Entries by Craig Pickering

The words we use matter

If you’re a big athletics fan, and you have a good memory of semi-obscure sprinters, you may well have seen me race a couple of times. In bigger races, such as those at the Diamond League and major Championships, the camera pans across the competitors as they are introduced. Whilst it is the fashion these days to appear relaxed and jovial, earlier on in my career—in the immediate post-Maurice Greene era—athletes tended to be a bit more serious during this pre-race segment. If you go back and watch races from that period, you will often see athletes talking to themselves, and this is a technique I liked to utilize pre-race.

The definitive guide to what we do and do not know about caffeine and performance

Caffeine is a performance enhancing drug. If you’ve been following my articles over the last couple of years, you’ll no doubt be aware of that, because I write about it a lot. Athletes, of course, know that caffeine has the potential to enhance their performance, which is why many of them consume it prior to training and competition. Additionally, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) know that caffeine is a performance enhancing drug and are, rightly, concerned about the abuse of caffeine in sport.

Sports Science Monthly – May 2019

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. Recently the countermovement jump has morphed from a test of explosiveness into a more general test of the athlete’s physical state.  In the May Sports Science Monthly we start off by looking at whether research backs this up. We then give you the latest updates on research about sleep, tapering, priming, transfer of training, and hamstring injuries.

Why talented youngsters rarely make it to the top

Spotting the next major talent is big business in sports, particularly team sports, where youngsters are often scouted and signed to clubs at increasingly young ages. However, the effectiveness of these methods is generally considered to be very poor, with relatively few youngsters thought of as highly talented at a young age progressing through to play at a high level. How can it be that we invest so much into talent identification but have relatively little to show for it?

Key questions in data science for sports

Over the last decade or so, there has been a Big Data revolution. This is true of our general lives; a good example is how Cambridge Analytica collected, both legally and potentially illegally, data of Facebook users for the targeting of campaign advertisements, but also within sport, where, in part thanks to the increase in technology, there is a vast amount of data available to sporting teams.

Sports Science Monthly – April 2019

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. In the April Sports Science Monthly we start off by looking at a new framework for evaluating research. Then we focus on new findings about specific topics like gluten free diets for athletes, the role of testosterone in female performance, sports nutrition, the speed gene, and more.

Mental toughness and mountaineering

Mountaineering can provide some great case studies in risk and mental preparation. The types of situations encountered by mountaineers are at the extreme and can really highlight the decision making process because each decision brings with it more consequences. As I wrote about earlier this year, you might think this environment would lead to more accurate weighing of risks, but often it presents a cautionary tale of what can happen when you’re too motivated to meet a goal. We can learn from where climbers have failed, but we can also learn from where they have succeeded and some new research looks at mental toughness among mountaineers.

Sports Science Monthly – March 2019

The March edition of Sports Science Monthly focuses on the latest research on squats. Hopefully we can give some answers to the age-old debate about whether deep squats and shallow squats are the best. We also look at training frequency and session volume, several recent doping studies and much more.

Predicting sprint performance through data modeling

One of the “Holy Grails” in sport is the ability to predict, with accuracy, whether someone has the potential to become an elite athlete or not. I’ve covered this in previous articles and papers in terms of genetics, discussing whether we can test for it or not and how we might think of talent in terms of the ability to respond to training. However, at present, predicting future performance remains very difficult. But we keep trying and a recent paper in Biology of Sport took a novel approach to trying to predict sprint performance. The researchers recruited 104 Croatian sprinters and collected a wide variety of data points relating to anthropometric, genetic, and psychological traits to create a rich data set for analysis.