Engineering Sport

You might think that the
combination of science and sport together is a relatively
new thing, but actually they’ve gone hand in hand ever
since humans first started playing games. To ensure fairness, they would
draw a line in the dirt. But to improve things and
ensure continuity year-on-year, they cut two
grooves in a marble sill. You would stand on the sill
and put your toes in the groove before you started, hence
the saying “toeing the line.” It’s one of the earliest
examples of sports technology, and something
you can still see today at Olympia in Greece. Fast forward through history
and we crash into the Industrial Revolution. And for the first time, the
average worker had a little bit of disposable income,
but there were huge numbers of them. And thanks to the new labour
laws they also had the Saturday afternoon off, so what
to do with that time? And the answer lies here in
Sheffield’s Kelham Island Industrial Museum, and on the
fantastic shelves over there. So 19th century Sheffield was
a huge manufacturer of cutlery, of hand tools,
and of cannon shells. So at lunchtime on a Saturday
afternoon, the whistle would go on the workers would clock
out using the clocking machines over there. They would then go down the pub
for a couple of hours, and then pass through those
turnstiles there into the football matches. And that’s why, traditionally,
football starts at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. The story is all there
on these shelves. I give them feedback
that helps them achieve their goals. And that’s the goals for that
session, the goals for that training cycle. And ultimately the goals that
will get them towards elite performance, and hopefully
an Olympic medal. So we’ve got the video of Ben. This is the high-speed video
linked to the force plate data, and we can play
the video through. Oh, wow, I love that. You can see the line projected
on screen. And if the line’s longer, he’s
pushing harder, and depending on what direction the line goes,
that’s the direction he’s pushing into the towers. So here, for example, you see
he’s pushing back quite hard. The drivers for this technology
have obviously been interaction with computers,
gesture recognition, the sort of thing that kind of normally
happens in a living room. With sports engineering, we
can model a whole sport. And we can use it to push the
physical boundaries of the discipline. Is it cheating?


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