Improving Paralympian performance – a CSER project

Since 2018, the Centre for Sports Engineering Research (CSER) has been working in partnership with the Sports Intelligence (SI) team at the English Institute of Sport (EIS). CSER’s knowledge of data analysis techniques is helping the Sports Intelligence team extract useful key performance indicators and present them to the athletes/coaches in the most effective format.

A recent project undertaken for Boccia UK, the national governing body for the Paralympic sport of boccia in the UK, is to produce a system to collect and store video and data from both competition and training. The project is jointly funded by Sports Intelligence, Boccia UK and Sheffield Hallam University and will run up to the 2020 Paralympics. The competition data collection tool alone currently saves the performance analyst 1.5 days per competition purely through improved data flow. The increased data collection capacity and the new database system will allow Boccia UK to carry out much more in-depth longitudinal analysis, which will also have an impact beyond the 2020 Paralympics. The project uses software modules and data management practices developed in previous Sports Intelligence projects, ensuring data validity and security.

Dr John Kelley

Dr John Kelley

Dr John Kelley (research fellow) has been speaking to us about his experience of working on the Boccia UK project:

Why was undertaking this project so appealing to you?

I am a big fan of sport, especially Olympic and Paralympic Sport, so I really enjoy projects with the British teams. Boccia usually isn’t able to fund a project of this scale, but it received additional funding from UK Sport for this project because it’s a big opportunity to gain a long-lasting performance advantage. It’s great to be contributing to the performance of athletes that represent the nation on the biggest stage.

Was there an area of the project that you particularly enjoyed working on?

The coaches and performance analysts at Boccia UK have been wonderful to work with. They’re incredibly motivated and skilled and have embraced the changes to practice that the project has required.

What was the biggest challenge?

The current coronavirus crisis has been a big challenge to overcome and has delayed some of the more practical project delivery. My colleague, Dr Andy Hext, has done some fantastic work receiving deliveries of hardware and carrying out software installations before sending the system on to the Boccia coaches, all from his home.

Have you any advice for colleagues about to undertake their own research project?

My advice is to look for opportunities to do projects on areas you enjoy with skilled and supportive colleagues and collaborators. You’ll be more motivated and the project will succeed even in difficult circumstances.

Like to discover more? The Centre for Sports Engineering Research 2019 Review is now available to read.

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