HPC – a World Class facility in the heart of our capital
07 April 2016
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live. We’re chatting about a sports science centre on today’s podcast that’s doing some amazing things in various sporting codes, including running. We’re joined now by the Head of Sports Science at the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria, Shona Hendricks. Welcome, nice to touch base, thanks for joining us today.
Shona Hendricks: Brad, thanks so much for having me.
BB: Shona, the HPC has really burst onto the sporting scene and I’m not talking just from a running perspective, but overall sporting perspective. You guys are getting some amazing results with what you’re doing there in Pretoria.
SH: Thanks Brad, you say we’ve burst onto the scene, I think it’s more a couple of years of hard slog and getting work done behind the scenes, a couple of years back; that we’re really starting to see the good results now.
BB: It’s exactly that, an overnight success takes at least 10 years to achieve.
SH: Yeah for sure and it’s so sports specific as well. But the development and the success of the athletes, it’s not just a one race sort of stream. There’s so many different dynamics to it. It’s quite a complex process, but the guys have been working really hard. Between the coaches and the scientists and the multi-disciplinary team here, I think that’s where our success is key.
A large package that also focuses on development
BB: Shona, let’s talk about the HPC as a facility, as a whole. You talk about the different aspects and how everything ties together. You offer services to various sporting codes, a lot of the federations use the HPC as a base for camps and that sort of thing. Give us a bit of an overview of what the HPC has got to offer?
SH: There’s almost running in a bit of two-fold, we have certain academies and a couple of different sports. Where the kids are based at our own high school here. So we have our High Performance high school. It really gives the kids, the young athletes a great opportunity to train in the mornings and then they go to school and then train again in the afternoons. There’s that development aspect.
Then as well, there’s the more elite aspect where the federations are sending some of their athletes to come and get scientific support. The athletes are based here. So the facilities are great and world class in terms of what they would need, just from that point of view.
Really, the expertise lies in the scientific support, in the coaching teams and that multidisciplinary approach from a psychology, nutrition, physio, sports science, medical aspect. How that all blends with the coaching. I think that’s where we’re getting it, we’ve really done well at the moment.
BB: Before we touch on some of the elite athletes and who you’ve helped over the years. Let’s touch on that high school as well. Because I’m very interested in what you guys are doing there. I think it’s amazing from a developmental point of view. I just think it’s going to do amazing things for South African sport in the long run.
Giving our future stars a step in the right direction
Let’s talk specifically athletics and running. You’ve been able to find and unearth some really good athletes in the most obscure places. All four corners of South Africa, who are now being given the opportunity to not only get a great education, but are being given the opportunity to possibly one day go on and represent our country. If they continue on the path that they’re on, at the highest levels.
SH: Thanks Brad, that also hasn’t been an easy process. It has been something that we’ve worked really hard at and with such great support from external sponsors as well with that. People, the young athletes like Gift and Clarence that are coming through from the athletics ranks who have been given the opportunity to now go and compete overseas, it’s really awesome.
Again, I think it’s the support from the whole team here that’s really allowed that. Even from not just athletics, speaking women’s football, to that sort of extreme. 12 of the current Banyana squad going to the Olympics come from the SAFA Academy base here as well. That’s also been a five to eight, to ten-year project that’s sort of come through.
I think one of the big things as well is that yes, like you mentioned, it’s an educational thing as well. So the young athletes are given the opportunity to get a really good education and university entrance. Where they could then continue to be getting the support that they need from an athletic side or from a sporting side.
BB: Shona, as far as elite athletes and it’s across the board as well, sporting codes. I’ve been there for meetings on the odd occasion or gone to see a physio. There are literally teams from all over the place and various sporting codes who will use the HPC as a base at various times of the year.
Perfect altitude base for all athletes
Some of the big names and I’m going to touch on rowing because I think our South African rowing squad that does a lot of work out of the HPC are probably, I think, unsung heroes in South African sport. With the amount of work that they do and the results that they get and I think it’s phenomenal. But you guys have some big names coming through your doors there on a regular basis?
SH: Yes, for sure, so just from rowing, you touched on rowing. We had the French rowing team that come and stay here. So again, I think just where we’re situated in Pretoria, it also helps, Roodeplaat Dam is right here. It’s a little bit higher altitude than down at the coast, so I think that helps as well.
We are quite well known for some swimming teams, some European swimming teams that come in their peak season. As well as many athletics, more field athletics. I know the German athletics squad, the throwers like to come and base themselves here. Again, just where HPC is in terms of location in Pretoria, but as well as the facilities that we have here.
So they can stay here, eat here, there’s accommodation. They can walk down to the track, go to the gym, everything. It just makes the goal of the athlete, what they want to come and do, just come and train and think about that. Not have to spend time in a bus or being transported around. I think the convenience of that is what makes that quite enticing.
BB: You’ve also got quite a decent running programme and I know the Comrades Marathon, defending champion, Caroline Wostmann, 2016, does a lot of training out of the HPC. Many of the athletes us it. You’ve got, from a medical facility point of view, from those service providers; physio’s, I think you’ve got some of the best physio’s around. Some of the best sports massagers, it’s just phenomenal what you’ve got there. Just from a running perspective. Is it just for Elite athletes or can someone like myself who is an average back of the packer come and use the facilities and get involved with what the HPC has got to offer?
HPC facilities and expertise open to everyone
SH: Yeah, that’s exactly it, we run the course for the Elite guys, so both Caroline and Charné base a lot of their training out of here. That sponsorship that we have for them runs from a sports, science and medical point of view.
But yes, exactly, any weekend warrior, if I can put it like that, is welcome to contact the HPC and get serviced from a sports science and medical point of view, by the same people that are really looking after our Elite athletes.
Which I think, not many people have tapped into and we are here to do that. It’s a great opportunity for the general population person to come, if you’re struggling with your running or you just want to get better or you’re struggling with injuries. Contact the HPC and our sports science and medical staff would be available to help.
BB: Shona, if people want to find out more about the HPC, have you got a website that they can get to and are the contact details there or how can they get in touch with you guys?
SH: Definitely on the website, it’s www.hpc.co.za, so all the contact details are on there and pretty active on social media as well, both on Facebook and Twitter. Just search for HPC, you should be able to get those links and contact details. Someone would be able to get back to you straight away.
BB: And I think a special mention needs to be made, someone that I work closely with as well in the running front is Lindsey Parry. He bases himself out of the HPC as well, he’s the official Comrades Marathon coach and he’s getting some great results with runners too. You can almost get some access to him if you end up going through the HPC as well, right Shona?
SH: Yeah, as far as I’m aware, either through Lindsey’s Coach Parry website, or alternatively through the HPC. Lindsey mentors a lot of the up and coming coaches here as well, that are within the sports science and medical unit.
I know with Devlyn Eden and some of the work that he’s doing from a bike point of view, so you have that sort of magic touch of Coach Parry coming through. Again, that’s exactly it, Lindsey’s one of our extremely successful coaches over the last few years and I think there’s a whole plethora of talent that’s coming through the HPC at the moment.
BB: Absolutely, Shona, I think you guys are doing some amazing work there in Pretoria, congratulations, keep it up. We look forward to seeing the fruits of all your labour in the years to come.
SH: Awesome Brad, thanks so much for the opportunity and for the chat.