
Scott Gardner: [00:36:06] Yeah. There’s not really much useful information that can be given at the ninth hour about to go out.
And that does happen though, right? It really does happen often. It can be as confusing and conflicting and not really help. I think ultimately you have to set that moment up for what you really need. To be able to make those decisions better and help the driver or the, whoever it is to understand that decision is not to be made at the ninth hour or about to go out.
But that’s not useful at that moment. So you would use that to set up, we’ve got these options, in these conditions. yeah. Ultimately, what are you trying to achieve? Leave? And ultimately for me, it’s, it becomes a lot of their choice. Yeah.
Samir Abid: [00:36:55] Can you tell me it comes back round? So yeah. So what you’re saying,
Scott Gardner: [00:36:58] it’s you still have to empower and help them to own that decision, your there to help give data information, context for them to be able to make that decision better.
But too often, they like I’ve employed you here. You are. Make sure give me that number and it’s it for me is set up before that. And if you were at that point where it’s I’m just in for today to be here, it’s look, it’s a really tricky one. And that’s why you get so much fence sitting at that moment.
And I suppose.
Samir Abid: [00:37:30] Or at least, that’s where the caveat book comes out and the wind’s different or the tracks are different temperature or, I don’t know. There’s a whole, there’s a whole long shopping list of things that the driver can do that would take, be like, get out of jail on that.
Scott Gardner: [00:37:47] If you’ve performance planned well and done your work coming in, that doesn’t happen. Yeah. when we’re in the best thing, at least you would know. That you don’t know, or you would know, and you would accept that you don’t know, or you would know that you’ve planned for that situation and that scenario.
So there are key important things. there’s like a critical pathway to achieving anything you want to achieve.
And on that critical pathway, those are the things that you just have to get right.
And if you don’t get them right, you will never achieve what you set out to achieve. I’m in business goat and now we call them critical elements, but they are the big chunks, the big buckets, in order to achieve anything you’ve got.
So for us to win an ,Olympic gold medal in cycling, we know, based on an athlete that we need to get more horsepower. And we need to understand the constraints on that horsepower and that engine, we know that are in sprinting. Our optimal range is 120 RPM. That’s where our max power is. We have to get, in order to do that, we have to deal with the gear and
Samir Abid: [00:38:55] Quick
Scott Gardner: [00:38:55] When you’re sprinting though, it’s not, if you’re riding along on the road, If you actually sprint through the full range, you as fast as you can probably spin your legs on a bike is around about two 40 for standard human being. Call me there’s no talk on the pedals and at zero, sorry, there’s a shitload, sorry.
I’ll show you this, where are going to podcast and I’m not sure, but at zero and near optimal, given, so cadence relationship in sprints. Yeah. Anyway, he’s basically linear between those. Two points. So you end up with a PR for power cadence. You end up with a parabolic relationship and the apex is about one 20 RPM.
So understand your engine, also understand your arrow and your element solver. This is where the whole, marginal gains concept that people talk about in business and in other areas really truly came from.
It is if I want to improve my arrow by how much in cycling sense, then we’ll look at all these little areas. And we can improve this by one point you sent that by half a percent, this by, Help 3% and we’ll end up with a, hopefully a 10% gain in aero.
There’s also that health, psychological element, being able to perform under pressure on race day and understand the things that come at me. Those sort of examples.
So they’re your big buckets? in order to, for the engine to respond, we have, this is where you see all the here, all the stuff about sleep and nutrition and everything. So it’s another big bucket is in that whole recovery and that zone. And that’s where you see those marginal gains in the lows. The marginal gains come in the big buckets.
And they’re the critical elements that you have to get, right? Where you’re going to find your percentage. Points. And then, so anything else once you’ve agreed on those bits is noise.
Is just too many people come along with parts of noise and it’s no, but this new fancy machine, that’s going to do this for you. And it’s ah, It’s just outside. It’s we know what we need to focus on and the best teams, the stuff Sky we’re doing, and Tim Carson’s doing the sky into INEOS and whatever they focus on the keep it simple, right?
They are focused on arrow and got the boffins doing bits. They are focused on, but they keep day to day, really simple. They don’t get carried away with too much of the hard stuff that doesn’t fit in your critical buckets.
Samir Abid: [00:41:24] That was brilliant. it’s really interesting, type some of their stuff cause it, so we talked all about, the human being part. It might’ve sport. We spend a lot of time talking about the car park. I would say.
How do you marry the two cycling is quite technical as a sport as well. And what’s your well, people obsessed about that bikes, particularly, I would say, my experience, my limited experience of amateur cycling, they really enjoy that as well, as much as they do with the car racing. So what’s your perspective on equipment and using that and developing maybe what you have, is there a process that you go through with that or does that just all fit in with this learning model? It’s what does it take?
