Much of the Great Britain team success in Beijing and London was claimed to be on the back of a ‘Red’ approach to understanding athletes and developing their mental toughness.
Coaches realised that the difference in elite athlete’s physical capability was often negligible and they needed to exploit the potential of the brain. So began a real focus on athlete mind-set and challenging individual belief systems.
Sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters came up with a brilliant way of making the complex simple, with his Chimp Management analogy. Almost every post-race interview with successful GB athletes had references to mental focus and self-belief.
They do say that what took you to the top, will not keep you at the top. As Dr Peter’s wisdom has now gone global, international coaches are looking down a different path for competitive advantage.
Cue the ‘Blue’ approach to the 2016 Olympics, where data collection and analysis is having an impact on almost every sport.
German sailors will have real time information on the effect of wind, tide and current on their boats, with data helping to inform intuition on the right time to tack and turn.
GB’s boxers have teamed up with Sheffield Hallam University who have developed software that provides detailed fight analysis on GB fighters and their opponents. The boxers have also been having their sleep monitored, making a significant difference to sleep duration and quality – a key element of human performance.
Australia are closely monitoring data produced by 2,000 athletes per week to advise coaches on training loads, thereby avoiding illness and injury.
USA cyclists are training with augmented reality glasses, so they can see their speeds and power output without actually taking their eyes off the track.
For para olympians, BAE systems is using aerospace systems technology to achieve up to 20% increase in acceleration through different racing positions. In addition, the Germans have developed a 3D-printed prosthetic leg that delivers improved power output for their para cyclists.
So, as you watch the Olympics over the next three weeks, spare a thought for those brilliant ‘Blue’ brains who have been working hard in the background, to give athletes and coaches the benefits of good data and a rigorous approach to performance.
Can you apply such a rigorous approach to your work, your team or your organisation? Have you set clear targets? Are they measurable? Do you understand what could lead to some marginal gains? Is someone else in the world doing the same work more effectively?
Think about it over the summer and make it a Blue Autumn at work!