Dr. Oz’s blog: What is your achilles heel? Optimising performance

Dr. Oz

GB Women’s middle blocker, Dr. Nicky Osborne has combined undertaking one of the hardest study programmes possible with being a GB Volleyballer! She has written an interesting blog combining her medical knowledge & being an elite athlete…enjoy! 

What is your Achilles heel?  Optimising performance.
As a newly qualified Doc, I hope I know my anatomy.  Perhaps not as well as a surgeon, but I do know the human body & how it works…generally speaking at least!  But how well do I know my body, its strengths, weaknesses & how it functions to optimal performance?

While the knowledge of an athlete need not always be about cells, their insights into their own bodies are usually intricate, detailed and highly expert.  To an athlete, this machine is their tool.  Their job?  To find out exactly how it works, what needs oiling, what needs scraping away, what allows them to produce the best, time after time, and give them the edge.  Often this is automatic but to reach peak performance it needs conscious effort to learn from different professionals to allow the athlete to become their very own specialist.

Enter: The Athlete Support Team…

The Strength and Conditioning coach – the backbone
As a squad we generally knew little in this area on arrival in Sheffield.  We had to quickly develop better techniques and push ourselves harder than before, realising which parts of the season, which technical elements of the game required certain styles of training.  Before players went to different European clubs, we were taught how best to build our own programmes and take control of things that are important to us.  We couldn’t tell you how to design a programme for a track athlete or skeleton slider, but we can put together something that hopefully works for us in our positions and adapt to new ideas other coaches have.  What’s good for Lynne Beattie may not be good for Lizzie Reid, but they are two of the top jumpers in the team.  While Bertelli chooses to jump up and down during giddy celebrations, she needs different attributes as a libero to setter Morgan, for example.

We all have different physical strengths and weaknesses.  What works best for you?

Less cake....

The nutritionist – food for thought
A lot people know what makes a ‘healthy diet’.  What were fairly balanced diets in our squad have been tweaked considerably since learning more (and my frequent slice of marble cake now just an occasional treat, unfortunately) but for me the biggest impact is from pre and post activity food and optimising energy levels.

..more protein

Eating too many carbs in the afternoon makes me tired, eating more protein keeps my mind active.  Generally eating plenty of fruit and veg keeps my immune system a committed infection-beater, unless we’re off to a tournament in Kazakhstan, perhaps.

Most of us don’t pretend to know all the background (although sport science graduates like Grace Carter perhaps could), but we know excellent nutritionists who have been invaluable to help us understand what fuel our bodies like best so energy peaks, is sustained during Audrey’s killer court sessions and we recover quickly for tomorrow.  

The sport psych – the silent voice
In recent years we’ve been lucky to work with some brilliant psychologists and while it’s different for everyone, some of the best were those who’ve helped us to really understand ourselves better, ultimately allowing us to push our own boundaries as far as we will allow ourselves to go.  The easy stuff I have a familiar tendency to over-analyse but when it comes to analysing myself, I can find it pretty uncomfortable.  My most productive sessions have led me to reach my own conclusions, but with expert nudging, knowledgeable ideas and probing questions along the way.  It is then that I can really believe it.  After all, it is only you with the ultimate control, who has to stand up and deliver.

What gives you the edge?  What makes you tough to beat?  What makes you able to perform at your best over and over again?

The medical staff – the magic tape
It falls to these guys to know the anatomy, the biomechanics, the cellular physiology and the latest evidence based practice on how to prevent and treat injuries, and manage emergencies.  Pushing your bodies to the limit unfortunately sometimes results in injuries. For example, when a shoulder injury has occurred within our squad, the physio and doctor have educated players in how to strengthen the appropriate muscles, how to change technique and how to return to full strength post surgery.  It is then up to the athlete to follow this advice to get the shoulder stronger than ever and more resistant to injury.  Not all athletes are surgeons (although look out for hardcore Abi Walker, one of GB hockey’s goalkeepers and surgical trainee) but one of the best people to ask about the rehab of shoulder surgery, the process, what’s crucial, and the mental battle, is the athlete who has learnt on their own shoulder, from the guidance of a medical team.  Ask Rachel Bragg, Rachel Laybourne, Stacey O’Connor, Lucy Wicks…

Personally, like many of you volleyballers, I get pain knee pain (often appropriately termed, Jumper’s Knee).  I don’t need a scan/drugs/surgery – at least not yet!  It comes on predictably, after a hard week, when my leg muscles are like rocks and my iliotibial (IT) bands are tight.

