A STORY OF MARGINAL GAINS
Once upon a time, a suicidal Australian dentist call Dr Paddi Lund decided not to jump from a bridge into a Brisbane River but instead, to remove 95% of his patient list keeping only the 5% he actually liked. He then asked them to refer their friends. By focusing on seemingly unimportant factors, like patient rapport and a happy environment in his surgery, he built up one of the most successful dental practices in Australia.
England Rugby Coach, Sir Clive Woodward read his book and adopted these critical non-essentials (Cnes) into his team preparations for the 2003 Rugby World Cup where England emerged as Champions. Performance Director for GB Cycling, Sir David Brailsford then famously applied the philosophy of ‘marginal gains’ to the British Cycling Team who went on to win 60% of the gold medals in Beijing and set 9 Olympic and 7 world records in London.
IN SPORT, SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF MATTERS
Marginal gains, the theory that it is easier to improve 100 things by 1% than it is to change one thing by 100%, has continued to influence high-performance sport.
Just as Brailsford’s cycling team took their own pillows and mattresses on tour, the Vancouver Canucks famously stay on West Coast time when they travel to ensure jet lag doesn’t creep onto the ice and hinder performance. Sleep consultants have become as crucial as physios in many a team set-up.
The kit has become tighter and lighter. Data analytics has become bigger. The winning 2018 European Ryder Cup team went beyond the rankings, scrutinising underlying performance using a model adjusted for course difficulty, weather and strength of the field to inform selection. It worked. Endurance sports are using blood glucose biosensors traditionally developed for diabetics to inform them when to eat in order to go faster for longer. The list goes on.
THE TURF OFFERS A PERCENTAGE GAIN
What does all this have to do with hockey turfs?
It stands to reason that just as you wouldn’t change your boots before a big game, nor should you change the turf beneath them. Training on the correct surface gives teams the type of marginal gain that Brailsford found by rubbing alcohol on bike tyres for enhanced grip and that Woodward found in a punctual team meeting.
WINNERS TRAIN ON POLIGRAS
The stats are there to prove it.
Argentina men and Great Britain women, the current Olympic Champions, both train on Poligras which was the Olympic surface at the last two games.
At both the London and Rio Olympics, 75% of the winners trained on Poligras.
75% of the last 8 Olympic Champions and 58% of those who won medals, did the same.
The 1% gains soon add up.
MARKET-LEADING MARGINAL GAINS
As we head into Tokyo 2020, 66% of the teams going to those Games have trusted and chosen Poligras as their training surface and some of those teams are going the extra distance. Between now and the Games, Germany, Argentina and Spain will play 12 Olympic preparation matches on a world-class Poligras turf in Valencia. Poligras Tokyo GT, the world’s first sustainable turf made from sugar cane is also the turf they will run out on from 24 July.
Every single one of the teams competing will be looking for marginal gains – from sleep consultants to psychologists, from kit to kinetics.
Nine of the fourteen countries represented will step onto familiar turf. Like Dr Paddi Lund, that small but significant fact could make up part of the winning formula for a happy ending.