The Importance of Athlete Welfare

World level coach and athlete, Robyn Saultry shares her experience and insights into athlete welfare and the essential role technology, specifically data collection and analysis can play.

As a coach, hours can be spent dwelling over ‘the numbers’. Information can be provided from numerous sources which leaves coaches with overwhelming amounts of data to oversee. Despite this, the data is a vital contributor to the decision making process surrounding the performance and wellbeing of both individual athletes and the team as a whole.

Team selection can be one of the biggest obstacles for a coach, especially when decisions have to be justified to individuals, parents and other members of a team. There are not many athletes and parents that don’t believe that they or their child shouldn’t be picked for a team. However most teams have a number cap and more athletes on a list than required; so if there are only 6 seats in a boat and 10 people on a crew list, there will be athletes who miss out. In order to make these decisions correctly, it is important to consider the different strengths, attitudes, levels of fitness and the experience of each individual as well as training attendance. Sometimes athletes are so close in comparison on every other item, that giving back to the club and helping out may come into the decision process.

Athlete welfare is important. Increased pressure to continually optimise athlete performance through additional training, nutrition and general wellness can be intense. On occasion, the welfare of the athlete may be compromised. The majority of athletes are competitive and they are always striving for success. If not properly tracked, athletes could suffer detrimental effects such as; injury, overtraining, poor eating habits, use of banned substances, or decreases in psychological wellbeing can occur.

Therefore, a tool that brings an athlete’s performance and wellness data together is essential in preventing these issues. It not only makes the team selection process more seamless and professional but, ensures all athletes in the training squad are healthy and demonstrate a positive reflection of the team/club/school. Quantitative analysis of all available data, including training data, the demands outside of training, recorded through wearable devices and athletic movement via video capture is invaluable to both an athlete and coach.

The aggregation of an individual’s wellness data, along with that from their wearable device (if applicable), performance and medical data provides coaching staff with an overall picture of the athlete’s physical and psychological state. This allows for the establishment of individualised preparation for competition periods and can demonstrate the athlete’s readiness to compete, aiding selection decisions.

The requirement of the athletes to record their wellness data, places some responsibility back on them to be involved in the outcome of team selections. Attendance at training sessions, performance in time trials, match or game results are all collated and available for the coach and other staff to use when it’s decision time. The addition of data from wearable devices adds to the pool of information that can provide vital information in the investigation of injuries and planning training loads.

Tracking the athlete’s wellness metrics over time, enables coaching staff to monitor the athlete’s response to the training stimulus and effects of competition periods. This information can be used to optimise periodised training regimes taking into account individual responses to training loads. This information can be used for athlete management, nurturing future champions, educating parents & coaches, and identifying abnormalities before they become larger more inhibiting issues. Sharing as little or as much information about each athlete as needed or requested is easy with Baseline.

Planning, managing, nurturing, prevention and ultimately excelling in athletic performance comes with wise use of modern technology.