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World-Cup Winning Coach On Sports Performance, Fitness & Mentality

Performance coach Darcy Norman gave Pundit Arena a fascinating insight into his experiences with football teams such as Bayern Munich, AS Roma and the German national team. 

Norman highlighted the importance of mental strength in the optimization of sports performance.

“I think everything we do involves mental strength. One player that I recently worked with, Kevin Strootman, went through a difficult period with a knee injury. It was his fortitude, commitment, drive, determination that allowed him to work through those difficult issues.

“Your brain is a limiting piece to performance. If you’re mentally not willing, then you’re not going to succeed, and if you’re mentally willing, you can put your body through amazing things.

“I think it’s funny when someone says ‘this team is unfit’.

“According to fitness tests, they’re technically all fit, you know, if they look unfit on the pitch it must be because they don’t know where to run, they’re not motivated to run, or they don’t know what’s happening tactically, so you don’t get the impression that they’re fit.”

Norman played a key role in the success of Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup as the teams high-performance consultant and has been the driving force behind Bayern Munich and AS Roma’s Fitness & Rehabilitation programmes.

When asked to compare his experiences with Germany to his job at club teams such as Bayern and Roma, Norman said:

“The time spent with each other is far different, I equate the club teams to being with your family every day. Sometimes you won’t agree on certain decisions, things don’t go well and you’re involved more in the day-to-day activities with the club teams.

“Whereas the national teams it’s like a family reunion. You don’t see each other for a while, you get together and time spent together is short but very impactful.

“The difference between Bayern and AS Roma from a club perspective is obviously the different cultures.  For Bayern, they have predominantly German players and a different way of doing things to the Italians.”

Award-winning sports analytics company Kitman Labs has appointed Norman as its US Head of Performance Science.

Joining Kitman Labs, Norman will be focused on helping teams to convert athlete data into injury prevention and performance enhancement solutions, as well as helping to drive strategy and innovation within the business. Darcy said:

“I’m delighted to be joining Kitman Labs, an innovative company that is as passionate as I am about delivering simple, practical solutions to real problems concerning athlete performance and health.”

Kitman Labs recently added Bundesliga team FC Augsburg to its growing base of football clients, which also includes Premier League clubs Everton and Bournemouth, SPL clubs Celtic and Rangers and MLS teams LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Toronto FC. Other sports customers include top teams in the NFL, NHL, MLB, NRL, and AFL and Rugby Union.

When asked whether he believes statistics are always an accurate representation of a player’s performance, Darcy responded:

“I think data is critically important.  We use it in our lives all the time to help base decisions whether we realize it or not.

“We use it in medicine when diagnosing patients, we use it to help make informed choices, we use it to help understand our current situation like reading a gas gauge in your car and whether we should pull over now for gas or we can keep driving.

“Data is there to help you make more objective and informed decisions bottom line.  However, It is not the be all end all.”

Having also spent two spells as Performance Therapist/Coach, and Director of the Performance Innovation Team at EXOS, Darcy is an experienced coach, physio and trainer in football, athletic training, biomechanics, technology, data and fitness training.

Darcy says he has worked with ten different head coaches in ten years, and each of these coaches has their own specific management style and utilises unique methods to get the best from their players.

“Each coach is very different and they do things very differently. Some coaches focus on technical, tactical stuff, some focus on conditioning.

“There’s a lot of ways to get the outcome of what the clubs are predominantly concerned about, which is winning and losing.

“If a team is winning, then no questions asked. If a team are losing then a lot of questions are asked.”

Norman said that injuries such as a concussion are especially dangerous because they are so rare, and it is difficult to be prepared for such serious incidents.

“Concussion is becoming more and more of a relevant issue.

“It’s a serious topic, the fact that it doesn’t occur very often means people might not think about it as much.

“It’s like a car accident, people think ‘oh, I won’t get into a car accident, I’m a safe driver’.

“There was a case in America where a high-school player had a cardiac arrest due to a concussion.

“As a collective industry, we have to take in a better sense of concussion so we can make sure the players are in a safe, healthy way.”

Norman also revealed how sports physios and performance coaches are able to stay within the realms of which performance-enhancing techniques are considered legal or illegal in their respective sports.

“It’s all around definition. It’s understanding what is legal and what is not and following the rules. You have to keep it that simple.

“However, defining what is legal, what is illegal and defining how far down you go one way or the other is difficult.

“For me, the more natural, the better, is an easy way to look at it.”

He revealed his excitement at starting his new role at as US Head of Sports Performance at Kitman Labs and outlined his aims and objectives for the company:

“One of the things I’m super excited about is the analytical opportunities that I think are really going to help athletes make better decisions that will lead to better outcomes.

We’re working at getting smarter, getting better, providing the best environment for the athletes to maintain a good, competitive sport that people enjoy watching.”

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.