How to get data to coaches when they are not by your side… but are within ‘throwing distance’?

Laura Ostler @lauramostler

I frequently get asked to provide competition support, part of this support is about providing coaches with data (video/stats) to inform decisions at a competition.  In my world, this may be between qualification and heats, heats and semi-finals, or between semi-finals and finals, and there may be as little as 15 minutes turnaround time between events.  The same could apply to match analysis with coaches looking to get data for a halftime talk.  In my world, I’m often a long way away from the field of play, often at the back of the stands at a velodrome or a swimming pool, and certainly a long way away from the coach.  So how to get data to the coach when they are not by your side… but they are within ‘throwing distance’? – well I’ll increase this to approximately 100m clear line of sight, i.e. stands to the far side of a hockey pitch, stands to the middle of the velodrome.

At this stage, I should stress that before jumping in an over promising to the coach (see Denise’s article) it is important to ask yourself a few questions to understand the scenario and what (if any) data should be offered.

  • Is your data helpful or a distraction?
  • Can the coaches use the information that you are providing to inform decisions? i.e. Is your data relevant? Is it presented in such a way that a coach can easily interpret it without you being by their side?
  • Can the athletes respond to the data that is being offered?

e.g. If your data is indicating a poor performance in a KPI e.g. stroke length dropping off in a swimming race, is it reasonable for an athlete to address this KPI? Have they practiced this scenario in training? If the answer is no, it is unlikely they will be able to address this in a pressurised competition environment.

  • Is the data that you are presenting accurate and reliable?

i.e. If it is being used to petition a judgement call, can it actually be relied upon as a true and accurate reflection of events?

If the answer is yes to these types of questions, you may be in a position to provide data to inform decision making at competitions.  As ever, discuss this with the coach and practice delivering this type of support in training before stepping it up into a competition environment.

So how do we go about it? Well, you could try saving the data on a USB stick and throwing it to the coach, but the accuracy of data is a stronger suit of mine than the accuracy of throwing, so it’s not the ideal option.  You could have a ‘runner’ a person who could hand deliver your USB stick to the coach.  (This has been called for on occasion when the last option does not work).  Another option is the likes of cloud-based storage, the downside of this is if you have poor bandwidth, the internet often drops out.

Finally, another option is to set up a wireless network.  There are many routers out there and I’m sure many of you will know how to set up private networks.  The key to this is to password protect your connection so that no-one else can access your data other than the laptops, tablets etc that have been granted permission.  The trickier part of the process is getting the data onto tablets as they often require an app.  Air share is an option, the disadvantage is that you can only send data to the device when it is within range.  Another option is Documents 5 which can be set up to automatically receive data whenever the device is within range thus allowing you to concentrate on the analysis task in hand rather than checking whether the device is in range.  My next top tip is that most tablet-style devices require video to be in .mp4 format so bear that in mind before trying to send video to a device.

I did hint that the wireless router option is not always an option.  I say this because at large competitions your router may be one of many.  In this day and age there are many wireless devices broadcasting and in enclosed spaces where wifi signals are bouncing off all surfaces there can be interference with media signals etc.  Some routers are so powerful that they have been known to block the signal of other devices and TV streams.  It has caused some organizers of large international competitions to request that nations do not set up wifi devices to transmit data.  Before you turn up at a venue check that there are no such restrictions in place and always have your plan B and plan C.

Author: Laura Ostler

Laura is an experienced multi-sport performance analyst working at the Sport Northern Ireland Sports Institute. Laura started out in the field of performance analysis working with Olympic, Paralympic, and Commonwealth Games sports, coaches and athletes at the South Australian Sports Institute back in 2004 as a sport and exercise science undergraduate student. Since then she has been able to ply her trade with Sport Wales and sports at Cardiff Metropolitan University as an MSc performance analysis student, and then onto the Sports Institute Northern Ireland. Laura is responsible for planning and delivering analysis support services to predominantly Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games coaches and athletes of British and Irish National Governing Bodies.