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Aug 15, 2012

I Dream of... Data!

Final OC-2 results are up!

Thanks to everyone who has participated in the OC-2 time trials this season.  Some call it torture while others think it's fun... I hope that everyone has gained a little something by participating.

As a reminder, the coaches use the following criteria for boat selection:
- Practice Attendance - Quantity and Quality
- OC-2 Water Testing
- Land Drill/Core Workout Attendance - Quantity and Quality
- Coaches Discretion (technique, timing, team-oriented attitude)

FAQ: How are OC-2 water testing results used?

Not everyone participates in OC-2 testing for the purpose of boat placement, but those who do may wonder how the data is used.  If you're one of those people, read on.  Time trial data is only one of several factors that the coaches weigh in boat selection, and in fact, at every tournament there several instances of paddlers with slower OC-2 times being placed on a faster crew than others with faster times.  That said, an OC-2 time trial is one of the tools we use to determine a paddler's strength and fitness level.  So what do the coaches look for when they look at time trial data?  Each coach brings a different perspective, but here's an idea of the things I think about..

One of the beauties of having so many time trial opportunities is that the coaches have a lot of data to work with.  Being the enginerd I am, I love data!  At the beginning of the season when we only have a single data point on each paddler, it's a little harder to determine who is the "stronger" paddler (and remember, "stronger" does not necessarily mean "better") because you never know when someone has a good/bad day.  We can compare it to the previous season's data, understanding that a lot can change, and being the close knit team that we are, we usually know if a paddler has been staying active in the off-season, or if they've been "TV taper"-ing for six months.  All these things give us clues, and while it's not a perfect science, at least it's a starting point.  Note: This is one of the reasons why there is more fluctuation in the boat splits for the first few tournaments of the season.

As we gather data throughout the season, we can start looking for trends.  Based on all the hard work everyone puts in during the season, both at practice and outside of practice, it's not surprising that times tend to get faster as the season progresses.  Often times we can attribute large jumps in improvement to something we've noticed about a paddler (e.g. they've been consistently coming out to SDWW, or they've adjusted something in their technique that we've observed in practice or in the TT video).

But what about changing conditions and outliers?  The trends help us out here too.  Early in the season, if two paddlers are only a few seconds apart, we know that can be attributed to differing conditions.  If those two paddlers consistently have that same gap throughout the season, then we put more stock into the difference.  If a paddler consistently pulls around 2:05, and one day they pull a 2:25, we can guess that they just had a bad run that day.  But by the same token, a paddler who consistently pulls 2:25 that suddenly pulls 2:05 needs to show that whatever adjustment they made is here to stay.  So, even though only one column is labeled Pre-TI, we actually look at the whole season's accumulation of data.

This is only our second season using this tool, so we're definitely still learning how to best gather and use data.  The system isn't perfect, but we do the best we can with what we have, and hopefully we can improve it season to season.  Questions, comments or concerns?  As always, don't hesitate to come talk to us!