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Final year reflections

As I write this blog, I reflect on where I am and have come from.

Right now, I have one paper published, two with supervisor comments, one in review with a journal and another in the pipeline. Hence my ability to sit down and write a blog post.

All I can think is... WWHHHAAATTT??? How did that happen? And why haven't I been documenting the ride like I said I would?

Honestly, I thought my opinions would get me in trouble. It was clear early on that it was going it be tough getting anything new to stick in combat sport. The sports have long histories and the people at the top have been doing things a certain way for a long time. I had my doubts, but pressed on.

The crux of my PhD is gathering data on injury and illness in combat sport, so that we can start working out how to avoid these health problems and keep the athletes training longer and harder. The methods I used were best practice - collect data daily, recruit high-level participants, communicate directly with the coaches about the study, provide an incentive, and pilot the project before full implementation. Despite all this prep the study showed exactly what I expected.

The problem is that injury/illness monitoring is not part of daily training in combat sports, which are decentralised and the coaches typically also own the combat gym. Only after collecting all the data, talking to athletes and coaches on over 160 occasions to ask (and sometimes beg) for them to complete the monitoring forms, then writing the paper, did people actually listen to the reasons why it won't work.

I believed it was a simple line of thinking - coaches volunteer their time, why would they do more work for no pay? Most coaches also run the combat gyms - they are business owners. How likely is it that they would have the time or energy for extra unpaid work? Unlikely.

And that's what we found. No matter how much I hounded the athletes, their behavior didn't change if their coach didn't care about monitoring. A shame to waste so much time and money to discover the gut feeling was correct.

Sometimes the simplest answer is the best - to get someone to do something extra, we need to offer something extra. A little investment here and there into a coach might just show them that they are valued, and their commitment to their sport will likely ensure there's a return on that investment. Things to mull over for the future..

Anyway, it's all hit me this year. The daily grind of writing the papers and thesis is getting a bit more nostalgic. I find myself wondering if I'll look back on this time as one of the best in my life. My days flow by now without many interruptions or setbacks. Other than IVF which is wreaking havoc on my energy and memory... what was I saying?

I am grateful for the time I have left here at the AIS. I glide through pockets of sun warmed air during my morning rides to work, catching the scents of the wattle and eucalyptus trees which gently bake in the spring sun.

I turned 30 this year and it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would.

My friends and family helped me celebrate, although I was a huge snot monster at the time and ended up knocked out for the week - it was worth it. And If I think about the bigger picture about my life and my PhD, all those gripes about wasted time seem insignificant. Maybe even worthwhile in ways I am yet to discover.

Time will tell, and right now time says "cuppa tea and bikky".

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