Scott Gardner: [00:42:11] It fits in, it fits 100% in and it, all of that stuff is in a critical element. And it’s, if we, if it’s going to take this much to win. And we need to find 10% to improve.
Then we’re going to find, let’s say we can find 2% from our physiology. Let’s say we can find, we know we can find three from our just being prepared to prepare on when under pressure and practice under pressure and deal with that court, consequences of bad decisions and improving that.
And then the other bit is in a bucket of, for us in cycling in the technological and aero part, but it’s not only that it’s inefficiency. and and it’s in inertia. So if we can understand those three areas better, then again, we can then maybe say, we will find 4% there and we can target seven in each of those areas. And we know where we need to be, and then we’ll find our 10, I think I might’ve just added up to nine, but anyway, certainly see what I mean.
The big gains that we’re making at the moment, bringing the athlete in the ownership and we spoke about earlier. Having the athlete as a part of that performance plan and they own their own aero. It’s funny enough. Hey. it’s their performance.
They own it. we are there to coach them to understand it because we know it and get it better. And we know.
I remember prior to 2012, I said to a coach, we had a model, we had a spreadsheet that I could predict a flying 200 meter time. And what, with Victoria Pendleton back then, and I put it in an envelope and I said, here you go here. Here’s the time that she will ride. and I got her Olympic record within 2000th of a second. Now we did that work with Frazer, Nash and Ellis, the Wiley guy. There but I’d also published and done stuff in 2003 with Jim Mark professor Jim Martin, when I was doing my PhD with the Australian cycling team where we created a model.
So I’ve been, I’ve failed with it all the way up, but we put it in an envelope that I say to a coach, this is what it’s going to be. Here’s the model. And they’re like, you can’t do it. Yeah. It’s it’s mythical. It’s like black box type stuff, even back in 2012. Whereas now they do understand that we do understand the physics. We, we can then bring that together in a spreadsheet once we understand. The engine better, which is what we’ve done now, you and I talked a while back on creating gear models for cyclists.
Well we can do that now. Yeah. And we can integrate the physiological nor the engine and the arrow and out the other side, we can then pick the optimal gear with fatigue is a big part for us that you don’t get your horsepower drops and it, and with that, your optimal cadence drops as well. so you know that we talked about your optimum cadence 120, when you fatigue free will, as you fatigue that optimal cadence drops.
So you have to have an understanding of that. And then, but then you can create models that allow you to do all sorts of stuff.
Samir Abid: [00:45:18] And this is the thing I say that the motor sports community of long created models, I said amateur a level though I not sure that people are super comfortable with that. So basically what you’re saying is that you’ve now transitioned through that. In the sense of you’re taking, you’re making sure the athlete is taking ownership of that part of things as well. And they understand it.
Scott Gardner: [00:45:43] They are part of the creation of it. And then, or it’s not just
Samir Abid: [00:45:47] Do that. Yeah.
Scott Gardner: [00:45:50] No, it’s not just do that.
They’re a big part of, we sit down at the beginning of the cycle and we talk about what do you want to achieve and how do you want to go about it? And here’s what we bring in. And there, they just, the big there is important everyone’s got a role. The athlete’s role is to go out and. Steer the bike or ride from A to A. I don’t even run in tracks. I don’t even ride from a to B. They ride to the same place .
Samir Abid: [00:46:15] What everyone listening to this show is able to do is drive a racing line and you watched some of the cyclists with. With all due respect. And it’s just what?
Scott Gardner: [00:46:25] You’re standing on a mountain stage on the tour to France and seeing a racing line. So Ella, you’ll see some, yeah. Some, yeah. Yeah.
It’s probably because they’re not doing this well, they’re not actually practicing and learning.
So you know, it, a big part of winning the Tour de France is about descending down mountains, but the conventional wisdom is it’s how fast you go up.
Yup. So I’ve saved footage a couple of years back, the tour de France, and there was a speed trap going downhill on the time trial that Chris Froome won a couple of tours back. And of course it was an uphill to get there. So a lot of these cyclists changed their bike to be on a bike. That’s, Half a kilos lighter, just to be able to go up this Hill, just because of maybe their position slightly better. And they, on the time trial bike, some of them change that bike, whether it’s right or wrong, but it’s a big decision.
But then I stayed on that bike for the dissent because there’s only a short dissent, one of the speed traps, Chris Froome going through there, 78 K an hour or something. And the other guy on the regular bites. Yeah, 55. It’s say you just climbed the Hill faster. But think they’re doing the right thing because they haven’t looked at the big picture. And I haven’t.
Samir Abid: [00:47:41] And the, the analogy there is in a racing environment is the braking zones. Because it’s probably one of the highest skill element, the braking and braking. And in that initial turning in. It is the highest skill as still the biggest thing you do as a driver in terms of your skill bit, is that.
