Dear Athlete or Coach,

You're training multiple times per week, sometime multiple times per day. You take supplements to ensure all that training is being backed up by strong and balanced nutrition. You see your physiotherapist and/or your masseuse at least once a month to ward off injuries and recieve much needed recovery. You attend workshops, meetings, watch videos and talk with team mates/colleagues to devise tactical methods to gaining an upper hand on your opponents. Your goal is to be the best athlete you can be, and more importantly, one of the best in your city, state, country or the world. 

However you're not satisfied with where you are at, either your personal performance isn't where it needs to be, even though you are number 1 in your sport, or you're chasing those who are at a higher level of skill, fitness and strategy than you are. Either way, you are determined to achieve your goal of better and better performance. 

You know virtually all of your competitors are doing the same thing: training multiple times per week/day, taking supplements, getting physical treatment, learning more and studying tactics, and also strive to be the best there is in their chosen sport and competition level. The question everyone is asking is, "What is left to gain a competitive edge when everyone knows the best and most scientifically proven way to train to develop fitness, agility, strength, explosiveness, skill?"

The ABCs of peak sports performance are still,

a) Consistent effort is still the number one key to victory. Those who work the hardest over a prolonged period of time build on their successes and like the tortoise end up slowly gaining and passing on the hare who is inconsistent in their approach to training.

b) Modelling greatness is another way to fast track your development and performance as NBA superstar Kobe Bryant recalled watching Michael Jordan video tapes until the film began to wear. To this day, MJ has admitted openly how Kobe 'stole my game' which is quite obvious when photos and film of each are placed next to one another. 

c) Mental toughness research has shown there are many differences between professional, elite, semi-professional, amateur and social sports people. None more important is in the area of hardiness in which athletes have a commitment to their goals, belief in their power to control their destiny and enjoyment of challenge and willingness to pursue opportunities. 

However, none of these are new or only available to you but they are the building blocks of sporting greatness.

"How then can I take my performance to the next level, break through my current plateau and gain a competitive advantage over my opponents?"

That is exactly the question I asked myself many years ago, and in February 2014 I finally got that answer. At first I found what I'm about to tell you hard to believe and put it down to hype and marketing BS, but a few months later I returned to my bookmarked info and found the single biggest advantage you are likely to come across at this point in the sports landscape.

Firstly though, I'm going to mention 5 key  criteria to keep in mind when looking at sports performance improvement technology or any kind of research.

1. Peer-reviewed research are published in credible journals. I.e. Journal of Clinical Sports Psychology, Journal of Sports Medicine, British Journal of Sport Psychology, etc. When something is published in these journals you know it isn't some 'infomercial fad.' If it's being taught in a Masters of Sports Coaching (like the one I'm currently completing through University of Queensland) then it's likely to be credible and peer-reviewed.

2. Unpaid endorsements by clubs and sports people who have used and benefited from the program. i.e. Unlike a certain vertical jump apparatus which recieved a video testimonial of how high a guy could jump and now dunk, saying he'd never trained his vertical before, whereas he's really a professional sports performer. Look for real athletes who aren't paid for their endorsements.

3. Objective measurement of gains is usually a quite straight forward idea, however for the area of sports psychology, how can you measure results? It is quite difficult at this point of science to 'measure our thoughts' and we also know asking someone how much improvement they gained from sport psychology can differ depending on their mood. As sports people we know if it's trainable then it also needs to be measurable. Something to also look at when scanning endorsements, do they say it is great or do they have verifiable improvements to back up their reviews?

4. Performance transfer statistically and anecdotally is a crucial aspect of a training method as you can train something but not have it transfer to the competition because it isn't used in your sport. A classic example of good trasnfer is squats and the relationship between increases in strength and vertical leap. When you improve in one thing, improvements in another occur which is known as correlation. Also, if one thing goes down, like ability to focus and balance after a concussion, then hand-eye coordination and overall performance will also reduce, as peer reviewed research has shown. I know I want something which makes me better which I can see on my stats and with more great games (and victories) as well as feeling like my level of performance has lifted. Both together are a sure sign it isn't just the placebo effect.

5. Being ahead of the trend in terms of adoption by the rest of your sport. When the first AFL team took their squad to Arizona for altitude training the rest of the league was left in the dust as those players had a larger tank and more efficient way to respirate, giving them more hard running minutes per game, and like Port Adelaide this year, would run over teams in the fourth and final quarter. Now this is standard practice and the advantage is lost, in as much as NOT doing that training is falling behind. When creatine monohydrate became available on the market, athletes enhanced their lactic acid threshold which meant longer and more sprints at maximum speed. Now it is simply the done thing with most athletes. 

I'll be back to complete this letter.... stay tuned.. as I'm about to share with you something which meets all five criteria.