All posts by Gunnar

The math behind basketball’s wildest moves

At the moment I’m taking the Math in sports course at edX/University of Notre Dame and since you tend to see the things you focus on, math related sports or sports related math, seems to be everywhere right now.
The other day I stumbled across this fascinating video from TED: The math behind basketball’s wildest moves, where Rajiv Maheswaran talks about analysing movement. Wow! I try to extrapolate into the future and imagine where this kind of technology will take us in, say rugby in a couple of years and it’s… well, fascinating! And a bit scary too.
Have a look and see for yourself. Where do you think this technology will take us and our sports?

Bring that screen – Roccat Tusko

Having a big, rugged trunk filled with all your technical gear transported safely across the continent would be nice when you travel with your team. But it’s expensive.

So what do a small club, with limited funds, do when it’s analyst needs to have a bigger screen with him on the road, than the one that’s already on his laptop?

Look no further. Roccat Tusko are bags for transporting LED screens. It’s mostly kids attending LAN parties who uses them, but they are just as handy for a analyst on the road.

Roccat Tusko

And they’re not too expensive. I bought my 24″ version (They come in two sizes – 15-19″ and 20-24″) for $55. A bargain compared to the big trunks to keep your screen safe.
Of course it’s nothing like those big, padded trunks since you can safely check them in on an airplane but the Tusko can be brought as carry-on-luggage on some airlines and be checked in as fragile goods at the rest. and the screen is protected by the padded case. Still a nice solution to the problem.

Check out the bags here: http://www.roccat.org/Products/Gaming-Accessories/ROCCAT-Tusko/

Disclaimer: This is not an ad for Roccat and I haven’t been paid to write anything. It’s just my thoughts about a bag I recently bought.

DIY $20 stabilizing rig

When you’ve spent a small fortune on a good camera and you find that watching the movie clips you shoot with it makes you seasick, since it’s shaking so much, what do you do then?
Camera equipment can be ridiculously expensive, so you’re wondering “How can I fix this problem without spending too much money?”.

When I want to come really close to the rugby action and want to study individual technique in, say breakdowns, or want a good wide-angle view of the defense from behind, I use my GoPro.
To keep it from shaking when I move I need a stabilizing rig for the camera. Buying a metallic rig -even a fairly cheap one – like the Fotodiox GoTough Wedge (though certainly not the only option available) can set you back a hefty $150 or more. So instead I’ve built a small rig from plastic sewage pipes which you can get in any hardware store for around $20.

Since I built it last summer, lots of people from both local amateur clubs as well as players and PAs from major professional european rugby clubs have asked me about it and encouraged me to patent the design.
Well, to be honest, I got the idea from YouTube (where else!?) so I can’t patent it and it’s really so simple to make that anyone can do it.

This is how you make a DIY $20 GoPro stabilizing rig:

Just cut a sewage pipe into 6 parts and use 2 90° connectors, 2  45° connectors and a T-shaped connector to put it all together.

I also added some padding just to make it nicer to hold (and it also floats in water, making it easier to stabilize if you dive with it. Just make sure to seal it well to keep the water out of the pipes.)

Easy!

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BJ Botha of Munster Rugby coaching young talents at Munster Talent Camp, Rockwell College, Ireland
BJ Botha of Munster Rugby coaching young talents at Munster Talent Camp, Rockwell College, Ireland and of course – a DIY stabilizing rig in action!

 
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Improve tackles using a Wii remote control

Sounds weird?
Well, not all teams have the economy to buy “G-force measurement gadgets” to use in analysis of forces involved in tackles. So they haven’t been able to use that kind of data when they’re working to improving tackle techniques….
Unless they’re ready to think a little outside of the box.

The Wii remote control has an accelerometer built into it and can send data about it’s pitch, yaw, roll and acceleration in X, Y and Z over a bluetooth connection. Usually the receiver of that data is a Wii console. That is, of course, the whole idea with the Wii remote – to be able to play the games based on how you move the control.

But – if you connect that remote to a computer and record the data it sends, you can graph the registered acceleration and visualize the G-forces the remote is exposed to when moving it around.
A bit nerdy? Yes! And useful for a PA with a tight budget.

So fasten the remote to a tackling bag using some classic duck tape, connect the remote to the computer and then record it’s data while performing tackle drills. You would then get the G-force data onto your computer, and the rest is up to your usual analysis and coaching process…

I’ve tested software from Eziosoft to record the data and it works just fine. A little unstable sometimes, but at no cost at all, what can you expect? Info on how to connect a Wii remote can be found either at the Eziosoft webpage or at the Wiimote Project.
I’m sure there are other Wii remote solutions, or other cheap ways of measuring impact force/acceleration/G-forces out there. Please let me and the rest of the PA community know by telling us about it in the comments below or tweet about it.
By the way – you do follow me on Twitter and Facebook, right?

Definitions first, then data

In his article “Longevity, production and efficiency in rugby kickers: a re-analysis of Ken Quarrie’s kicking dataset“, Eoin Gubbins are explaining different ways of looking at the dataset on which  a study by New Zealand Rugby Union sports scientist Ken Quarrie, earlier mentioned in my post “What a study of rugby kickers can teach your business”  is built.

But – what he does, in a very interesting and well written article, is just that. He’s explaining that there is multiple ways to view a dataset.
That leads to a missing focus. So in the article Eoin introduces a focus, something he wants to study. In this case – greatness.
(To be perfectly clear, the study didn’t lack focus. On the contrary. But it wasn’t greatness that was the focus of the study.)

