JCU Hub works to build ultimate athletes

A band of elite super athletes could soon be leading their teams to victory with help from James Cook University’s Performance Science Hub.

JCU Senior Lecturer and Elite Athlete Program Manager Wade Sinclair said the Hub has been in high demand from local teams and athletes eager to get a winning edge on the playing field.

“We’ve got two regular programs up and running at the moment and we’re in discussions with another three groups as well,” Mr Sinclair said.

“It’s going gangbusters at the moment.

“For the groups that are using the Hub, they’ve got access to the whole gym. We provide a sports science officer, or they provide their own strength and conditioning coach.

“A lot of the programs we are facilitating out of the Hub have an educational focus to them. We want to pass on some different training and recovery techniques that are tools these groups can take away to use in their own training.”

Mr Sinclair said there are several key elements to improving athletes’ performance, including physical preparation, limiting muscle damage post-training, recovery, and training in high heat conditions.

“We’re also designing a training environment to elicit the best results,” he said.

“For example, an Honours project about to start is looking at ways of accelerating skill acquisition for spin bowlers in youth cricket, in terms of improving the number of revolutions junior spinners can impart on the ball and thus generate more spin off the pitch.

“More specifically, this project will look at how effectively manipulating the training environment, via changing constraints, can improve a spinner’s ability to turn the ball.”

The Hub also has an Honours project working with the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Young Guns Under-20s squad to map out a pathway and prepare them for a career in the top flight National Rugby League.

“A lot of the training methods, types of exercises and preventative activities to avoid injuries have been derived from sports science,” Mr Sinclair said.

“We’re about pushing the envelope, in a legal and ethical way, to improve athlete performance.”

Mr Sinclair said sport science had multiple applications across different sports.

“The Winter Olympics proved that,” he said.

“There were beach sprinters, track and field stars and former gymnasts who were competing because sports science has identified cross-sports talent where the needs of athletes are similar.”

Mr Sinclair said a Sports and Exercise PhD student had commenced working with the Australian Defence Force to analyse how quickly soldiers can return to their daily physical training regimen after being on an exercise for a few weeks in the bush.

“That can elicit muscle damage of various proportions, coupled with poor diet, dehydration and sleep deprivation, which make it a very difficult environment,” he said.

“We consider soldiers tactical athletes and their commanding officers need to know how soon they can return to regular physical training following an exercise.

“We want them to be cognitively alert but physically strong enough to protect themselves and handle the arduous tasks required of them.”

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