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Business Reverse Engineering Coaching


By: Wayne Goldsmith •  3 years ago •  

Commonwealth Games 2022 Reverse Engineering Coaching

Success for the NEXT Commonwealth Games.

By Wayne Goldsmith

The attention of athletes, coaches, national sporting bodies, the media and the sporting public across the Commonwealth is about to turn towards the Commonwealth Games 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia.

Final preparations are underway.

Facilities are being painted, prepared and primed to look their best.

Athletes and coaches are in the final stages of training – and about to commence their tapering and peaking phases in order to be in the best possible shape to compete in this year’s Games.

Yet, in training centres, swimming pools, courts, fields and gyms across the Commonwealth there are other athletes – other coaches – already looking ahead to the next Commonwealth Games in 2022.

The question is, how do coaches plan for success for major events like the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and even the Olympic Games more than four years in advance?

What is the process a coach can put in place to help their athletes plan, prepare and ultimately perform when it really matters in a major international sporting event?

Welcome to the world of
Reverse Engineering Coaching.

Major Events: Three Types of Thinking

“Nothing we do guarantees success. We can’t guarantee success. What we aim to do as professionals is to increase the likelihood of success”. (Legend Australian Swimming Head Coach Don Talbot).

Many athletes and coaches wish, hope and dream of success at a major international sporting event like the Commonwealth Games. However, wishes, hopes and dreams do not lead to medal winning performances without clear strategies and a focused preparation – that is, a preparation focused on the achievement of a world class performance under ‘Games conditions.

Ask yourself one question, “Who is it that wins at major events and ‘Games?”

Is it the “lucky” coaches, athletes and teams who just happen to stumble onto a formula for success and everything miraculously comes together for them at the ‘Games?

Is it the fortunate coaches, athletes and teams who didn’t really win – it’s just that their opposition were unlucky and made some errors at the wrong time?

Or is it the coaches, athletes and teams who put in place a clear plan and strategy several years prior to the ‘Games and worked methodically, systematically and relentlessly to ensure every detail of that plan was put into action at the right time – and in the right way?

Nothing guarantees success; however, coaches can increase the likelihood of success by applying the principles of Reverse Engineering Coaching in their long-term planning.

How Do Coaches Prepare for Success in Major International Sporting Events?

There are coaches who consistently deliver outstanding results at major international sporting events – and others who find the ‘Games performance environment difficult and demanding and are constantly frustrated at their lack of ‘Games success.

The question is – how do coaches prepare for success in major international sporting events?

It often comes down to their overall planning and preparation philosophy, and how they think about the challenge of winning in a ‘Games environment.

“Let’s do what we’ve always done”
Likelihood of success:LOW

The critical difference between participation level sport and high-performance sport is – change. Coaches who base their ‘Games plans and programs on what they’ve done in the past, are destined to fail.

In an era where coaches can measure, monitor and analyse the techniques and methods of their opposition closely and accurately, relying on the “past” to determine the “future” is a thinking strategy doomed from the outset.

“Let’s copy what the others are doing”
Likelihood of success: MODERATE

In high performance sport, copying kills. It is normal and natural to want to copy the best athletes, coaches and teams in your sport. The medal winners – the world record holders – the champions – set the agenda for the sport and because it is easier to copy and replicate than it is to create and innovate, most coaches choose to follow what their more successful competitors are doing.

Occasionally, learning from another coach can spark some ideas and provide a new direction for your program, but ultimately winners in all walks of life and in all fields of endeavour are those who dare to be different, who do things differently and do different things.

“Let’s dare to be different”
Likelihood of success: HIGH

Leaders do one thing: they lead.

Coaches who consistently deliver medal winning performances at major events are the ones who are leading the introduction of new ideas, new techniques and new methods of planning, preparing and performing under the pressure of international sporting competition.

They are the ones who look at what they’ve done in the past – only to learn from it and then to strive to improve on it. They don’t believe in the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

They know that “If it ain’t broke, tear it down and look for new and better ways to do it”.

Reverse Engineering Coaching: How It Works.

