Rowing Data collection – what should I measure?


We interviewed Steve Ludlow from the SAS Institute platform innovation team. They are  the Official Analytics Partner of British Rowing and the GB Rowing Team.

British Rowing athletes

Image credit: British Rowing

What data does rowing create?

British Rowing creates vast quantities of data including the biomechanics from sensors on the water (recording 20 datapoints a second) down to medical data on the athletes predicting when an injury might occur, flexibility scores and development pathways for non-elite athletes.

What we are doing is working on 6-7 projects at any time.  I asked Steve about the work they do with athletes on the

British Rowing Start programme height requirements

British Rowing Start programme height requirements development pathway

Measuring prospective elite athletes

Why should we measure athletes?  Basically its because we want to predict who will be come an elite athlete.  If we get this right, we know what development pathways to put each one on. And British Rowing spends money on the people who are likely to win in the future.

How can you tell who is likely to win medals?

The way we predict this is to study the athletes who are in the current British Rowing team who have won medals in this season and we look back at their scores from the past.  So we know what their data looked like at when they were at a “rowing age” of 2-3 years.  And then we compare those scores with new athletes we are testing today.

We measure height, weight, and C2 scores in the main.  For The Start Programmethe height minimum from age 14 to 22 is 178cm for women and 188 for men.   To see the data they collect on applicants, fill out the Application Form

Here is the British Rowing pathways to rowing for GB page. Deloitte are also working on an underlying data model for British Rowing.  it’s not just for elite, it is to help people to move onto the elite path.

How can a club coach know whether to send up an athlete for public testing?

Set benchmarks for someone at a particular rowing age – based on the above.

On-Water data points used by British Rowing

The team allowed me to know some of the data sources, but they’re pretty secretive about what they actually measure.  The information comes from biomechanic sensors on the boat; the data is a proprietary format – in the past they take slices of that data and compare strokes and profiles from one event to another to see how the athletes is making progress. We make that simpler by collating the data centrally – how did one athlete compare to another?  So the SAS Institute doesn’t analyse or interpret the data, they curate and present it back to the coaches and biomechanists at British Rowing having re-purposed the output into a usable and readable format.

Peach Innovations is the system they use – collecting 4900 data points in one session!

Rowing Injury profile

Our goal is can we predict injuries before they occur? Although this may sound like the movieMinority Report, it’s possible that we can foresee the future.

One of the projects is looking at injury data – what we look at for elites is flexibility, tests left versus right hip rocker flexibility done twice a year.  We are trying to get an indication of when people are likely to get injured – work out if elements in these and medical results can help predict when injuries may occur.

We want to work with supporters and opportunities on how to target them to allow British Rowing to market to the right people.

Club coaches can collect data

Rowperfect has long championed keeping a Daily Diary for each athlete to complete.  This includes data on the hours of sleep, perceived exhaustion for each training session, water consumption and weight.

Other useful data for the club coach is to as how does the athlete feel? Have they eaten before the session, what’s the weather on the day? Adding context to the data like wind speed will make piece times comparable in future. The more relevant variables you can try and record and the more you can get into the habit of collecting the information the more sense you will make of the data you’ve got.

Are you ready to start collecting data about your athletes?

Update supplied after publication on Monday 31 Oct 2016.

Rosie Mayglothling (Director of Pathway Development) told us that the metrics of data tested for the Start programme. 

Data metrics reviewed by British Rowing when deciding whether someone should be selected for the elite pathway.

  • Anthropometrics, age and stage of development so the chronological age and their rowing age. 
  • Speed of development. 
  • Ergo scores so 5k and 2k which are required for team trials.
  • Boat speed.

In terms of the exact scores, British Rowing would prefer to avoid exact details due to the sensitivity of the details as I’m sure you understand.


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