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Experts in Sport: How to become one of the world’s best coaches

Andy Murray’s recent victory in the final of the European Open in Antwerp was arguably one of the greatest achievements of his distinguished career.

After struggling with injury for the best part of nine months - with retirement a distinct possibility - Murray defied the odds to win his first ATP Tour singles title for more than two-and-a-half years.

The triumph may have come as a surprise to many, but with any great sporting story, the individual or the team cannot achieve success without a strong team behind the scenes.

One of these key team members is Matt Little, Andy Murray’s Strength and Conditioning Coach of the past 10 years.

In the latest episode of Loughborough University’s ‘Experts in Sport’ podcast, we look back to when Matt met with Martin Foster (Applied Sport Management Lead) and Nathan Bullock (Strength & Conditioning Coach, Loughborough Sport), to talk through his first steps in the industry, the skills he’s developed and how young coaches can stand out from the crowd.

The podcast starts with Matt discussing the early days of his career and how often it pays to work for free:

“I did a lot of voluntary experience at the start of my career. I travelled to Australia to work with some athletes out there and my journey started by observing the coaches and just watching what they were doing, absorbing some of the information and looking at styles. For me, that kind of voluntary experience was a lot of my on the job training.

“I started emailing coaches in Australia, to say I’d really like to come along, but I won't be a pain, I’ll just come and watch. Fortunately, they said yes and that's what I did. So, I spent a year out there, and as luck would have it one of the coaches ended up employing me in the UK.”

Following some time down under, Matt’s career took him to Loughborough in the early 2000s where he worked with 12-16-year olds at the LTA tennis academy. After moving to the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton a few years later, Matt worked with Jamie Murray before eventually joining Andy’s team in December 2007.

The podcast also touches on mistakes and learnings in Matt’s career, including one such occasion in which a senior coach stamped their authority early on:

“I walked into a meeting on one of the first days in a job, thinking I knew everything. I made an off the hand comment at the start of the meeting and the head coach absolutely tore into me - I couldn’t believe it.

“But for me, that was day one of my coaching career. Everything I'd learned at university and all the things I'd studied went straight out the window. I had to learn how to be around these people, how to speak, and what language to use. That stayed with me forever.”

Matt also talks about tactics used to get the best out of players, including the "how to be" rather than "how to do".

Following the recording, Nathan Bullock, said:

“Matt gives a great insight into his career working closely alongside a national athlete icon we all know very well. He whets the appetite for young practitioners, as to some of the successful characteristics he feels have enabled him to get to work with athletes such as Sir Andy Murray, but also what has kept him there for so long.”

Listeners can subscribe to the podcast and download the latest episode by visiting Buzzsprout. All subscribers will receive an alert once new episodes are published.

The Experts in Sport podcast is a regular series that brings together experts from across Loughborough University with external thought leaders to discuss the latest research and hot topics in sport and academia with new episodes launched every two weeks.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 19/178

Loughborough University

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2019 QS World University Rankings, University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019 and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 8th in The UK Complete University Guide 2020.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

Loughborough staff, students and alumni make a real difference. They challenge convention, think creatively and find solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing society today and in the future.

Meet the #LboroGameChangers at lboro.ac.uk/lborogamechangers

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