Applied Sport Science

AIS / SMA Symposium 2016: ‘Silent Contributors to Illness, Injury, and Performance’ (Day 1)

The 2016 Australian Institute of Sport / Sports Medicine Australia Symposium took place on March 18 & 19, exploring the theme of ‘Silent Contributors to Illness, Injury, and Performance’. Given the calibre of presenters in attendance, I’ve been looking forward to this event for some time and I can safely say that the wait has been worth it!

Here are my sketchnotes from Day 1, including highlights from presentations by:

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Darren Burgess: “Making Sense Of The Data: For You And Your Coach” (Catapult Performance Workshop 2014)

At last week’s Catapult Performance Workshop, Dr Darren Burgess (@darrenburgess25) was on hand to deliver an address to open the day’s proceedings.  Darren spoke on the topic of “Making Sense Of The Data: For You And Your Coach”, a timely presentation given the staggering volume of data collected and the increasing use of sophisticated analytics in sport.  Here are my sketchnotes from Darren’s presentation:

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There’s no such thing as a perfect prediction model (Sketchnotes)

The modern world is increasingly enamoured by the possibilities of big data and sophisticated analytics. In sport, the application of data analytics continues to rise rapidly as measurement technologies and analysis platforms become more advanced yet accessible. Indeed, a prevailing view is that if you’re not using data analytics to inform decision making at every level of a sporting organisation, then you are falling behind:


So how close are we to the holy grail of being able to accurately predict performance, illness, injury?

I’d argue that we are a long way off. Here’s why: attempting to forecast future events is not a new endeavour. Take meteorology, for example. We have accurate and reliable measures of weather patterns collected daily for years and even decades, yet the weather forecasts we see on the news every night rarely extend beyond 7 days. Predictions of minimum and maximum temperatures have a high degree of accuracy – the MetOffice (United Kingdom) achieves ~85% and 90% accuracy for these predictions, respectively – but there remains a degree of error. Predictions of rain are less accurate, and predictions of uncommon events such as earthquakes are considerably less accurate again.

In sport, we face a whole host of challenges, chief among them being the quality of our measures, the depth (or lack thereof) of historical data using consistent measures, and the difficulty of developing models to explain highly variable events that may not occur frequently.

Jacquie Tran - "There's No Such Thing As A Perfect Model" (Sketchnotes)

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But as always, challenges present opportunities. Improvements in any one of these areas brings us closer to that proverbial holy grail.

Do you work in sports analytics as a researcher or applied scientist? What are your thoughts about our capacity to predict athlete outcomes now and in the near future?

Biomechanics in Australian Sport: presentation at the Victorian Institute of Sport

Today, I am presenting at the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) on biomechanics in Australian sport.  I’ll be chatting with a group of US college students who are visiting Australia and spending time at the VIS, gaining insights into sports science and life as an athlete.  A different presentation than the researchy-type I’ve become used to delivering over the past few years…it’ll be great to tell a few stories and share interesting anecdotes of Aussie ingenuity in applied biomechanics 🙂  Check out my slides below:

Darren Burgess: “Load Management Strategies” (Sports Medicine Australia Webinar)

On June 4th, Darren Burgess (@darrenburgess25) hosted a webinar for Sports Medicine Australia on the topic of load management.  Darren currently leads the high performance program at Port Adelaide F.C. (Australian Football League), where he and his support staff have drawn deserved attention for their contributions to the team’s dramatically improved on-field performances.  Darren’s presentation primarily recounted his experiences and lessons learned during his time at Liverpool F.C. (English Premier League).  Thanks to Darren and Sports Medicine Australia for providing the opportunity to learn from a true leader in sports science and elite athlete performance!  Here are my sketchnotes from the webinar:

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Senate Inquiry into Sports Science in Australia: Watch This Space…


Increasingly, stakeholders at all levels of sport understand and value the contribution that sports scientists make to improving athletic performance and encouraging healthy participation.  Sports scientists have rightly become essential members of athlete support teams, with senior sports scientists taking on performance management responsibilities that require them to oversee several aspects of an athlete’s preparation.

Sports Science, without question, is the biggest and most important change in my lifetime.

– Sir Alex Ferguson (Former Manager of Manchester United, from 1986 – 2013)

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Highlighting Good Work: the AIS Sports Supplements Program

Sports SupplementsThe reverberations from the Australian Crime Commission report into illicit activities in Australian Sport will be felt for a long time to come.  Over recent days, AFL sports scientists have come under fire due to allegations of supplement abuse at Essendon Football Club.  Some members of the Australian media have provided scathing opinions of the value and integrity of our profession, generalising the reported actions of a rogue minority to all and leading to melodramatic reports such as this from The Age: “War on Sports Scientists”.

The salacious style in which news is reported in Australia has bothered me for quite some time.  But now, I feel an inadvertent personal involvement in this particular saga due to pockets of irresponsible journalism that conveys to the general public a sense that sports science is necessarily clandestine if it is to be “cutting edge” and performance-enhancing.  That sports scientists are concerned in performance outcomes at all costs, but are not concerned about the health and wellbeing of the people they serve.

Wrongdoing exists in every industry.  The risks of wrongdoing are likely higher in an environment such as high performance sport, as all stakeholders have become increasingly demanding of constant innovation and immediate success.  But it is neither fair nor accurate to generalise the actions of wrongdoers as a reflection of how all sports scientists operate.

