I just received an email from the publisher of the journal Sports Engineering (Springer) telling me that it’s 20 years old. As the founding editor of the journal, this might explain why I feel so creaky and why I’ve suddenly felt the need to publish a book on the history, science and technology of sports engineering. It’s nice to see the journal going from strength to strength, the world of sport has certainly moved on since the autumn of 1998 when Volume 1, Issue 1 came out (if you’re lucky enough to have a copy, keep hold of it because not many were printed).
Two years earlier, in 1996, when I first approached the founding publisher Blackwell Science, the world was still very much paper-based and sport was still going through a bit of a technological revolution. Carbon fibre was the wonder material of the moment and manufacturing was moving to Asia due to lower labour costs. As sports equipment became cheaper to manufacture, research started to create designs that improved performance.
The journal satisfied the needs of many of the sports engineering research centres that popped up across the world: Sheffield, Loughborough, Tokyo, Munich, UC Davis and so on. The founding year of the journal coincided with the launch of a new internet search engine called Google, which presaged the direction that sports research was heading: data. This was confirmed on 1st June 2007 with the launch of Apple’s iPhone and the rise of the app. Wearables soon started to appear that linked to the apps on our phones: heart rate monitors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, pedometers, even altimeters.
This appears to be the crux of today’s sports engineering technology: collection of data during play with analytics to help you track your performance and make it better. This flexibility is crucial – some want to count calories, some want to measure distance, others want to record time. Generally we want to improve and this is the way we can prove it to ourselves.
So, what’s next? Sorry, you’ll have to read up about it…