Applied Sports Science newsletter – May 22, 2017

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for May 22, 2017


Katarina Johnson-Thompson revitalised by move to France

The Guardian, Sean Ingle from

The heptathlete says she has become more independent and decisive since moving to France last year and is working hard to enter this summer’s world championships in perfect shape


NBA’s Eastern Conference teams worry whether they will ever be able to compete with LeBron James

The Washington Post, Adam Kilgore from

The conversations happen within the Milwaukee Bucks’ front office, and General Manager John Hammond assumes they must occur in conference rooms across the Eastern Conference. The topic surfaces often, unavoidable for any team in the unenviable position of chasing LeBron James: At what point will the best basketball player in the world slow down?

“You look at the player who he is today,” Hammond said. “How much longer can he play at this level, and when he’s not at that level, can we take advantage of that? You want to be in position to take advantage of that when it does occur.”

Hammond would not concede anything to the Cleveland Cavaliers. “You’re not giving into that, or saying you can’t beat them,” he said. But James has left no doubt among his pursuers in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Determining when he’ll fade is a difficult problem, but it might be easier — and more realistic — than figuring out how to beat him.


Clemson lessons prepared Mike Williams for NFL

Orangeburg Times & Democrat from

… Even though his focus has shifted from the world of college football and Clemson University to the NFL and the Los Angeles Chargers, one thing is certain, Williams will be forever indebted to Coach Dabo Swinney, wide receivers Coach Jeff Scott and the Clemson staff for making him into the man, on and off the field, he is today.

“Off the field, just seeing me grow off the field. I came to Clemson as a teenager and left as a grown man,” Williams said. “He (Swinney) just built us off the field. That’s probably the main difference in Coach Swinney and the rest of the staff, they want to see us grow off the field, so that was a big part of our program at Clemson. On the field, he was a great coach. You know, he coached wide receivers in college. Just having him and Coach Scott under my wings, pushing me every day, it was good to have those guys.”


Daniel Murphy Is a Value-Adding Teammate

FanGraphs Baseball, Travis Sawchik from

… “I like to think ‘air balls.’ I never want the infielder to catch my ball,” Murphy said. “A line drive is still Position A. And it’s in the air. I think fly balls can be misconstrued as pop ups, as high fly balls. The place you want to be is still line drives. That’s still where you have the most success, where the batting average is highest, where most of the damage is done. That kind of 10-20 degrees, there. That’s the sweet spot. That’s not the Kris Bryant, launched, 45-degree homer that are majestic to watch. So Position A is still a line drive, which to me is more of an air ball than a fly ball.”

I asked Murphy if he considers himself the Johnny Appleseed of swing plane, of the air ball.


Do Some People Not Respond to Exercise?

Runner's World, Sweat Science blog, Alex Hutchinson from

Over the last few years, I’ve written several times about the debate over exercise “non-response.” Do some people, no matter how hard they try, simply not get fitter?

That has been the conventional view since landmark experiments in the 1990s on the genetic basis of exercise response. But a 2015 study from Queen’s University, in Canada, suggested that pretty much everyone gets fitter if they get a high enough volume and intensity of exercise. And another study earlier this year bolstered that conclusion.

The full picture may be a little more complex, though. I was at Queen’s a few weeks ago for a talk, and had a chance to chat with Louise de Lannoy, one of the authors of the 2015 study. She updated me on her latest work, and filled me in on the ongoing debate about individual response and the challenges in accurately measuring and analyzing it.


NFL Caretakers: Carlisle, NFL Officials Emphasizing Physical Health To Enforce The Rules, Barry Barnes from

The NFL rule book is massive with instructions of do’s and don’t’s, almost biblical in a sense. Knowing the what to do and enforcing the league’s boundaries is half the battle. Unlike the bible where a spiritual aspect is needed to execute its purpose, enforcing the NFL rules can be more of a challenge, physically.

This is why the NFL Football Officiating Mini-Clinic is imperative for the NFL Caretakers.

“Man, it takes a lot to be in shape, just to keep those guys (NFL players) in check (laughter). Boy, I tell you,” said one veteran officials during his workout session at the New York Giants Quest Diagnostics Training Center.


Our brains prefer invented visual information to the real thing

New Scientist, Daily News, Clare Wilson from

Seeing shouldn’t always be believing. We all have blind spots in our vision, but we don’t notice them because our brains fill the gaps with made-up information. Now subtle tests show that we trust this “fake vision” more than the real thing.

If the brain works like this in other ways, it suggests we should be less trusting of the evidence from our senses, says Christoph Teufel of Cardiff University, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Perception is not providing us with a [true] representation of the world,” he says. “It is contaminated by what we already know.”

The blind spot is caused by a patch at the back of each eye where there are no light-sensitive cells, just a gap where neurons exit the eye on their way to the brain.


Overcome Resistance to Change with Two Conversations

Harvard Business Review, Sally Blount and Shana Carroll from

Across industries and sectors, the track record for organizational change is bleak. Research finds that anywhere from 50%–75% of change efforts fail. And for those that do succeed, many don’t achieve the goals of the original vision. Why is change so hard?

Usually, figuring out the right answer is not the challenge, whether it’s a new strategy, more-efficient processes or systems, or a new structure that better meets the needs of a growing company. The biggest hurdle to effective organizational change is people. A core part of your job as a leader is to help others overcome the inherent, very human bias toward maintaining the status quo.

In our work of leading change in higher education and teaching students and executives about the change management process, we’ve gained a deep understanding of why resistance happens and what leaders can do to overcome it.


