Editorial Roundtable: Wrangling With A Data-Driven, Performance-Enhanced Future

Editorial Roundtable: Wrangling With A Data-Driven, Performance-Enhanced Future
Fitness & Sport

WHOOP, ShotTracker, Rithmio, PlaySight, STYR Labs, EverybodyFights and Lift / Next Level Floats advise on how to navigate the ethical implications of a data-driven marketplace

Bogar Alonso
  • 17 october 2016

PSFK’s Editorial Roundtable series takes its inspiration from the traditional roundtable: bringing together industry insiders to share their insights on emerging and compelling trends in an idea-friendly manner. PSFK guides the discussion and our roundtable helps guide the future.

Sports are the ultimate meritocracy. And so, athletes, coaches, trainers, statisticians, broadcasters, and diehard fans cringe at the use of any unfair advantage that lies outside the realm of strategy and god-given talent. (Think: performance-enhancing drugs). They perhaps do so little knowing that, as PSFK Labs‘ latest report, the Sports Debrief, tells us, the Future of Sport not only promises untold performance enhancement but will come to be defined by it. Think: performance-enhancing analytics, performance-enhancing immersive training, even performance-enhancing sensory deprivation tanks in which your mind and spirit are treated to their own heightening.

How will amateur and professional athletes alike come to adapt to a future defined by performance-enhanced sports? How will performance enhancement come to change and evolve the sport of sports? And what market opportunities exist for companies and brands—whether they’re operating inside of the arena of athletics or outside of it—in the Future of Sport?

Our Sport Debrief experts include:

Will Ahmed | Founder and CEO of WHOOP – the performance optimization system that helps elite athletes and teams win.

Davyeon Ross | Co-Founder and COO of ShotTracker – the first piece of affordable, wearable technology for basketball players who want to improve shooting performance by automating the tracking of shot attempts, makes and misses.

Sergio Radovcic | Founder of STYR Labs – a customization and tracking platform offering optimized performance to users through a suite of connected devices, personalized supplements and nutritional data.

David Leventhal | Owner of Lift / Next Level Floats – the East Coast’s largest sensory deprivation-slash-floatation therapy center, located in Brooklyn.

Chen Shachar | CEO of PlaySight – a smartcourt company that is connecting the next generation of athletes through an interactive social community born from the combination of elite video and analytics tech.

Adam Tilton | CEO and Co-Founder of Rithmio – creators of motion recognition software used in the making of next-gen wearables.

George Foreman III | Founder of EverybodyFights – an award-winning boxing gym and training program that offers FightFuel nutrition counseling, a personalized and free-flowing guide that is paired to a user’s workout regiment.

(Below is the third part of a three-part editorial).

data-driven sports competition

What might be the ethical implications of performance-enhancing services and technologies, if any? Do you foresee fans, athletes or organizations protesting them? If yes, how can companies argue in favor of them? Might they actually be a way to level the playing field?

Davyeon Ross | Co-Founder and COO of ShotTracker

“There may be many implications of these performance-enhancing services and technologies, both positive and negative. I believe there is much discomfort around the input items (e.g. heart rate) versus the actual performance metrics, which I consider the output. As we see more and more data being showcased to the world, we will have to deal with the privacy concerns that go along with this data evolution. This gets into many of the privacy discussions that many of the leagues are having today. Whose data is it anyway? How can this data be used? As you can imagine, fans would love to have the heart rate of a player visible for their experience, but does the player or team want this information out in the public domain? At the elite level, many sports teams will have heavy negotiations with their athletes on how this data can and will be used during contract negotiations. I believe the playing field will be leveled as technologies that are simplified, affordable and accessible to all levels of the game become more and more attainable. I see a world where all of these technologies, statistical and biometric, will be accessible to every athlete, no matter the age or skill level, helping to improve their performance.”

