Case Study 9 - Paddle Power
When it comes to canoe slalom Scotland has a strong tradition of Olympic success with Scots on Team GB winning silver medals at the last two Games.
Behind the scenes, the sportscotland institute of sport has played a key role in the success of the canoeing programme, providing world-class expertise in the area of strength and conditioning over the last nine years.
Dave Clark, Head of Strength and Conditioning at the institute was first approached by Campbell Walsh’s coach, Dave Crosbee, in 2003 to address some issues around Campbell’s shoulders and general strength training. The support proved successful, and Dave continued to design Walsh’s programmes up to the 2004 Olympic Games, working in tandem with the physiotherapy team.
Post Athens, support was extended to other Scottish institute athletes on the programme, notably Fiona Pennie, David Florence and Tim Baillie. This continued until 2007 when GB Canoeing Performance Director, John Anderson, formalised the arrangement, contracting Dave as the lead for strength and conditioning for GB Canoe Slalom programme for 80 days a year, available to all senior squad athletes.
Describing the development of the role Dave says: “Since 2007 I have written programmes and coached about 20 paddlers including all the current senior squad at some time or other. I run strength and pool testing (flat water speed, acceleration and endurance tests) on five or six occasions each year and manage and communicate the results. Another important area is consultation with the athlete/coach team on general periodization and planning, with specific reference to tapering for key races and the development of canoe slalom specific endurance. At the development squad level I have also given some lead and direction for the strength and conditioning programme, structure and content.”
While assessing the impact of such programmes is always difficult, in this case there is clear, objective data showing that all paddlers who have done the strength programme for a given period have increased in strength, power and postural control through the trunk.
Explaining, Dave adds: “Since we moved to Lee Valley just over a year ago we have had regular pool testing which appears to show a link between an increase in strength and flat water speed/acceleration. Along with Al Smith, UKSport Physiologist, we have undoubtedly challenged and changed the view on how to develop canoe slalom specific endurance according to new physiological evidence.”
Canoe Slalom Head Coach, Jurg Gotz, has an unequivocal belief in the contribution that the strength and conditioning programme makes to the sport’s overall success. “Dave is a world class operator and has made a massive contribution to our sport. Prior to his involvement the coaches were responsible for this area with only limited subject knowledge, but now we have had access to Dave’s extensive experience and expertise.
“He has introduced Olympic lifts as part of a year-round strength and conditioning programme, even to the extent of creating a mobile gym which travels with us. He is a great team player and has a fully integrated approach, working closely with the physiotherapists and sports psychologist, which has been hugely beneficial.“