🥽🎾Latest tech? VR Treadmill. Nadal Wins 20th Grand Slam. Tied Federer.

Dear Colleague,

This weekend, Rafael Nadal won his 13th French Open in victory over Novak Djokovic. Nadal secured the title in a tense match — winning 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 — which also marks his 20th Grand Slam win.  He has not tied Roger Federer’s 20 Grand Slams.

In the US, ESPN could soon lay off up to 700 employees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world of digital fitness continue to be strong. In fact, a new report indicates that Global digital fitness revenue could reach $22.5 billion this year, a 30.9% increase year-over-year. The gaming sector also continues to show solid number. In fact, August was the fourth straight month of the U.S. gaming industry’s recovery — which includes casino, sports betting and online gaming revenue. according to the American Gaming Association, nationwide gaming revenue were up 5.6% compared to July, but down 19.8% year-over-year.

In the world of AR/VR and digital, Virtuix announced a new VR product - Omni One treadmill- for the home. In the wearable and connected fitness world, Polar announced the new Polar Vantage V2 sports watch.​ Hublot also unveiled the Big Bang E a new smartwatch for the Champions League.


As a reminder, we are now launching our new Upside Global platform to bring together our sports, tech & health community of 2,500 executives under a single web platform. Members include executives from the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, MLB, Laliga, English Premiere League, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Series A, Brazilian soccer league, Olympic teams, Pro tennis, as well as representatives of startups, brands, VCs, and athletes.

If you are a head athletic trainer, CTO, CMO of a major sports team or league looking to connect with the most innovative startups or connect with your peers to network, or if you are a startup CEO looking to connect with top teams or investors, you can join our Upside community of executives from the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, MLBLaliga, English Premiere League, Olympic teams, top VCs, startups (AR, VR, wearables, sleep tech..) and more!

Your opportunity for growth starts now, create your free executive profile today to join our online community and click on “become a member today” as a first step. It is free to join! It only take one minute to create your profile.

Join the Upside online community

If you face any problems during the registration process, please click on the live support button on our website.


📰 Top Stories We’re Reading This Week

🎮  Virtuix will return to home VR market with Omni One treadmill

⌚ New Polar Vantage V2 sports watch beefs up battery life

⌚​ Hublot Big Bang E gets Champions League makeover

💸 Latest Investment Trends

📊 Tech Stats of the Week

📸 Snapshots of the Week

Let’s jump right into the insights and upside for all of these top stories


🎮 AR/VR/Video/Digital Sports News

🎮  Virtuix will return to home VR market with Omni One treadmill | Via : VentureBeat

When virtual reality took off more slowly than expected in 2016, Virtuix pivoted with its Omni Arena 360-degree treadmills for VR, taking them into theme parks and VR arcades. But now that the pandemic has hobbled those attractions, Virtuix is returning to the home VR market with the launch of its new Omni One treadmill, debuting in the second half of 2021.

That double pivot hasn’t been easy for the Austin, Texas-based company, but CEO Jan Goetgeluk said in an interview with GamesBeat that he has been encouraged by VR’s steady growth in the entertainment market. He said he’s also glad Virtuix has had time to come up with a full consumer solution.

“It’s always been our original vision to bring the Omni to the home,” Goetgeluk said. “That’s how we got started. In 2016, we pivoted to the commercial markets, as the consumer market for VR was fairly slow to take off in those early years. And we were getting a lot of traction in the commercial market. But it has always been our vision to come back to the home eventually.”

When you put on a VR headset, you can feel like you’re in another world, but you can’t really move around. The omnidirectional treadmill solved that problem, as you can run or walk in any direction and feel like you’re physically moving in VR. You have to actually move your legs to make your character move in a VR game, so you also get some pretty good exercise in.

“You can think of it as a Peloton bike for gamers,” Goetgeluk said.

Omni One will sell for $1,995 (or $55 per month with a monthly payment plan). This puts Omni One in line with mid-tier gaming PCs or connected fitness gear like a Peloton bike. You can get good exercise with the Omni One, but Goetgeluk said the company won’t market the device as exercise gear.

⬆️ The Upside: We think this is a great move by Virtuix. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a big in terms of adoption from many VR sports startups. We expect Virtuix to take advantage of this trend as well. We also expect Virtuix to reduce the price of the Omni One below <$30 so it can appeal to a larger market.

Picture : Virtuix


🚑 Wearables, Health, Nutrition News

 New Polar Vantage V2 sports watch beefs up battery life | Via : Wareable

Polar has unveiled the Vantage V2, the second generation of its premium triathlon-friendly multisport watch. It’s lighter, has a longer battery life and comes with the most complete set of training, recovery, sleep and smartwatch features you’ll find on any Polar tracker. This latest incarnation of Polar’s top end watch goes up against devices like the Garmin Forerunner 945, Forerunner 745 and the Coros Apex Pro. And to a certain extent its own recent launch, the Polar Grit X.

The Vantage V2 offers the same 40 hours full power GPS battery as the original Vantage V, but that’s now extendable up to 100 hours with the same power-saving settings we saw introduced on the Polar Grit X. FuelWise fuelling recommendations and Hill Splitter, a hill training tool that automatically logs your splits for climbs and descents on runs, are also carried over along with turn-by-turn route guidance powered by Komoot. Training Load Pro, running power on the wrist, detailed Sleep Stages tracking and FitSpark workout recommendations are included too.

And you can still choose between the optical-based Nightly Recharge recovery insights or Recovery Pro – Polar’s Heart Rate Variability (HRV) recovery measure that requires a Polar chest strap. The Vantage V2 is on sale now priced at $499.99 or $549.99 with a H10 chest strap. There will be three colour options at launch: black, green and grey-lime.

⬆️ The Upside: We think this is a good by Polar. The Polar watch has a longer battery life, and is 20% lighter. Now will it be enough for Polar to compete against Apple in the smartwatch market? That remains to be seen. Currently Polar captures 2% of the smartwatch market.

Video: Polar

Hublot Big Bang E gets Champions League makeover | Via : Wareable

Swiss watch giant Hublot has released a special Big Bang E UEFA Champions League edition. Hublot has a track record of releasing new editions with UEFA and FIFA, and who could forget the Big Bang Referee 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia from two years ago? In fact, Hublot has been doing the official watch of the Euros since 2008. The Big Bang E UEFA Champions League, will be limited to 500 pieces (that’s how the Swiss do these things), and the watch will come with a Champions League blue colored strap.

It’s also loaded with an app that alerts the wearer to kick-off in Champions League games, as well as goals, scorers, major events in the game and the final score. What’s more, there are special edition watch faces available from the Hublot store, including a dial that changes color to represent the kit of the team that’s playing.