David Leventhal | Owner of Lift / Next Level Floats

“Performance-enhancing services and technologies don’t raise the same visceral feelings often voiced about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Even so, the potentially prohibitive cost of some services and technologies raise the specter of an uneven playing field that disadvantages athletes and teams without deep pockets. But because many of the new technologies are quite inexpensive, they can in fact help level the playing field. There are wearable sensors available for under $50 which can give athletes insights similar to devices used by sports teams costing $30,000. While very few professional and collegiate teams or athletes currently have their own float tanks, for the price of massage therapy or acupuncture, an athlete can experience the many benefits of floatation therapy at a commercial float center in increasingly more locations.

While the potential benefits of floatation for performance enhancement can be profound, it is worth noting that the athlete of course must put in the time and effort in the tank to achieve the results.”

Will Ahmed | Founder and CEO of WHOOP

“At WHOOP, we believe in athlete empowerment first and foremost. That means that the athletes need to be comfortable with what they’re monitoring about their body and how it is shared. I think those are the real questions here. How much data is shared? With whom? And who owns the data? We’ve built the most customizable system from an architecture standpoint to allow for different privacy sharing levels, ownership and access of data. That means that we have athletes who can see everything about themselves and don’t share data with anyone; or athletes who share some summary-level data with many people. We view that it’s the role of the leagues and the athletes to agree to how this data should be shared.”


Chen Shachar | CEO of PlaySight

“There are few guarantees in life. But one you can count on is that change and innovation create uncertainty and unrest. Any major technological innovation in history has brought with it pushback. Human beings are wired to protect their status quo. Again, like the point earlier about performance enhancements, this is not a new concept. Technology has just accelerated things.

As with most technologies, the key to leveling the playing field is getting the technology/innovation to the mass market, and educating this consumer on the benefits. This move has famously been dubbed ‘Crossing the Chasm’ in technology circles. The early adopters will always be on-top of the latest technology. This also applies to sports. The best and most successful pro teams will always have an early edge as new technology comes to market—it is often expensive and risky. But as the market matures and the technology stabilizes (and prices drop), the amateur school, team, and athlete will be able to train and play with the same technology. Look at what smartphone adoption has done to push many developing nations forward.

With PlaySight, we have SmartCourts installed with NBA teams. We also have SmartCourts installed at sports clubs and amateur academies across the world. The democratization of our technology is already taking place, and we are just scratching the surface of its true marketplace potential.”

Adam Tilton | CEO and Co-Founder of Rithmio

“Each sport has its own regulatory body that makes decisions regarding which technologies are suitable on the field. They’re the best suited to make those decisions.

What we’ve observed in the fitness wearables space is that wearables are leveraged to help athletes train, gather metrics in practice and are now moving forward to help athletes rehabilitate.

In April we saw the NBA players union collaborate with WHOOP to increase the NBA’s awareness of the benefits of in-game analytics. We saw the MLB approve two wearables including Motus and Zephr for utilization in-game. Wearables worn by athletes in-game may just be around the corner.”

Sergio Radovcic | Founder of STYR Labs

“Progress is inevitable and data is king. Viewers want more hits, bigger dunks and more dominant play. Clearly, there is a thin line between fair and unfair, but teams and coaches have used data from the dawn of time to improve their odds. Perhaps leagues will self-regulate, but the reality is that most teams will simply adopt or perish.”

George Foreman III | Founder of EverybodyFights

“I think there are a lot of variables at play, and it may even vary from sport to sport, but what I know for sure is that not everyone gets an even playing field. It’s just never really existed. Nothing will ever replace good, honest, hard work. Many of the greatest athletes of all time came from nothing. It’s part of what drove them to work harder than their competition even if it wasn’t in the nicest facility or with the best nutrition. Certainly those things can help, but at the end of the day, those that are willing to really dedicate themselves to their craft will reach levels of success and fitness that will never be matched by a wearable or sleeping chamber alone.”

Download PSFK’s Sports Debrief to gain insight into how emerging tools, technologies and service models are evolving the sports world and pushing athletes ahead of the competition. Take advantage of the full findings, and exclusive articles to understand how the latest wearable tech, dietary routines and cognitive techniques can unlock actionable lessons in your work.


Lead Image: U.S. Army | CC | Image altered and cropped

Middle Image: See-ming Lee | CC | Image altered and cropped

Note: If you would like to participate in a coming PSFK Editorial Roundtable, please contact us here.

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