Analytics and Performance Spaces Impact Recruiting
Walk into a university athletic training and research facility today and you’ll see people doing what they have for decades: lifting and hitting, running and jumping. What you might not see is how every rep, swing, stride, and leap are being recorded and analyzed in minute detail.
Welcome to the age of the Internet of Things, ubiquitous technology, and big data. It’s a time when athletic facilities have moved far beyond serving as places where performance is “measured” by human observation; they’ve become more objective, analytical spaces. Force plates record pressure and acceleration every time shoe meets surface. An array of cameras capture the slightest deviations in a baseball player’s swing. Clothing measures heart rate, stress, and oxygen levels. And if that’s not enough, right around the corner is a biomarkers lab that can analyze everything from an athlete’s blood and sweat to brain activity and bone density.
In an age where fancy uniforms, iPads in lockers and 30,000-square-foot weight rooms are the norm, these facilities are key recruiting tools, serving as a differentiator between elite athletic programs. When an athlete is able to see a performance lab as an opportunity to maximize his talents, and his parents understand the benefits from an injury-prevention and player-safety perspective, it becomes difficult to commit elsewhere.
These spaces are similar to the athletes within them in that it’s not necessarily about aesthetics, it’s about performance. The space must have a “wow factor,” but never at the expense of an optimal testing environment. As technology has progressed, it’s become less visible, which is why research facilities don’t necessarily look like something out of the future. At least, not until you peel back a layer of turf or look behind a wall panel.
At the university level, the trend is more relationships developing between athletics, academics, and private research — this is the future. At DLR Group’s Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab (NAPL), the athletic department engages students in research programs, is partnering with the university’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior (CB3), and has space that allows for collaboration with private companies for R&D and product development. The synergy created when these diverse perspectives come together is critical, and no one benefits more than the student-athletes themselves.
The days of football players training by mindlessly rolling a tire up a hill are over. Or, if they aren’t, these days it’s a “smart” tire and a “smart” hill.