Applied Sports Science newsletter – May 3, 2017

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for May 3, 2017


Jason Heyward Reinvents Himself Again

VICE Sports, Rian Watt from

… Heyward took the momentum that came out of the Cubs’ title and his dramatic Game 7 speech at Progressive Field, and threw himself headlong into a down-to-the-studs overhaul of both his swing and his overall approach to the game. So far, it’s working. Heyward is hitting a perfectly solid .270/.337/.393 on the young season, with three home runs and his usual brand of show-stopping defense in right field.

Big adjustments are nothing new for Heyward. After making his big league debut just a few months shy of the legal drinking age back in 2010, he’s had to do an awful lot of growing up fast in an environment that’s as high-pressure as it gets. He’s used to having to reinvent himself in real time. And he’s ready for this year’s challenge.


Eric Dier’s versatility the basis of Tottenham’s exquisite flexibility

The Guardian, Michael Cox from

Spurs’ ability to switch between systems, driven by Dier’s skills as both defender and midfielder, gave them a decisive edge against Arsenal at White Hart Lane


How Olympian Natasha Hastings Helps Secure Dreams At NFL Draft

CraveOnline, Ed Miller from

For many college players, the National Football League Draft is perhaps the biggest moment of their professional career, one that comes with an immense amount of training and preparation. Just months earlier, these players got one opportunity – at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis – to impress and prove their worth, an opportunity studied for months under a magnifying glass by every so-called expert.

While it might not be the sole factor in determining a prospect’s draft position, the combine holds a great deal of weight, so much so that players look to various help for an edge. It could be a new and unique diet, it could be a different regimen in the weight room or it could be one of the world’s fastest women. Leading up to this year’s draft in Philadelphia, several NFL prospects trained with track star – and two-time Olympic gold medalist – Natasha Hastings, in the hopes of increasing their speed.

Hastings, 30, grew up around track and field as both her parents competed for the New York Institute of Technology and, over more than a decade, she’s won the sport’s biggest events. But how exactly did one of the world’s best runners, at the peak of her career, get involved with training football prospects?


Here’s Why the Sub-2 Marathon Guys Will Bonk

Runner's World, Newswire, Amby Burfoot from

There is a simple, four-part Golden Ratio that governs marathon pacing, and it will have a major impact on this weekend’s Nike Breaking2 marathon race in Italy.

The Golden Ratio is based on human physiology.

In other words, don’t mess with it. If you do, the ratio will bite you in the a**.


Practising to be perfect: an inside look at Manchester City’s youth academy

The Guardian, Jamie Jackson from

There is a buzz among Lee Carsley’s players as they prepare for Wednesday night’s FA Youth Cup final second leg against Chelsea at Manchester City’s football academy. Light rain falls as the manager plots how to turn last week’s 1-1 draw into triumph over the Stamford Bridge club at the third attempt, after the team lost out in 2015 and 2016.

Carsley took charge of the Under-18s last summer, when Jason Wilcox was promoted to head of coaching. The former Everton and Republic of Ireland midfielder has guided the team to the Northern Premier League title, while Chelsea claimed the Southern Premier League version and head the national Premier League standings – City trail by five points and sit sixth – and are, according to City’s young captain, Ed Francis, “the best side we’ve played”.

The Guardian was granted the first behind-closed-doors access to the under-18s and Carsley quips with tongue firmly in cheek: “There are no secrets here – we get forward as quick as possible, play 4-4-2.”


NSCAA Coach Giovanni Pacini on Player Development

Hudl Blog, Trevor Hellman from

“Coach education has been my passion for over 25 years.”

Giovanni Pacini has been a staff coach for the USSF in region one, a national staff coach and goalkeepers staff coach for the NSCAA for close to 30 years. Pacini owns and operates GP Soccer, a program which includes consulting services for clubs and youth soccer organizations wishing to improve their player and coach development methods and standards.

With such an expansive background, we tabbed Pacini to talk to us about player development, his philosophy, the landscape within the United States, and to ask specifically what coaches can do to improve and iterate on their methodology to benefit their players’ development.


The Science of Learning

University of California-Santa Barbara, The UCSB Current from

There’s never been a better time to learn.

So says UC Santa Barbara applied psychologist Richard Mayer, who has devoted his career to formulating principals of instruction that teach people how to apply what they learned to new situations. His recent research shows that multimedia instruction is particularly effective, and in the 21st century, computers have made that easier to execute than ever before.


Brain tissue structure could explain link between fitness and memory

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Illinois News Bureau from

Studies have suggested a link between fitness and memory, but researchers have struggled to find the mechanism that links them. A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that the key may lie in the microstructure of the hippocampus, a region in the middle of the brain involved in memory processes.

Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology, led a group of researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois that used a specialized MRI technique to measure the structural integrity of the hippocampus in healthy young adults and correlated it with their performances on fitness and memory tests. They found that viscoelasticity, a measure of structural integrity in brain tissue, was correlated with fitness and memory performance – much more so than simply looking at the size of the hippocampus.


Nike Breaking2 Project: What we know about the attempt to break the two-hour marathon barrier (Athletes, pacers, date, live stream)

Citius Mag, Kevin Liao from

This weekend will celebrate the 63rd anniversary of Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile barrier but Nike begins its audacious quest to break the two-hour marathon barrier.

