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GAINcast Episode 183: From data to speed (with Matt Rhea)

American football is a bastion of tradition. In some areas, such as strength and conditioning, that can hold the sport back. Many coaches, however, are working to change the traditions and they start out by asking simple questions all over again like how do we make our players better? On this week’s GAINcast, Matt Rhea explains how the forward-thinking setup he installed at Indiana University helped turn their program around using a practical data-driven approach. Read more

Burning questions for the future of training

You might think that the best way to predict the future is to ask the experts what lies ahead. In general, that is actually a poor idea. As Philip Tetlock has researched in depth, experts have a surprisingly poor track record in predicting the future. But there is a subgroup of experts that predict very well. These are not people with the most years of experience of access to the best algorithms. They are the experts who can think broadly, gather evidence from a variety of sources, work in teams, and, importantly, are willing to admit error and change course. Tetlock calls this group foxes. Read more

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. Read more

From big data to smart data

There is an arms race in today’s sporting environment. Teams, athletes, coaches and support staff aren’t just fighting for the best facilities and talent, they’re also seeing who can collect the most numbers. This is the era of big data, and the past decade has seen an unrivaled amount of information available in sports from a wide variety of methods, including the use of GPS systems, electronic timing gates, force platforms, blood testing, and general wellness questionnaires. The richness and vastness of information available, however, can also be seen as a curse; both teams and individuals can feel like they have to collect more and more data, in the hope that they can gain an edge over their competitors, and better enhance athletic performance. As with many things, we need to shift the focus on data from quantity to quality. Read more

The quest for prediction in coaching

Within sport, everyone is now looking at prediction. Coaches, athletes, and support staff are all searching for methods to predict various outcomes, such as injury, talent, performance, or training adaptation. The ability to successfully predict within these areas would obviously be hugely advantageous. Injury prediction could allow you to make interventions to stop that from happening. Talent prediction can allow teams to better focus resources. Predicting adaptations would allow coaches to design better training blocks or alter them based on the predicted response. In other words, prediction is the holy grail of sports science. Read more

Beyond the numbers

In today’s world of high performance sport we have the potential to bury ourselves in numbers. There is not much we can’t analyze, measure or monitor. In many ways this is a positive step forward and it some ways it can be negative. The key is keeping the numbers in context. If you are letting the numbers dictate everything you do and don’t do then it is time to reconsider. This is where I weigh in on the human element in coaching. Read more

Getting the most out of data collection and usage

In the era of big data, testing and diagnostics has become a central part of testing. But often coaches are more focused on the data than the process. To start with, there are four questions four key questions that coaches must ask when it comes down to testing in training: Read more

GAINcast Episode 101: Test practices

Testing is a crucial part of training, even more so in the era of big data. On this episode of the GAINcast Vern walks through his approach to testing and shares his best practices. In the end testing is about getting an accurate picture of the athlete so you can determine the way forward. That’s easier said than done, and Vern has learned a few lessons throughout his career about how to making testing more specific, integrated, and motivational. Read more

Looking beyond the height: a guide to vertical jump testing

The vertical jump. The king of the combines that can make or break athletes contracts. Everyone is in awe of the height of the vertical jump. I remember as a kid, we would compete to see who could touch the highest up on the basketball net and then eventually the backboard. We jump so much that our bodies have figured out how to get the highest jump for ourselves. We want to be the king of the playground, or in my case, not the worst on the playground, so we developed this strategy about how to jump the highest. Read more

GAINcast Episode 96: The Arsenal Arrow (with Des Ryan)

If you want pressure to perform, try working in professional soccer in England. To make matters more complicated, try working with young players and balancing the need for short-term results and setting up long-term potential. That is the challenge Des Ryan confronts every day as Head of Sports Medicine & Athletic Development at the Arsenal Academy. On this episode of the GAINcast he explains the Arsenal approach to athletic development and high performance. Read more