The Champions League app will show a live score in the game, and if there are multiple fixtures happening simultaneously, you can switch to follow a particular game just by tapping on the screen. And if VAR interventions don’t annoy you enough in real time, you’ll also get notified of those too. The Hublot Big Bang E was launched back in June, and is a Wear OS smartwatch with a $5,800 price tag. It uses a Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, with 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage - water resistant to 30 metres and comes with an interchangeable strap, which uses a mechanism for quick release.

Obviously, this isn’t really designed for the mass market – we expect most of these will end up in the hands of UEFA and footballing dignitaries. It will cost $7000, but if you have to ask, it’s probably not for you.

⬆️ The Upside: We like the design of the Hublo watch but at $5800 it is out of reach for the mass market. This watch also does not offer appealing biosensing capabilities. It looks more like a marketing stunt than anything else where it can leverage the UEFA/FIFA brands.

Picture : Hublo


💸 Sports Tech & Health Investment (Fund raising, M&As) Trends — October 2020

  • Hyperice recently raised $47.8 million at a $700 million valuation, with investors like the NBA, pro athletes and more.

  • Denver-based artificial intelligence fitness startup Exer Labs has raised $2 million — building on $2.5 million raised last year.

  • The owner of NordicTrack, ProForm and Freemotion raised $200M in its latest funding round.


📊 Key Tech Sports Stats of The Week

$22.5B: Global digital fitness revenue is expected to reach $22.5 billion this year, a 30.9% increase year-over-year. New devices and wearable fitness products — along with fitness and nutrition apps — are driving the growth.

700: ESPN could be laying off hundreds of employees in the next few weeks, sources told FOS. Up to 700 employees could be let go, which will mostly hit behind-the-camera jobs — but could include some TV and radio talent as well.

Companies across sports media have dealt with layoffs in part to help offset the loss of revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic and sports shutdown.

Sports Media Pandemic Layoffs:

Fox Sports: 5-10% of its staff

Sports Illustrated: 6% of its staff

Vox Media (SB Nation): 9% of its staff in April, additional 6% in July

Bleacher Report: Eliminated its B/R Mag vertical

91%: Following Microsoft’s shuttering of its video game streaming service Mixer, Amazon-owned Twitch extended its domination of the market. In the third quarter of 2020, Twitch controlled 91% of live video game streaming.

More than 206 million hours of content was livestreamed on Twitch during the quarter. While that was only a 1% increase from the previous quarter, Twitch had 185 million more hours streamed than Facebook and YouTube combined.

Video Game Livestream Share:

Twitch: 91%

YouTube: 6%

Facebook Gaming: 3.4%

90: Sporting events are a hot ticket these days, with seats for each World Series game selling out in approximately 90 minutes last week. Tickets were sold in four-seat “pods” as a social distancing measure to safely fit 11,550 fans — the World Series will fill up about 29% of Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

5.6%: August was the fourth straight month of the U.S. gaming industry’s recovery — which includes casino, sports betting and online gaming revenue. Nationwide revenue from the segments were up 5.6% compared to July, but down 19.8% year-over-year, according to the American Gaming Association.


📸 Snapshots of the Week

Nadal wins 20th grand slam, ties Federer: Rafael Nadal wins 13th French Open in victory over Novak Djokovic. Nadal secured the title in a tense match — winning 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 — which also marks his 20th Grand Slam win. 

🏎️ 🎾 Jordan Becomes NASCAR Team Owner. Nadal looking to Win 13th French Open. Oura Health Signs First MLB team.

Dear Colleague,

Last week, NASCAR announced a prominent new NASCAR team owner: NBA legend Michael Jordan. Jordan teamed up with NASCAR's Denny Hamlin . They are now the owners of a NASCAR Cup Series team, with Bubba Wallace as a featured driver.  In the world of US College football, it turns out that a month before laying off or furloughing almost half its staff, the Pac-12 paid out performance bonuses, according to The Mercury News. In fact, 50 employees, including Commissioner Larry Scott, apparently received bonuses that were in the “four- to lower-five-figure range,” totaling a potential $4M. Last week, Nike shares jumped more than 12% after trading closed last week following a better-than-expected earnings report.

In Europe, the French Open is starting this week. Rafael Nadal is looking to tie Roger Federer’s 20 Grand Slams by winning his 13th French Open in Paris.

In the world of AR/VR and digital, Sony announced the PS5 which will launch on November 12th for $499.99. In the wearable and connected fitness world, Samsung introduced new Galaxy Watch models with ECG feature. Oppo also officially announced the Oppo Watch with ECG, but it will only be available in China for now. The Seattle Mariners also became the first MLB team to partner with Oura Health to use their smart ring. Of note, Oura Health has teamed up with major sports organizations like the NBA, NASCAR, the UFC to equip players with their smart ring to help better monitor players’ health and prevent COVID-19 pandemic.


As a reminder, we are now launching our new Upside Global platform to bring together our sports, tech & health community of 2,500 executives under a single web platform. Members include executives from the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, MLB, Laliga, English Premiere League, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Series A, Brazilian soccer league, Olympic teams, Pro tennis, as well as representatives of startups, brands, VCs, and athletes.

If you are a head athletic trainer, CTO, CMO of a major sports team or league looking to connect with the most innovative startups or connect with your peers to network, or if you are a startup CEO looking to connect with top teams or investors, you can join our Upside community of executives from the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, MLBLaliga, English Premiere League, Olympic teams, top VCs, startups (AR, VR, wearables, sleep tech..) and more!

Your opportunity for growth starts now, create your free executive profile today to join our online community and click on “become a member today” as a first step. It is free to join! It only take one minute to create your profile.

Join the Upside online community

If you face any problems during the registration process, please click on the live support button on our website.


📰 Top Stories We’re Reading This Week

🎮   The PS5 will launch on November 12th for $499.99

⌚ Samsung Galaxy Watch models get ECG feature

⌚Oppo Watch with ECG is official – but China only for now

💸 Latest Investment Trends

📊 Tech Stats of the Week

📸 Snapshots of the Week

Let’s jump right into the insights and upside for all of these top stories


🎮 AR/VR/Video/Digital Sports News

🎮  The PS5 will launch on November 12th for $499.99 | Via : The Verge

Sony has announced that the PlayStation 5 will cost $499.99 when it launches on November 12th, alongside the $399.99 Digital Edition. Preorders will begin on September 17th at “select retailers.” The pricing puts Sony squarely up against Microsoft’s next-gen consoles, with the company set to release its entry-level Xbox Series S at $299 and its flagship Xbox Series X for $499 on November 10th.

