Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsPotential Commonwealth Games paralympians are training at Griffith University this week. It's part of the GAPS Programme, assisting track and field athletes from the Oceania region. In April, 300 of the world's best para athletes will converge on the coast. The Commonwealth Games 2018 will have more para-events than any other games in history. And we want more Pacific Islanders here. So, Oceania's Paralympic Committee and Griffith University's GAPS Programme have joined to help athletes from countries like Vanuatu and Samoa prepare like any other elite athlete. We're here to educate them, train them, test them, treat them. But in a way that they can actually go home and implement things in their home environment.
Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsToday, some trained without shoes, while for others it was the first time they'd ever seen a synthetic track. We have only the grass. We haven't got any track. But one thing is certain. These para athletes are having a ball. It's helped me so much for what I'm learning. The way I'm running, the way of training, the way of stretching. They will return home at the end of the week and continue training before a final camp back here in January.
Three stages of the GAPS Programme
The Channel 7 news report in the above video highlights some of the specific details of how the programme is delivered. Let’s take a closer look at the three stages of the programme.
The three stages of the GAPS Programme each include a 5-day training camp. Participants from the Oceanic countries fly out to attend these 3 camps at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, Australia.
During all three of the 5-day camps, athletes are exposed to:
expert coaches specific to their sport
support staff including sports scientists, physiotherapists, psychologists, and sport management teams
Athletes have the opportunity to visit and train at various 2018 Commonwealth Games venues, eg the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.
Let’s find out what happens in each camp…
Gather - Stage 1: Camp 1
During Camp 1, the following sessions are carried out:
- a review of the athletes
- athlete screening
- physical testing
Let’s now see what each of the three sessions involves.
Review of Athlete
A review of the athletes’ pre-prepared training and diet diaries is undertaken by specialist coaches, sports scientists, dietitians, and strength & conditioning coaches.
Athlete screening - Whole-body scan
Each sport has a specifically designed screening programme. Athlete screening includes using measures of general health including a whole-body scan for the determination of body composition and bone density as well as cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors such as blood cholesterol, glucose concentrations and musculoskeletal health.
Physical testing during Camp 1 includes the measurement of lower-body and upper-body peak power, strength, and aerobic power using state-of-the-art equipment in the laboratory and/or using standard field testing methods.
To support these three sessions, education sessions are also provided to help familiarize athletes with the screening and testing procedures. Athletes are also expected to attend both event specific training and strength & conditioning training sessions, where appropriate.
Adjust - Stage 2: Camp 2
During Camp 2 a second review of the athletes’ pre-prepared training and diet diaries is undertaken and athletes are screened for a second time using measures of general and musculoskeletal health. Physical testing is repeated during Camp 2 for comparison with the Camp 1 results. Again, athletes are expected to attend both event specific training and strength & conditioning training sessions during Camp 2.
Focus of Camp 2
The focus of Camp 2 shifts away from education about high-performance systems and screening/testing familiarization to psychological skills and motivational orientations. Topics and activities around resilience and mental toughness are explored and individual athlete measurements are made and examined.
Coaches from the Oceanic countries who attend the camps with their athletes receive professional development and training in the use of mental skills training for sports. They are given the chance to shadow expert coaches at the camps. They are also given practical guidance in how to make use of the resources they have back home despite not having access to the technology they have seen at the camp.
Research has also found that access to quality coaching has a greater impact on training and performance than access to facilities1,2 which is why it is important for the Programme to focus on training the Oceanic coaches.
In the following months after the conclusion of Camp 2, a report is presented by the Griffith Sports College and Griffith Sports Physiology and Performance group to participating CGAs / coaches that outline recommendations relevant to the review, screening, and testing results of Camp 2 with direct comparison to Camp 1.
Prepare - Stage 3: Camp 3
The focus of Camp 3 intensifies around athlete preparation and approach to competition and integrates the knowledge learned around recovery, nutrition, and mental preparation.
It is also the stage where coaches from the Oceanic countries design and deliver a training session themselves - to prepare them for when they return home to their country and need to be able to do this on their own.
Camp 3 includes a workshop aimed at capacity building for continuous performance improvement and concludes with a simulated mini-competition that provides athletes and coaches the opportunity to practice competition day.
Sustain - Throughout and after the camps
Support after the camp is continued for the Oceanic coaches who continue having access to the expert coaches via email, telephone, or video-conference. It is expected that the expert coach provides ongoing constructive criticism or appropriate praise as well as suggestions and progression for improvement.
This support is crucial to allow coaches to put into practice what they have learnt and prompt the athletes to do the same. This helps make the value of the programme sustainable.
We will look further at this direct benefit and the other important benefits of the GAPS Programme in the next step.
Bohlke N, Robinson L. Benchmarking of elite sport systems. Management Decision. 2009;47(1):67-84. Available from: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00251740910929704
Minikin B, Robinson L. Resources and Capabilities? Developing Malaysian National Sport Associations. In Andersen S, Ronglan L.T., Houlihan B, editors. Managing Elite Sport Systems: Research and Practice. Routledge. 2015 https://www.routledge.com/Managing-Elite-Sport-Systems-Research-and-Practice/Andersen-Houlihan-Ronglan/p/book/9781138803275
© Channel 7 News, Gold Coast Australia (video), Griffith University (article)