Eoin argues that the study doesn’t account for certain variables, but I would argue that until you’ve defined your focus, you can’t know which variables are required, obsolete or missing.

I’m also not arguing with Eoin, or the commenters of The Score, about the fact that greatness probably involves more variables than the study used, but then the study was not intended to rank players by greatness, only on a percentage altered to account for kick location on the ground, the context of the match (based on score difference and time elapsed) and which stadium the kicker was at.

So when wanting a list with the greatest kickers, Eoin has to come up with a definition of greatness – “true greatness involves production over a long period at a highly efficient rate” – to be able to create it. Greatness can be a lot of things depending on your view, but this was Eoin’s definition of it and when defining it this way, the study was lacking certain variables to be able to produce a list of the greatest kickers. So in that aspect Eoin was right.

So definitions first, so we know what we are looking for/at. Then we can select and study the data appropriate for the definition. Otherwise it’s just a matter of opinion/view and that is not what evidence based coaching and learning is about.
Thanks for a good article on some fascinating data, Eoin. And thanks for forcing me to think twice about definitions and data.
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What a study of rugby kickers can teach your business

Earlier today I read an article about a study on rugby kicking.

So what can a study like this teach you about your business?

In the blog post “Triggers of golden questions” I write about the questions certain situations raises. And this study is certainly a situation like that.

In this case, after reading the study, you’re faced with data on performance, not necessarily closely related to what you do, but still it makes you ask yourself,  both as an individual but also  regarding your business:

  • Where and when do I perform at my best?
  • Why there and then? Under what circumstances do I perform at my best?
  • Can I create those circumstances elsewhere or more frequently?
  • Which factors could be changed to create a more positive outcome?
  • What would it take to do so?
  • If I should do so, how will I measure if I get any effect out of it?

I would also ask – related to the part about Dan Carter being a great kicker, but perhaps not the greatest when it comes to kick under pressure – the following:

  • Do I know who’s my best performer?
  • Why that person?
  • Under what circumstances are that person performing at his/her best?
  • What kind of circumstances should we avoid?
  • Which are the key factors for his/her success?
  • What can I and the rest of my team learn from that person?
  • Can we create more of those positive circumstances without wearing my team out? Are they the same for everyone on the team or is it an individual thing?

As you see, the questions raised by a rugby study, doesn’t differ from those that would be useful in a business environment. The answers might, but not the questions. Actually it might be even easier to find these questions and relate them to your business if it’s not about your business to start with. Then you’re not personally involved or biased in any way.
So go explore other fields besides your own business. You might learn something about yourself!
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Triggers of golden questions

Every morning at work we have a stand-up meeting when our group talk about what we did yesterday and how that went, what we’ll focus on today and what we can prepare for tomorrow. The reason for this is so that the entire group can see what’s going on, who’s doing what and that all important tasks are taken care of.  It’s also a lot about learning. Why did it go well yesterday? What did I do that made that success possible or what was the main reason to my failure in completing the tasks I had focus on?

In a very structured meeting like this, where everyone answers the same questions with a specific purpose, it’s easy to find the right questions to ask yourself and eachother. But what about outside a meeting like that? What triggers those questions? Those you actually learn from?

Challenging the status quo

One of the most important things for learning to take place is to challenge the status quo, to be able to see a different reality as possible, and therefor asking the questions associated with that reality:

  • What if…? – to find alternatives to the current situation
  • What would it look like if…? – to see what a different situation would look like if one of the alternatives were true
  • What would it take to…? – to focus on requirements for something to happen
  • Why is it that…? – to create understanding and/or find root causes

When a different situation can be visualized or imagined, and also described with

  • root causes to the current situation
  • the alternative or different situation/solution
  • the effect it could have
  • requirements or a plan to make it come true

then it is much easier to learn from a situation and turn that knowledge into action and actually change the situation – if that is what you want.

This is an important part of coaching in both business and sports. For instance in the coaching model GROW.
So asking the right questions at the right time is key to any kind of learning which is required for any kind of structured change.

So how can you challenge the status quo?

By being convinced that there’s always a better way to do what you do and there is always more to learn, you can start asking yourself “What about this situation is currently unknown to me?” “What can I learn from this?” “What would a different angle on this situation be?” “How can this situation be better?” “What does great look like in this situation?

Questions like that are the golden questions, those you can learn from and challenge the status quo, the foundation of knowledge, change and improvement.

Finding triggers to golden questions

So do I ask myself these questions constantly? All the time? Isn’t that very time-consuming?
Well, yes, it could be. But it also makes changing things quicker and easier. So you have to find the right balance between challenging/questioning and actually performing work/change.

But certain situations are triggers of such questions, like

  • if you meet someone with a different opinion or angle of what you do
  • Or if you come in contact with metrics on what you do or the effect it has
  • Or if you see your contribution to the value chain in a bigger picture, for instance in a company-wide meeting with different divisions
  • Or, like in sports, how offence and defence in a team are interacting and working (hopefully) together towards a common goal.

Cherish those situations and expose yourself to them as much as possible to learn more about you and your situation. Then apply the questions, and the answers to those will provide you with the knowledge you need to act, comfortable with the fact that you’re doing the right thing.

This is of course not always as easy as it sounds. It’s a matter of practice to get better at this process – finding situations, asking questions, turning answers into knowledge into action and steering and following up those actions to create change, reaching goals and learning from the entire process.

This continuous practice is called a lot of different things depending on their angle – continual improvements, Lean, Six sigma and so on, but whatever flavour you choose, the fundamental base of getting better at what you do is the same. No matter if it’s in business or in sports.

So go find situations and people who trigger your golden questions. Happy hunting!