Jock Campbell - Founder of Jock Athletic and former Head of Strength and Conditioning for Australian Men's National Cricket Team
I have been involved with the game of cricket since I was 10-11 years old. As with most Australians, the summer of cricket was the most anticipated part of the year and I grew up wanting to play for Australia. But I quickly figured out that I was not good enough. I loved playing all sports through school and it was my parents who planted the seed by encouraging me to take up a very new course called Sports Science, which was not as well known as it is now. I remember saying to my dad, that I will try it for a year and if I do not like it then I will transfer to Physical Education. Since both my brothers had pulled out of university previously, my dad said, “You will not. You will finish it.”
It was the best thing I ever did. I started with a Diploma in sports coaching and then followed it with a Bachelor of Sports Science. I specialized in cricket coaching, but since I was interested in the human body and wanted to get faster for my cricket and rugby, I also had a great interest in athletics. I had a distance running coach and a sprint coach as two of my lecturers during my time studying. They both offered to coach any of the students, so I pretty much had a private sprint coach for a couple of years, and I learned the science and technique behind running. My distance running coach who was also an exercise physiologist, made everyone, including professional rugby, football and cricket players to complete 12 weeks of training with the university to then compete in a 10km race. You could pass the subject if you didn’t beat your projected time. This comprised of running four days a week following a brutal, but well-periodized program. He set us a time to beat and if we were unsuccessful, we failed the course and have to re-sit the whole course again. It was an unreal experience as I got the love for the physical side of training. Part of the course was to complete a level 1 and level 2 Cricket Australia Coaching awards.
During my final year, I did my practical at a cricket academy. Former Australian wicket-keeper, Rod Marsh was there that year and had provided me with the invitation of joining the cricketers and to bowl and be part of the fitness structures. He had fitness testing results for the previous ten years, which he was about to throw away. He said I could take them all and I have them even to this day, I still have all the protocols and testing results that Rod gave me. I played rugby and made the first-grade division. But I ruptured my kidney and did not last too long. During this time, I was also running the 100 meters in 10.97 seconds. I represented Australia in the sports of Oz-tag and have won age-group titles in National Life Saving and world titles in the 2km Beach run. During the nineties, I volunteered for ten years, taking the fitness for the University of Sydney and then Sutherland when I was a player at the time. This was where I was part of a great dinner story, I replaced the great Glenn McGrath when I was drafted to play my first and only first-grade game for Sutherland as McGrath was promoted to the state team from memory. It’s only been in the past couple of years I’ve thought about it being a pretty cool story – “Jock Campbell in for Glenn McGrath” – I will take it!
I have worked with swimmers and the Cronulla Rugby League and then got into Surf Life Saving due to the lack of opportunities in cricket. Therefore, I had been involved in sports since I can remember. Once I found out about the opportunities with cricket, I went full steam ahead. I attained a job with the NSW Blues and then the Australian team. In 2006, I finished with Cricket Australia and started my own business called Jock Athletic.
I worked with the Indian Cricket League (ICL) and worked with Channel Nine. I introduced the gator tracker/BUPA tracker which monitored the heart rate, distance travelled and speed results of cricketers live to TV thanks to the forward-thinking of Tony Greig, Brad McNamara and Steve Crawley. Some of the fascinating things we discovered were when the Peter Siddle and Morne Morkel covered 27 km and 30 km respectively in a day whilst fielding and when Kemar Roach, whose heart rate when bowling was in the 180 beats per minute – shot up to 199 when Ricky Ponting came to the crease. This was the effect of adrenaline. Also, Brett Lee was the fastest runner we measured on the field, which didn’t surprise me as I’d clocked him at 11 seconds flat for the 100m previously. I also conducted some Master Classes on The Cricket Show which I had done in India during the ICL. I was given the position of head of high performance for the whole tournament. It was a fantastic opportunity which included working with different coaches and young players all over the world. The ICL fell out though inevitably when the BCCI and Lalit Modi introduced the juggernaut that is the Indian Premier League (IPL).
From this, I went to Brett Lee with an idea of doing a fitness video for cricket. And he loved the idea and we launched a DVD. We followed this up with a video with Michael Hussey and then the last one with Mitchell Johnson. Mitchell and I sat together and came up with the idea of an online training program called Bowlfit. We initially felt the process will be a lot easier and quicker, but it took us four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to create what we wanted. But what we have now is something really outstanding. It is a reactive and adaptive smart app that develops a program for your fitness level. Fitness tests and pre-screening are completed for each individual and then your individual program is produced, Mitchell and I are in every single video to explain every single exercise, fitness test and activity in the app. It has nothing to do with your cricketing ability, but more to do with your conditioning through all the fitness tests that related to bowling whether spin, medium or fast bowling. It sets a strong platform and the foundation for the preparation to bowl. This includes bowling workloads, skills, pace and what you are trying to achieve. Then when the season commences, if you bowl 20 overs on the weekend, it adjusts. It is, therefore, very smart. It is based on all the research and all our experiences with the strength, conditioning and bowling programs we found most efficient. It prepares you to bowl as you would during match conditions. It then maintains your fitness, your strength, power, flexibility, recovery and bowling pace throughout the season as well. Mitchell hoped that something like Bowlfit was around when he was younger. He had four stress fractures before he even made it to the professional level. This included one where he cracked his vertebrae right through. I met him after his fourth stress fracture. The Bowlfit mobile phone app was made to help the young bowlers who do not have access to the NSW, WA, Victoria and Australian services. We are never going to stop fast bowling injuries as it is a high-risk skill, but Bowlfit is there to help reduce the risk factors of common fast bowling injuries.
We have a young fast-bowler by the name of Thomas Pinson, who started with us and was bowling at 120km/hr. Last year he was clocked at the Sydney Cricket Ground nets bowling at 145km/hr. Another upcoming youngster, Roosh Kalaria who plays for Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy was part of the BowlFit program. He had a knee injury about 4-5 years ago during his time with India A. He came to us for retraining and followed the BowlFit program for 13 months. It resulted in him being part of the Gujarat team who won their first-ever Ranji Trophy. He played the initial part of the season playing 8 four-day matches in 9 weeks. He was the leading wicket-taker for the season last year with 27 wickets including a hat-trick. We get lots of emails from bowlers who have told us about how they have increased their pace and feel much stronger through the crease. It is a tried and trialled system that we tested with Mitchell and the same programs I used with Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath.
During my time with the Australian Cricket Team, every fast bowler that I worked with was unique. I will give you two excellent examples. Physically, McGrath and Jason Gillespie were very similar. Their measurements were almost identical – around 90 kg, low levels of body fat and around 6 feet 5 inches tall. Dizzy bowled slightly quicker, but they were very similar otherwise. You would think that they had similar programs as well. But Dizzy’s body would stiffen up and break down at the drop of a hat. He had a very tight and some may say, a “terrible” body really. But what he got out of that body has been nothing short of amazing. I love Dizzy. He was one of my favourite players to work with. Contrastingly, McGrath, who was really dexterous for a tall guy, who is able to lift heavy weights which he has been taught at a very young age. He was hyper-mobile and could do a lot of running. In current times, someone like Bumrah, similar to Shoaib Akhtar, generate extraordinary pace through their hyper-mobility. Whereas Brett and Mitchell were all explosive power.
Different to all these was the “wild thing”- Shaun Tait. He used to just amble in during his run-up. His back leg collapsed, his front leg collapsed and his follow-through was non-existent. Yet he could bowl over 160km/hr. So, it really interests me when coaches advise that a braced front leg is a necessity for bowling fast. It definitely is an advantage for some bowlers, but Shaun Tait could bowl express without it and so can others. That is what I loved about all the bowlers that I worked with. They were all different, but fundamentally what they all had in common was all of them worked so hard consistently. They are the elite athletes of the cricket team. We will never know what it feels like to bowl that fast. We will never know the stresses that go through your body and the pain that they go through. I have seen Brett come off after bowling on a scorching day and he is on the table – red as a beet-root and with a massive oxygen depth for about 10 minutes after he comes off. They would put their body under immense stress, day after day and week after week. That is why they were the best.
There is a lot of conjecture about the workloads faced by bowlers and it being the key reason for bowlers breaking down. Here are the anomalies. We have been hearing about bowlers having bowling limits of balls bowled, such as 180 balls bowled per week. Even now a lot of the professionals will not bowl more than six to eight overs in the nets. My question to them is how are they going to bowl 25 overs on Day 1 of the season and maintain their pace? All the captains and coaches tell me that if a bowler cannot maintain their pace, they are useless for them in the afternoon. This is the anomaly.
Thomas Pinson, who I mentioned previously is currently around the fringes of the NSW Cricket Team. Last year he was bowling 18 overs in the nets. The authorities advised me that that is way too much bowling for Thomas. I explained to them It definitely is not because he has been playing in Darwin and we have been building him up for these levels for 4 years. I have worked with him to prepare him to play four-day cricket where he might have to bowl four days in a row. A lot of the coaches tell me that that does not happen anymore. Out of the five games that Thomas had played in the Futures League last year for the Comets – two of the games he bowled 4 days in a row and 3 of those he bowled 3 days in a row. Therefore, it does happen, and I need my bowlers ready for that. If he gets his opportunity and due to poor conditioning is bowling pies in the afternoon, then he is not going to be picked. Going from grade cricket to state cricket, it takes a year or two to get the bowlers physically ready for that. We did not do anything silly with Thomas. We gradually prepared him. He does not take any time off bowling during the year. We give him 1-2 weeks at the end of the season away from bowling. The key for young fast bowlers is that they need to be prepared and be ready to bowl the volume of bowling that they are required to in a game. That is why Brett and Mitch could maintain their pace for long periods of time.
I don’t think I did anything particularly special, The players did all the work. We are the support staff. I just used the basic principles, periodisation, my knowledge and cricket experience and sports science and just got the players working hard and that is how they improved and stayed at the top. We did not have bowling coaches during my time with the Australian Cricket team. It was me, the coach and the physiotherapist to start with and later we got an assistant coach. It was easy to make decisions on those days, we made the decisions in conjunction with the captain. It was a great working relationship. We all wanted the best for the players. It was not about our egos. I do not think I did anything special. I worked really hard and had the best group of players. They were elite athletes who had “balls of steel” and worked really hard. They were not just great players; they were great guys off the field. That for me was the most rewarding experience.
I’m still heavily involved in cricket, working with several grade and state fringe players and grade clubs. It’s great to see our lads Nathan McAndrew get selected for NSW squad for the first JLT Cup match, and Tom Pinson not far away. It was also great to work with Steve Smith for a while early on last year and then see him come back with such a great Ashes series and straight back into number 1 batsmen in the World. I’m heavily involved with the nightly St George Dragons who are looking really good this pre-season as well. My other sports that my company Jock Athletic looks after, are athletics and Surf Lifesaving where we work with juniors all the way through to Olympians, and at the last Surf Lifesaving World Titles, my runners won every distance event on the program 8 out of 8, which had never been done before.