That November 12th release date will apply to the US, Japan, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea, with the rest of the world getting the new console on November 19th. Sony also notes that it has yet to finalize a release date for China, which it’ll announce at a later time. For comparison, the PlayStation 4 cost $399 at launch, although it currently sells for $299, while the PlayStation 4 Pro originally sold for $399, a price it still sells at today outside of major sales like Black Friday. It’s unclear if Sony is planning to drop prices or discontinue the older models once the PlayStation 5 is out later this year. It’s also worth noting that the PlayStation 5 will include backwards compatibility for an “overwhelming majority” of the existing PlayStation 4 lineup, although details are still slim. That expanded library might help make it more attractive to potential PlayStation buyers over the older consoles this holiday season.

⬆️ The Upside: In out view, it makes sense for Sony to announce its PS5. But we expect Sony to cut the price of the PS5 over time to better compete against the XBOX. Of note, the combined PlayStation sales amounted to over 21 million units, compared to 9.5 million and 11.5 million for Microsoft and Nintendo game console sales figures respectively. In terms of console market share, Sony's results accounted for 50 percent of sales made by the video gaming industry's three giants.

Picture : Sony


🚑 Wearables, Health, Nutrition News

Samsung Galaxy Watch models get ECG feature | Via : Wareable

The long-awaited ECG feature for Samsung Galaxy Watch models is now live in the US. The feature was included on 2019’s Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, and a central part of the story for the new Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. But Samsung only had clearance for use of the feature in South Korea, but it’s now available to use in the US. The company announced FDA clearance at the launch of the Galaxy Watch 3 earlier this month.

Just like the Apple Watch Series 6, you can manually take an ECG scan to look for atrial fibrillation (Afib). The app is fired up on the Galaxy Watch itself, where you hold your thumb to the bezel and finger to the top button. The results are presented in the Samsung Health Monitor app, where you can also log any symptoms such as dizziness or fatigue. ECG has been landing on plenty of new wearables, and is now a key feature of high end devices. The Apple Watch Series 5 and 6 have the feature, and the Fitbit Sense health watch, which received FDA clearance in September 2020 and will land on the device in October. However, not all companies have found the regulatory side of ECG as easy as those brands. Withings only has clearance for ECG in the EU, and we’ve just seen the Oppo Watch ECG launch in China – but seems unlikely it will make its way to the West any time soon.

⬆️ The Upside: We think this is a good by Samsung but ultimately Samsung is playing catch up here as ECG has become a common feature among smartwatch vendors nowadays. What Samsung needs to do is to push the boundaries and add new biosensing capabilities like Blood pressure, hydration, electrolyte measurement.

Image: Samsung

⌚Oppo Watch with ECG is official – but China only for now | Via : Wareable

As expected, the Oppo Watch with ECG has landed in China - but looks to be a straight update to the existing 46mm model. The original Oppo Watch was widely reported to include ECG, but the feature didn’t make it to the final version.

But the company has now moved to update the device, and the Oppo Watch ECG features the same spec sheet at the same price. The company has already got clearance for the ECG feature in China. So a wider global release, we'd assume, would be dependant on US and EU clearance – and that feels unlikely. Nonetheless, it brings Oppo into exalted company. ECG wearables currently include Apple Watch Series 6Samsung Galaxy Watch 3Fitbit Sense and Withings ScanWatch.

We gave the Oppo Watch 41mm a four star review, and we were impressed with the use of Wear OS, mixed with the company's own Color OS. And the presence of ECG makes for an even more powerful spec sheet. The 46mm Oppo Watch packs in a gigantic 1.91-inch AMOLED making it one of the biggest smartwatches around in terms of screen size. And the smaller Oppo Watch still packs a 1.6-inch display, so there’s plenty of room for apps and notifications. The 46mm Oppo Watch will also feature LTE as standard. Onboard is a PPG sensor, and GPS for outdoor workouts – although the Oppo Watch only tracks five sport profiles natively: outdoor run, cycle, swimming, fat burn and walking.

It took nearly 4 months for that global release to happen, so we don't really expect this to land outside of China. But it's a statement of intent from Oppo, and makes it a newcomer to watch.

⬆️ The Upside: Generally speaking this new Oppo watch looks like a replica of the Apple Watch. As we mentioned before ECG has become a common feature in the smartwatch space. Ultimately Oppo’s strategy is not be truly innovative but to offer a low cost product with a minimum sets of features (PPG, GPS, ECG…) that meets the needs of the market. That’s exactly what Oppo is doing here.

Picture : Oppo


💸 Sports Tech & Health Investment (Fund raising, M&As) Trends — September 2020

  • Canadian sports tech startup Kinduct got acquired by mCube for an undisclosed amount. Read on here.


📊 Key Tech Sports Stats of The Week

$82.8B: Digital gaming global revenue reached $82.8 billion through August, a 13% increase year-over-year, according to Nielsen. Twitch is back on the upswing after a June and July dip following the height of stay-at-home orders.

Video Game Fast Facts:

  • August global digital games revenue: $10.8 billion, 16% year-over-year growth

  • August U.S. video game revenue: $3.3 billion

  • Premium sports games global revenue: $321 million

  • Twitch August hours watched: 1.47 billion, 57% year-over-year growth

  • Fall Guys August hours watched: 106 million

$7.5B: Microsoft acquired gaming giant Bethesda Softworks in a $7.5 billion deal last week. The deal with ZeniMax Media — the parent company of Bethesda — is Microsoft’s biggest ever in the gaming sector, triple that of its 2014 purchase of “Minecraft” maker Mojang.

$2B: Fox is willing to spend up to $2 billion to maintain its rights to NFL Sunday action. This would nearly double the $1.08 billion per year Fox currently pays for the NFC slate of games.

Current Rights Deals:

  • “Monday Night Football” — $1.90 billion per year, ESPN

  • AFC Sunday Package — $1.09 billion per year, CBS

  • NFC Sunday Package — $1.08 billion per year, Fox

  • “Sunday Night Football” — $960 million per year, NBC

  • “Thursday Night Football” —$660 million per year, Fox

$4M: A month prior to laying off or furloughing almost half its staff, the Pac-12 paid out performance bonuses, according to The Mercury News. Approximately 50 employees — including Commissioner Larry Scott — reportedly received bonuses that were in the “four- to lower-five-figure range,” totaling a potential $4 million.

Pac-12’s Financial Woes:

  • Revenue reductions across the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. 

  • Approved FY21 budget has a 9% reduction in operating expenses at headquarters — or approximately $3.6 million.

  • Scott took a 20% salary cut in early April, and will take a 12% cut for the 2020-21 academic year. Senior staff took 10% cuts.

+12%: Nike shares jumped more than 12% after trading closed last week following a better-than-expected earnings report. The shoe and apparel giant beat its first quarter 2021 revenue expectations by generating $10.59 billion, well past Wall Street analyst expectations of $9.15 billion. At the core of the solid quarter was an 82% year-over-year increase in online sales. That helped bump net income to $1.52 billion, up from $1.37 billion in the same quarter last year.

Nike shares are up almost 15% year-to-date.

