Exploring a Technological Flip-Flop in Sport
Authors: Jack Griffiths, Dr. Clayton Kuklick, Dr. Joseph P. Mills
In this blog, we would like to share one of our most recent projects that involved exploring the use of a new sport technology intended to enhance both athletes’ and coaches’ performances. One of our coaches in our MASC program took interest to this topic from a sociological perspective from which they flipped the use of technology in such a way that it opened up an entire network of information that otherwise, to our knowledge, is unattainable with any other contemporary technological device.
Generally, sport technology is used by coaches to gain information about their athletes which they subsequently use to make decisions about performance. Current trends in sport technology revolve around the use of heart rate monitors and accelerometers to gain information on athlete’s work rates, GPS to track locations, sensors to acquire specific information on skill techniques, and technical and tactical video analysis to generate information on athlete’s technical and tactical skills, to name a few. With using these technologies, it certainly gets exciting when they seemingly provide lots of very specific information about athletes’ performance, allowing for tracking progress and reinforcing certain ways of doing things in sport. But, could the information generated from these technologies focus attention too much on these specific and singular things where other aspects impacting performance might not be realized? Are coach’s decisions, intentions, and judgements limited to the information generated from the technology and perhaps without consideration for the athletes themselves? For example, information generated from technology and how it is used can impact coach-athlete relationships, engage constant monitoring and surveillance, and interact with athletes’ motivation levels to reach certain workloads, explore certain movements, or make decisions.
In our study, we flipped the use of technology so that rather than a coach being the gatekeeper and interpreter of the technological information, they were provided with oodles of information regarding athletes’ performance that they hadn’t otherwise considered. The technology explored was a system that provided athletes access to prompts, which then were anonymously stored and delivered as feedback to the coach. The key piece was that the athletes’ feedback were anonymous. After each practice and game, athletes scanned QR codes and answered prompts that revolved around:
- what do you want coach to know that you normally wouldn’t be able to say?
- what techniques and tactics are you struggling to learn?
- If you had one thought during training or playing, what would you want the coach to know?
Our findings showed how the anonymous technology unlocked the power differential between the coach and athlete where athletes provided information free of judgment and control, that otherwise would have been never told or realized, nor determined with any other contemporary technological device. Understandably, athletes started off slow with sharing information and didn’t know exactly what to ask for. But, in time they shared much information about their specific needs for enhancing performance, were empowered from their anonymous voice being heard by the coach, and were enlightened by how their coach changed in order to address the realities of the team that normally wouldn’t have occurred. The coach too found this anonymous feedback technology to be useful in opening up a pandora’s box of information pertaining to athletes’ performance and with providing a birds-eye view of different things that normally wouldn’t be considered as impacting athletes’ performance.