Interview avec Justin Woolford de CONQA Sport

Au mois de septembre 2015, j’ai eu l’opportunité de voyager en Afrique du Sud, plus précisément à la ville de Le Cap, pour assister à la toute première conférence Elite Sport Summit 2015 (ESS 2015) organisée par l’entreprise CONQA Sport. J’ai pu prendre part à cette conférence par l’entremise de Justin Woolford, CEO de CONQA Sport. J’ai connu Justin en 2012 alors que ce dernier travaillait à Londres. C’est Justin qui avait organisé mon inscription à une conférence sur la haute performance dans le sport qui avait eu lieu au stade Stamford Bridge du club de football de Chelsea.

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Depuis ce temps, nous sommes restés en contact via courriel et les médias sociaux et c’est véritablement la semaine dernière que j’ai pu discuter plus longuement avec Justin sur son parcours en tant que gestionnaire et sur le futur de CONQA Sport. Comprenez-moi, ce n’est pas lors d’événements comme le ESS 2015 que Justin et moi avons la chance de rattraper le temps perdu !

Dans cette entrevue, nous avons donc discuté du parcours de Justin en tant qu’entrepreneur/gestionnaire certes, mais également de la mission de CONQA Sport, sa raison d’être. Finalement, comme ce dernier gravite dans le monde de la haute performance autant dans le sport que dans le monde des affaires, Justin a partagé quelques conseils et ce qu’il croit être le futur en termes de performance sportive de haut niveau.

*Comme je n’ai pas enregistré la conversation Skype que Justin et moi avons eu il y a deux semaines, j’ai cru bon écrire un narratif de l’entrevue de manière à ne pas perdre l’essentiel de ses propos.


Interview with Justin Woolford, CEO of CONQA Sport

Born in England but brought up in the South Africa, Justin Woolford was always passionate about sport. Wanting to become a football agent, he earned an internship with renowned business IMG which served as a launching platform to his career in sports business. After IMG, Justin moved on to spend 4 years at a similar company in the UK. During those 4 years he witnessed the growth of the company. By sitting and listening to the various presentations, Justin had developed a feel for what clients really wanted to get out of these events. Why limit your expansion to only the UK and the US? Justin believed South Africa was also a market of interest for the company but they were focused on other priorities.

It has been less than two years since Justin moved back to South Africa to start his own  company called CONQA Sport. He feels that what they have to offer his quite unique in terms of how they put together an event such as the Elite Sport Summit (ESS). According to Justin, the main difference lies in the keynote sessions. Compared to panels, these keynote sessions or presentations allow the speaker to get under the skin of his or her topic and the audience to grasp subtle and important concepts and nuances that they may then experiment within their own environment. « Content is everything! We don’t buy into the common thread of only bringing good brands together, regardless of the content they deliver. Delivering a good product consistently is what we strive for. », mentioned Justin. « We offer not only a 2-day conference to our attendees and speakers to learn and network, but also include wine tours, a trip to Stellenbosch to visit the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport and a visit at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa. Also, attendees and speakers can enjoy the beauties of the fantastic destination that is Cape Town and South Africa. In fact, we bill it as a 3-day experience more than just the conference. ».  Justin really stressed the fact that the ESS is not an exhibition so you won’t navigate through a multitude of booths from sponsors of the event. It really comes down to the content itself that is specific and relevant to many of the attendees’ needs and a brilliant networking opportunity.

I then asked Justin what is CONQA Sport’s mission? « To help the industry move forward and create opportunities » was his answer. In fact, the focus of the CONQA Sport brand is « to influence the elite sports industry and push the boundaries of human performance » and he feels the city of Cape Town and South Africa as a country have everything to offer. Professionals from South Africa, Australia, New-Zealand, the US, the UK, Ireland, Germany and other European countries attended their first event last September. But don’t expect more than 300 attendees to next year’s event. It is more about bringing the right people together. « Who does that person want to meet? Why would that person want to be present at this event? » are the questions that drive Justin and his team when they put together the list of potential speakers and attendees. Justin sees himself as a facilitator, as a person who is passionate about sport but also about professional development and more importantly about people. So for him, it is about helping people connect with the right people to help them come up with answers to the issues and challenges that they might be facing.

An interesting aspect of CONQA Sport’s vision and event is that it is not just about sports performance. As noted by Justin, « high performance in sports is very similar to the business world. Principles like culture, leadership, organisational behaviour and recruitment, amongst others, resonate in high performance sports organisations. >>

Finally, we looked at the future of sports performance. What’s worth looking at or what can we get more out of? According to Justin, « there are three areas that we are not focusing enough on at the moment: (1) sleep, (2) psychology, and (3) technology. Sleep is a fundamental aspect of the recovery process and we just started exploring the benefits of proper sleep on the body and the brain. When it comes to psychology, the mind or the mental aspect of the game is an area that is crucial to sport performance. Finally, from a technology perspective, it is not just collecting data but rather how to manage that data and use it. At next year’s event, we are looking to have speakers to address these three key areas of sports performance ».

To sum up this interview, Justin mentioned very interesting points that go beyond just developing the body for the demands of the sport. For the aspiring athlete, recovery through proper sleep and the mental aspects of the game are just as important as hitting the gym to get you ready for important matches. For the coach or club administrator, use of technology is important but how you use data to drive everyday decisions is crucial. More importantly for them however, is the need to integrate aspects or elements of successful businesses such as culture, leadership, recruiting to their team environment so athletes and employees alike can strive because in the end, as was hopefully made transparent throughout this interview, it is about the interactions with others that matter.


Vous pouvez consulter le site web de CONQA Sport en cliquant sur le lien suivant. Le site contient toute l’information nécessaire concernant le prochain Elite Sport Summit 2016 qui aura lieu les 5-6 octobre 2016. De plus, vous aurez accès aux différents articles rédigés par l’équipe de CONQA Sport.

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