Laybourne 'enjoying' an ice bath...

I need to stretch well, take an ice bath, soft tissue massage and the old trusted friend – the foam roller and perhaps some eccentric loading exercises that were taught by our physio a while back.  On another given day, this remedy may not work, and I might need more help from the physio.

Which activities make your muscles tight and more prone to injury?  How do you monitor your niggles and make yourself more resistant?

Rumour has it that the medical profession is one of lifelong learning.  We’ve come to realise that so is being an athlete – whether it’s your job, your primary sport or just for fun.  Know your body and your sport.  Everyone has an Achilles heel.  Make your weaknesses stronger and your strengths super-strengths.

We are very grateful to have had an input from many professionals including from the EIS Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and the medical/surgical teams at Claremont and Thornbury Hospitals, who have all given us the tools to know our own bodies better and optimise peak performance.

Let’s see what that looks like in Earl’s Court!

It’s not just volleyball, it’s an education….” Anon

Ozzie #3

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Weekend Preview March 31st - April 1st

Many leagues have now come to an end but a few girls are still in action this weekend…..

Lynne Beattie

Superliga, Spain
Beattie will be playing her last game for CV Playa de las Cantera this weekend. She comments…..” After a tough loss last week in Burgos, we are looking to get back on track with a win this weekend against Aguere.  Aguere are a dangerous team, but having won the first leg against them, we will go into the match believing we can win.  This will be my last match for the team so I am looking to go out with a bang!!”

Janine Sandell’s Valeriano Allés Menorca Volei are at home to Cantabria Deporte on Saturday. Menorca are having a good season and remain at the top of the league.

Rachel Newton

DEF, France
Newton’s Quimper Volley 29 have their last game of the season on Saturday. Currently top of the table but equal on points with UGS St Francais it is another important game. They take on 4th placed St Raphael away from home. A win could see them being promoted to Pro A.

Meg Viggars

It’s the Super 8 quarter final play offs in England this weekend with Meg Viggar’s Malory Eagles taking on Polonia. Malory are hoping to put in a good performance to get one up on Polonia this season.


A review of all player’s Pro season’s will follow in a few weeks. Many players are continuing to train hard in preparation for the exciting summer ahead.

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For some of the GBW, the club competitive season is over, but for others its BIG WEDNESDAY as the the business-end of their season has hit a climax…

France:  Grace Carter’s TFOC v Calais

Grace Carter

Pro A League

Tonight Grace Carter’s TFOC take on 4th place Calais and a win would secure them a place in the Top French League next season.  This would be a huge boost for the club on their first year playing in the Pro A. Continue reading

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24/25 March - One step closer to Bronze for Bertelli and another MVP for O’Connor

With the days counting down until the GBW are reunited, the team continue to work extremely hard to be the best they can be for the summer that lies ahead of them.  For those still in competitive action, here is the weekends results…

Belgium: Gea Happel Amigos won 3-0 v VHL Leuven

Palmer helps Amigos to another win

Gea Happel Amigos faced VHL Leuven this weekend. It was the last match of the league and Amigos were determined to finish on a high. The match started well for Amigos and they quickly took the lead. With good team play and strong attacking, Amigos won the first set. Set two was a similar story and Amigos found themselves 2 sets up. Then in the final set, Amigos always edged ahead but Leuven stayed with them and never gave up.

After a couple of unlucky calls from the ref and a bit of luck, Leuven fought there way to 24-24 but with a strong side out Amigos had a match point. The match finished with an ace from Amigos and a convincing 3-0 win. A great way to finish the season and a really great team performance. Now Amigos have two weeks hard training in preparation for the final of the Antwerp cup.

