Elite Human Performance in the Australian Army: Lessons from the Soviet Sports System

By Pete Tarling May 16, 2019


Click here to access a copy of 'Elite Human Performance in the Australian Army: lessons from the Soviet Sports System'

The Australian Army generally considers its people as its resources and capability. With this in mind, soldiers should ideally be at the elite level of human performance. This would assure a greater probability of success in combat, and reduce the potential of injury in training and combat. It would also safeguard physical longevity – the Army gaining greater efficiency and usage of its key resource. In reality the Army does not have a proven system or service-wide culture that develops cutting-edge levels of human performance. The Army does not adequately develop, prepare, or sustain elite levels of fitness as the norm. Biased, uneducated opinions and views are held by a great many of all ranks. Compared to elite levels of sport, the Army is well behind the times in fostering elite human performance. Resources and interest, are gradually being invested in developing human performance. There are some ways to go before the Army can generate and maintain tactical athletes fit for purpose.

This paper will highlight key aspects of a proven elite athlete development system that has some applicability to the Australian Army. This will include the background and application of the Soviet Sports System by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) during the 20th century, highlights of youth athlete development models in the West, consideration to the contemporary injury rates in the Army, and discussion on how aspects of the Soviet Sports System models could be conceptually applied to the Australian Army through the Force Generation Cycle. The application lessons from the Soviet Sports System would better prepare soldiers for combat and longevity.




Pete Tarling

Pete Tarling is a Field Artillery Officer, serving as a Battery Commander in the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment.  He is a Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach, a Level 1 Powerlifting Coach, a Level 1 Sports Power Coach / Club Weightlifting Coach, and a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. Along with his coaching qualifications, he holds Certificates III and IV in Fitness and is studying a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.


Pete - just enjoyed reading this again over a coffee. There is many quality people out there at the moment that have the ability to keep the current momentum with Human Performance. I hope when you return you are considering going into this space as the HP cell at FORCOMD would be a great fit for you IMO. Have a great Christmas and safe travels home.

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