But you only brake typically for a very small proportion of the total lap. All the focus is on that bit. Cause it’s high skill and everything like that. And I want to break a bit later and get sent into the corner and how do I trial brake and how do I get a car rotated and all this sort of stuff, but really the focus, or the most time to be gained is from the exit, getting a better exit onto the straight.
And if you can get one mile an hour more. You carry that all the way down to straight compared to breaking that like 10th on the way in, and then it’s a risk ratio. So if you can do it, like if you’re a professional driver, then you can do it. But at a club level, we’re so prone to mistakes anyway, we wouldn’t like minimize the amount of mistakes for the highest lap time return.
Scott Gardner: [00:48:58] Yeah it’s fascinating. Isn’t it? And you’re reminding me of a story.. And a lot of the listeners would probably be aware of, an athlete, Becky Adlington, LinkedIn, who was an Olympic gold medalist in, back in, what was it? 2008. And, I worked with British swimming for a while and, and it’s the same thing focuses on in that sport is on swimming, the swimming part whereas there’s this massive part of it, which is the turns.
There’s this thing that we’ve got to do, which is breathing. And so every stroke, when an athlete brains, they tend to lose about attempt of a second. And a lot of athletes in particular, in this particular athlete, I had a conversation with this athletes coach, and it was every time she goes into that turn, she is over-breathing and she’s losing attempt to the second.
Now she’s got 16 turns in her race and. Even if she, if she can improve her, turn breathing into turns and she doesn’t lose that 10th of a second, then we’ve got 1.6 seconds to gain. Which would smash a low record. and so it’s so here’s where the gain is. And it can be done because you see that athlete and that athlete in your race is not doing it.
So it’s not as though it’s not impossible, but the focus is all on swimming faster and doing miles and miles of swimming, rather than dealing with this five meters in 10 meters off the wall where we potentially can just smash it w we did some analysis back in Stockport with our whole squad.
And we were a 3% slower swimming on top of the water for the events, they’re good swimmers, then the best in the world as a squad. but we were 13 and a half percent slower turners.
And it’s like, We focused on swimming, but actually where’s the gain. And then, so then let’s understand turning. So we put some turns practice in, and it lasted about a week because the coach then decided that we weren’t swimming enough.
Samir Abid: [00:51:00] And I think that’s one of the challenges, isn’t it. You’ve got to keep the faith. Okay.
Scott Gardner: [00:51:05] What will improving anything comes back to the learning environment we spoke about and it’s we’re not going to get it right. first time. It’s actually might even take us a year to learn how to do this.
Samir Abid: [00:51:14] When you do a new skill, you go slow. So for example, in racing, you’ve got the, if you have a gearbox and everything like that, and you have a clutch. There’s a technique called here in Saudi.
So you’re on the break and then you roll foot off the throttle as you do a down change. And that kind of helps to stabilize a car and prevents the wheels locking up and stuff like that. And it’s so when you first started to do it, you end up going slower than you would have done it yet.
Had you not done it, but I have a time. It’s going to be better for you for everything better for the car, better for your pay, better for the tires. Everything’s better if you do
Scott Gardner: [00:51:52] this,
But you’ve got to learn the skill and then you’ve got to be able to practice it when you’re under pressure and similar again, unless the purpose and the reason for doing it.
And unless you can really truly grasp that, get your head around it and then go through the hard period of learning the new skill. Then usually what will happen is under pressure. You’ll go back to what you knew because you knew it and you know that you can do it.
And we, again, teaching a new technique and swimming again with turns and other athlete there’s a side turn and then there’s a diagonal type turn. And a lot of kids are taught this floppy diagonal turn, where. Ultimately you don’t get in a really good streamline, hydro in this instance, position off the wall where you’ve got a flat back and arms out and you just you’re a big floppy mess a bit. And so to teach, then you turn.
And we had one, those like who taught to do this amazing new flat, straight out of back. Awesome. streamline position, shoulders in like it was properly awesome. The moment in training, she could do it. But the moment she hit, the first race she rolled up, she went in and the first turn was the floppy old turn that she used to do, even though we know she can do the other one.
Once you did, she, wasn’t a part of the process of understanding of choosing to change it. And two, she was under pressure and under pressure, what we do is what we know. and that goes back to the hockey example, you know that under pressure, the goalkeeper was going to go to their right certain or their dominant side, that man of times it’s more likely that you will, because.
It’s you’ve had so much success with it or whatever, for whatever reason, it’s the way that you do things. yeah,
Samir Abid: [00:53:41] We could chat forever on this stuff. I’d love to have you back on the show sometime. if you’re out for that. But thank you very much for taking the time and for giving us some insights into your world. And hopefully people listening can get to take some of that and think, Okay.
