Bruce Craven is an internationally recognized Sport Physiotherapist and Strength Conditioning Coach, with over 31 years of experience working with athletes competing at provincial, national, international and Olympic/Paralympic competitions. Bruce graduated as a sports physiotherapist from the University of Saskatchewan in 1988 and in 1991 received his Master’s in Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology. He then was involved in a 16-month pilot project developing a sports science program which led to the development of the Canadian Sports Centre in Saskatoon and Sport Medicine and Science Center of Saskatchewan. Bruce was part of the “Own the Podium” program for the 2010 Olympics and helped develop policies and procedures related to athlete monitoring from a health and injury prevention perspective. Looking back, Bruce says he was often the only non-doctor and non-PHD person at the table, but it was his diversity of experience looking at movement with high level athletes in various sports that has been his best asset. He currently is co-owner and President of Craven Sports Services an integrated sports services center in Saskatoon with a large network of medical professionals.
In this episode, Bruce addresses the barrier of early specialization in sport. He notes that it has been shown that Olympic athletes usually have had a diversity of sport experience in their early development. “Diversity is key to stability” and diversity of movement and skills is often learned on the playground and in exploration as a youngster and is not something that can be coached or taught. Early streamlining into competitive sport often causes an athlete to skip stages of development. A pre-adolescent needs to learn a fundamental skill set that can then be made stronger as a post-adolescent. Early specialization can also result in more injury due to over repetition of movement patterns. Further, Bruce notes that failure and success are great motivators of learning and an athlete needs to learn from the failure that comes from exploration in movement. Well-rounded athletes have learned to fail and have used this failure as an opportunity to learn.
Bruce also discusses what it takes to become a high-performance athlete. It is defined by their goal; it isn’t just striving to be the best at one competition or in your club or in your province; it is striving to be the best in your field in the world. The athlete needs to determine what the gap in their performance is and develop a set of goals and a process to close that gap. In order to be this type of athlete, they must have technical excellence that is then done at high speeds, when tired and under pressure. Often athletes early in their career lose sight of “performance versus development”. They need to determine if they are willing to sacrifice their health and development now, by being involved in a competition that is ultimately meaningless, when their long-term goal is to be the best in the world. They need to be willing to make the sacrifices required and stick with the program. Bruce asks the question, “Does high-performance need to be inhumane in order to be successful?” He says that is a question that he does not have an answer for, but high-performance athletes need to continue to push their boundaries in order to achieve that ultimate performance and physical and psychological stress will occur. A high performance athlete has the internal belief of wanting to be the best, their driving force.
Bruce concludes by noting that he often sees athletes in some of their darkest moments and he then talks to them about their “why”. It all comes back to their goal, their desire to be their very best. It is their journey and only they have the power from within to overcome their obstacles.
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