Australian sports scientists are highly regarded worldwide for the quality of the work they produce and the integrity with which they go about their jobs.  Yes, one key element of our job is to push boundaries and find ways to extend the limits of human performance.  But it is worth remembering that we are in the business of serving others.  The fruits of our labour are not intended to provide us with direct benefit; our work helps others, our athletes, do better.  My experience has been that if you don’t care about your athletes as people first, you won’t cut it in sports science.  Engaging in unethical, illegal, and dangerous activities in the name of sports performance also willingly compromises the care of athletes.  Any “sports scientists” that approach their work in this manner do not belong in this profession.

With all that said, it’s as good an opportunity as any to highlight the excellent and ethical work that is done by the teams that support our elite athletes.  Professor Louise Burke and team of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Sports Nutrition department have put together a thorough and up-to-date resource outlining the AIS Supplements Program.  Click here to view the AIS Supplements Program.  I’ve also added it to my board on “Sports Science in the Real World”.  The online resource is publicly accessible, and presents the available evidence on various supplements for enhancing sports performance, with classifications based on the strength of the evidence and its recommended use by the Institute.  Not only is it an excellent example of science being applied with care, but it is also well worth a look for those that wish to inform themselves beyond what the newspapers choose to report.

Recovery and Sleep in Elite Athletes (presented by Dr Shona Halson, European College of Sports Science Congress 2012)

My sketchnotes from Dr Shona Halson’s presentation on recovery and sleep in elite athletes, during this year’s European College of Sports Science Congress (Bruges, Belgium).

Halson 2012 - Recovery and Sleep in Elite Athletes

Learnist as a Sports Science Teaching Tool: Initial Thoughts

I’ve just started using Learnist, a highly visual public curation tool that takes a similar approach to pinboards in Pinterest, but encourages its users to develop boards with “learnings” around specific topic areas.  I’ve started off with two boards, “Sports Science in the Real World” and “My productivity toolbox”, which I will continue to update over time:

Sports Science in the Real World | Learnist - Jacquie Tran My productivity toolbox | Learnist - Jacquie Tran

Already, I can see lots of potential for this tool to be useful in a teaching context.  Looking forward to curating content to help provide context to their studies in exercise and sports science, as well as pulling together resources to support my students in developing graduate competencies.

If you’re on Learnist, follow me here: .  Or, if you’d like an invite, leave a comment below 🙂

Science in Football Symposium, hosted by the Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS)

On Wednesday 5th September, 2012, the Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS) held a “Science in Football” symposium at Deakin University.  The event brought together experts from a variety of disciplines and codes, to “talk shop” about how science is being applied in football, how it has transformed these sports, and the next frontier of challenges for sport scientists stepping into these environments.  Ray Breed (High Performance Manager, North Melbourne Football Club) opened the event with his keynote address, and was joined by Tom Reddin (High Performance Manager, Melbourne Heart Football Club), Sarah Clement (Strength & Conditioning Professional / Exercise Programming Unit Chair, Deakin University), and David Parkin (decorated AFL Player, former Senior Coach…all-around AFL and Australian sport legend!), with all taking part in a discussion panel later on in the evening.

It was also an excellent opportunity for academics from C-ESS / the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences (Dr Paul Gastin, Assoc. Prof. Michael Spittle), and the School of Management and Marketing (Assoc. Prof. Pamm Phillips) to showcase the considerable body of Deakin research that is underway or has been completed within the football context.  Quite something to see the breadth of work across such varied disciplines as skill acquisition and motor learning, training and competition load monitoring, elite sporting performance, junior sport and junior athlete development, sporting governance and policy implementation.  Pleasing to see several of my current and former undergraduate students attending the evening, and hopefully getting a taster of the opportunities they can explore within the Honours program for 2013.

Here are my sketchnotes from the evening:

Ray Breed spoke of the application of sport science in managing the players at North Melbourne Football Club, and how the evolution in science and technology has “levelled up” their capacity to monitor athletes and individualise their training and competition loads.

Science in Football Symposium - Sketchnotes | Ray Breed, North Melbourne FC | Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS)

Science in Football Symposium - Sketchnotes | Ray Breed, North Melbourne FC (page 2/3) | Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS)

Science in Football Symposium - Sketchnotes | Ray Breed, North Melbourne FC (page 3/3) | Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS)After Ray’s insightful presentation, my PhD Supervisor Dr Paul Gastin took to the “stage” to talk about the important reciprocal relationship between sports science research and application.  What grabbed my attention was the performance model presented by Paul, to illustrate the avenues for sports science researchers and practitioners to explore together:

Science in Football Symposium - Sketchnotes | Dr Paul Gastin, Deakin University | Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS)Following on from Paul, Assoc. Prof Michael Spittle and Assoc. Prof. Pamm Phillips spoke of their involvement with research in football.  I didn’t get any notes down, but it was great to get a feel for what’s happening just outside of my own sphere.  As a PhD student, it’s easy to fence yourself in, so it’s always a welcome privilege to hear about the other innovative research that is underway within C-ESS.

Finally, the event concluded with a discussion panel.  Here are my sketchnotes from what was my favourite part of the evening:

Science in Football Symposium - Sketchnotes | Discussion Panel (page 1/4) | Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS) Science in Football Symposium - Sketchnotes | Discussion Panel (page 2/4) | Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS) Science in Football Symposium - Sketchnotes | Discussion Panel (page 3/4) | Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS)

Science in Football Symposium - Sketchnotes | Discussion Panel (page 4/4) | Centre for Exercise and Sports Science (C-ESS)All in all a fantastic event, full of invaluable insights from those who are “at the coal face” and have first-hand knowledge of the unique opportunities and challenges afforded by the growth of sport science in football, at all competitive levels.