Technology in Sport Part 1: Enhancing Communication

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As a self-proclaimed tech geek and lover of all things track and field, I’ve learned to mix my 2 passions for maximum affect. I’ve found there are several ways that technology can enhance a coaches ability to create an ideal training environment or approximate one when not otherwise possible. There are four main areas that I’ve found that technology can be especially useful for coaches:

  1. Enhancing Communication
  2. Quantification
  3. Analysis
  4. Training and Performance Enhancement

I recognize that there’s quite a bit of overlap between these four areas but I think that it’s safe to say that most forms of technology in sport fall in one or more of these four categories.

In the first installment of this series, I’d like to focus on the first point, enhancing communication. I’ve actually come to place quite a premium on this point because much of the training that I do is for people who are hundreds or thousands of miles away from me. And with the mindset that successful training requires regular and frequent communication, technology is the answer. Gone are the days when communication had to be done on a land line before or after practice. In today’s world of iPhones and Blackberrys, athletes and coaches can have near instantaneous contact for issues like physiological state; clarification on goals of an exercise, circuit, or session; competitive reassurance and confidence boosting; on-the-spot modification of an existing workout and clarification of unknowns. In fact, it’s now very well possible to provide a complete days workout to an athlete on the spot from thousands of miles away if they have forgotten the hard copy of their prescribed weekly workout or provide impromptu instructions for self-manual therapy when a problem arises. Here are some of the tools I use to enhance communication:

  1. My Blackberry- this has been indispensable in this regard. It’s a mobile and centralized communication hub that provides multiple means of communication for athletes to reach you. I have instantaneous access to my corporate gmail account, text messaging, IM Chat and SMS. I’ve used SMS to visually walk an athlete through positions of an exercise or self-manual therapy pressure points. I have actually had an athlete send video to me that they shot on their phone which I viewed on my blackberry and provided nearly instantaneous feedback within a minute.
  2. Video sharing websites like youtube and vimeo permit the sharing of visual information that might be difficult to otherwise convey verbally or in text. I currently use a mixture of Vimeo and a file sharing service called yousendit as my primary distribution methods of sharing videos to athletes. I’ll go in to the specifics of these videos in a later installment but it’s just as important to discuss the distribution method. Of the various video sharing sites I’ve found Vimeo to provide the best balance of video quality, control of content, and minimization of distractions. The video quality is very high and you can protect a video for viewing by only specific individuals quite easily if that’s something you’re interested in. Also, Vimeo permits downloading of the content if the publisher allows it which means the athlete can .
  3. Skype and other VOIP platforms permit easy ‘face to face’ talks and even open the possibilities for true video coaching if a web cam is used and high speed broadband access is available at the training site.

What would you add to this list? In the next installment I’ll examine how technology can be used to quantify training and competition performances.
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