Finland: Pieksamaki Volley series vs Kappa Volley

Stacey O'Connor

Game 1: Pieksamaki won 3-0 (25-18, 25-13, 25-18)
Game 2: Pieksamaki won 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-23)
Game 3: Pieksamaki won 3-2 (25-23, 23-25, 21-25, 25-23, 15-7)

After 3 matches, Pieksamaki Volley retains their spot in the top league,  Mestaruusliiga .  With 5 days to play 3 matches, Pieksamaki Volley was determined to win. The first two matches were won convincingly in 3, with the last match a little more intense with a 5 set win. The personnel on court changed for each match, giving Jr. players a chance to play.

We started the season with a 5 set win, so why not end it with a 5 set win. Would have rather it gone to 3 but at the end of the day, we won and did it in front of our home crowd.  I’m happy for the club because this result keeps the team in the league. I finished the season on a high, being awarded MVP for the last match.“


VT Hamburg lost 3-1 v USC Munster in German Play-offs


VBC Biel-Bienne won 3-2 v Toggenburg

Jen Thom

VBC Biel-Bienne played their last match of the season against Toggenburg at home. The match was up and down from both teams and it came down to the 5th set. Fortunately VBC Biel-Bienne started the 5th set well with a 10-5 lead. Toggenburg then came back and brought the score to 10-10. Luckily strong serving and stable blocking allowed Biel to finish the set and won it convincingly 15-11.

Jen’s comments: “This was so important to us to finally get a win and we have waited a long time for this. We do still finish 9th place in the league but to end on a positive was important for everyone. Great fight from the team and we did what we set out to do.”

Volley Koniz won 3-1 v Hotel Cristal VFM

Bertelli’s Volley Koniz were up against Hotel Cristal VFM in the fight for Bronze medal.

Bertelli one step closer to medal

Koniz started strong, showing the desire to win the match with only 1 point in it at both Technical Time Outs. A few unforced errors towards the end gave VFM the 1st set 21-25. In the second, strong serving and solid sideout meant the home team were comfortable throughout, despite a small comeback by VFM at the end Koniz took the 2nd set 25-20. After the 10 minute break, it was a similar picture with some great blocks from Koniz added to the mix to win 25-21 and lead the match 2-1. VFM responded, serving better and were leading 23-19 in the 4th. Koniz were not giving up so easily, strong serving backed up by some determined block defence levelled them at 23-23, it was then point for point, both teams going all out for the win with some awesome pick-ups and aggressive play at the net. Finally in front of the home fans Koniz won with a block point, followed by a huge hit, much to the delight of the home fans!

So, leading 1-0 in the best of 3 series, Koniz have the chance to take the Bronze on Wednesday night in VFM.


CV Playa de las Canteras lost 3-0 v Universidade de Burgos

Beattie's Las Palmas

CV Playa de las Canteras travelled to the Mainland to take on 5th place Universidade de Burgos on Sunday.  It was CV Playa de las Canteras who came out on top in the first encounter between the teams, which boosted the spirits of the Gran Canaria team going into the match with belief they could win.   Burgos is renowned for being a difficult venue to play in, but with a good weeks training under their belt, the team from the Canary Islands went into the game full of confidence, despite their first libero out of action and the starting opposite filling in.

The first set started off well for Beattie’s team, with both teams neck and neck up until the second technical Time Out.  It was at this point that Burgos strung a few good serves together which made the Las Palmas offence predictable, making it difficult to side out.  Burgos took the first set 25-19.

Into the second set, the momentum was with Burgos and despite Las Palmas digging deep to close a points deficit on several occasions, they had no answer to the Burgos offence.  Burgos took the second set 25-21.

The third set was a similar story with Burgos growing in strength with each point, taking the set and the match with a 25-17 win in the 3rd set.

Beattie comments on the match:  ”It was a disappointing result after having gone into the match so positive, but all credit to the Burgos team.  They played some good volleyball and were the best team on the day.  This result now makes it very difficult for us to make the final four play offs, but it is not impossible.”

