“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” – H. James Harrington
Harrington’s quote summarizes our hope to understand the character of human performance in all walks of life. I sat down with the founders of SyncStrength to discuss their work in team sports and the wider potential for biological analysis on the field and in the office.
This outline summarizes our conversation, tagged with times in the video.
1. What kind of team and player data do you work with? (0:45)
Typically we work with heart rate over time, but it could also be gyroscopic force, accelerometry, GPS, field x-y coordinates, or anything similar the coach tracks. We can work with an entire season of data at once to build team profiles or break things down game-by-game to monitor individual events and decision-making.
2. Did you come to this analysis from your personal backgrounds? (1:40)
We saw the growth opportunity in team biometric analysis, but everyone on the SyncStrength staff itself has a background in athletics or health science. It’s a combination of both.
3. Are some coaches more receptive to your work than others? (2:40)
All coaches are interested in improving their players and they see how biometric analysis fits in once we walk them through our process. Some coaches don’t have the staff to collect a wide range of data, including player measurements away from the field, to better compare with in-game situations. At-rest data is a very useful reference in building a complete picture of the athlete and team.
4. How does this apply outside sports? (4:00)
Many analysts see team sports as an ideal environment for science, given the variety of athletic demands on players, high stakes of live games, and length of seasons. It allows you to develop high-quality algorithms and analytics that you can transfer beyond sports into wider scientific environments.
5. Have you tried these analytics in your own work environment? What useful things can people measure? (4:40)
Analytics is much more prevalent in business today, both in day-to-day process design and as a management tool. People plan and manage through analysis much more than they have before, but it remains expensive for individuals to track things like resting heart rate over time, one of the key biological metrics to understanding personal fitness and need for post-workout recovery. Kevin uses Suunto personally, but our team data analysis prefers makers like Polar and Zephyr, companies with products that offer a wider range of measures.
6. What have you learned or would do differently? (6:15)
Working with clients over the past year helped us understand what expertise to share in addition to our core analysis business. We’re not an equipment company ourselves, but giving specific advice about what works better for their situation is clearly valuable.
7. What’s your dream “tool” for this analysis? (7:00)
We’ve talked with other companies about their ideas for chip-based measurement of data we analyze like blood flow, heart capacity, body movement, and similar processes. It’s a year or two off, but does sound possible.
8. Did the 2013 Sloan Analytics Conference change your business ideas or goals of who you’d like to work with? (7:40)
Feedback from our presentation (The Science of Team Chemistry) confirmed there’s a market for biometrics and scientific analytics. It’s at the edge of the envelope, but teams and people are ready to measure and develop for better sports performance based on it. Opportunities include charting the physiological makeup of players, measuring team cohesion, and showing how the arena itself changes player performance. We’re at the point where biometric analysis can characterize things like the impact of good coaching, fan excitement, and the overall home field advantage.