There are three basic Reverse Engineering Coaching techniques:


Predicting is commonly used in “time” based sports such as track and field, swimming and cycling. It involves undertaking extensive research on the past 5- 10 ‘Games cycles and examining

the rate of improvement in the sport every four years. For example, conventional wisdom held for many years that many swimming events would improve, i.e. the world record times would get faster, by approximately 2-3% per four- year ‘Games cycle. This then led to many coaches and swimmers planning to produce a 2-3%

improvement from one ‘Games to the next using this “prediction” of future times as a guideline and framework to be reflected in their training, periodization, competition targets etc. etc.


 Shaping is a Reverse Engineering Coaching technique more commonly used with team sports.

Shaping quite literally means to “shape” the future of the sport through, innovation, creativity, training techniques, revolutionary strategies, breakthrough equipment, development etc.

it is taking the lead in sport by finding leading edge techniques and strategies that may potentially give athletes, coaches and teams a winning advantage over their ‘Games competition.

Ambushing (or Shadowing)

Ambushing (or Shadowing) is the Reverse Engineering Coaching technique of closely observing, analysing, watching, measuring and studying your opposition and tracking their ideas, innovations, strategies etc. and in doing so developing strategies and techniques to counter them.

in many ways “Ambushing” is the opposite Reverse Engineering Coaching technique to “Shaping”.

It relies on being able to closely and accurately track, monitor, measure and analyse the innovations and strategies being employed by the sport’s leading thinkers and performers and to be able to “counter” what they’re doing in ‘Games conditions.SORT:TECHNIQUE (A-Z)TECHNIQUE (A-Z)TECHNIQUE (Z-A)PROS OF THE TECHNIQUE (A-Z)PROS OF THE TECHNIQUE (Z-A)CONS OF THE TECHNIQUE (A-Z)CONS OF THE TECHNIQUE (Z-A)

PREDICTINGGives coaches, athletes and teams clear, tangible goals and targets to achieve. Provides measurable preparation and performance targets to underpin the structure of training cycles.Does not allow for “Outliers”, i.e. exceptionally talented athletes and coaches to significantly change the standards in the sport. Relies on doing a lot of “homework” and having the skills, knowledge and ability to apply the learning from the “homework”, i.e. previous performance results to the achievement of future ‘Games success.
SHAPINGPlaces coaches, athletes and teams in a “leadership” role in their sport. Provides innovative and creative coaches with the opportunity to gain a significant advantage over their opposition.If the timing of the introduction of the new ideas, new strategies etc. is not managed intelligently and strategically, opposition coaches, athletes and teams may develop counter strategies to negate the advantages gained through the Shaping process. Relies on the coach and athletes to find new and better ways of doing things through a commitment to continuous improvement.
AMBUSHING (Shadowing)Allows coaches, athletes and teams to increase the likelihood of success by keeping a close track on the leading edge thinking, strategies and practices in their sport. Can provide coaches, athletes and teams with a winning advantage that can catch their opposition “off-guard”.Relies on the coaches and athletes being able to clearly understand what it is the “Shapers” are doing, and to be able to develop ways of countering the “Shapers” innovations. Basing a medal winning program on being able to counter what the opposition is doing is fraught with danger as the opposition may change their strategies, tactics etc. in the final stages of their  ‘Games campaign.

Regardless of the Reverse Coaching Engineering technique used, it is essential that all coaches, athletes and teams wishing to succeed at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, commence the planning, preparation and execution before the 2018 Closing Ceremony has concluded. 

1They call a “vision” a “vision” because you can SEE it. Coaches who lead their sport forward do so by “seeing” clearly – with great detail – the future that they themselves will create. Once a coach – or a leader in any field of endeavour – can “see” the future they can inspire other to also “see” the future.   

2Successful coaches need to be able to a”sell” dreams and inspire athletes to “see” the intangible, to do “the unknown” in order to achieve the seemingly “impossible”.

3It all begins with the coach’s ability and willingness to let go of the rituals, habits and traditions of the past and to change their thinking to seek new, smarter and more innovative ways of pursuing excellence in the future.

4Success is a moving target – and for those coaches and athletes who pursue excellence and seek to win, it is essential to be committed to learning every day, to strive for continuous improvement and to embrace new and innovative ways of getting better – everyday – in everything they do.

5In high performance sport, copying kills! The people who forge the future are those who’ve dreamed what’s possible and who work tirelessly and uncompromisingly towards it. Don’t seek best practice on the

internet, in books, at courses or in conferences.

Become best practice – live best practice – by rigorously, honestly and continuously reflecting on your coaching and challenging yourself to get better at it.

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