Editor Choice, Sports

The Future of Human Development

By: Dr Andy Walshe • 2 weeks ago •

I received my Human Movement degree in Sydney in the 1980s and started working as a gym instructor, in Strength and conditioning. I then started working with a few athletes, then a few more and got involved with the AIS and Winter Sports Institute, NSWIS, QAS and other sports science programs.

It was in the Sydney gym where I met Fiona Taylor. She was training for the Olympics in Wind Surfing. After working with her I funded my way to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, buying a round-the-world ticket.

On the way back, I picked up a hitch-hiker, Brad Randall in Colorado. Brad was responsible for setting up a snowboarding team and was looking for a coach. I had trained a lot of young surfers in Lennox Heads and he thought that surfing was a lot like snowboarding. So I came back to Australia, packed my bags and spent two years working with the Ski and Snowboarding team in Aspen, Colorado.

On returning to Australia, I realised that the Winter Sports was a good opportunity and did my Ph.D. in Applied Biomechanics at Southern Cross under Greg Wilson while working with the Aussie ski team.

In 1999, on a trip to Europe, I met a young coach in a German pub that I had known from Aspen who was now with the US Ski team and he offered me a position to work at Utah for the Salt Lake City Olympics.

The US had one of the biggest ski teams in the world but in many respects, it was a step backward. They hadn’t adopted the human performance and sports science that we had in Australia. It was quite an enjoyable program shifting some of the summer sports programs in Australia to the Winter Sports in the US.

I lived there for 10 years, developing the programs and extending my US relationships.

Red Bull

In 2000, I started helping the US government, working with the Special Operations communities. At the end of my tenure with the US team, I had an offer to setup a high-performance program with Red Bull. This was an amazing opportunity, working with artists, athletes and all sorts of different communities.

There are 180 different sports under the roster at Red Bull with close to 1,000 athletes, so still worked with athletes but I also got to work with dancers, filmmakers etc.

Over the last 3 years, I was also an advisor to DARPA on their advanced research projects. This has given me a lens into the world of Advanced Research and Technology prog

 

rams in the world, enabling me to work with business, social entrepreneurs and even priests.

I wrote a program for the Berkley School of Divinity at Yale which might sound very different but at the very top of the curve, the things that you focus on as a coach, the framework of character, spirit, empathy and compassion is very similar.

My role was to help frame up a performance model to help them deal with stress and coping. High performers are a lot more similar than they are different.

Now I am working with e-sports, hackers and some of the cognitive athletes. I am working with the top cardiac surgery teams in the country.             

While I cannot share the details of my work with DARPA, I can say that the capacity of what we are capable of doing across the boundaries of human performance is largely untouched. Some of the stuff coming down the pipeline will be profoundly impactful on all aspects of society.

Around the world, different programs continue to evolve in expertise. Whether it is the military or ministry, there are extraordinary paths of human performance and I don’t think anyone has really cracked the code.

There are tools and technologies coming from biotech and medical companies that, once in the hand of coaches, will make massive impacts in sport and society.

I would expect to see these technologies reach mainstream in the next 3-5 years. Developments from Amazon, Google and other companies add to the work done by biotech research companies and the military.

My personal interest is in the Human-Machine interfaces that are being developed.

Cognitive assessment, cognitive load and humans blending with machines with people like Ray Kurzweil talking about connecting brains to the internet within 5 years.

Coaches will benefit from the upcoming technologies and the companies developing them realise that these technologies need to be main-stream to be cost-effective. In the near future, we will see technologies like the artificial coach in the hands of High School coaches.

While the technologies are great, they cannot be humanised effectively. It is when the technology augments the skills of the coach that it becomes effective.

It may be that the technology can help fast-track young coaches to shorten the skills acquisition cycle.  

Over the next few years, I will be taking a more active advisory role with technology companies, working with things like artificial intelligence and will keep Coaching Life reads up to date, where security allows.

Dr. Walshe is currently the Director of High Performance for Red Bull, where he works with hundreds of international athletes and cultural opinion leaders; supervises a team of industry-leading scientists, engineers, physicians and technologiests to develop and implement elite performance models.

Dr. Walshe was the Performance Manager for Red Bull Stratos, leading the performance plan for Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump to Earth from the stratosphere in 2012.

Dr. Andrew Walshe (Andy) is a globally recognized leader and expert in the field of elite human performance.

For over 20 years the Australian native has been focused on the goal of “de-mystifying talent” by researching and training individuals and teams across a vast network of world-class programs in sport, culture, military and business settings.

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