Valeriano Alles Menorca won 3-0 v Jamper Aguere



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Positive progress for Carly

We are delighted to be able to share the good news with you that Carly Williams is now off life support and breathing on her own. She has fought hard over the last few weeks and has taken enormous strides on her path to recovery. She is now responding well to doctors and family and is on the verge of talking. Each day she is making huge progress.

We wish her well through the next few weeks; our thoughts and support continue to be with Carly, and all her family and friends. Its a long road ahead but knowing Carly’s determination and strength she will make a great recovery.

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Weekend Preview March 23rd-25th

Lynne Beattie

Superliga, Spain
CV Las Palmas are back to winning ways and are looking to take another win this weekend as they travel to the North of Spain to play Universidade de Burgos, currently sitting one place above Las Palmas.  With the Play offs still a possibility for both teams it is an important game, but with Las Palmas having won the first leg 3-1, they go into the match full of confidence that they can take all 3 points!

Following a 3-0 defeat at home, Janine Sandell’s Menorca will be looking to get back on track and try to regain that top spot in the league this weekend when they take on Jamper Aguere away from home.

Grace Carter

DEF & Pro A, France
On Wedsnesday Carter’s TFOC have their last season game, after a vital win last week, a win at home against 4th place Calais should keep the team safe in PRO A and a possible top 8 play-off spot. A loss will almost certainly mean relegation. Carter comments….. “it is the biggest game of the season and we are ready to take on Calais!”

Maria Bertelli

NLA & NLB, Switzerland
In Switzerland the play-off finals begin with Bertelli’s Volley Koniz playing for the bronze medal. On Sunday, they take on Franche Montagne at home in the best of 3 series. Bertelli comments…..”last week was a disappointment for everyone, there was a real feeling in the team that we had both the desire and the ability to beat NUC, we desperately wanted to make the Final but to be fair, NUC were the better team on the day. We can only look forward, the challenge is for us to respond, there is a medal at stake and we are determined to get it for ourselves and for the club. We have both won 2 matches against each other this season, so today should be a good game.”

Thom’s VBC Biel-Bienne play Toggenburg this weekend in their last match of the season. Thom comments…..”having lost to Toggenburg 3-1 last time we are hoping to change that around. We have had a good training week and with the season coming to a close we really have nothing to lose. We just want to play well and have some fun.”

Rachel Bragg

Bundesliga, Germany
The playoffs begin this weekend in Germany with Bragg’s 5th placed Aurubis Hamburg taking on 4th placed Munster at home. A home and away leg will be played with a possible golden set if games are tied. Both teams have picked up one win and one loss against each other during the season and both teams are very evenly matched.

Stacey O'Connor

O’Connor’s Pieksamaki Volley are back in action this week after having 3 weeks without matches. This week they take on Kappa Volley, a team all too familiar from pre-season tournaments,  in a three match series which will determine Pieksamaki’s fate in the league. By winning all three, they will stay in the league for next season. On Wednesday night Pieksamaki beat Kappa in 3 and they are hoping to repeat this result tonight and again on Sunday.

Eres Divisie, Belgium
Palmer’s Gea Happel Amigos Zoersel have their last game of the regular season this weekend against Volley Haasrode Leuven.

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Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good: Team GB 2012 Kit launched

The official London 2012 Team GB kit was launched at the Tower of London today. The kit, designed by world renowned fashion designer Stella McCartney in co-operation with Adidas, will be worn by over 600 athletes across 26 sporting disciplines.

It all started with wanting a new British look and feel for the athletes. Stella’s first move as Creative Director was to reinterpret the Union Flag in a modern way. “It’s one of the most beautiful flags in the world and I wanted to use that iconic image but dismantle it, soften it and break it down, make it more graphic and more fashionable”Adidas Head of Design James Carnes agrees: “The design inspiration for Team GB was the idea of being untraditionally British”.

Stella’s design process has gone hand in hand with the Adidas newly pumped Powerweb and ClimaCool technologies, and their lightest ever swimsuits and footwear. So the athletes will not only look and feel great, they’ll go great too. 

