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Proof in the pudding for AIS sports science at Philadelphia 76ers

Proof in the pudding for AIS sports science at Philadelphia 76ers
11 May
8:43

One of the main fears of AIS staff is collaboration and cross-pollination will be lost when jobs are reallocated to individual sports rather than working together at the institute.

“There’s a couple of risks associated with the current restructure and one of the biggest is that you lose morale and enthusiasm and excitement and ambition,” Martin said.

“It’s all built off excitement and passion and cohesive units that are really excited to do something amazing. If you extinguish that then the soul is lost then it just becomes very mechanical and you start to look like every other country.”

Former AIS sport scientist David Martin fears the institute will lose its reputation as a world leader following staff cuts.

Former AIS sport scientist David Martin fears the institute will lose its reputation as a world leader following staff cuts.

Photo: Jay Cronan

Martin emphasised the AIS was about “so much more than winning medals” and said if they’re not careful Australia will no longer be recognised around the world for its innovation in sports science.

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The respected scientist praised the and cutting edge technology developed at the AIS and said he’s put it into practice at the 76ers.

“The future, which is what the AIS has helped pioneer, is player support and team support at a very sophisticated level,” Martin said.

“When you start getting a team of experts working together, the sophistication you can working with a team of athletes is amazing … it’s really quite contagious.”

Philadelphia have been a revelation in the NBA after a dramatic transformation after their second worst season in franchise history in 2015-16 to becoming genuine contenders.

They were knocked out of the eastern conference semi-finals by the Boston Celtics on Thursday.

Simmons played a large part in the 76ers’ success after a stellar rookie campaign, but Martin believes the fans can also thank technology developed at the AIS.

“They let me bring on eight staff when I came into the 76ers and I’ve essentially copied the models that have been refined at the AIS and the athletes here love the support,” Martin said.

“The athletes really feel it and we’re starting to embrace the sports technology in ways that are fun and innovative and that only happens when you have a team of experts working as a team.

“The owners have invested $80 million in the facility and I was able to help with the design of different features, we have a little recovery area that looks just like it came straight out of the AIS.”

Martin was recruited to the AIS from the United States Olympic Committee in 1994 when the Canberra facility was the envy of the sports science world.

It was originally a two-year contract to help Cycling Australian prepare for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, but Martin spent 21 years in the capital.

He believes the great sports institutes around the world had a similar lifespan and suggested the AIS, which was established in 1981, might be coming to its end.

“It happened in Russia and Germany…  Something happens somewhere between the 20 to 40-year mark at these really exciting institutions for sport,” Martin said.

“They tend to go through a life cycle and some have struggled to get past 30 years and one of the thoughts is the real heart and souls of those organisations, the people that have really grown them and made the wonderful and amazing, that’s their career cycle.”

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Martin originally joined the 76ers while on two years long service leave but opted against returning to the AIS last year because of the direction it was headed.

Colleagues warned him of funding cuts and the growing uncertainty around their future, so Martin decided to keep his family in Philadelphia.

“It was no longer an environment that was going to have all of the elements in it that I enjoyed so much professionally,” Martin said.

“If they’re not careful this restructure will lead to an environment where the kind of people that make things happen at a world-leading level, those kind of people may not want to work in the current environment.

“They’re very capable people at the Australian Sports Commission, but you just worry they’re going after one objective and there’s going to be a side of the AIS that will be lost.

Eamonn Tiernan

Eamonn Tiernan is a sports reporter with The Canberra Times

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