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Darcy Norman PT, ATC, CSCS
Performance Coach: EXOS and Fitness Coach and Performance Analyst for the German National Soccer Team 2014 World Cup Champions
R2P is proud to have one of our ADVISORY COUNCIL MEMBERS, Darcy share his insights on the complex world of sports data analytics or injury and illness surveillance.
With the rise of technology and interest in big data people often ask where they can find more information to learn how to merge performance training with big data. To my knowledge there is no set curriculum out there that does this although we (EXOS) are working on it to help educate more people. It is certainly a massive topic and traditionally I think you would go through your college education to your masters and then on to your PhD possibly and just acquire the skills along the way.
In my experience in rehabbing, training, and collecting, managing and reporting on data, I find the paths very similar. In both you need to have a refined methodology that you follow to get consistent results as well as be able to upgrade your systems in a timely manner without reinventing the wheel each time. You need to have a clear outline of your Performance Methodology which should include all the injury prevention stuff and then begin to build your Performance Data Methodology side which would include how to collect, organize, store, analyze, and report on the data that gives you more awareness into pulling the strings in your performance methodology. As it is not about the number but what you do with that number that matters most.
Performance Data Methodology
Work (GPS or Gym)
Recovery (Fatigue, Sleep, Blood, etc)
Chronic Fitness/Player History
Acute Fitness/Current Status
High, Med, Low.
Currently it seems people just teach themselves, trial and error best practices on the data side and there isn't much in the way of formalized education. Depending on the technology you are using will also depend on how you manage and work with the data. For example, you start with excel - move to some database management system like access or then move to something more formal like Apollo, edge 10, Smartabase, Coach me Plus etc or something custom like an SAP or SQL platforms. Even with these tools they are really only data book shelves that allow you to interact remotely with athletes to collect data but you still have to plug in your Statistics for analysis of the data and visualization/reporting tools, like "R", SAS or Tableau. All these products can range from low cost to very high cost, from very little flexibility to very high flexibility and customization, or very easy to use to very challenging where you have to acquire a new skill set. In this emerging field the technology varies widely just as the needs and applications.
Once you have your Performance Data Methodology and structure in place it allows you to be a lot more nimble in your ability to analyze and report on your data. It allows you to be quicker with your upgrades to the methodology you are employing with your athletes/clients, such as adding new data streams. It also allows you to quickly cross reference various streams of data to see if there are any deeper relationships worth pursuing. Once you find what works and what doesn't with your particular population, what gives you the information you need to answer your questions, then you can start to refine your process and eliminate the things that aren't yielding valuable data. And just like you have to constantly adapt your performance methodology to individual athletes, teams, organizations etc you also have to adapt your performance data methodology as there will be various logistic limitations you will come across that may not allow you to do something you did with a different team or athlete or to collect the same information as you did in the past. As one masters the science and methodology it is essential to appreciate the art as well. The more elite the athlete, often the more unique they are. In these incredible performers N truly equals one (n=1). The Performance Methodology and Data Methodology will always requires tweaking tailored to the individual.
It is easy to over complicate performance methodology, the same holds true with performance data methodology. Walk before you run, doing something is better than doing nothing, technique before load. Just like the rest of technology it is going to be a part of our daily lives so keep an open mindset and do your best to inform yourself to stay ahead of the curve.
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