Interview with a Sports Scientist at the South Australian Cricket Association

Interview with a Sports Scientist at the South Australian Cricket Association

We talk to Fabian who is completing a PhD in Sports Science and works with the South Australian Cricket Association. He’s previously worked with Volleyball South Australia, presented at international sports science conferences and had the opportunity to work with Australian and International cricketers in the Big Bash League. Pretty impressive start to a career! Check out our interview with him below:

Give us a brief overview of your background

I’ve lived in Adelaide my whole life, completing my schooling at Adelaide High School and university studies at the University of South Australia. I completed a Bachelor of Human Movement and Bachelor of Health Science (Honours) and currently undertaking a PhD in Sports Science. 

I decided to get involved with several voluntary internship positions across several sports throughout my undergraduate studies which without a doubt exposed me to some outstanding mentors and opportunities to learn and develop as a young high performance practitioner. These involved Volleyball South Australia, Glenelg Football Club and the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA).  I currently work as a Strength and Conditioning Coach & Sports Scientist at the SACA.

You’re completing a PhD in Sport Science. Which area are you focusing on?

The main focus is to identify an objective marker of fatigue in elite cricket players. Currently we’re investigating the application of a submaximal running test as a potential “player readiness assessment”. 

The way I explain it to people is; we’re using GPS and accelerometery technology to see how the players move during the submaximal running test and see how these movement pattern change when fatigued vs not- fatigued. 

You spent two and a half years at Volleyball South Australia. Talk us through some of your work in the high performance space there?

I was very lucky to work alongside some highly regarded National and International coaches with Olympic and World Championship experience during my time at Volleyball South Australia (VSA). I shared a dual role as both a skills and strength and conditioning coach of both the Academy program and State program. I think having the opportunity to have a dual role allowed me to really work on my own coaching philosophy which I continue to use today. 

I learnt a lot about having good pathway structures in place, the importance of high-performance behaviours and how these influence an athlete’s development and desire to get better as well as having a holistic approach to someone’s development. I was involved for nearly three years which gave me the opportunity to play an important role in the development of a core group of athletes. Seeing people grow as a result of the structures in place highlighted the importance of having one. 

A big take home for me after working with VSA was I learnt to appreciate the importance of teaching the fundamentals well and focusing on the basics. I am a big believer now that if an athlete doesn’t understand the “why” then as a coach, you haven’t done your job well enough. I was soon to realise that the age of the athlete didn’t change the way you coached them.  During my time with VSA I was also lucky enough to coach at the Australian Junior National Championships for both beach and indoor and was involved in numerous medals winning teams. 

The BBL is definitely an exciting time for all and the chance to work with some International and Australian superstars is pretty cool. The challenge for us is we typically get a 7-10 day window before the first game to make sure everyone is ready to go.

You’ve spent four years with the South Australian Cricket Association. What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve been involved with?

I was involved in the first ever research study investigating the physical workload demands of Women’s Twenty 20 cricket. We identified a gap within the sport and saw a great opportunity to act on it. We quantified the physical workload demands between the International level, National level and Youth level and discovered that the physical demand became greater the higher the level of competition. This finding has improved the way we prepare not only our elite female cricket players but also our youth women’s pathway. I have since published this research.

Another exciting project was our initial discovery of our easy to perform submaximal running test (SSRT) and its ability to detect changes in endurance exercise performance. As a result of these findings we gained some media exposure and I was also lucky enough to present at the Cricket Australia Sports Science conference in 2019 and 2020 as well as the World Congress of Science and Medicine in Cricket held in Loughborough, England in July 2019. This research has since been published too. We have continued our work investigating the use of the SSRT and its ability to be a potential assessment to assess fatigue in athletes and their readiness to perform. 

Along side these more formal research projects, I have also been involved in a range of in-house projects investigating fast bowler profiles using GPS data, competition and training workload analysis between youth and senior male athletes, the common reliability studies of routine activities within our training environment as well as creating an online exercise library resource for all our athletes to utilise.

We have a big philosophy at the SACA that any project involving sports science or strength and conditioning needs to be aimed at improving performance but at the same time not interfere or disrupt the focus of our athletes which is developing their skills and winning games of cricket.

What are the key components of the role of someone in high performance & sport science. How much of your time is spent working directly with players compared to being in front of a computer coding or performing analysis?

I think even though your title might be sports science, strength and conditioning or high performance you’re theoretically a coach who uses both practical experience and science together to produce good quality advice, knowledge, expertise and support to the athletes you’re working with to make them better. 

In my current role, my time spent between working directly with the players vs in front of a computer is probably about 70/30. A big portion of what I do is hands-on coaching during warmups, weight sessions, running sessions or rehab sessions. A lot of the behind the scenes work involves crunching the numbers of the GPS data or planning what the next week might look like for the players or meetings with coaches and staff. I think the balance between both is important but without a doubt the interaction with the players and the hands-on coaching is the best because this is when you can influence people to become better.

The BBL. It definitely takes the Australian public by storm over the summer. How has it been working with some international superstars and Australian players in a high pressure environment?

The BBL is definitely an exciting time for all and the chance to work with some International and Australian superstars is pretty cool. The challenge for us is we typically get a 7-10 day window before the first game to make sure everyone is ready to go. We’re lucky that all our players in Adelaide for the Strikers have been consistent over the past few seasons which makes the transition a lot easier. We don’t change much in their programs but will support and facilitate their needs and will adjust on an individual basis if needed. 

Since being involved in the BBL I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a continually evolving competition which has definitely become one of the best in the world. The increased scheduling has meant we have had to be become more creative with the way we optimise the player’s time between matches which has been awesome to be a part of. 

When the BBL is in full swing our training week looks a lot different to what a normal training week might look like for many other sports. Sometimes we can play three matches in one week but at three different locations around the country. So, a lot of time is spent travelling, recovering and optimising their opportunity to work on their skills. 

How has the role of data & tech changed in Australian sport in the last few years you’ve been involved?

In sport in general there are so many different types of data and tech that can be used to collect information on an athlete. Within sport science and strength and conditioning, I think as an industry we can sometimes get held up with collecting heaps of data because it looks good but never actually utilise it to its full potential. I believe unless the data can be used to drive performance improvements or assist in maintaining a healthy athlete through injury management then it should be left alone. 

In cricket, the use of GPS wearable technology has increased dramatically. We can now generate fast bowler player profiles which can be used to drive conversations between the players, coaches and sports science about how to facilitate performance improvements. We can also illustrate how physically demanding cricket can be within all formats of the game which can assist in appropriately preparing the players for those demands. 

If you could use your skill-set to work with one cricketer in the world to help them with a specific issue – who would you choose and why?

For those that know me, know I don’t have favourites so it’s too hard to select one cricket player I would really like to work with. Everyone has their own uniqueness about them which would make anyone good to work with. 

In saying this, the skill set I would use would be attention to detail and the desire to make someone better at what they’re doing. I strongly believe all the other sport science and strength and conditioning skills come with that. 

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