In September I was invited to attend a meeting to discuss collaboration between academia and sporting associations at the ‘Oriam’, Scotland’s new ‘Sports Performance Centre’ which is currently under development at Riccarton. The Oriam is due to be the performance base for the Scottish FA and Scottish Rugby Union, as well as the SportScotland institute of sport (East), Basketball Scotland, Scottish Handball, Scottish Squash & Racketball and Scottish Volleyball. As a result, it will play host to large numbers of young athletes engaged in a wide range of different sports. This increased centralization raises the potential to have easier access to participants for researchers interested in a variety of different fields but, perhaps surprisingly, for research focused around children and technology.
Speaking at the event was Scottish FA Chief Executive, Stewart Regan, and British Curling Performance Director, Graeme Thompson. Despite representing different sports, they each presented visions future sporting performance development that drew many similarities. One of the biggest areas of focus centred upon talent identification and how we can work with children from an early age to help identify their strengths, weaknesses, and potential which may determine their suitability towards different sports and how they may optimally develop their skills.
However, it was not just an appeal to conventional fields of research traditionally involved in sport, and both Stewart and Graeme expressed a genuine interest to collaborate with individuals and groups whose work may be able to assist the sporting development using new and unconventional methods. The words ‘brain’ and ‘training’ were used during the presentation, drawing whooping and applause from myself, as was ‘technology’. Sporting associations want to work with researchers to answer this question, “How can we use technology to help support, challenge, and identify talent in ways currently not possible in order to give our national athletes the edge over the competition?”
Other national sporting associations around the globe have entered the race to try and answer and evolve the current answers to this question, but with the new Sports Performance Centre and an increased awareness of sporting associations regarding the importance of working with varied fields of research, Scotland could become an international front-runner.
The Oriam opens September 2016. Get your thinking caps on.
By Stuart Gray