Nike’s Q1 FY21 By The Numbers:

  • $10.59 billion in revenue, 0.6% drop year-over-year

  • Sales in China grew 6%

  • Sales in North America dropped 2%

-4.6%: Despite a bumpy year due to the pandemic, all signs are pointing to the advertising market returning to normal in 2021. Advertising around traditional mediums like TV and radio is expected to stabilize, while digital ads are projected to grow.

Advertising spending is looking at a 4.6% overall decline in 2020 compared to 2019, including the 7.2% drop in the first half of the year. Next year, forecasts suggest ad spending will grow 4%.

The Tokyo Games — which were postponed to 2021 — should bolster the year’s advertising market with approximately $800 million in additional spending.

Three-Year Snapshot:

2019: $224 billion in ad spending

2020: $213 billion in projected ad spending

2021: $222 billion in projected ad spending


📸 Snapshots of the Week

1918 Spanish flu Vs 2020 COVID-19 pandemic: Peloton threw a little shade at Apple on Twitter the day that Apple announced its digital workouts: Andy McNeil recreated his great-grandfather's iconic 1918 photo of Georgia Tech fans during the Spanish Flu pandemic. (Andy McNeil)

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🔥 🧠 Upside Article: Strategies for Performing Under Pressure, by Len Zaichkowsky, PhD, World-Class’ Sports Biofeedback Expert

This week, we have the honor to have Len Zaichkowsky, PhD, world’s class expert in biofeedback/psychophysiology, and cognitive fitness, write another article on “Strategies for Performing Under Pressure”. Of note, Len has worked with many elite pro teams (Warriors (NBA), Penguins (NHL), Vancouver Canucks (NHL), Real Madrid, National Spanish soccer team…) over the years. Len is going to write a series of articles for the Upside on biofeedback, psychophysiology, and cognitive fitness, . Today we are publishing his second article.

Title: Strategies for Performing Under Pressure

By Len Zaichkowsky, PhD

Before becoming President of Barnard College, Dr. Siam Beilock headed up the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Chicago where she conducted groundbreaking academic research on the topic of “choking” or underperforming in sport and other professions. Her work has helped all of us better understand the cause of underperformance in pressure situations. In her writings and talks, Dr. Beilock, often makes this statement:, “People create pressure for themselves, meaning the only way we can ever experience ‘pressure’ is to create it in our own minds”. Or as Markham et al (2008) state, “It is simply a product of our imagination”. If we experience ‘pressure’ or what others might call “stress, it is because we are projecting an imaginary view of the future or perhaps a performance failure from the past.  Normally we feel pressure when we perceive there to be high expectations, either from your community/city, or in the case of the Olympic Games, the whole nation. Like pressure, expectations are also figments of our imagination.  Normally, we feel ‘pressure’ when we start imagining what might happen if we don’t achieve the outcome we desire or that we expect. “What if I don’t win?”… “What will the press say?”… “What will the coach say?”… “What will fans think?”.  In a nutshell during important contests there is much more scrutiny-from the athletes themselves, coaches, fans, family, sports reporters, etc.   And usually there are consequences associated with this high scrutiny and failed expectations.  Consequences such as loss of a championship, loss of endorsements, loss of a new contract.

In the English language, the word “Choking” is often used to describe under performance on the playing field and I don’t like it. This rather unflattering term is one I do not like, in part, because the term “choking” is a term that is often misunderstood and overused by sports writers, coaches, parents and others. It’s the easy way out to say somebody “choked”.  The opposite of “choking” is described as “clutch” much like how Bryson DeChambeau performed at the recent 2020 U.S. Open Golf Tournament (more on that later). Many times it is not an athlete “choking”, but rather, extraordinary ”clutch” performance by the opposition. Consider this baseball game scenario: the bases are loaded, team down by one run, two out in the ninth inning, a 3-2 count, and the relief pitcher strikes out the batter. Some reporters and fans will say the batter choked, when in fact it was a perfectly located “clutch” pitch that was unhittable. Another example may be a penalty shot in soccer or hockey. If the player scored, some would say the goaltender choked. But again, it may have been a perfectly located shot. In The Playmakers Advantage (2018) book, Dan Peterson and I discuss at length, choking and clutch performance. Sports writers and even academics relish writing about their “top 10” examples of choking under pressure.  A quick search of google will bring up examples from the sport of golf, where indeed performance is dictated solely by the golfer-nobody defending, etc., and is as such much easier to use the term “choke”. As Bagger Vance said in the wonderful movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance “it’s just you and the ball”. The melt down of Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters in Augusta often heads the choke list, closely followed by the unusual decision-making on the 18th hole by Jean Van de Velde, the French golfer, at the British open in 1999. Team sport examples also pop up, but as I said earlier, attribution is much more difficult in a team sport.  In American football, missing a last second field goal could be attributed to the kicker. However there are factors such as the snap from center and the hold that could influence the accuracy of the kick.

Scientists such as Beilock and Rob Gray have offered theories about how choking occurs. One position is referred to as the “distraction” theory meaning that the situational pressure distracts the athletes attention away from the execution of the skill.  For example the penalty shooter in hockey, rather than attending to executing the deke or shot he wants to execute, he is thinking about something totally different and the self-talk is usually negative. The other theory referred to as explicit monitoring suggests that the situational pressure shifts too much attention to executing the skills.  Rather than letting the well learned puck handling skills go into “automatic” drive, the hockey player thinks about every little move-like he did in youth hockey.  Sometimes we call this “paralysis by analysis”.

A related term to “choking” in sports is “The Yips”, another poorly understood term that describes a sudden loss of specific motor skills and of course performance.  The yips seem to appear out of nowhere with experienced, accomplished athletes.  Scientists are still struggling to understand what causes the yips, and perhaps with today’s brain imaging techniques we will soon have an answer, not only for causes, but effective interventions.  As with choking there are a number of reported cases of professional athletes getting the “yips” and as such their careers were cut short.  In baseball there is Pirates pitcher Steve Blass who inexplicably lost the ability to find home plate and more recently Cardinal pitcher Rick Ankiel who also lost his ability to throw strikes, but ultimately switched to the outfield and had a successful MLB career. Dodger, second baseman Steve Sax suddenly could not throw to first base, but he ultimately overcame the disorder and had a successful major league career. Yankee All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch also suddenly could not throw the ball accurately. However his career came to an abrupt end.  The baseball world often refers to these throwing disorders as the “Steve Blass disease”, or “Steve Sax syndrome”. 

