Data & Innovation, Performance | Oct 16, 2019
We asked a selection of performance practitioners to predict what we can expect to see in the years ahead.

Given its exponential growth in the last few decades and the increasing sophistication of data and analytics in elite sport, it takes a brave person to predict what lies around the corner in this space.

By John Portch

Nevertheless, our panel endeavoured to give us answers that each take into account their disparate positions within their respective sports and organisations. Uppermost in their minds are wearables, the growing demand for third-party data, and the ongoing integration of technology within performance environments.

Whatever their take, it is clear that the person remains the centrepiece of the performance question and it will be the person – the human – that informs those data-led conversations.

Tom Batchelor, Harlequins:

“What you’re probably seeing currently is someone sifting through what data is relevant. I think it’s not so much a shift away from data but potentially seeing where it fits. A lot of sports are about your ability to communicate with staff, players etc. and an appreciation as well that as much as you can know how far someone runs and how many things they’ve hit and stuff there is ultimately, as easy as it sounds, a human being sat in the middle of it. There’s a lot of stuff going on around that and I don’t think there is value in attributing a number to that beyond actually just having that conversation with people.”

Karl Cooke, Western Australian Institute of Sport:

“Software and the analytics available within software has come a long way. There are lots of good companies out there doing good work to help teams manage their software and manage their data much more effectively as they can streamline their workflows a lot better. That’s undoubtedly happened and I think the future, to date, a lot of our information is about medical and physical performance, for the future will give us insight into the physiological aspects of performance. The sensors that kind of pick up stress, changes in stress state, arousal, optimal decision-making, these are areas that are ultimately what determines the very best from the good; the great athlete is making good decisions and performing optimally under the most intense pressure and we never to this day been able to create any insight around, certainly not in the competitive environment, and my hope, my view is that will become realised in the not too distant future. We’ve already seen it in different ways of measuring stress through heartrate variability. I think that technology will get miniaturised a bit more and more wearable in the competitive environment and hopefully will be able to give us some insights around the stress that athletes experience or not and how some athletes seem to be able to cope while others crumble under the pressure of competition, so the psychological insight for me is a huge one.”

David Martin, consultant:

“I think you’re going to hear a dialogue that goes something like: ‘I don’t know a lot about you right now but we have some sophisticated technology that’s going to help me learn about you quickly. I’m going to look at how you respond to different loading patterns, I’m going to look at your training history and I am working with software that will give me insights into how you as an individual respond and adapt to training. Very quickly we’ll establish what weight and body composition, lifting schedule, playing schedule, conditioning drills, sleep patterns and diet work for you; and we’ll get there quickly with the right monitoring technologies and training environment that works for you. When you as an athlete are fit and prepared and motivated we believe you will be in a good position to contribute to the team in the most meaningful way and that’s going to help us all achieve our performance goals.’”

Ryan Murray, Texas Rangers:

“I would say tangential technology to baseball. Right now, all of our data major streams are centralized through Major League Baseball; Statcast is coming from them, our play-by-play data, all of our injuries and everything is coming through them, and so teams are looking outside of that to third-party companies and even internally to develop their own solutions to start quantifying things that are not currently provided by the league and maybe other teams don’t have access to. You’re going to see everything from how do we decide what bat guys use whenever they go up to the plate; how do they make that decision? Are they even aware of what decision processes they’re taking when they go up there? How are we quantifying pitcher’s mechanics in a way that you can repeat and objectify it and actually give reports and results on it instead of watching and in real time trying to ingest and understand that, which are experts in the field who are expert at that but you can’t really beat objective information that you can repeat over and over again.”

Chad Gerhard, formerly of Orlando Magic:

“In the next 12 months I’d like to see wearable technology in the NBA become more standardised, if that’s the right term. We have also just hired a data scientist with a background in sports performance and we’re going to see a shift in how data scientists and data scientists roles progress in the NBA because of the demands of the role – it’s a tough job. It is tough chasing guys around and getting them to wear the units and to collect the data. At the end of the day it is satisfying. I have zero expectations and don’t expect much from these guys so when they do something it is massive. I take any little win I can get because they don’t come that often.”

This exclusive feature has been extracted from our latest Special Report: Navigating the Data Maze. Download the full report by clicking below, and keep an eye out for our next Special Report landing in just a few weeks time.

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