Dr Scott Drawer is currently leading a new project with TeamSky and Sky to investigate the development of unique concept around the exploration of human potential through sport and other creative domains. Prior to this, he led a team of science and medicine staff across the player development pathway for England Rugby. His career started within the GB Olympic and Paralympic system – developing and leading the Research & Innovation programme across 5 summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
We spoke to him about his work at Team Sky, his career and the changing face of sports analytics and innovation.
Team Sky are widely credited with changing the face of cycling in 6 short years, what do you think the single biggest innovation has been?
There is not one single innovation that you can identify as contributing to the development and evolution of the team. It is a constant organic evolution of practice driven by the coaches and front line staff that enables performances to evolve. There is a huge emphasis on doing the ‘basics’ better than anybody else to ensure riders are available to train, can execute to the best of their ability when training and competing, and rest/recover to the best of their ability as a fundamental element of the process.
Team Sky also have a history of bringing in innovative sports scientists and innovators from other sports, what kind of impact do you think this has had?
Remaining open to other ‘expert novices' is a crucial part of the approach adopted by Sky. Engaging with others who are genuine experts in their field but new to the world of cycling means things are not taken for granted and the environment remains fresh.
How has the increased access to sports data helped you in your roles over the last decade?
The emergence of the term ‘big data’ has not really done the world of sport any good. Big data in sport is much more about connection of multiple data sources aligned to a timeline to INFORM decision making not to LEAD it. In some ways, the tail is often wagging the dog. Where it gets silly is where the technology drives the process. This will always lead to a lack of progress.
The sports programmes that do ‘data' well have a clear vision and strategy of how they want to train and compete based on years of expert insight supplemented by data. Everything they do is to align the data capture and measurement processes alongside this strategy, constantly tweaking and evolving as they learn on a team and individual level. Our challenge is ensuring this remains front and centre.
What do you think is going to be the next big performance innovation we see?
Personally, I’m fascinated by the emerging application of years of know-how from the neuroscience field. Concepts around learning environments and performance behaviours provide a personal fascination. The technology which may support this (we don’t know yet as work not been done) could come through Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality and Actual Reality.