We are still waiting to see the GB Women’s kit but here are a few early thoughts from the players…

Libero Maria Bertelli says: “I think the kit looks great because it’s GB and seeing the different sports wearing it really brings out what the Olympics is about. I’d be just be so proud to wear anything that has the words Olympic and Team GB and a Union Jack in there somewhere. 

GB Captain and outside hitter Lynne Beattie comments…
I really like what i have seen so far… Its certainly different, but for me the design will allow Team GB to stand out from everyone else. Seeing the kit just gets me more excited about the summer ahead… and whatever colour or design it is, i will be proud to wear it, knowing what it stands for!” 

Nicky Osborne, middle blocker thinks.. ”The new kit looks great… Smart, striking and makes me proud to be British to see the athletes today modelling it as one collective Team GB. Let the Games begin!”


Rachel Laybourne sums it up…”There has been some criticism today about how blue the new Olympic kit is. However, my opinion is that we are going to look unique and when the whole of Team GB are together we will look united and stand proud. Every athlete will know what sacrifices and hard work has gone into earning the right to wear that kit - regardless of what colours have been used in the design.”


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17/18 March - Middles Rule…Michel the #2 Blocker in Bundesliga and crucial win for Carter!

The ‘business-end’ of the season has begun… Lets see how the GBW got on at the weekend…


Carter’s TFOC won 3-2 v Nantes

Crucial win for TFOC

In the biggest game of the season so far, Carter’s TFOC faced 8th placed Nantes away. A win was needed to ensure they were still in the running to stay in PRO A and with a very tough game, they managed just that.

The first set was tight, with both teams playing solid side-out volleyball, but TFOC eventually took the set 27-29. TFOC had the momentum in the second with some strong serving and blocking, cruising to a 14-25 win.

But Nantes didn’t give up as the game was just as important to them, coming out strong to take the third 25-18, then despite an early lead for TFOC, Nantes served them off the court to take a 25-20 victory.

TFOC has been in many 5 set games this season, and that experience was the tipping point for the team, staying aggressive they took the final set and the game 13-15.

Carter commented: “This was a vital win for us, and a good team performance under great pressure. We still have a tough match ahead of us to guarantee our spot in PRO A, but we have shown that we are more than capable.”

Newton’s Quimper Volley won 3-1 v Tulle  (25-16, 21-25, 25-16, 25-19)

Rachel Newton

Quimper had a great 3-1 win against Tulle this weekend. They now push 3 points ahead of second place Stade Francais, who still have a game in hand. Quimper came out strong in the first set, with good service and composure on court. In the second set Tulle put them under pressure in reception and their attack in the middle started to cause some trouble. In the third set, Quimper looked stronger and took a good lead from the start to the finish of the set. Tulle started to make errors, especially in reception. The fourth set was close at the start but Quimper attacked aggresively and looked in control of the game.

Rachel comments: ‘We had a better performance than the previous week and took the vital 3 points we wanted. Now we have two weeks to prepare for a big match away against St.Raphael and then Stade Francais which will both be difficult matches.’

Germany: Alemannia Aachen lost 3-0 v Wiesbaden

Ci Michel... blocking machine!

The final weekend of the German Bundesliga saw Wicks & Michel’s Aachen take on 7th placed Wiesbaden away from home. The game summed up Aachen’s season with numerous serving errors and instability in the serve receive unit making it difficult for the team to get into any rhythm. There were flashes of great play but unfortunately not enough and Aachen lost 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-10). Aachen finished the season in 10th place, safe from relegation but out of the play off zone.

On completion of the regular season’s fixtures, our very own Ci Michel finished the season as the 2nd best blocker in the Bundesliga…what a result for Ciara and great news for GB for the summer ahead.


Jen Thom’s VBC Biel-Bienne lost 3-0 v Dudingen (25-20, 25-23, 25-23)

VBC Biel-Bienne

VBC Biel-Bienne played Düdingen away on Sunday.  It was yet another disappointing match for VBC Biel-Bienne.

