Whether you’re dusting the cobwebs from your trainers or on the cusp of Olympic glory, a holistic approach of using the right expert for the right task at the right time is the key to optimising sports performance.
Over the last two decades, sports performance has undergone a dramatic revolution. Fuelled by cutting edge science and technology from the pursuit of sporting greatness at elite level, the lessons learned are now benefitting athletes and sportspeople at all levels, worldwide. The notion that the expertise, knowledge and experience of sports performance professionals is reserved only for the highest level athletes is a glass ceiling that has well and truly been smashed. The resulting landscape clearly shows that a holistic approach is the ideal, and now achievable, way to optimise sporting performance.
What is the holistic approach to sports performance?
The holistic approach recognises that sporting performance is not just the time run, distance thrown or match won. Rather, there is a deep and intricate mesh of physiological, psychological, biomechanical and other factors that result in optimal sporting performance (1). This includes:
- Physical health
- Diet and nutrition
- Mental wellbeing
- Rest and recovery
- The right equipment
Each factor is governed by professionals with specific training and expertise in assessing people in those domains, and devising management plans and interventions to maximise their performance. This includes personal trainers, coaches, sports therapists, nutritionists, podiatrists, osteopaths, chiropractors, sports psychologists and sports equipment specialists. Each professional works within their domain, but in a manner that is directly complementary to others’. The fine-tuning, fettling and optimisation of each factor results in an overall enhancement of performance, wellbeing, health and enjoyment that far surpasses the sum of its individual parts.
Why do we need a holistic approach?
We have long appreciated that sporting success is not only about athletic performance, but just as much about their training, tactics, resilience, mood, rest, recovery, the food they eat and the equipment they use. However, both competitive and recreational athletes attempt to manage all these complex and nuanced factors on their own, despite having limited understanding, expertise or bandwidth to do so. Often, people are not even aware of the range of factors affecting their performance (2). To make matters worse, the abundance of information available on the internet and social media can be daunting and crippling. The result is an athlete with dropping performance, crushed by information overload, lacking confidence and unhappy.
With the holistic approach to sports performance, rather than putting the onus on the athlete to manage all the different factors affecting their performance, trust and responsibility is put on highly trained professionals. One of the greatest benefits of the holistic approach is a highly personalised and bespoke management plan that is exquisitely specific to your individual goals and aspirations. This is the key to sporting success.
This approach is proven at the elite level to result in significant competitive advantage. Increasingly, these lessons, techniques and technologies are available to athletes and sportspeople regardless of level, with ever-growing access to sports performance professionals and their wealth of expertise. It is no surprise that people taking advantage of the holistic approach not only see dramatic improvements in performance, but are likely to be healthier, less prone to injury, recover faster and derive greater enjoyment from their sporting pursuits.
What is the scientific evidence supporting a holistic approach?
Holistic sports performance professionals, their roles and their interventions is a topic of fervently active research within the Sports Science community. A wide range of benefits have been demonstrated, such as:
- Increased athletic performance (3)
- Improved balance (4)
- Faster reaction time (5)
- Injury reduction (6)
- Reduced need for medication (7)
- Avoiding surgical operations (8)
- Weight loss (9)
- Improved tactical decision-making (10)
Furthermore, there is growing evidence to support the theory that combining multiple sports performance professionals into a tailored, holistic approach is a highly effective strategy (11,12)
Lessons learned from holistic sports performance at the elite level are available for all to benefit from. No longer just the privilege enjoyed by elite athletes, there is now an abundance of cutting-edge sports performance knowledge, experience and skill available at your doorstep. Take a look and level-up your training armamentarium – your rivals already have.
The content of this article does not constitute medical advice by a registered healthcare professional. Please consult your physician before starting any new diet, exercise or training programme.
- Glazier PS. Towards a Grand Unified Theory of sports performance. Hum Mov Sci. 2017 Dec;56(Pt A):139–56.
- Tam R, Beck KL, Gifford JA, Flood VM, O’Connor HT. Development of an Electronic Questionnaire to Assess Sports Nutrition Knowledge in Athletes. J Am Coll Nutr. 2020 Oct;39(7):636–44.
- Hedlund S, Nilsson H, Lenz M, Sundberg T. Effect of chiropractic manipulation on vertical jump height in young female athletes with talocrural joint dysfunction: a single-blind randomized clinical pilot trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2014 Feb;37(2):116–23.
- Papa L, Amodio A, Biffi F, Mandara A. Impact of osteopathic therapy on proprioceptive balance and quality of life in patients with dizziness. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2017 Oct;21(4):866–72.
- DeVocht JW, Vining R, Smith DL, Long C, Jones T, Goertz C. Effect of chiropractic manipulative therapy on reaction time in special operations forces military personnel: a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2019 Jan 3;20(1):5.
- Paterson KL, Hinman RS, Metcalf BR, Campbell PK, Menz HB, Hunter DJ, et al. Podiatry intervention versus usual general practitioner care for symptomatic radiographic osteoarthritis of the first metatarsophalangeal joint: a randomised clinical feasibility study. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2019 Nov 15;
- Lamb SE, Williamson EM, Heine PJ, Adams J, Dosanjh S, Dritsaki M, et al. Exercises to improve function of the rheumatoid hand (SARAH): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2015 Jan 31;385(9966):421–9.
- Delitto A, Piva SR, Moore CG, Fritz JM, Wisniewski SR, Josbeno DA, et al. Surgery Versus Nonsurgical Treatment of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. Ann Intern Med. 2015 Apr 7;162(7):465–73.
- Morelli V, Davis C. The potential role of sports psychology in the obesity epidemic. Prim Care. 2013 Jun;40(2):507–23.
- Collins L, Collins D. Professional judgement and decision-making in adventure sports coaching: the role of interaction. J Sports Sci. 2016;34(13):1231–9.
- Malone MA, Gloyer K. Complementary and alternative treatments in sports medicine. Prim Care. 2013 Dec;40(4):945–68, ix.
- Goertz CM, Long CR, Hondras MA, Petri R, Delgado R, Lawrence DJ, et al. Adding chiropractic manipulative therapy to standard medical care for patients with acute low back pain: results of a pragmatic randomized comparative effectiveness study. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 Apr 15;38(8):627–34.