We at Upside Global and Upside, believe that there needs to be more awareness about women athletes, teams, female entrepreneurs and studies towards women teams and athletes. So today as part of our continued effort to bring more awareness on female athletes, teams and associated trends related to female athletes, we have the honor to interview a group of female sports performance experts:
Dr Christy Fernandez-Cull, PhD, CEO, DaVinci Wearables, an AI wearable device for women athletes and teams.
Shavini Fernando, CEO, OxiWear, the maker of the world's first wearable device for continuous real time monitoring of Oxygen during motion.
Joelle Muro, the Head physical therapist of the New York Liberty (WNBA).
Allison Schmitt, a 10 time Olympic medalist and multiple world champion in swimming (Team USA), and consultant with Orreco a leading sports data company.
Mélanie Pauli, Best Player on the Pitch & Athletic trainer at the Swiss Football Association.
📝Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on the NBA/WNBA seeking tech for women for the WNBA teams. We also discussed the FIFA new initiative called FIFA Women’s Health, Wellbeing, and Performance project. Lastly we touched on a new study on women teams.
Here is a great commercial from Nike to raise awareness about women athletes and teams.
🚀Best Quotes: Here are some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Christy, Joelle, Allison, Mélanie, Shavini:
On the NBA/WNBA seeking tech for women for the WNBA teams.
“I think anytime we can start looking at more accessibility to resources that just help improve the game for women's sports, in general it is always great. I think this is an interesting topic because from just the understanding that I have of working with the specific types of athletes. Culture is really important”.
“If people are having the interest to provide these resources, that's awesome. But how are they going to be used? And what is the mindset from not only an organization and team, but also players and then even more the league?”.
“What I'm just saying is I love and I'm so excited and happy that there's this thought process, but to Julien's point, do people even know that this is happening? And then do people truly understand what's the benefit of it? Because if they don't understand those things, then people aren't going to use it. So what are we doing to then educate them, all the stakeholders that could utilize these new technologies?”.
“Today in the WNBA, there are regulations about wearing wearables during gameplay. But there's no regulations regarding practice. From my understanding, it's up to the player's discretion. And I think from the NBA’s aspect, we are probably one of the few teams that utilize data in that way”.
“So that's why, again, what I was referencing to before, if we're going to create this avenue of all this resources, cool, but does the people actually know how to use it? Do they actually have experience of utilizing these technologies and data? Can they actually integrate it? Otherwise we're going to have a block”.
Dr Christy Fernandez-Cull:
“I'm excited about the focus of the NBA launchpad to help the WNBA in particular, because from a health and wellness and physiology standpoint, and just to put myself out there, we're trying to build a transformative women's health platform where we're focused on unlocking new levels of that AI enabled coach in your pocket”.
“Our solution isn't just providing data, but it is actually providing actionable insights. So it's not just about your HRV. What are you going to do with that data? And so when I see the NBA Launchpad focused on the WNBA in particular, it's almost an acknowledgment of the fact that females from a physiological standpoint are made different”.
“We're unique. It's a super power. What technologies are going to really be brought to bear to amplify that both on and off the court. So I have to confess, I'm purely passionate about that, seeing an organization like the NBA, irrespective of how this came to be them amplifying that (..) I'm just excited”.
“Even though the NBA and the leagues and no matter how many teams are buying into this and trying to improve athletes’ health and performance, until that education part is given, and until the athletes actually understand how this can help them to be above everyone else and how to manage their training and how to do the whole strategy behind their whole game, they will not buy into this because, for example, I'm focusing on oxygen monitoring, the oxygen numbers can kill someone's career, right? When they know how their numbers are really dropping and how the performance is bad, it can end someone's career”.
“So it's about how to do it, but with the player's approval, they can use it just for themselves to plan their performance, or if they want, they can share it with the coach. So that whole piece of education, plus the players approval, everything has to be in balance. If this really needs to go and go out there properly and help the athlete”.
