How has technology changed sport?Dom Taylor
Technology has had a huge influence on the modern world, across most industries – and sport is no different. Particularly over the past two decades there have been some cutting edge developments that have demonstrated just how much technology and sport go hand in hand, in terms of training, fan participation and handling issues that might arise during a game or match.
For athletes and sportswomen and men, technological advances and breakthroughs constantly provide the opportunity to be better, faster, stronger and more competitive. Clothing, equipment and footwear is now designed incorporating technology and with specific sports in mind, from the full bodysuits swimmers wear that can shave valuable seconds of a race time, to racquets that can help prevent tennis elbow. Training has been made much more effective by the ability to monitor and analyse progress and technique, whether through a full professional set up or something as simple as an app for an iPad. Recovery is also much speedier now, thanks to technological advances, and athletes can use developments such as hypoxic tents – which simulate high altitude training – to push their bodies to the peak of physical fitness, instant response and fast recovery.
For the fans, social media has introduced an entirely new dimension to sport, with athletes and sports people taking to Twitter and Facebook before and after games to drum up excitement, provide their opinions on a match or post behind the scenes images. London 2012 was a great example of how much more spectator participation this generated with 10 million tweets alone during the opening ceremony. Large screen technology – both at home and in stadiums and sports venues – helps fans to engage more with sports people and teams and the ability to record live matches means that none are ever missed. When it comes to the sports themselves, technology has been instrumental too in improving accuracy and fairness, from Hawkeye use in cricket, to goal line technology used in football and the ability to accurately umpire tennis challenges.
Of course, for some all this technology destroys some of the mystery of sport and allows it to be picked apart too much. Social media abuse of swimmer Tom Daley during the Olympics was a sad side effect of the fact that technology allows everyone to be a pundit, however malicious, and for some the accuracy of goal line technology and the like reduces the element of excitement and chance every good game should have. Some have speculated that technology in sport means that children fail to learn valuable life lessons and, arguably, watching sport on a big screen takes away some of the excitement of the live match.
However, no matter how much technology intrudes into sport, at its heart we think it will always remain the pure joy of that burst of physical activity, the spirit of competition and gamesmanship, and a great way to learn discipline and skill.
In order to help pass the joy of sport onto future generations Activate Sport runs exciting academies and camps for kids including everything from cricket to hockey. For more information on inspiring future sports stars please check the site.