Breaking New Ground in Sports Science – The Story of Pete McKnight
Hintsa Performance is full of fascinating professionals. Our Director of Coaching and Sports Science Pete McKnight shares his story.
Pete, a British who grew up in Asia, currently lives in France and works around the globe in his position at Hintsa. He has extensive experience in strength and conditioning with professional and Olympic athletes for the past 17 years. During his career, Pete has worked with alpine skiers in France, rowers, swimmers, and footballers in the UK, as well as athletes in India and other parts of Asia, just to name a few.
Pete’s educational background is in Physics and Sports Science, with a research focus on the strength and power characteristics of elite sprinters and jumpers. Lately, his research interests have focused on monitoring of physiological characteristics within Formula 1 and Motorsports. Since 2014 Pete has been a valuable part of the Hintsa team.
When did you first get interested in sport science and why?
I went to University in Loughborough in 1998, originally to study Mathematical Engineering. I had always loved sports and was competing at a national level, so my choice of this institution was mainly driven by its status as the best University for sports studies and sports performance in the United Kingdom, and likely beyond. Soon after beginning the course, I realized that I didn’t want to study Engineering, so switched to Physics and Sports Science.
I was passionate about sports, but I was pretty rubbish at Sports Science! However, the more I studied the subject, the more interested I became. My girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, was an excellent Sports Science student, so she helped me with my work (Thanks Miri!)
When did you first hear about Hintsa?
I first heard about the company from Matti and Antti Kontsas, who both worked for Dr Aki Hintsa and who I had known since university. They introduced me to Aki, who I liked and clicked with straight away. Aki wanted me to work with him and support a Formula 1 driver, but I wasn’t interested at the time, as I had just returned from working with athletes over a 4-year Olympic cycle, and was preparing for the next World Championships with the French Ski Team. I was also working with a number of track and field athletes, in preparation for the Summer Olympics, so the timing for a move was not ideal.
However, perhaps a year and a half later, I felt that I had achieved my objectives in my previous roles and was ready for a change, and joined the Hintsa team to help support the coaches from a technical development and management perspective.
Having founded, led or invested in a number of successful organisations, joining Hintsa promised the opportunity to operate across a range of skills including leadership, management, coaching and research, all which I have been able to do. This, alongside the opportunity to grow Hintsa’s presence in both motorsports and other sports, and to be involved in strategic leadership in a company, attracted me.
Specifically, Hintsa provided the opportunity to pursue two new objectives that I found interesting. First, I wanted to develop Sports business development skills, through my contacts and interest in business. Second, recognising a ‘gap’ in the system, and an area for improvement, I wanted to establish an elite-level system to enable Motorsports to parallel, or even surpass other systems I had worked in like the English Institute of Sport and multiple National Teams.
What is your typical workday like?
I manage over 20 of the company’s coaches and work very closely with Dr Luke Bennett, Medical and Sports Performance Director. I work with Luke as we manage and grow the Sports Business. In addition, we are leading the way in research and innovation in motorsports, and I’m excited to see how this develops in the future, and the positive impact it will have on both the company and our clients.
I currently attend approximately 50% of Formula 1 race weekends. If I’m at a race, my time is spent in the Paddock with the coaches, talking through their work, ideas, and plans. I really enjoy this part of the job as it draws on my coaching background. I also use this opportunity to meet with clients, such as race team managers, and listen to their feedback and explore how we can improve our service and delivery.
What gives you a sense of accomplishment in your daily work?
I enjoy encouraging our coaches to do grow, develop, and be the best that they can be! It was the same when I was coaching athletes to win World Cups, Olympic Medals, or World Championships. To see people grow, develop, and to reach their potential has become my life’s statement and an important part of my personal mission.
I’m passionate about ‘breaking new ground’ in sports science. We are now doing a considerable amount of research in sports at Hintsa. As someone who has been involved in research extensively, for the majority of my professional career, this motivates and interests me greatly.
Also, I’m proud of the fact that I have been able to play my role in seeing athletes go to major championships across different sports, win medals then go on to retire, start new careers, get married and have families. It’s been a privilege to be involved in many of their lives and play a small part in seeing them be successful in sports but also in their work and family lives.
What do you like best about Hintsa’s company culture?
I like being part of a company that has a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. I’ve always strived to stay active, healthy, fit, and to eat and recover well. Being part of a community of people who share these values is great.
I also like being part of a team of high performers. I hope we can continue to attract top talent, and keep pushing the boundaries in health, wellbeing, and performance.
What are you most looking forward to in the future?
I am looking forward to completing and publishing some of our ongoing research in motorsports. I am also excited about a number of emerging strategic partnerships that could allow us to enhance our innovation and research, bringing both a higher level of safety to drivers, but also a new level of performance both physiologically and cognitively.
I’m also looking forward to new opportunities to continue to grow and branch out beyond motorsports, into different domains where there is a growing demand. The next 2 to 3 years will be very exciting!
Outside your work at Hintsa, what is your life like?
My lovely wife Miri also works for the company part-time. So, Hintsa is very much a part of our lives. She mostly works on content development in the form of written articles, podcasts and videos.
We have 3 boys who are all very active and keen on playing competitive sports. I have a broad range of interests and enjoy skiing, cycling, lifting weights and reading, which I do in my free-time. I’ve also been very involved in church and charity work.
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