During my many years as a research professor at Boston University my focus was on understanding the human stress response, and ways in which athletes and others could learn to self-regulate stress reactions.  Stress is a psychophysiological phenomenon and as such it is rather complex.  Finding ways in which to communicate this complexity to coaches and athletes was always a challenge for me. However, I recently discovered a wonderful new book, “Performing Under Pressure”, authored by Dr. Ceri Evans, a New Zealander who played elite football but is now an accomplished psychiatrist and author.  Dr. Evans has served as a consulting performance psychologist with the world famous New Zealand “All Blacks” rugby team.  I would like to thanks Dr. Evans for publishing this book in part because of the way in which he simplified the rather complex developments that occur within the human body and brain during pressure packed situations. Hopefully others can use this simple model to help athletes understand what pressure is and how to manage it so that they can make “clutch” plays.

Dr. Evans and “The Red Blue Tool”

As Dr. Evans eloquently states, our brain regulates two systems that interact with each other during performance.  He cleverly labelled the right side of the human cerebral cortex, “The Red System”, that is primed for survival, keeps us safe, and runs on images and feelings.  It is very fast and is based on quick impressions.  In contrast, the “Blue System” or the left side of our brain allows us to learn and adapt, and runs on logic, words, and numbers.  It is slow and takes effort, but provides detailed analysis.  The Red, ”Feeling” system can dominate and compromise the Blue “thinking” system when we are under threat.  In other words our emotions can overpower our intellect.  The Blue System, in return, can reframe situations and calm Red reactions to some extent.  We want Red and Blue to be in the right balance for the situation.  Red is not bad and Blue is not good—we need the energy of Red and the clarity of Blue-so we are at our best when the two are balanced and we are “in the purple”. (Does this not remind you of the U.S. political system?). This simple “Red-Blue” model is intended to help athletes and other professionals see their immediate Red/Blue states of mind, understand them and make more conscious, effective choices about their cognitive, emotional, and motor responses. Coaches and players reminding each other that they are getting into the Red, or “stay in the Blue”, is such a simple yet powerful message when perceived pressure arises. Dr. Evans has a few other important thoughts about performing in pressure situations.  One is that athletes need to learn to be “Comfortable, Being Uncomfortable”.  Rehearse and train under all conceivable pressure situations.  One of his slogans is “Step back, Step up and Step in”.  Like me, he is also a huge fan of learning resonance breathing in order to help inoculate oneself against the stress response.

In his book Dr. Evans does a masterful job of describing what one’s mental state is like when it is in RED-Blue Balance and when it is NOT in balance.  I will describe each of these contexts, but also provide you with a recent example from the U.S. Open Golf Tournament that featured the final pairing of Bryson DeChambeau, and Matt Wolff on September 20, 2020. During the U.S. Open, I was writing this article and thought the Final Round had promises of showing either “Clutch” play or “Choking” behavior. Going into Sunday’s round 4 Wolff was 5 under par and leading DeChambeau by 2 strokes (3 under par) on the very difficult Winged Foot Course in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Wolff was a young 21 year old who had won in 2020 but this was “The U.S Open”.  Would he falter or be “Clutch”? DeChambeau,was  a bit older at 27, but still a relative newcomer at Major golf events.  I was particularly interested in DeChambeau since he uses a “single plane” swing, a la the great Canadian golfer,  Moe Norman.  In fact back in 2005 I and several colleagues conducted a study contrasting the single plane swing with the traditional swing and presented it at the World Scientific Congress on Golf in St. Andrews, Scotland. Our research demonstrated the single plane swing as being more reliable (repeatable) than the “traditional” swing because there are fewer moving parts. However the single plane swing did not catch on in golf, partly because it is not an aesthetic swing, and nobody had won a major event using the swing-until of course DeChambeau.   DeChambeau has also been nicknamed the “mad scientist” for his engagement in contemporary sport science principles of biomechanics and physics, strength training, nutrition, and the mental side of golf. He has also been openly criticized  by the games greats for this  non-traditional style of play.  Would the final round be “clutch” or “choke” or something in between for DeChambeau? Using Dr. Evans Red-Blue model, I attempted in Table 1,  to do an analysis of how Bryson handled pressure.

Table 1.  Red-Blue Model adapted from Evans, “Performing Under Pressure”.

What a performance by DeChambeau! A final-round 67 gave him a 72-hole total of six-under 274, enough to beat Matthew Wolff by six strokes who finished at Even par for the tournament.  What is interesting is that none of the world’s great golfers like McIlroy, Johnson, Kuchar, Matsuyama, Reed, Casey, Finau, Thomas, Rahm, Day and others were able to score under par.  Only DeChambeau managed to break par with a lot of clutch shots. 

References

Beilock, S. (2010) Choke, New York: Free Press.

Beilock, Sian L. & R. Gray (2007) Why Do Athletes Choke Under Pressure? In G. Tenenbaum and R.C. Eklund (Eds.), Handbook of Sport Psychology, 425–445, N.Y. Wiley. 

Beilock, Sian L., Thomas H. Carr, Clare MacMahon, and Janet L. Starkes, (2002). “When Paying Attention Becomes Counterproductive: Impact of Divided Versus Skill-Focused Attention on Novice and Experienced Performance of Sensorimotor Skills,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 8 (1) 6–16. 

Evans, C. (2019). Performing Under Pressure.  New York: Harper/Collins

Hartley, S.R. (2012) Peak Performance Every Time, London: Routledge.

Jordet, G. (2009). When superstars flop: Public status and choking under pressure in international soccer penalty shootouts. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21, 125-130.

Markham, K.D., Klein, W.M.P. and Suhr, J.A (2008) Handbook of Imagination and Mental Simulation, London: Psychology Press.

Zaichkowsky, L & Peterson, D. (2018) The Playmakers Advantage: How to raise your mental game to the next level. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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👓 🏃‍♂️Latest Tech? Apple's Virtual Workouts, Facebook's smart Ray Ban AR glasses.

Dear Colleague,

Last week, all the major sports leagues, including the NFL, were back in full swing. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred now hopes that fans will be able to attend LCS and World Series this fall. Big Ten football also announced return to play 2020 season on Oct. 24 with unique schedule, daily rapid testing.

FC Barcelona captain Lionel Messi also became football's second billionaire as he tops Forbes' rich list in 2020. American billionaire Steve Cohen also reached an agreement with Sterling Partners over the sale of its Major League Baseball side the New York Mets, in a deal worth an estimated $2.4 billion.

In the world of AR/VR and digital, Facebook joins the AR race, with smart Ray Ban specs due in 2021. In the wearable and connected fitness world, Apple announced Fitness Plus virtual workouts, and officially announced the Apple Watch Series 6. It was also a big week for startups in the connected fitness world with Tonal announcing a $110 million investment round bringing its total funding to $200M. Online fitness platform Zwift also announced a $450 million round of fundraising. Peloton also reported a fourth-quarter sales jump of 172% year-over-year and a 210% increase in online subscriptions.


On Thursday as part of our Upside Guest writer series, we will publish our new article entitled “Strategies for Performing Under Pressure”. This article will be written by Len Zaichkowsky, PhD, world’s class expert in biofeedback/psychophysiology.

