Interview: Sport Science among the chiefs
One of the aims of SPORT SCIENCE COLLECTIVE is to connect sport science people, and this interview is a product of that goal. I was directed to Jamie Schultz by Minky Tshabalala, who I interviewed a few months ago. After a few messages and a call, Jamie was on board and happy to help out. It is great to be able to connect with fellow sport scientists and hear their perspectives, philosophies, and methods. Anyway, I’m sure that you will find this interview interesting and insightful.
Where do you currently work and what are your roles?
JS: I currently work at Kaizer Chiefs football club within the youth academy. I am responsible for the implementation of the performance aspect of the academy’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) and oversight over all day-to-day sport-specific conditioning strategies. This includes the daily implementation of a evidence-based periodization model that allows our Reserve squad to peak for various competition matches, as well as allowing us to promote sufficient physiological development and recovery throughout the lengthy season.
What is your sport science background and area(s) of expertise?
JS: I initially started my degree in 2011, and moved onto my honours in 2014. I then started working at the University of Pretoria Football Club. In 2016 I was hired by Kaizer Chiefs football club into the youth academy as a sport scientist. Finally in 2018 I completed my Masters degree in sports science at the University of Pretoria. My area of expertise would definitely be the periodisation aspect of football, as well as the on-field football-based conditioning methodology I follow.I would say it is what makes my work unique.
What made you get into sport science? And how do you find yourself working in football?
JS: I was a professional athlete myself coming from a small town in Bulawayo Zimbabwe. I didn’t have access to the luxury of a sport scientist, so I decided to become one myself. Football has always been a passion of mine, so I decided to marry the two passions into one and get into the football side of things.
What have been your biggest challenges or barriers as a sport scientist?
JS: To be honest I haven’t really found too many challenges or barriers as a sports scientist. I have had the privilege of working for a two big institutions all with the performance aspect in mind.
Without asking you to divulge details, what sport science is on the go at the Kaizer Chiefs Academy?
JS: Sport science is a massive part of all the programmes at Kaizer Chiefs. The Chairman of the club is a complete visionary, allowing for different individuals to focus on a need at the club, whether it’s coaching or the physical side of the game. As a sport science collective we cover all performance strategies from football-specific conditioning (field- and gym-based) to final phase rehab and prehab, as well as load monitoring using the GPS system. Our post-training responsibilities also include administration of nutritional strategies, as well as cryotherapy session to enhance recovery. We also have weekly meetings with the sport science collective at Kaizer Chiefs to discuss fitness training trends and how we can administer them within the Development squads. Finally, we administer fitness assessments to injured and new players to determine their current training state which in turn allows us to provide individual training programs to these players.
Coming from a predominantly rugby background myself, I’ve always wondered what the training culture is like in football. What are the players’ attitudes towards sport science? Are they receptive?
JS: The players are extremely receptive to the sport science principles implemented. I wouldn’t even say they require a “buy-in”. What is important to remember is the players I am dealing with are fighting to become professionals in the field of football. All they want to do is to perform. They will always do what it takes to perform at the highest level and various sport science principles will help them achieve that.
Conditioning games are a big trend now, and I’m interested to hear your opinion on these and the use of more traditional running blocks for conditioning for football. Thoughts?
JS: Small-sided games invoke a certain response from the players. If you look at the game of football, you hardly ever see a player having to make a straight line run. The highest average sprinting time recorded without the ball is 5s. With straight line running, yes it has a place maybe very early within the season or for a top-up fitness session, however,for me small-sided games are better suited to condition the players. There are several reasons as to why; straight line running requires no decision to be made or execution of skill. In football almost every movement has to be a knock on from what your teammates are doing, as well as a decision as to how they may attack or defend appropriately. The idea of small-sided games used as a conditioning practice are an advanced methodological principle which is more football specific, invoking several aspects of performance such as communication, decision-making, and execution of skill all clinical attributes of a top performing team. Off the ball running for me should be used as a top-up or prehabilitative measure specific to football.
What is your opinion on the state of football in South Africa? How do we compare to the rest of the world, especially from a sport science perspective?
JS: The state of football in our country is not too bad at all. However, I do believe we need a specific playing model and style based on attributes of the South African players, not European players.
What is your personal view on the role a sport scientist should play within the context of a sports team?
JS: A sport scientist should act as a support structure to the coach, a really good sport scientist studies the way a coach would like to play and implements various conditioning methods to suit that style of play. For example if a coach wants to play 4-3-3, a sport scientist should implement a conditioning model to suit the system the coach wants to play, which is where the small-sided games comes into play. Although there are non-negotiable principles to cover in sport science, such as strength and speed for example, but sport scientists should always support the head coach they are working under.
Theoretically: If you were given free rein to do as you wish within the context of sport science in South Africa, what would you try to implement to promote, progress, and protect the field?
JS: Education. Education of relevant sport science principles to coaches and teams who don’t have the luxury of employing a sport scientist, especially within the youth ranks of our football structures. The youth of today will become our Bafana or Banyana of tomorrow. I think there are several gaps in our youth development that need addressing This is something I’m prepared to get involved with, and I have a project coming out early next year. Unfortunately I can’t divulge the info, but just know there is something in the pipeline and watch this space.
What is your next step? Or what would you like to be doing 10 years from now?
JS: I don’t tend to think too much about what is next for me. I am totally focused on what I need to do to provide the chairman of Kaizer Chiefs the best service he deserves. He has placed alot of trust in our work, and we have to provide him with the best service in return.
Is there any advice you would give to those considering or working towards a sport science qualification?
JS: The sport science industry is a pretty difficult industry. My advice would be to consult the long-time servers in the industry and how they go about doing their jobs to divulge their own preference of practice (by preference of practice I am referring to your own methodology of training based on sports science principles). We are taught basic sport science principles, it is the application of these principles in a methodology that works for you in sports science. Your preference of practice will make you an outlier in the industry, through consulting several of these individuals you’ll begin to realise your own preference of practice.
Last question, I swear. Messi or Ronaldo? Who’s the GOAT?
JS: Jason, I am a sport scientist, we govern facts and present findings, facts say Messi (6 Ballon d’or awards to Ronaldo’s 5).