Three men will set out to become the first people to run a marathon in under 120 minutes. The current marathon world record is 2:02:57 by Dennis Kimetto at the 2014 Berlin Marathon. That will certainly be on watch as a possible secondary goal but we should find out later on in the week whether a ruling has been made on whether the Breaking2 course by Nike is world-record eligible.

For now, this is what we know about the Breaking2 project.


UC Davis Selects Healbe and GoBe 2 ’Smart Life Band’ Fitness Tracker for Nutrition and Health

PR Newswire, Healbe Corp. from

The University of California, Davis (UC Davis), Foods for Health Institute, has signed a five-year agreement with health and wellness start-up Healbe™ Corp. ( to help validate whether advanced personal fitness trackers can be used to help bring precision-based health solutions to consumers.

For the study, the university is employing Healbe’s patented Healbe FLOW™ technology, which enables the automatic and non-invasive monitoring of human calorie intake, hydration and emotional state. Healbe contributed 20 of its GoBe™ 2 “Smart Life Band” fitness trackers to collect and analyze data based on nine health parameters—calorie intake, calories burned, energy balance, water balance, stress level, emotional state, heart rate, sleep quality, distance traveled/number of steps taken per day—which will be used in this research.


Court Rules for BU, against NHL in CTE Case

BU Today, Rich Barlow from

Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center won a court victory late Wednesday when a US District Court judge in Minnesota denied a request for its records made by the National Hockey League. The NHL sought the records for defense in a lawsuit brought against the league by more than 100 former players seeking medical benefits, alleging that the NHL should have known about the risks of cognitive illnesses like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The University argued successfully that a requirement to fulfill the request could discourage scientific research.

The NHL last year sought to subpoena documents about the center’s bank of roughly 400 brains and spinal cords of hockey players, other athletes, and nonathletes. The brain bank has enabled the center’s pathbreaking research into CTE, a degenerative brain disease associated with dementia and mood changes and found in athletes and others who suffer repeated concussions and head trauma.


Toughness, Redefined | An NCAA Champion Feature

NCAA, Champion Magazine from

… One of the alphas leading this scrimmage from the point is co-captain Justin McKenzie. The senior with broad shoulders and long, dark hair that curls beneath his helmet is majoring in information systems, but he always has thought of himself, first and foremost, as a hockey player. He grew up on the ice in Hawthorne, New Jersey, where he played junior hockey and spent three years on varsity in high school, serving as captain and making all-state his senior year. McKenzie came to Saint Michael’s, in large part, so he could keep lacing up the skates. “You should’ve seen me when I first came in here,” he says after practice. “I bought into the hockey culture so much. I wanted to be the cool guy, and I’m coming to a small campus. That’s how I chose to identify myself. Everything revolved around me being on the hockey team.”

An identity wrapped up in ice hockey brings to mind a particular persona. The old-school roughneck forefathers of the sport spat teeth, played without helmets or masks, took pride in their gap-toothed grins and called the trainer only when a wound required stitches. As for mental or emotional scars, any weakness not visible to others might as well not have been there at all. No whining. No excuses. Buck up.

But just as Division II ice hockey pushed McKenzie physically, college life strained his mind. It was his first time living away from home.


How the NFL Uses Data Analytics in the Draft

Athlete Intelligence blog, Lidia Harding from

As the 2017 NFL draft kicks off this week, many teams are pouring over data as well as traditional scouting methods, to evaluate and choose their next big stars.

Scouting is a combination of what the coaches and scouts, see, hear and believe and these days it’s also supplemented with data and facts to help give coaches a clear picture of what a player has to offer.

Where it all started

The concept of using data analytics started decades ago when Dallas Cowboys hired A. Salam Qureishi in the early 1960s. The computer programmer and statistician from India, who knew nothing about football, overhauled the Cowboys’ scouting system, replacing hunches with hard numbers. He ranked five essential variables; character, quickness-and-body-control, competitiveness, mental alertness and strength-and-explosiveness, and he quantified them for draft analysis.


Does Keeping Salaries Secret Hurt Team Performance?

Association for Psychological Science from

… Managers often support pay secrecy practices because they believe it will help maximize pay flexibility, reduce envy and jealousy among colleagues, and keep company costs down. However, new research from a team of psychological scientists led by Elena Belogolovsky (Cornell University) and Peter Bamberger (Tel Aviv University) suggests that pay secrecy may come at a cost. The new study suggests that a lack of salary transparency can negatively impact the way employees share information and cooperate.


Team chemistry is hard to quantify. When will sports teams figure it out?

Slate, Adam Willis from

What makes a group of athletes greater than the sum of its parts? Is it the knowing glance that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady exchanges with Rob Gronkowski when he looks down the line of scrimmage? Is it the fire that the Chicago Cubs’ Jon Lester mustered after his personal catcher David Ross trotted out to the mound to dispense some wisdom in a tense sixth inning?

Team chemistry is the most elusive factor in sports—the “holy grail of performance analytics,” according to Harvard Business Review. It’s only logical that certain teams get along better than others, but how important are these relationships, and can teams optimize them?

The fact that the sports world’s intangibles seem, by definition, immeasurable make them an irresistible challenge for researchers who’ve figured out how to quantify so much of what happens on the field of play. Neuroscientists have claimed to measure chemistry through the synchronized heartbeats of teammates. Other researchers have examined the correlation of high fives and wins.


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