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Editorial Roundtable: The Xs And Os Of Performance-Enhanced Sports

Editorial Roundtable: The Xs And Os Of Performance-Enhanced Sports
Fitness & Sport

WHOOP, ShotTracker, Rithmio, PlaySight, STYR Labs, EverybodyFights and Lift / Next Level Floats explain that we're only at the iceberg's tip of performance enhancement

Bogar Alonso
  • 26 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 first part of a three-part editorial).

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Performance analytics, LED-illuminated biosensors, smartcourts, wireless fitness devices, VR-assisted training, personalized hydration systems—the list of innovative performance products goes on and on. But how deep does (and can) the rabbit hole really go? Is the world of performance enhancement, especially where sports are concerned, seemingly endless? If not, in what stage do we find it in? How big is the market opportunity for the companies who have yet to join the performance-enhancement space?

Davyeon Ross | Co-Founder and COO of ShotTracker

“The world of performance enhancement is by no means endless, but we are seeing it in its extremely nascent stages. The market opportunity is significant, but it’s truly important for companies to ensure they are delivering on products that are transparent to the athlete experience. Sports are about getting better every day with the hopes of winning. Combine the will to win with the technology advancements that are being made as it relates to the aggregation of data, analyzation of data and the insights that come with all of these smarter systems, and you’ll see why sports are the perfect domain to see substantial growth in the future. However, I think it’s safe to say that true growth will come when we push the tech down the stack.”

Sergio Radovcic | Founder of STYR Labs

“We are barely scratching the surface of sensors and wearables in sports. While the first few years were dedicated to creating ways to acquire the data, the next frontier is in interpreting the data and connecting it to outcomes. This will inevitably lead to the creation of new, highly specialized sensors and devices, designed to be worn, ingested or applied to the skin, delivering highly customized metrics. Companies that can connect sensors to results will lead this charge and deliver a tightly integrated ecosystem for athletes of all skill levels.”

Adam Tilton | CEO and Co-Founder of Rithmio

“It has only been until recently that computing has gotten small enough to be truly wearable. We’re seeing an explosion in science and tech overlapping to not only identify what we can measure, but determine what we can measure that is of value to athletes and researchers alike. And that process of uncovering value takes time and collaboration with experts in the performance-enhancement space. We’ve learned that many coaches often would prefer to do one metric very well, as opposed to being inundated with 10 or more metrics.

For companies contemplating whether to move into the fitness wearables space, having strong academic and science roots is a must-have. Our company, Rithmio, has strong academic roots and our technology was in development in the lab for several years before Rithmio was incepted.”

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David Leventhal | Owner of Lift / Next Level Floats

“Floatation therapy, where an individual floats in a super-saturated solution of Epsom salt in water maintained at skin temperature, in a light-proof and sound-proof environment, is nowhere near saturation in the performance-enhancement space (or in any of its other potential markets). Opportunities abound.

Athletes are increasingly using float tanks (a.k.a. sensory deprivation tanks) for both physical benefits such as pain relief and to aid recovery, and for psychological benefits such as mental preparation for competition. Both the New England Patriots and Ohio State’s football team have installed float tanks in their training rooms; Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, and a number of Seattle Seahawks are all frequent visitors to commercial float centers; other athletes, including Tom Brady, have installed float tanks in their homes. Relatively inexpensive float tanks intended for home use are on the market with more entrants on the way. And there are increasingly more choices of tanks available for use in commercial and institutional settings.

Over the last five years, there has been exponential growth in the number and sophistication of commercial float centers. Formerly, a ‘float center’ was often a single float tank in a private residence that was made available to the general public. There are now float centers with multiple state-of-the art tanks in most major cities in North America, and increasingly in smaller towns. While floatation as a modality for sports-enhancement—or for a myriad of other applications—may never achieve the ubiquity of more widely known treatments like massage therapy or acupuncture, the industry is still in its infancy, with plenty of room for growth.

And the opportunities for growth go beyond merely providing athletes access to float tanks—there is also a need for technologies and services to help users leverage the benefits of floatation therapy. An example would be offerings to help athletes practice their visualization technique both in and out of the tank. Athletes have long used visualization techniques to improve their physical performance. Famously, Michael Phelps won a gold medal in 2008 despite having been unable to see out of his water-filled goggles during the race—a win he credited to having previously mentally rehearsed just such a scenario. While visualization techniques can be done anywhere, the technique has been shown in studies with athletes to be more effective when practiced in a float tank where the athlete is not disturbed by sensory inputs, and can focus intensely. Apps similar to Headspace, which teaches users how to meditate, can be developed which will train athletes in visualization techniques. EEG sensors which measure brainwaves can be incorporated with these apps to monitor and gamify the user’s progress in a manner similar to the Muse headband meditation system currently on the market. And the rabbit hole can certainly go much deeper.”

Will Ahmed | Founder and CEO of WHOOP

“I believe that continuous monitoring of the body will make athletes much more effective and resilient in the coming years. In fact, continuous monitoring will be cited as the most dramatic improvement to athletic performance in the history of sports. The data that we’re pulling off WHOOP athletes (which spans professional, collegiate, and Olympic) is correlating with in-game performance, encouraging athletes to sleep more and, in turn, recover faster, and showing reductions in reported injuries. As we gather more data, the actions will become clearer: This player should rest. This player should train much harder. This player should travel earlier and sleep later. But just think today: 99.9 percent of the best athletes in the world don’t know how well they slept last night or how fast their body is recovering. That will be looked back upon as crazier than the fact that athletes once didn’t lift weights. The benefit for athletes and sports fans alike: Athletes will have much longer careers once they start to marry physiological data with training.”

Chen Shachar | CEO of PlaySight

“The sports technology marketplace has had three main waves of innovation:

1) The professional sport level—video, analytics, and broadcast enhancement—this includes Hawkeye in tennis, SportVU in basketball, and the Spidercamera in tennis, football, and other sports, among other innovations.

2) The personal trackers for running, cycling, and other endurance sports: this includes FitBit, Garmin, JawBone, Nike+, and GoPro on the video side. This has connected the mass consumer market to more data, analytics, and statistics than ever before but we are still very much in the infancy stages of this marketplace.

3) Digital and connected courts—we are also currently in the very early stages of this market, too. PlaySight was one of the first in this space: the tracking of ball sports and the connection of an athlete’s physical and digital worlds. Right now, much of this is still done manually with smartphone cameras, tagging platforms for coaches, GoPros, and sensors and wearable devices. We are automating the experience—both on courts and online.

The true power of our sports video and analytics technology lies within the democratization of it. A 14-year-old high school basketball player may never be as good as Stephen Curry or LeBron James, but what is stopping him or her from training with the same technology and performance tools?”

George Foreman III | Founder of EverybodyFights

“I know people use devices to closely monitor how hard they’re working, they will try new recovery techniques and even sleeping environments, test all the new-school recovery techniques, read up on nutrition trends, etc. To me it’s just another way of working hard, and when you work hard, you tend to get results. The rabbit hole goes very deep, but as long as it is all based on hard work, strategy, and making use of the latest technology, I don’t think it is a bad thing. In fact, it is a good thing. If you’re willing to go the extra mile and leverage the latest news and information, more power to you.”

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.

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Lead Image: Kyle Lane | CC | Image altered and colorized


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

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