“For me, it's really exciting (..) Now we speak about woman health and everything, but I actually don't want that. For example I often hear that a technology is made just for women. No. It has to be for athlete for individualized care, for your own physiology whether you are a woman or a man, or if you have a X gender. So for me it has to be a technology that will help athletes individually. That’s number one”.
“And I'm really exciting to see what kind of physiology and technology are going to emerge in this domain. And let's see if we can use those new technologies after that for other sports”.
On the FIFA new initiative called FIFA Women’s Health, Wellbeing, and Performance project:
“I think it will be really be an accelerator for women athletes and teams. That's my opinion because of what I saw at the 2023 Women Soccer World Cup also. It is really pushing the women's sports. And the celebration and all.. it is the model for women's sports in general in Australia”.
“And we saw that two weeks after the 2023 Women Soccer World Cup, the government of Australia raised $200M for the women's sports, and for the research towards women's sports. And I think part of the reason was FIFA with this project that brings greater visibility. Women soccer at this point is a rolling machine”.
“And I think the project that the FIFA is doing, this educational and empowerment project. Everything will help rise the woman's health and the woman's sports in general. So I'm sure that this will kick off a good beginning to help open new opportunities for studies and research towards women teams and athletes, and so on”.
Dr Christy Fernandez-Cull:
“I think what we're seeing is a critical mass. For example Nike published an article this past summer. There's clearly an inflection point and people are really being interested in seeing women in sport. There's an inflection point to understand why clinical studies have fallen short of including females”.
“And then we also have sports performance. So clinical studies are falling short, including females just in research at large. But when you overlap women playing female physiology identified folks playing sports and also when you are trying to understand their bodies from a hormonal health standpoint, the statistics don't don't lie. So we're seeing this critical mass again. I'm excited that not only the WNBA but now the FIFA are involved. And really, the crux here is, to your point, Mel, it's this personalization that is critical (..) And now we're getting the attention that has been lost for over 30 years”.
On the high growth we are seeing in women sports across different leagues (WNBA, Women soccer..):
“So this is a conversation I've had with a previous employer. You're not even considering gender equality, anything of that nature, if you just look at market sharing. Isn't the female population over 50% of the population of the United States? So if you just look at it, even economically in terms of a market, why is this surprising if you're not tailoring to over 50% of the market?”.
“And then you start to do that and you see an increase in viewership and sales. It's as if oh my gosh, this came out of nowhere. No, it didn't. We just weren't doing anything for women's sports. So, I mean to just look at it even based on a fundamental economic and I have no formal training in business. I'm solely science. I just always honestly laugh at that because I am just thinking…Why are we so surprised? Women are half of the market that wasn't even being addressed and it should have happened before then”.
“It's not a surprise at all because but they didn't get the media presence and the visibility that they needed for their fans to even follow them or see them. Unless you go see a game in person, there was no way for them to do it before”.
“But now, finally they are getting the media attention that they need and that they actually deserve so more people, especially on the international level, can watch those sports. I'm from Sri Lanka, I could watch NBA games, but I couldn't see any WNBA matches. It's not even telecasted. So how would I even go and cheer for any of them? But now that with the ESPN app, everything is there now... Finally, people get to see those WNBA games. So I'm not surprised about the numbers at all. It's just that all this time the rest of the fans had no access to this”.
“I agree with you, Joel. It's really the audience. It's not just women being fans of women teams. In the soccer world it is exactly the same. We played one week against the world champion: Spain. It was in Spain. There were 14,000 people. Now it is not so big when you think about the 90,000 who attend some Champions League games”.
“But it was the record in terms of audience for a women soccer game in Spain. It was amazing. We could see little boys, little girls, women, and men attending the game. There was an amazing energy there”.
“And I think, like you said, it's not shocking. It should be normal, but it's shocking because before we didn't see that and it is something new now. I'm happy that it is like this now and it's developing. And I think that just because now the machine is just rolling, every sports are pushing each other to get this dynamic, not just in soccer, but also in basketball, volleyball, etc”.
As always, if you have any questions, want to catch up, or discuss trends, feel free to reach out to me.
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