Note: If you want to connect with Len, Mathieu, Christophe, Daniel, don’t forget to create your free Upside profile and join our online community by clicking on the button below.


As a reminder, we are now launching our new Upside Global platform to bring together our sports, tech & health community of 2,500 executives under a single web platform. Members include executives from the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, MLB, Laliga, English Premiere League, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Series A, Brazilian soccer league, Olympic teams, Pro tennis, as well as representatives of startups, brands, VCs, and athletes.

If you are a head athletic trainer, CTO, CMO of a major sports team or league looking to connect with the most innovative startups or connect with your peers to network, or if you are a startup CEO looking to connect with top teams or investors, you can join our Upside community of executives from the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, MLBLaliga, English Premiere League, Olympic teams, top VCs, startups (AR, VR, wearables, sleep tech..) and more!

Your opportunity for growth starts now, create your free executive profile today to join our online community and click on “become a member today” as a first step. It is free to join! It only take one minute to create your profile.

Join the Upside online community

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📰 Top Stories We’re Reading This Week

👓   Facebook joins the AR race, with smart Ray Ban specs due in 2021

🏃‍♂️ Apple announces Fitness Plus virtual workouts

⌚Apple officially announces the Apple Watch Series 6

💸 Latest Investment Trends

📊 Tech Stats of the Week

📸 Snapshots of the Week

Let’s jump right into the insights and upside for all of these top stories


🎮 AR/VR/Video/Digital Sports News

👓   Facebook joins the AR race, with smart Ray Ban specs due in 2021 | Via : Wareable

Facebook has entered the AR glasses arms race, and has announced a partnership with Ray Ban that will see glasses on faces in 2021. The company is pumping money into Project Aria, via its Facebook Reality Labs – a new reference and research platform, which the company hopes will yield a pair of consumer AR glasses. The company admits that a true AR product might be some way off, but its medium term plans are much more modest. Facebook has announced a partnership with Ray Ban to create a pair of smartglasses for release in 2021, but haven’t yet disclosed what they will do. We reported on rumors back in 2019 that Facebook was working on a glasses project with Luxottica, and it seems the fruits of that partnership aren’t far away.

However, Facebook has ruled out the use of AR or any kind of display on the Ray Ban partnership – so that pretty much leaves a Snap Spectacles style device, possibly with cameras. Or so we think. We can already hear the privacy arguments already. Of course, Facebook is just one company lining up to take a run at AR. Google’s long journey with Glass is testament to that, but it has bought North, one of the few companies to make headway with a consumer AR product. And Apple has been dabbling in the space, with constant rumors of a pair of Apple AR specs – which has been evident via personnel hires. But it still feels that the consumer AR dream of a seamlessly connected virtual and real world experience is far, far away.

⬆️ The Upside: In out view, it makes sense for Facebook to team up with Ray Ban to launch smart AR glasses. Slim and sleek AR glasses is what will make the AR glasses take off. Now it is unclear at what price Facebook will price those Ray Ban smart AR glasses. In our view, if it manages to offer them for $300-400 retail it will be a success. We also expect other OEMs (Apple, Samsung..) to follow the footsteps of Facebook.

Picture : Facebook


🚑 Wearables, Health, Nutrition News

🏃‍♂️Apple announces Fitness Plus virtual workouts | Via : The Verge

Apple is launching a new subscription service for virtual fitness classes called Fitness Plus, the company announced during its presentation today. The service integrates with iPhones, iPads, and the Apple TV, but Apple says it’s built for the Apple Watch. Access to the service will cost $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, and you’ll get three months free with the purchase of a new Apple Watch. It also comes bundled as part of Apple’s new Apple One subscription. Apple says Fitness Plus will be available before the end of the year. Many of the workouts require just a set of dumbbells or no equipment at all, Apple says, which should give you the flexibility to do them wherever’s convenient for you. There are 10 different workout types available, including cycling, treadmill, yoga, core, strength, rowing, and HIIT routines, and there’s a program built in for absolute beginners. You can select workouts based on their duration, and Apple says it plans to add new workouts every week. While you’re working out, Apple says you’ll be able to see your stats such as your heart rate or calories burned on-screen. Apple is also promising to offer intelligent suggestions for which workouts to try (new workouts will be added every week), and the service integrates with Apple Music. At the end of each workout, you get a summary of all your data.

Apple has long included fitness features like workout tracking in the Apple Watch, which can show you a variety of metrics about activities like running, cycling, swimming, or rowing. The Apple Watch can already give you alerts while running if your pace is too fast or too slow, for example, or give you details on your heart rate or number of steps per minute. Now, Apple can help give you more information on how to exercise in addition to encouraging you to close your activity rings.

Apple’s website says that Fitness Plus requires an Apple Watch, though, and you’ll need to have a Series 3 model or later to use the service on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. News that Apple has been working on a fitness service under the codename “Seymour” first emerged last month when Bloomberg reported that the company was planning to include it in one of its higher-end Apple One bundles. Apple reportedly intends for its virtual classes to compete with services from Peloton and Nike.

Peloton offers a collection of live and on-demand workout classes, but it also sells treadmills and exercise bikes which allow people to follow along with its classes via their built-in screens. Peloton’s CEO John Foley responded to Apple’s news by calling Fitness Plus “quite a legitimization of fitness content,” CNBC’sLauren Thomas reports. He added that Apple is only competing on content, rather than the kind of fitness hardware that Peloton sells.

⬆️ The Upside: We think this is a great move by Apple. It should not be a surprise to see Apple enter the digital fitness classes space. Now is Peloton in trouble? Not right now. Peloton will probably see some impact in the short term. If Apple would have introduced a smart bike it would have been a different story. In the future, we could see Apple acquire Peloton in order to move deeper into the space.

Image: Apple

Apple officially announces the Apple Watch Series 6 | Via : Appleinsider.com

We've spent 24 hours so far testing out the best new features found on the latest Apple Watch Series 6. Here are our impressions of the new features, how useful they are, and how they compare to the prior generation. Various team members have ordered different colors, but we were only able to get the vivid new (PRODUCT)RED version on launch day. In-person, the color is very bright, regardless of the lighting condition. We are obsessed with the color but get that it has to match your style. Anytime you choose a bright red color that never changes, you have to love that color greatly.

Apple's most-touted feature of the new watch is the blood oxygen sensor, which has an accompanying app. As many of the early reviews noted, your watch must be snug on your wrist and you need to ensure you don't move. As long as you meet those requirements, it only takes 15 seconds for the reading to come back.