Jen comments: “We definitely competed with Düdingen but it’s the same things that cost us the match.  We had some really good plays but were unable to close the sets and as a team we lack confidence to win. With only one match left now we are all determined to change this and come out with a win.”

Osborne and Goulet’s VC Kanti Schaffhaussen lost 3-2 v Sagres NUC

VC Kanti schaffhausen played their last game of the season last Wednesday.

VC Kanti's Osborne and Goulet

Unfortunately, having lost the weekend before, a result either way would render them in 5th place and therefore done with playoffs. However, it was still an important match for both teams with opposition NUC needing crucial points and for Schaffhausen wanting to finish the season on a big high.

It ended with a five set thriller with Kanti fighting hard to come back in the fourth, but they were unable to maintain momentum in the fifth, ultimately losing 3-2.

Osborne commented: “A good fight in the last game of the season, although a shame we couldn’t sustain that for the fifth set. It was an enjoyable match to play and a great challenge against a tricky setter… A real shame not to make 2nd round of playoffs but this is the situation we now find ourselves in. Our team goal for the season was top 5. Maybe we could have done more, but we achieved that goal. Time now to reflect, remember some great moments, learn from the tough ones and bring the valuable assets back to GB!”

Bertelli’s Volley Koniz lost 3-1 v Sagres NUC

It was a huge week for Bertelli’s Volley Koniz in the Swiss NLA, after a 3-1 loss against league leaders Volero midweek, they were up against 2nd placed team Sagres NUC on Sunday…winner takes all, with ‘all’ being a place in the Play Off Final.

Bertelli comments…

Bertelli strong in Serve Receive for Koeniz

Today was a huge game, the last game of the play-offs…we were in 3rd place going into the match against the 2nd placed team, NUC. We win the match 3-0 or 3-1 and we make the play off final.   The atmosphere in the team before the match was different, I could sense a real belief and determination in the players. We have been ‘nearly’ a few times this season and I really felt today that this was our moment. The players had taken responsibility for knowing the opposition, what they do and how best we can counter that. That gave us a bit of added confidence, on top of the desire that was obvious.”

“We lost the first two sets 25-19 and 25-21, competing but then NUC seemed to raise their game and we didnt have answers. Knowing they were through to the final, NUC celebrated. It was like a kick in the teeth seeing them when I really believed we would be the team that made it through. Luckily, we had a 10 minute break that enabled us to gather our thoughts and there was still an opportunity to win a match. We responded and won the 3rd comfortably 18:25. The 4th was a similar story to the 1st and 2nd, losing 25:20.”

“We now play a best of 3 series for 3rd place, there is a medal to be won!”


Beattie CV Las Palmas won 3-0 v Cuestra Piedra Santa Cruz

Beattie receives for Las Palmas

On paper this match was due to be a comfortable win for the home Las Palmas Team, but having lost their 3 matches previously, Las Palmas were lacking the confidence they had in the first half of the season, so they knew this would be a crucial game to win in order to regain some momentum with an outside chance of a play off position still on the cards.

In the first set, the nerves were apparent for Las Palmas, but mid-way through the set, the nerves disappeared and they began to show the volleyball they were capable of.  Beattie took control of the set through tough serving that the young Tenerife team couldn’t handle resulting in a 25-15 win.  It was a similar story in the second and third set with Las Palmas winning 25-12 and 25-9, taking a 3-0 win and a confidence boost into the remainder of the season with everything still to play for.

Beattie - Superliga's best server of the week

Beattie commented: “It was a match that could have gone either way for us, after struggling in recent matches, but we showed a strength of character to take the game to Cuestra Piedra.  We weren’t complacent despite it being a game we should win easily and we were clinical in everything we did.   This result gives us all the confidence we need going into the remaining 5 matches of the season and we continue to remain hungry for a top 4 play-off spot!”

Sandell’s Valeriano Alles Menorca lost 3-0 v Murillo

Belgium: Palmers Gea Happel Amigo’s won 3-1 v Volley de Haan


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