If you’re an athlete competing on the world stage, your body is under intense pressure to perform, stay safe and improve. While you’re under the spotlight, in front of the crowds or on the podium, there are dozens of people in the background using world class technologies to help you develop your skills and make sure your body is working to its fullest potential.
In Scotland, Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic curling team train at a state-of-the-art academy, where they not only have access to high-quality ice all year round, but benefit from a bespoke set of performance and coaching tools, implemented by Lead Performance Analyst, Kenny More and the team from AnalysisPro, who specialise in performance analysis solutions, IP cameras & training. “My role is to generate information and feedback to inform the players and the coaches,” says Kenny, who has worked with British Curling for twenty years and, until the academy opened, would spend most of his time on the road, travelling to work with curlers all over Scotland, carrying cameras and tripods as he went. “So, I put together a proposal that we should try and embed a contemporary performance analysis system for our new National Curling Academy”. Since installing the solution and centralising training to the academy, Kenny now works with a set-up of 16 Axis Network Cameras, perfectly situated to his specification, “I was able to say ‘I want different cameras for different reasons. Some will help understanding on delivery mechanics, on how they release the stone and on how they sweep, while others may provide a perspective for tactical development.” The new rig is a mix of fixed and flexible cameras, tailored to the needs of both able-bodied and wheelchair curlers.
Josh Bryan of AnalysisPro, who worked with Kenny on the install, has worked across many different disciplines with sports professionals, institutions and teams all over the country, but GB Curling presented a different and truly technical challenge. Unlike other high-performance sports, which can gain their insights from just a few cameras, curling is highly technique-based and requires precise, detailed insight in order to make very small, technical adjustments. “Football might have a side-on and end-on view of the pitch that covers pretty much everything that they need,” explains Josh. “With curling, they need cameras which show the outcome, where the shot ends up and each curler’s technique from different angles – side-on, above and behind.” To achieve this, British Curling use AnalysisPro’s tablet-based app called AP Live to review footage and the AP Capture software, to capture, control and adjust the twenty-foot-high ‘PTZ’ (pan/tilt/zoom) cameras with a joystick.
The output from all 16 Axis Network Cameras can be reviewed immediately on AP Live, scrubbed back or replayed in slow motion and streamed to big screens by the playing area. Coaches can freeze-frame and sketch on the clip as they work through the play with their athletes, as well as streaming their curlers on a slightly delayed feed, so they can play the stone out and look up to see exactly what they’ve just done. Each part was developed alongside GB Curling, tailored to their specific requirements and Josh was keen to make sure that Kenny and the coaches got exactly what they needed, when they needed it. “We developed the app based on their [GB Curling] feedback and worked with the Axis cameras and the network storage drive so that they can set up pre-set recording times on the hard drive. If someone comes in saying ‘we were on the ice yesterday, from 2-3pm, can I have the video from these four cameras?’, it can easily be taken out.” Overall, Kenny, the coaches and the team can experience live footage, collect and review post-event or post-training recordings and everything is databased for the purposes of continued professional development.
“The coaching process is massively enhanced if you’ve got a really easy to use video feedback,” adds Kenny. “And because it’s all set up, we actually do technical analysis much more regularly than was possible before. The regularity, quality and variety of the images has given us a much better view and understanding of technique.” It’s also been adopted keenly by the coaches, who routinely use the cameras and playback capabilities of AP Live, adding an evidence-based element to coaching. “They will spend short, but effective periods of time looking at recent or past video clips, from the relevant angles and the coach can ask ‘Would we agree that we see this, and the plan of action should be…?” Those are much more compelling circumstances for an athlete to accept and commit to the body of work to unravel and improve the performance.”
The evidence we create allows other people to work their magic too
However, from a psychological perspective, a set-up like that at the Curling Academy means there is nowhere to hide, and for the athletes Kenny acknowledges that this can take a little getting used to. “It’s can be hard for them to sit with a coach and pinpoint their poor timing when they’re kicking out of the hack – constantly kicking out wide or tight or creating a far from perfect delivery. The camera supports them in the work they need to get from A to B, but the process can be a sobering one for athletes when they realise how much work they’ve got to do.” However, benefits can be realised across the entire interdisciplinary GB Curling programme, where coaching and performance works hand-in-hand with teams in physiotherapy, strength and conditioning.
Kenny explains: “Lindsay Thompson, our Lead Physiotherapist might be interested in looking at athletes who are returning from injury. As they return to ice, we are able to see the differences and how physiotherapy can help solve them. The evidence we create allows other people to work their magic too.” Kenny and the coaches might also use the footage to identify model performance by an athlete that they would like to replicate, but often this will require the intervention of strength and conditioning. “because I can’t get the athletes working that way until they improve core stability or shoulder strength, or the physio has hip rotation or hip symmetry in place. So, we have some excellent conversations with other service providers who, because of that video, can get to work on their piece of the puzzle.”
Certainly, for Kenny, the investment in the academy and the ability to bring the performance and analysis of Team GB’s athletes to one place has been a great success and a team endeavour with one crucial common goal: “British Curling is set up to win Olympic and Paralympic medals – medals at the peak of the sport – so it’s very important that we have technology and methodologies that support that aspiration.”