Sport – is it art or science, or both? There’s no question that in today’s quest for ever higher, faster and stronger athletes, sport has increasingly evolved to rely on science as one of the primary tools for objectively measuring and improving athletic performance.
When a coach or service provider has an idea for improving performance, such as a new training method or use of a new technology, it can be difficult to determine the impact it has on performance – there are so many variables at play. In the past, new ideas were sometimes implemented and evaluated in the field without much objectivity or scientific basis. Research was also often done in isolation, in academia, far away from the playing field. Today, there is a better way.
Enter Dr. Erik Groves, Research and Innovation Lead at the CSI Calgary. His job is to evaluate the impact of new methodologies or technologies to support athlete training and recovery that will enhance performance using scientific investigation. “The goal is understanding if and how a new method or technology increases our understanding for athlete improvement,” says Groves.
Groves works directly with NSO’s, coaches and service providers, and his research is often conducted in real-world settings with athletes in a variety of sports. His background in scientific research and sport makes him ideally suited to fill this cutting-edge role of applied research at the CSI Calgary.
“What Erik brings is that research mind,” says Rosie Neil, Director of Development and Strategic Programs. “He applies that to evaluate an innovation through research.” That research mind is key when it comes to helping service providers and coaches wade through the waves of new training ideas and technologies that are constantly reaching the shore.
Groves will take an idea that a coach has, or offer his own ideas, and work to objectively measure and evaluate the impact it has on performance. Adds Neil, “he knows how to collect data so it has the rigour to make a conclusion possible. He’s instrumental in disseminating that data in order to see the bigger picture.”
In some cases, research is not possible until the right measurement tools are in place. For example, one of Groves’ current projects, funded by Own the Podium, is a new timing system at the Olympic Oval that will track speed skaters’ velocity during training. The data collected from this system will be intrinsically useful but will also offer several new opportunities for further research – research that wasn’t possible before.
“We are building a technological foundation from which we can do research with sport specific data and testing protocols,” says Groves. “With these tools we have the capability of conducting high quality, sport specific research.”
Groves’ work however, goes beyond solving one problem for one sport. “This is not just for a single sport,” he says. “By having a point person on the concept of research and innovation you can leverage the process for problem solving for one sport to another sport, it’s a synergistic effect.” This means that some of his research conclusions in one sport may be applicable to other sports, or perhaps the same methodology can be applied to a similar problem in another sport.
Groves’ position didn’t always exist at the CSI Calgary; in fact, he is the first to fill it. Jason Poole, Director of Performance Services, says that adding the research and innovation role was part of the strategic plan to becoming a leading Canadian Sport Institute. “This is one of the pillars to being a true institute,” he says. “We’re not just there for service delivery but we actively do scientific research for better service.”
For Neil, the value is not only in improving service delivery, but doing so with scientific precision and integrity. “For the CSI Calgary it is hugely important to have this role. We don’t want to work on hunches but be able to look objectively at how we move forward.”
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto