Big Data... it’s everywhere. Big Problem? Not anymore says Graeme Challis, Exercise Specialist at CSI Calgary. Although a relatively small data set compared to large industries, the field of high performance sport generates a great deal of information that has historically been dispersed across several software platforms, leading to a limited ability to utilize it effectively.
“Before we had data all over the place,” says Challis. “There were Excel spreadsheets everywhere!” Enter Edge 10, a central, web-based storage platform for data to live, now used by several sports and facilitated by CSI Calgary.
Edge 10’s key benefits are the centralization and consolidation of data storage, which leads to more effective use of the information. The cloud-based technology allows for easy entering, analyzing, reporting and sharing of athlete data both efficiently and securely. It is a fully customizable and integrated database that enables sports to develop performance solutions unique to their needs.
In the past, CSI Calgary physiologists like Scott Maw, who leads the Integrated Support Team (IST) for long track speed skating, spent inordinate amounts of time combining pieces of information about an athlete from several different places.
“Before we were spending too much time gathering the data and not enough time analyzing it,” says Maw. “Now I can spend my time actually analyzing the data, which helps us make better, evidence-based decisions.” The platform has greatly enhanced how the IST and coaches can tailor training programs to individual athletes.
One key area addressed by Edge 10 is athlete monitoring. In long track speed skating this effort has been spearheaded by Maw, which has helped revolutionize the way coaches are able to assess their athletes’ response to training loads.
“In the past, the extent of the monitoring we did was to track an athlete’s resting heart rate – if it was 10 beats higher than normal we just assumed the athlete would get sick,” jokes Todd McClements, Stage 4 coach at Speed Skating Canada. “The monitoring we do now is lightyears ahead compared with just five years ago, it has evolved so quickly.”
Edge 10 accumulates many sources of data on an athlete, good and bad, such as subjective questionnaires and objective measures like heart rate variability and training loads. This is analyzed in parallel with other data like physiological testing results and physiotherapy assessments to determine areas of stress.
“Now we can see everything at once and start to understand the relationships between various loads on the body,” says Challis. “It helps us tease out what matters and what changes will make a difference for a particular athlete.”
The monitoring also helps to bridge the gap between intention and outcome. “What is prescribed by the coach isn’t always what is executed by the athlete,” says Challis. “If an athlete goes too hard for a program intended to be easy, monitoring data can identify that stress and the IST can make necessary adjustments, which could help prevent injury or overreaching.”
McClements is quick to point out that Edge 10 is by no means a panacea or crystal ball – sport is far too complex to predict the future. But he is grateful that Edge 10 provides more efficient analyzing of data for decision making.
“It’s never black and white,” he says. “But now it’s much less grey.”
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto