Last week Jonny Bloomfield caught up with Dr Ben Rosenblatt for a quick chat about his experience at Rio 2016 and winning Gold with GB Women’s hockey…
JB: Ben, welcome to Sports Discovery. Tell us a little about your professional journey as so far…
BR: I started S&C coaching full time in 2006. Having spent 3 years coaching university athletes whilst studying, I was lucky enough to be accepted on the UK Sport Practitioner Development programme in 2007 (where I met you JB!) and worked as a rehab S&C coach at the Olympic Medical Institute of the British Olympic Association (BOA). From 2008-2009 I was Head of Fitness & Conditioning at Birmingham City FC where we gained promotion to the Premier League. I then took a role on as Senior Rehabilitation Scientist at the Intensive Rehabilitation Unit of the BOA and English Institute of Sport. Here I became really interested in collective objective evidence to influence decision making in rehabilitation, finding effective and efficient training methods to get athletes fitter quicker and building close relationships with support teams from the elite sport system. Alongside this I started to work with some GB Judo fighters from Camberley Judo Club in the build up to London 2012 (we qualified 3 fighters, winning 1 Bronze). In 2013 I took the Lead S&C for the GB Women’s Hockey team, completing my PhD in 2014 (A biomechanical analysis of the principles of training in strength and conditioning for sprinting) which only took me 7 years!
JB: You’ve just come back from Rio with a Gold Medal as part of the Women’s GB Hockey Team, please try and describe for us what that experience was like?
BR: Incredible! It was an intense experience which finished off an amazing journey that this squad has been on since 2009. It’s rare that things go well in sport and I was so happy for my friends and colleagues that we were able to share that experience together.
JB: Can you share with us any relevant examples of what you believe has made significant impact on player performance?
BR: Undoubtedly finishing 11th out of 12 at the World Cup in 2014. It made all of the athletes, coaches and support team sit up and take much more responsibility for our day to day behaviours and ask ourselves if they were really aligned with what we were trying to achieve. We did a large amount of work around what our team vision was, what defined us as a group and what behaviours were aligned to this. We then sought about reinforcing these in all of our daily training and competition environments. As coaches we tried to shape our language and sessions around these values and these behaviours. (read about the Danny Kerry Story here – JB)
Alongside this we tried to create an environment where the players were in charge of their learning and contributed to the direction of the programme. They met on a quarterly basis to discuss their development and they would have frank conversations with the coaches about what they needed to do to give themselves the best chance possible of making the team.
From my perspective, the most important thing that I did was speak to the players as a group and as individuals on a frequent basis. At the start of training for the 2014/2015 season the players and I had a conversation which started by asking “from a physical perspective, how do you want to be defined as a team” an “what habits and behaviours do you think will deliver these in our training environment”. I was then able to construct sessions around these objectives and have conversations with individual athletes around the training they needed to do in order to achieve their individual or team objective. When I wanted to change the training direction I would consult with our leadership group and they would challenge me and guide me on how best to make things stick with the team.
The philosophy was always what’s important to the team, what’s important to you, how are we going to achieve this, when will we know when it’s done? I would say that with 3 months to go until the Olympics, only 3 or 4 players really needed an S&C coach. The rest could have done it by themselves!
JB: What would your advice be to a young S&C Coach who’s seeking to follow in your footsteps?
BR: Get stuck in! Don’t wait for opportunities as they won’t come. Build a portfolio of work with whoever wants it and gain mentors who will challenge the way you think. Keep a record or diary of your work and try to answer these questions:
- What was I trying to achieve?
- How did I approach it?
- Was it successful?
- Why yes or no?
- What feedback did I receive?
JB: That’s truly great advice, expanding on that, what would your advice be to an experienced S&C Coach who’s working for a successful team?
BR: My biggest realisation was that it doesn’t have to be me delivering it or my idea. In our industry, if you give people the opportunity to be great then they will be. So if you have recruited well, you’ve shared the full context of the environment they are working in, then you can set shared objectives and give people the freedom to go and achieve them in the best way they see fit. I think for people who are leading programmes it’s our responsibility to create an environment for people to be great in.
Aligning multi-disciplinary teams around shared objectives and having non-discipline focused themes also helps break down professional barriers and keeps everyone aligned towards the greater objectives.
I also try and do a good job of watching, listening and probing. This helps me understand what is important to the people I’m working with and then I might be able to find help them find a way to achieving it.
“nobody told me it was white shirts today! :-)”
JB: Finally, what does the future now hold for you and what’s the next milestone?
BR: Firstly, I’d like to extend my thanks to the physical performance team for the the 2016 Olympiad Andy Hudson, Tom Drowley, Mat Bramhall, James Mitchell, Megan Moran and Tom Rusga. It was a team effort and and the success of the team was a product of the efforts of all of the team.
Since I’ve come home from Rio, I’ve now started a new role as Lead Men’s Physical Performance Coach with the English Football Association. I’m looking forward to finding out what’s important to the coaches, players, support teams and clubs so that we can develop bespoke physical performance strategies based on shared objectives.
It’s an exciting time to work in football, but the biggest milestone I have coming up is my wedding to Coral!
JB: Thanks so much for your time Ben and for providing our readers with more valuable insight behind the sinning cultures you’ve played a part in creating. We wish you well in your new role and thank you so much for speaking to us before your wedding, we wish that you and Coral have a marvellous day and fabulous honeymoon! What a year!
Connect with Ben on Twitter: @