Our only issue with our O2 reading was the lack of information surrounding it. It reports back a number but most people won't any idea what to do with that number. What is good, what is bad, and how do you improve it? Apple's vagueness about the value is likely due to its skirting of the medical device requirements. Apple says that the blood oxygen measurement is only for wellness and fitness purposes and not intended to replace a medical device, such as a pulse oximeter which requires federal approval. If Apple would start giving advice and saying it is good or bad, it may be getting dangerously close to a medical device and the regulation that comes with it.

Apple Watch 6 prices start at $399, with the latest deals and discounts on new styles, as well as closeout Series 5 models, at your fingertips in our Apple Watch Price Guide.

⬆️ The Upside: Generally speaking the Apple Watch 6 is a foot in the right direction. We particularly like the always on display, faster charging capabilities. In terms of biosensing capabilities it is a bit underwhelming with only the addition of a blood oxygen sensor. As we mentioned before, it is this time of the year again when Apple announces its new Apple Watch. In our view, Apple needs to innovate in terms of biosensing capabilities (e.g. hydration/electrolyte, Blood pressure measurement..). Of note, Apple’s share in the global smartwatch shipment revenue increased to 51.4% in the first half of 2020 from 43.2% during the same period last year, according to Counterpoint Research.

Picture : Apple Watch


💸 Sports Tech & Health Investment (Fund raising, M&As) Trends — September 2020

  • NFL player DeAndre Hopkins has invested in wellness technology firm Therabody. Read on here.

  • Connected fitness Tonal announced a $110 million investment round bringing its total funding to $200M. Read on here.

  • Online fitness platform Zwift announced a $450 million round of fundraising. Read on here.


📊 Key Tech Sports Stats of The Week

$2.4B: American billionaire Steve Cohen has reached an agreement with Sterling Partners over the sale of its Major League Baseball side the New York Mets, in a deal worth an estimated $2.4 billion.

$1B: BARCELONA captain Lionel Messi has become football's second billionaire as he tops Forbes' rich list in 2020.According to Forbes, the 33-year-old has pocketed over $1,000,000,000 in pre-tax earnings during his career - following in the footsteps of great rival Cristiano Ronaldo. And they have stated the Argentine international is the highest-paid footballer of 2020. Messi is said to be set to pocket £98million in total this year from his salary and endorsements.

$100M: Gyms continue their struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic as spin boutique operator Flywheel Sports has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. After the pandemic shut down its locations, Flywheel will seek to sell its assets to pay off up to $100 million in liabilities.

Gym Bankruptcy Impacts:

Flywheel: Approximately 300,000 members will be affected by closures in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

Town Sports International: 600,000 members across 161 locations, largely New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington Sports Clubs.

Gold’s Gym: German company RSG Group bought Gold’s Gym for $100 million in August.

24 Hour Fitness: Permanently closed 100 locations in June as it hoped to keep another 300 afloat.

25.8M: Fox’s Sunday afternoon game — Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints — was the most-watched TV program since Super Bowl LIV in February. It had 25.8 million viewers, up 7% year-over-year.

NFL Week 1 Ratings:

  • NBC Thursday Season Opener: 5% decrease year-over-year

  • NBC “Sunday Night Football”: 14% decrease

  • ESPN “Monday Night Football” (first game): 18% decrease

  • ESPN “Monday Night Football” (second game): 27% decrease

  • Fox Sunday Afternoon Slot: 7% increase

172%: Peloton reported a fourth-quarter sales jump of 172% year-over-year and a 210% increase in online subscriptions.


📸 Snapshots of the Week

Apple Vs Peloton: Peloton threw a little shade at Apple on Twitter the day that Apple announced its digital workouts:

🔥 Upside Guest Writers: LEAN Sports science – When Innovation concepts help practitioners to get closer to the Graal?, By Mathieu Lacome, Head of R&D, PSG (Ligue 1)

This week, we have the honor to have again Mathieu Lacome, PhD, the head of R&D for PSG, a top European soccer team (Ligue 1). PhD. The Upside teamed up with Mathieu and published his article on LEAN Sports science – When Innovation concepts help practitioners to get closer to the Graal?”.  You can check out his personal blog at Mathlacome.com

Title: LEAN Sports science – When Innovation concepts help practitioners to get closer to the Graal?

By Mathieu Lacome

I still remember one of my first sports science project. The idea was to build an analytical tool to estimate workload for return-to-play sessions based on previous drills to further estimate trends. I jumped straight onto the task, willing to prove my ability to deliver. I re-analyzed all return to play sessions, cutting all drills to complete the database, and ended up building the analytical tool for the S&C in about 3 months. When I presented this to the group, I realized that no-one was interested in the product. Indeed, their process to build a session – based on daily context, positional roles of the players involved during training, and their experience – didn’t need a fancy tool to plan it. So, where did I fail?

We previously claimed that getting insights on athletes’ dose-response relationships to training was the holy grail of sport scientists for decades [1,2]. What if we were (somewhat) wrong? More than anything else, I think the holy grail of every practitioners should be to help athletes and teams winning more games. To do so, we must have a significant impact on the programming puzzle [3]. For this purpose, solving coaches’ challenges is key. Many people have already talked about this topic in depth [e.g. 3,4,5], but why are we still so ineffective in the real world? To do it well, I believe we can adapt some tools and concepts coming from the business world.

Resources are scarce.

First, we need to acknowledge that we are in a resource-constrained situation [6]. So, choices are mutually exclusive. For entrepreneurs that means if they allocate money or engineers to improve a product A for a customer, they can’t allocate these people and money to work on a product B. You cannot simply do A and B. You’ll unlikely do A then B, because when the time come to do B, circumstances will very likely have changed. For a sports scientist, it means that we need to think more about time and budget constraints to understand that all projects can’t be handle – even for those working 80h a week. The opportunity cost of doing A is that you cannot also do B. Full stop.

Companies or teams that lack strategic bounds try to do too much and spread themselves too thin. Because they fail to concentrate their available resources, they can’t win in any key market [4]. For us, it means going to every single “interesting” project we find. Bouncing from ideas to ideas, exploring some “What if” projects all day long. There are tons of interesting project and we could explore all of these fantastic topics. But if we want to have an impact on the field, we really need to focus on the most important ones and deliver them. [2] We need to be known as great finishers and not as good starters [7]. We need to stay focused on the prize.

So, how, as practitioners, can we try to maximize our impact on the field when it comes to new methods, processes or tools? How can we focus our energy on the most important projects? By using the concepts of design thinking and lean start-up commonly used in the business world, I will propose a simple framework to face those challenges. This process is mainly based on my multiple fails, but I believe that in failure there are some learnings. To make it simple, I have broken down this framework in two essential steps:

  1. Ideation: Using Design thinking to be more customer-centered.

  2. Implementation: Using Lean startup concepts to learn faster and get real insights.

DT-LS-Concepts

PROJECT IDEATION

THINKING AS A DESIGNER

RESEARCH – OBSERVE: Design thinking is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods (in our specific case sports science!) to match people’s needs (staff or decision makers) with what is technologically feasible and can bring value to the team [8]. Thus, during the earliest phase of the project (inspiration), the team in charge of the project must talk and try to understand what practitioners’ issues and constraints are (e.g., time, lack of resources or knowledge). For this research phase, if we are not able to create effective relationships with the coaching staff and engaged with them, we will likely fail solving their biggest challenges.

