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How does a coach translate data into performance?
Coaches training today's top athletes have access to a plethora of technology and scientific data. In the case of diving, this technology includes access to instant video playback and diving board force data, all of which is available at the tap of a finger via a poolside iPad.
But how useful is this data to coaches? Can it be used effectively to boost athletic performance and how has this technology changed the traditional role of the coach?
In the second film of his Engineering Sport series, Professor Steve Haake travels to Ponds Forge diving centre in Sheffield to look at how technological advancements have changed training practices in diving.
Professional diving coach Adam Sotheran is on hand to help us understand where training and technology fit in between the raw data and the athlete.
- Sheffield Hallam University
- Professor Steve Haake
- Ponds Forge International Sports Centre
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- Engineering Sport
Competitive diving is one of the most beautiful Olympic sports. It requires strength, ability, and above all, courage. Up here on a 10-metre board, it takes just a second and a half before you hit the water at about 30 miles an hour. And in that second and a half, the athlete has got to do complex somersaults, twists, got to understand the heights, and got to understand the angle of entry.
So how does the diver do that? And that's where the coach comes in. So before the diver surfaces from the water, the coach has got to come up with the answer to the question what do I tell my athletes?
Okay you stopped it well, good rip, it's a little bit quick. You should try diving.
I give them feedback that helps them achieve their goals. And that's the goals for that session, the goals for that training cycle, and ultimately, the goals that will get them towards elite performance and hopefully an Olympic medal.
So, Adam, we've worked together for a number of years now. We've installed six cameras, four force platforms, two enormous TV screens. How do you use those to help your athletes?
Well, we use it to gives lots and lots and lots of feedback. And of the different kinds of feedback we get, we can choose which ones of those the athletes respond best to and make sure they get more information in that style.
In the first instance, you've got your coach's eye. You're looking at them and saying, internally, that looks right or that doesn't look right. This is why.
And then the iPad and the video and the force data gives you a bit more information that says yes, I was right with what I thought. Or actually, this is new information, so I'm going to turn that into a postural correction or a timing correction that's hopefully easy for the diver to make happen to get them closer to my coach's eye and my data idea of perfect.
By the time they've come up from the water, you've got all of that ready. You tap your tablet, as they hit the water. That goes and grabs the last few seconds of video data. And by the time the diver comes around, they can have seen their replay on the big screen. And then we go into a little bit of detail with them in a way that works for them and leads to a technical change that makes them a little bit better.
I think it was more my legs did that.
They did exactly the right thing. It just needs a little bit of zip. So it takes that out.
So we've got the video of Ben. This is the high-speed video link to the force plate data and we can play the video through.
Oh, wow. I love that
You can see the line projected on-screen. And if the line's longer, he's pushing harder. And depending on what direction the line goes, that's the direction he's pushing into the tower.
So here, for example, you see he's pushing back quite hard. Now the graph, up here, tells the coach and the diver if they want it, a, how hard in terms of Newtons they were pushing on the tower in two different directions. So the green line shows how hard he was pushing down onto the tower, the red line shows the x-direction-- how hard he was pushing forwards or backwards.
OK, let me just give that a go . That is fantastic. I love that. So having that, and having on it here, by the side of the pool, being able to do that-- that is just wonderful seeing those force vectors.
So what the top athlete has is instinct and judgement . But he needs more. At the elite level, you need evidence-based understanding to get those incremental changes. And it's the job of the sports engineer to take the measurements, to understand it, and to impart it back to the athlete and coach, so they can be the very best that they can. I love it.
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