The Technological Revolution of Elite Half-Pipe Snowboarding Performance Assessment

burton-open-20081The Overall Concept  The primary goal of this multifaceted project has been to enhance both training and competition performance assessment protocols currently utilised within elite-level half-pipe snowboarding.  The project was launched with a objective, statistical analysis of performance variables (such as air time and degree of rotation) and their overall impact on elite-level competitive success in the sport of half-pipe snowboarding.  More on performance variables… Based on strong, positive relationships between air-time, degree of rotation and judged athletic performance in half-pipe competition, this project focussed its energy on the development of an automated feedback system based on inertial sensors (containing accelerometers and rate gyroscopes) that provided automatic, objective and relevant information to coaches, athletes and judging officials involved in the sport.  This system is proposed to allow the capacity to automatically and objectively monitor athletic performance and progression (for both training and competition) in the field – a novel concept not yet trialled within the sport of half-pipe snowboarding.  The feedback system can accurately, reliably and automatically calculate objective information on sport specific key performance variables such as air-time, the degree of rotation and trick identification associated with aerial acrobatic manoeuvres occurring throughout a half-pipe snowboard run.  More on micro-technology… 


australian-team-training-session-2007Proposed Coaching Benefits  From a coaching perspective this sort of information is novel and invaluable.  The authors have shown that average air-time and average degree of rotation play a large role in an athlete’s competition success but until now, coaches have had no way of quantifying it apart from utilising a purely subjective assessment.  This is especially true of air-time, a clear and objective measure of aerial amplitude.  Coaches and athletes can now utilise this system to track training progression objectively, to provide quantitative feedback throughout athlete preparation, and to set specific objective goals in the lead up to major competition.  The automated system also quantifies training load by providing numerical information on the duration of training sessions, the time spent actually riding a half-pipe within those training session, and the number or each type of aerial acrobatic manoeuvre attempted with their corresponding air-time and degree of rotation.  It has the potential to allow coaches the capacity to focus more on the more stylistic components of half-pipe snowboard performance whilst allowing technology to log objective information associated with the same runs.


IMG 117Proposed Judging Benefits  The concept also has implications from an elite-level judging perspective. Half-pipe snowboard competition is judged purely subjectively and from an elite-level competition and Olympic Games perspective is open to bias and manipulation.  Recent opinion has called for a system of judging to be introduced that is based upon more accurate, reliable and stringent measures, without stifling athletic freedom of expression.  It is proposed that the objective information provided by an automated, objective feedback system may prove beneficial in enhancing subjective judging protocols currently used in elite half-pipe snowboard competition. It is proposed  that an inertial sensor based feedback system could assist judges by providing accurate, electronic ‘memory boards’ (a record of an athlete’s run characteristics currently written by hand) by quantifying and displaying objective information on sport specific key performance variables such as air time and degree of rotation (information currently unavailable to elite-level judges). This will enable judges to focus solely on the execution and overall composition of aerial acrobatics incorporated into a competition run and could provide clear and concise information to justify competition results.  This concept also has applications in half-pipe skateboarding and aerial surfing competitions.   


decks-ca-usa-2006Integration and Potential Sociological Impact  Successful integration of a novel concept based on objective measures of performance totally foreign and therefore not yet utilised within snowboarding was always going to be tough.  In addition to the fact that snowboarding was founded on an underlying anarchistic and non-conformist ideology with no interest in objectifying performance, the integration of a technological system of performance assessment has the potential to generate unintended consequences and effect unwanted change to the facets of the sport that is valued by those who participate in it.  As such, the project was conducted with an action based research focus involving a progressive partnership ideology with the practice community.  This methodology aimed to allow snowboarders, skaters, and surfers a relevant forum to describe their perceptions on the impact of future automated judging concepts and possible technological change within their sporting discipline.  More on sociological impact…  The most interesting attempt of integrating a concept focussed on automated objectivity and its potential for enhanced performance assessment was the organisation of a concept competition conducted in collaboration with a number of influential members of the Australian snowboard community.  


IMG_0173AIS Micro-Tech Pipe Challenge  This competition was called the ‘AIS Micro-Tech Pipe Challenge’ (conducted on 30th July 2007) and was primarily designed to integrate micro-technology based feedback into the overall performance assessment methods associated with elite-level half-pipe snowboarding competition.  By conducting this event we were also able to evaluate whether the snowboard community would embrace a competition where results were in part determined by automated objectivity, explore the practical, logistical and technical challenges associated with conducting such an event and evaluate the relationship between subjective judging and results predicted from objective information to see if our prior research (assessing the effect objective key performance variables such as air time and degree of rotation have on competition scores) had ecological validity.  It is believed that any integration of innovative concepts imparts a large amount of control to key players within the sport and this multifaceted project has attempted to incorporate that belief throughout the various stages of completion in order to align any potential sociological impact alongside the snowboard community’s coveted future directions.  More on integration… 

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