How do I work that into my own racing, particularly in terms of setting expectations, particularly in terms of managing their preparation and thinking about how they can maybe just do one or two little things a bit better.
Just to see and just hopefully unlock a whole lot of potential and a lot of performance that they’ve already got. They’re just made that if they put a little structure in place into that ownership would be even better. I think the idea of that relationship, thinking about the relationship with your support team, besides it is fascinating and would be new for a lot of people. So yeah, honestly it’s just, there’s so much good stuff. I just, I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Scott Gardner: [00:54:42] it’s an absolute pleasure. Absolute pleasure. I’ve really had a lot of fun.
If there’s two key takeaways would be that end in mind, work backwards rather than help. Not, what we tend to do is work forwards. How can I get a little bit better than I am today rather than actually. You’ll know what you need to do to get better. If you actually do the jump forward into the future, you can’t predict the future, but you can certainly.
Make some decisions about what you want to achieve, and then you can then work backwards on how you’re going to achieve it. So then the decision of today focus is much easier. And the other is, in terms of support is that whole, we’re seeing this shift towards, having high technical knowledge, but with low directive behavior.
So it, it’s creating your own learning environment. And not. going in there and particularly teaching someone else suck eggs and telling them how to do it. Yeah, it is working through that whole open questions in the learning of the skills and the new knowledge. To be able to improve it so that it’s not me, who still knows it. it’s you. Coming up to and learning that’s for yourself with guidance and this guided discovery approach to it, rather than a directive dictatorial like approach, which we’re seeing a big shift, in, in Olympic sport.
Samir Abid: [00:56:14] That would be a big change in Meda score. I would say
Scott Gardner: [00:56:19] It’s huge in Olympic sport.
And often in a, I know a coach who’s switched from coaching one team where he’d created that to another team where the athletes expectation was that you will tell me what to do. And his question to me is how do I get, I coach like this.
Samir Abid: [00:56:39] Yeah.
Scott Gardner: [00:56:40] By guiding and by helping them to learn. Yet, they don’t think that’s coaching.
Samir Abid: [00:56:47] Yeah.
Scott Gardner: [00:56:47] Hey, because their expectation of what coaching is different.
Samir Abid: [00:56:51] I think there’s a big thing about confidence and it’s about credibility. And when you, if you take that route, you can feel your credibility being crushed by the person, looking at you, going. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Why are you asking me these questions? You’re just phobing me off for something, it’s and that’s the confidence.
Scott Gardner: [00:57:09] That’s set up in a whole bunch of what we’ll call contracting. It’s like an, so sitting down with someone to say, look. I’m pretty good at this and this in these areas. I don’t know everything, I’m pretty good in these areas, but the way that I’m going to approach this situation with you is I’m going, you’re not going to get away without thinking. and so we’ll help you to think there are moments where you just, if it’s. Annoying or it’s not right. And it’s not working or whatever, then just ask or just say, I’m not going to get offended by that, but I’m not, I’m going to tell you the answer straight away, even if I know it. In that coaching sense.
And so it’s then helping them to learn. And then you can start to do things. You’re seeing things in the Olympic sport Where it’s if I want someone to learn a skill or something new, we create a game where they’re rewarded for that type of behavior, that new behavior and where the athletes have to work together, to be able to problem solve together.
Cause ultimately the athlete, or, the driver is the one out there. Under pressure who has to make those decisions. They don’t have a coach or their technical expert or their instructor or whatever with them at that moment. So the whole thing is recognize that and set that situation up so that you’re in that best position to be able to make those decisions under pressure when someone’s right on your ass, pushing you around that day or whatever.
Samir Abid: [00:58:36] That’s really good so just to sum up on that . Planting that seed get gives you clarity. And then there’s, 10x different ways in which you could approach addressing that training requirment, but you have got the goal of before we go under pressure in this environment, I need to know a little bit more about X, Y, and Z, or you need to felt that.
So now you can create.
Scott Gardner: [00:59:03] Yeah.
Samir Abid: [00:59:04] Practice
Scott Gardner: [00:59:06] A hundred percent.
I can help you today to get around that corner faster, but will it help you in a race when you’re under pressure?
Maybe not. But. What I want to do is make sure that in a race and under pressure you get around that corner, and you can make that decision for yourself about what you need to do.
And it’s not just about the day you’re doing it better. Yeah. Today is. about you learning how to do it better for when you’re under pressure. And that’s just that slight shift in the conversation that helps or in the training process. Or in the instructing process, that actually makes a massive difference when it comes to learning and growing and improving and ultimately executing.
Samir Abid: [00:59:45] Scott. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much for taking the time and, yeah. it’s a real pleasure to have you on the show and listen to you speak.
Scott Gardner: [00:59:55] Oh, thank you. I appreciate it massively. And hopefully we can do it again sometime soon