Inspiring Performance: Data insights and the evolution of British Athletics

by Alex Cooke Data Intelligence Partner

Over the years, the world of sport has been defined by extraordinary human achievements; the combination of natural talent, hard work and the ability of people to push themselves, and others faster, further and to new levels of technical precision. Successful coaches have been praised for using their years of experience, intuition and insights to tune preparation and performance; the ability to see with the human eye what others could not.

All of that still holds true today, but in the background, the application of science and technology is increasingly playing a role in shaping the pursuit of sporting achievement. Sport is now awash with data and there are some celebrated uses of data in sport. It’s hard to believe the real life story behind Hollywood film ‘Moneyball’ is over 10 years old. However, we are still only at the cusp of what can be achieved by tapping into that data. This is why I am both proud and excited that PwC is working together with British Athletics as its Official Data Intelligence Partner. This also marks a major milestone for PwC as we continue to invest in our data analytics capabilities to ensure our clients, across all industries, are able to gain powerful insights

For me personally, it is that rare moment when two worlds collide, as a somewhat average endurance runner who has spent nearly 20 years helping businesses collect, manage and use data to improve performance. Now the opportunity presents to bring these passions together and it is a privilege to work alongside the top sports scientists and coaches in the country at the British Athletics National Performance Institute at Loughborough University.

With this team we are bringing together the data they have into one cohesive whole and providing reporting and advanced analytics to deliver actionable insights. The data sources are wide ranging; from strength and conditioning, biomechanics, health and physiology to training loads and competitor analysis.

The goal is simple - ‘win more medals in more events’. Our role in helping to achieve it, is to develop a complete view of each athlete based on their data, enabling the sports scientists and coaches to work with the athletes to determine what contributes towards them achieving peak performance, when it matters most. This partnership will evolve as we gather more data, but we have been delivering insights from week one.

“This is a huge evolution within the sport of athletics. The question we ask ourselves is what have you done today that will contribute to winning more medals. This partnership allows us to answer that question quickly and easily”.

Neil Black, Performance Director at British Athletics

All the data analytics in the world is no substitute for talent, hard work and experience, but in a sport where millimetres and split seconds can be the difference between silver and gold, putting better information into the hands of world class athletes and coaches can provide crucial insights; insights that will inform smarter decisions and improve training, recovery and performance. Some of the gains may be marginal, but our experienced data intelligence team know the smallest details, those that may elude the human eye, can often make the biggest difference.

This isn’t about replacing human insight or intuition. It isn’t about reducing the need for talent, hard work and experience. It is about supplementing those inherently human attributes with enhanced digital capabilities.

“We’re one of the best nations in the world in our sport, with the best people, and now we’re going to get the information to match all that.”

Paula Dunn, Paralympics Head Coach of British Athletics

British Athletics has provided us with incredible moments of drama, excitement and entertainment as well as some inspirational role models. At PwC we are looking forward to helping British Athletics reach new levels of achievement and inspiring performances that bring more moments of magic and more medals in more events.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology or data and analytics on your industry, then contact our Data & Analytics team.

by Alex Cooke Data Intelligence Partner

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