Posts

The 2015 Indoor Season in Numbers

Bob Gourley’s final national performance lists for the 2015 indoor season were released last week and provided a good overview of what a remarkable season it was. To start with, the number of athletes qualifying for the national performance list spiked this year. Over the previous your years the number of boys over 50 feet and girls over 35 feet had reached a relative plateau, but this year saw 23% more athletes qualify for the national list. Read more

Becoming a Better Consumer of Sports Science

I’ve written extensively over the past few weeks about the scientific process, methods, and study design. All of this has an effect on the results. But we also need to look at a few other aspects that impact our understanding of the results. In other words, we need to ask how we can become better consumers of scientific research. For that I have a few tips that can help with interpreting scientific findings. Read more

Distribution of High School Hammer Throwers

Bob Gourley’s national performance list is the thorough catalog of all elite high school hammers throwers in America. To be included in the list, boys must break 150 feet with the 12-pound hammer and girls must throw more than 120 feet with the 4-kilogram hammer. This year 239 throwers broke that barrier. But more impressive was the geographic diversity: throwers represented 28 different states. As written about last week, this resulted in 15 new state records. Below you can view the distribution of throwers by state.
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What Will It Take in Zurich?

Before the Olympics I looked at what it would take to make the Olympic finals. In the end, despite an A standard of 78 meters, it took a throw of 74.69 meters to make the cut. That may seem low, but it was right in line with the historic level. With the European Championships taking place in less than a month, I thought I would work with British statistician Ian Tempest to look at what it will likely take to make the finals in Zurich.
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Basic Principles of Data Collection

As technology has proliferated over the past decade, so has data collection among athletes and coaches. Data collection is nothing new, but as the amount of data and the ease of obtaining it seems to be growing exponentially. I was just speaking to a scientist from Push last week and their new device will soon let you capture all kinds of metrics with the touch of a button in training. Other devices are adding different metrics. But with all the new data, it is important to keep in mind two principles of data collection:

  1. Know what the data tells you; and
  2. Know how to use it.

If you overlook these, then the data might as well be useless. Read more

When Do Javelin Throwers Hit Their Peak?

Last year I looked at when hammer throwers reach their peak and last week I looked at shot putters. FiveThirtyEight even looked at this aspect of tennis. I decided to continue the project by looking at javelin throwers. I often train together with the Swiss national javelin coach Terry McHugh. McHugh sits just outside of the top 100, but when I complain about getting old he is the first to tell me otherwise. He knows from experience since he threw his personal best just days shy of his 37th birthday. On the other hand I know a few javelin throwers who careers have been ended quite young due to injuries. With this in mind I figured it would be an interesting event to look at.

The javelin throw offers a unique perspective compared to the other throwing events. Doping era marks prevail in most women’s throwing events and some of the men’s events and skew any historical analysis. The javelin, however, has had the advantage of starting over. In 1986 a new men’s javelin was introduced thereby resetting the records books. In 1999 the a women’s javelin was also introduced. As a result, some of the issues with questionable marks have been overcome and this also allows me to look at both genders for the first time. Here are three points I took away from the analysis.
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When Do Shot Putters Hit Their Peak?

I like numbers. In an interview in February I said the technology I use and profit from the most is Microsoft Excel. I guess this explains why I work in tax, but even in training I am constantly analyzing the data I get out of my own training and of my athletes. Numbers are the feedback that is easiest to work with.

Historical data is also quite rich. This week I decided to do an analysis of the top 100 male shot putters of all-time. That is every person to every break 21.12 meters or 69 feet 3.5 inches. What I was interested in was the age at which athletes reached their personal best. After looking at the data, I saw three clear points emerge.
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Predicting Success of Young Champions

McCullough (left) still has plenty of time to prove himself at the next level, while Henning has already left the sport.

I mentioned earlier this week that talent can be hard to identify since it involves so many elements. Yesterday I thought of an even better example to prove this point. Other indicators may not work, but at least you would think that if a kid is good at throwing the hammer, then there is a high chance he will continue to be good. How much specific of a test can you have than actually throwing the hammer? But after looking back at historical data, the facts don’t even back up this assumption. The best kids are likely not to be the best adults. Read more