IDENTIFY POTENTIAL NEEDS: As Martin Buchheit [2] said, “it is only by sitting right next to them during training sessions and team debriefs, by sharing meals and coffees, being with them in the ‘trenches’” that sports scientist will improve their understanding of other practitioners’ challenges [5]. In a designer term, we need to do some shadowing and have empathy toward the coaching staff to identify their potential needs. Thinking back to my project, engaging with coaches from the beginning during the inspiration phase, I could have gathered better information about their true needs and constraints.

PRIORITIZE NEEDS / PROJECTS: With all the insights collected during these first two phases, we can identify potential challenges faced by the staff. Using a simple Impact / Effort scale can help to prioritize projects (see fig 2). This scale is relatively easy to use. Draw on the abscissa, a low to high impact scale and on the ordinate, a simple to complex one. We have now 4 clear buckets:

  1. Low impact and complex project are the ones we clearly need to forget – sometimes it is fancy and interesting ones we would be keen to explore but remember, we are in a resource-constrained world.

  2. Easy and interesting / low impact project can be tackled as simple task.

  3. We are then left with the high impact and complex projects that need to become key projects we need to work on

  4. Finally, we have the high impact and simple ones that need to be done NOW – they are our quick wins. Everyone loves quick wins.

 While, sometimes, it seems obvious in which bucket fall projects, I highly recommend writing the identified challenges in the Impact / Effort scale to avoid being biased by the project we are interested in, but that are not (clearly) important.

Action impact scale

BRAINSTORM – CONCEPTS: Let say we have identified the need to structure the return to play phases as our high impact / complex challenge and we want to turn it into a project. First, I would recommend to turn/change the challenge into a question to favor ideation. Using “How might we (HMW)” question, we can easily do that. The phrasing is purposely open-ended and optimistic to force us to look for opportunities and challenges, rather than getting bogged down by problems or jumping to solutions too soon [9].

HOW MIGHT WE improve the rationale behind our RTP choices to become more effective?

Using this question as a starting point, we can now try to brainstorm some potential concepts with the end-users, thus benefitting from power-of-crowd. Again, I don’t think (highly unlikely!) these brainstorming sessions would be done in a formal meeting format, using post-it on the walls (but who knows…). Yet, sharing gyms session or coffee (and/or beers!) is the perfect place for that.

PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION

RAPID PROTOTYPING AND ITERATIONS

Once an idea has been chosen it is time to execute the plan. Other challenges come up during this phase. With weeks (or months) necessary to run a major project, end users’ needs can change, pivoting the strategy can be requested and apprehension of showing the end-product grows exponentially.

THE BUILD – LEARN – ADAPT LOOP: To reduce risks of failure, product development teams (yes, an analytics project is a product) now use a method called ‘Lean start-up’ or ‘Lean UX’ [10]. This methodology favors experimentation over elaborate planning, customer (in our case, the coaching staff) feedbacks over intuition [10] and comes with the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and validated learning. Lean development decreases wasted time and resources by developing the product iteratively and incrementally. Instead of long cycles (months for the analytical projects to years for a product), this process is based on the development of an MVP that will be used to develop a loop of testing, learning, and adaptation hand-in-hand with the end-user. The goal of this iteration phase is simply to validate the hypotheses and scale the validated ones. Asking question is good – validating hypothesis better!

 Coming back to our previous project, one option could have been the following. From the ideation phase, we have decided to improve our RTP process and one S&C coach mentioned his use of the training loads reports to plan his trainings in order to anticipate the load of the subsequent sessions. From this insight, I have developed the concept of a training load prediction tools that could be used by S&C coaches. But before building it completely (remember my very own story!), I need to validate some hypotheses:

How Might We (HMW) improve the rationale behind our RTP choices to become more effective?

Hypothesis: If I create a tool that will estimate the training load of the session based on selected drills and show the Coaches workloads trends, will they use it regularly. I will validate this hypothesis, if the Coaches use the tool during 5 consecutive sessions.

MVP: Split some drills and build a quick-and-dirty tool that do the job (or fake it!).

 Then, based on the feedbacks I got from the S&C, I could have adapted my idea & concepts and done several iterations – let’s say, one a week, to build something that solved their “job-to-be-done”: (i.e., preparing the next rehabilitation session), not something that I found fancy and technically advanced.

Conclusion – Take-away

It is important for us, practitioners, to understand that every choice we make, every project we decide to tackle, are potential opportunity we are missing. So, when we engage ourselves in a project, first we need to be clear about the true needs of our end-users (ideation phase). Second, we need to focus on rapid experimentation because (i) we can realize that the need identified was not the good one and kill the project and/or (ii) engage the coaches into the development, collect early feedbacks, and maximize our chance to build something relevant for them. I’m clearly aware that it sounds purely theoretical and it’s always easier said than done. Yet, is this framework not the best way to get us closer to the Graal?

 If you liked the idea, in the coming weeks, I’ll try to explain some practical tools to help you in your quest for better challenges and your experimentation process to learn faster and better. Meanwhile, I would be keen to hear about your personal stories and how you handle the management of project in your club & organization. What are your tools to prioritize projects (i.e., do you use backlogs?), how do you integrate end-users into the ideation or conceptions phases (i.e., are you doing some MVP of reports before building the real one, or are you going All-in in the building process?), do you manage some feedbacks on your process or product you are building? What are your success stories and your failures?

References:

  1. Lacome M., Simpson B., Buchheit M. Monitoring training status with player-tracking technology. Aspetar Journal. 2018; 55-65 [Available here]

  2. Lacome M. GPS-related research in Team Sport – Are we done or is there new windows of opportunity? Mathlacome.com. 2020 [Available here]

  3. Buchheit M. Chasing the 0.2. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016;11(4):417-418. doi:10.1123/IJSPP.2016-0220

  4. Buchheit M. Want to see my report, coach? Aspetar J. 2017;(6).

  5. Jones B, Till K, Emmonds S, et al. Accessing off-field brains in sport; an applied research model to develop practice. Br J Sports Med. 2019;53(13):791-793. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-097082

  6. Collis D. Lean Strategy. 2016. Harvard Business Review.

  7. Grant H. How to become a great finisher. 2011. Harvard Business Review.

  8. Brown T. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review Harv Bus Rev. June 2008:84-92.

  9. Knapp J. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days. 2016. Simon & Schuster

  10. Blank S. Why the Lean Start-up changes everything. Harvard business review. 2013

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