5 WAYS TECHNOLOGY HAS DIRECTLY INFLUENCED SPORTING SUCCESS

October 22, 2020
James Sephton

While technology cannot take all of the credit, technological advances are helping athletes achieve sporting success and bridge the gap between first and second.

We’ve moved a long way since the dreaded beep test (sporting ‘technology’ 1.0?) was introduced 40 years ago. I’ve identified a list of five ways sports teams or individuals have taken full advantage of the latest technology to take the W*.

Top 5

  1. Leicester City – Premier League Champions 2015/16

Fate, incredible team spirit, plenty of skill and a little luck perhaps, the stars certainly aligned for Leicester City during the 2015-16 season. Nearly relegated a season before and with a new manager at the helm, the Foxes were famously 5,000-1 outsiders for the Premier League crown.

While fans and commentators alike were amazed by their consistent performance and the lack of serious injury to key players, technology was a key factor behind the scenes in their success that season. Leicester City were reaping the rewards from a long-standing association with Prozone and the use of Catapult’s latest wearable technology.

The combination of tracking data from Prozone and Catapult’s OptimEye S5 wearable tech provided enhanced assessments of the fitness of each player. The invaluable data available to the coaching staff enabled them to micromanage individual player’s fitness and ongoing development, automatically identifying when players had exceeded their usual workload and were at risk of injury. With relatively limited resources on the bench keeping the first-choice team together on the pitch was ultimately instrumental in achieving an almost impossible dream.

  1. Bryson DeChambeau aka The Mad Scientist – US Open Champion 2020

While Bryson is not alone in using technology to help his game, Flightscope helps monitor the swings of his and many other pro golfers’ swings, he has broken down and re-modelled his game more than any other golfer to pick up a club. There is a reason he is nicknamed the Mad Scientist!

While it is common knowledge that his scientific approach cut all his clubs down the same length, angle and head weight so he could utilise a consistent swing, it is less publicised that Bryson hooked up with Microsoft and wearable tech company, Sensoria, to help identify the optimal grip. Sensoria and Microsoft developed a smart grip with eight embedded sensors that can track his grip placement and associated pressure then compare it directly to his on-course performance to pinpoint the optimum grip for every shot!

I’m intrigued to to see how far he goes with his scientific approach, the technologies he uses and how his career progresses now that he has the added confidence of a major winner.

  1. Team Sky – Tour de France Maillot Jaune 2018

The use of technology, such as heart rate monitors, power meters and headsets, is widespread amongst the peloton. However the plentiful budget available to Team Sky (now Team INEOS) allowed them to take advantage of the latest technology in other ways to get ahead of the competition.

Team Sky partnered with Dejero, a connectivity technology provider, to find a solution to France’s notorious mobile connectivity blackspots and helped Geraint Thomas take the maillot jaune.  Each Team Sky support car was fitted with Dejero GateWay to instantly select the best mobile network feed, create a virtual network and enable seamless monitoring of live TV coverage of the race. With a secure feed the team are able to manage the riders out on the road effectively, monitor all parts of the peloton and be in the best position to react when injury, crash or punctures occur.

  1. Chelsea FC Women – FA Women’s Super League Champions 2019/20

Chelsea FC Women, winners of the FA Women’s Super League and League cup last season, are utilising the Fitr Woman app to effectively manage the menstrual cycles of their players.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found that the training and performances of more than 50% of elite female athletes were hindered by their hormonal fluctuations.

The Fitr Woman app tracks details of a player’s period to provide personalised training and nutrition plans linked to their changing hormone levels at each phase of the menstrual cycle, improving performance and reducing the risk of injury. 

  1. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport – Formula One Constructor’s Champions

The Mercedes team have been dominating F1 over the last seven years, thanks not only to the driving skills of Stevenage’s finest, their reliable engine and aerodynamic design, but also to the solutions developed to analyse the multitude of data that is spewed out literally at every turn.

Mercedes’ project entitled “Data Is the New Frontier for Performance in Formula One” combines artificial intelligence (AI), data visualisations and predictive analysis to take advantage of data in real-time and make clear data-based decisions to impact race results.

By using TIBCO Spotfire’s technology to run millions of race simulations Mercedes are a step ahead of the competition when decisions need to be made for example when the heavens open, a safety car is deployed or their drivers hit traffic when lapping cars at the back of the race.

What’s Next?

Norwegian Olympic Team – Cross-Country Skiing

The Norwegian Olympic team, the Olympiatoppen, are utilising wearable technology from a Finnish company, Skiiot. Worn on the ankle the technology is providing data on ski performance, technique and the snow conditions. This help maintain Norway’s position at the top of the podium at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

England Cricket – Fast Bowlers

The ECB joined forces with the appropriately named app provider OutSystems in 2019 to create a fast bowling coaching app to help identify and nurture England’s future fast bowlers.

Promising fast bowlers visit the ECB’s performance centre at Loughborough University for a series of biometric tests with their motion analysis system. This data alongside videos, coach feedback and training plans are incorporated into the app to enable coaches and players to stay connected and facilitate continuous development. I’m looking forward to see if this app is instrumental in developing the next generation of English fast bowlers to take down the Aussies in the very near future.

Seph

*By no means a definitive list, I’d be interested to discover wider examples of how technology has been integral to sporting triumph.