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Evolving elite athletes into the age of data

Evolving elite athletes into the age of data

Ethnographic research and co-design to inform product innovation.Elite sports training is a mixture of both art and science. When an athlete trains, they need to ensure that they target levels of improvement in technique, sustain motivation and inspiration, and – through regular injury-free training sessions – maintain an elite, ideal form.
Elite Sports
Research insights, Human-centred innovation, Innovation
Project Team
Darren Menachemson's profile'
Evolving elite athletes into the age of data

There are growing opportunities to supplement existing training regimes with innovative ways of collecting and using data. This information will improve athlete performance and support individualised training programs.

However, it is not just about collecting more data – the information needs to be useful.

The training environment is built on relationships, in particular the connection between a coach and an athlete. The data needs to support the intuition and decision-making of coaches, all of whom have different needs and preferences.

ThinkPlace worked with an elite sports organisation, bringing together scientists, researchers and engineers whose job it is to continuously develop new products and technology to support athletes. To supplement this innovation process, and ensure that new products would be both useful and usable, we conducted ethnographic research to better understand the training environment.

We went to where the action happens – we watched training sessions, talked to the coaches, athletes and sports scientists, and observed how they interacted. We looked for artefacts and signs of how people use systems and equipment. We listened for moments of delight, inspiration and motivation, as well as signs of frustration and inefficiency.

Conclusively, Thinkplace realised following these observations that a finely tuned coach-athlete relationship is essential to elite performance. Design within this context requires a progressive and experimental approach that observes the way that new products and data support and hinder this important relationship.


“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
— Michael Jordan