[1705.06368] Re3 : Real-Time Recurrent Regression Networks for Object Tracking

arXiv, Computer Science > Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition; Daniel Gordon, Ali Farhadi, Dieter Fox from

Robust object tracking requires knowledge and understanding of the object being tracked: its appearance, its motion, and how it changes over time. A tracker must be able to modify its underlying model and adapt to new observations. We present Re3, a real-time deep object tracker capable of incorporating long-term temporal information into its model. In line with other recent deep learning techniques, we do not train an online tracker. Instead, we use a recurrent neural network to represent the appearance and motion of the object. We train the network offline to learn how an object’s appearance and motion may change, letting it track with a single forward pass at test time. This lightweight model is capable of tracking objects at 150 FPS, while attaining competitive results on challenging benchmarks. We also show that our method handles temporary occlusion better than other comparable trackers using experiments that directly measure performance on sequences with occlusion.


Next generation ‘omics’ approaches in the fight against blood doping

Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal, Antonia Karanikolou, Guan Wang and Yannis Pitsiladis from

… Although the implementation of the ABP has been an encouraging step forward in the quest for clean/drug-free sport, this detection method remains imperfect. According to testimonies, with the specific aim to reduce the risk of being detected by the ABP, some athletes are now resorting to microdoses of blood doping to restrain abnormal fluctuations in the haematological parameters used as doping biomarkers, thereby reducing the sensitivity of the ABP detection method. In addition, it is evidenced that athletes use rHuEPO administration in combination with modest blood transfusions to deceive the ABP5,6. A recent study showed that the ABP did not reveal any suspicious doping activities while participants were on a microdose regimen of rHuEPO7. Additionally, transfusing smaller volumes of blood (less than three bags) reduced the sensitivity of ABP8. Consequently, there is an urgent need to include new biomarkers in the ABP to improve the detection of blood manipulations and increase the sensitivity to detect microdosing with rHuEPO. Recent studies are strongly encouraging a paradigm shift in anti-doping involving molecular markers, where a subset of genes are activated or deactivated in response to specific doping substance and/or method.


Golden nuggets: Dietary advice you can trust from Team GB

Sports Coach UK, Connected Coaches blog, Blake Richardson from

… new research suggests that 43% of coaches who give nutritional advice to their athletes feel underequipped to do so and would only rate their knowledge as average.

They are torn between not biting off more than they can chew, and hoping the bite-sized chunks they do cherry-pick from online articles, newspapers and magazines to feed to their athletes are reliable. Sadly, they can be reliably erroneous, with the result that they risk providing advice that is potentially more harmful than providing no opinion at all.


‘This Doesn’t Sound Legal’: Inside Nike’s Oregon Project

The New York Times, Matt Hart from

… The tension between Ritzenhein and Salazar over medical issues and methods of performance enhancement was not uncommon in the Oregon Project, the vaunted team financed by Nike and led by Salazar that includes some of the world’s most celebrated runners. Ritzenhein’s experience, along with incidents involving several other athletes, were laid out in vivid detail in a confidential report written by the United States Anti-Doping Agency that was obtained by The New York Times.

The report, some aspects of which have been reported by The Times of London, describes, over 269 pages, a culture of coercion, secrecy and possible medical malpractice in the Oregon Project, an effort to make American distance running relevant again on the international stage.


How does Mexico national team scout? Juan Carlos Osorio trusted assistant reveals all

ESPN FC, Tom Marshall from

… In recent months, there has been a mammoth scouting mission carried out by Juan Carlos Osorio’s coaching staff to get the selection just right. For those who know the slightest thing about the Mexico manager’s methods, it will come as no surprise that a rotation policy was used as the staff crisscrossed the country assessing talent.

The central organizer behind the scouting drive has been assistant Humberto Sierra.

The Colombian coach fervently drew up plans each week for the five key members of Osorio’s staff — Pompilio Paez, Sierra, Jorge Rios (conditioning coach), Nestor Mario Marin (goalkeeping coach) and Osorio himself — to fly around the country, watching as many players live as possible.


Game Theory – The changing landscape of footballing scouting

Back Page Football from

… “We have created different algorithms and data models and we are also using some standard data models like ‘expected goals’ or the ‘Shapley value’,” he says.

“With all this data, we have created our unique player rating system – the GSN Index, which makes it possible to rate and compare over 340,000 players worldwide based on objective data. And we are not only able to measure the performance on the field, we are also able to measure a player’s potential and his footballing skills.”

While, the concept of ‘Shapley value’ isn’t the one that GSN has come up with, it’s unique utilisation is a key aspect of how a player is judged. Dustin elaborates upon what exactly Shapley value refers to.


What’s the best way to identify talent? The statistics vs visuals debate

These Football Times from

… Wenger’s early approach and opinions on diet, match preparation and recovery laid the foundation for others to improve on similar approaches. A few examples of Wenger’s impact early-on are as simple as banning booze during stretches of the season. Other simplistic methods include Wenger wearing a stopwatch around his neck and bringing an end to the archaic and old-fashioned training methods that turned into lengthy crucible training sessions – instead opting to calculate the time each player stretched and took part in short, sharp and intense sessions.

These sessions, naturally, became catalogued as did a player’s’ participation and performance in them so the staff knew when to press a player or when to back off to optimise them for match day.

Away from the argument of metrics lies that of methodology. Perhaps no clubs have mastered this better than Sporting CP and Porto – both of whom have revolutionised the way they produce young players capable of being selected and inserted into the top sides in Europe because of their technical, physical and psychological abilities to excel in one-on-one situations.


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