Retirement is one of the biggest problems affecting professional female athletes. The salary gap that the female sections suffer does not allow the same proportion of women to finish their career with a secured or resolved future. Aware of this problem, the former WNBA player Alana Beard has presented at the 5th meeting of the Sports Tomorrow Congress at the Barça Innovation Hub, in an interview with Steve Gera, her Transition Play foundation, to help athletes find their future off the field.
Beard has said that throughout her life she had to face three major changes; on three occasions he had to reinvent herself. The first, after a serious tendon injury. The doctors told her that she had ninety per cent chances that she wouldn’t be able to play basketball again. She worked hard, with ten-hour rehabilitation sessions a day, until a coach in Israel told her that she was putting too much pressure on herself, that she had to be aware of what her best skills were and focus on them. At that time, she became aware of something important for his game but also for his mentality: “When you realize that you can’t be the player you want to be, you’ll change your life.”
Later, she had to learn to act in the media, which instead of worrying her, served to increase her self-confidence. She said, “I’m going to say more than yes.” The problem, as it has been explained, is that athletes are used to being useful on the field and they find it hard not to be useful outside. They panic at mistakes. However, mistake is the only way to learn and learn is essential to reinvent yourself. At this point, Gera has recalled that it is very difficult to get athletes out of this performance mentality, because they are often much focused on achieving objectives. It is hard for them to make mistakes because they always seek perfection, something they achieve by hugging routines.
Lastly, Beard learned how to function in the world of finance. She already had the baggage, learned after her injury, that the next steps she took were up to her. “Even if it doesn’t seem like you have control, you have it.” That’s why in Transition Play she helps athletes develop a resume with business practices, making it easier for them to connect and contact the foundation, so that they can learn to feel valuable outside the game.
“Sports players end up stagnating in women’s competitions.”
Video games or esports represent a new paradigm that is already established and has an extraordinary future and development. However, many problems of discrimination that traditional sports have been trying to correct over the years are manifesting themselves with intensity.
Servane Fischer, from the non-profit organization Women in Games, has reported that there is a great disproportion in the presence of men and women in the forward esports tournaments. She has pointed out several causes, the first would be educational. From a young age, children are educated differently, they are more motivated to “struggle and compete”. However, she has explained, to play video games, it is only the brain that matters; it is not like in traditional sports where physics prevails, and there should not be differences between men and women.
Just as if this were not enough, Fischer has complained that it is very widespread to insult women in online video games. There are “very toxic” situations, she has revealed, and men do not dare show support to women because they are then accused of “wanting to date them” by the same ones who insult them. These situations demotivate female players, when they do not end up leading women to leave their hobby.
According to Fischer, the event organizers thought that women would naturally join the sport until they reached more balanced quotas, but this has not happened much for the reasons mentioned. In addition, when the gaming homes were created to promote high-performance teams with permanent coexistence, women were excluded because of the “danger” it entailed for men to live with them. In addition, it is also a problem that stereotypes are perpetuated when girls’ teams are trying to sponsor makeup brands, although it is not strange that this happens in a world where it is known that overweight gamers have been asked to lose weight to “give a better image”.
The solution to all of this wouldn’t be creating tournaments for women, because they are less competitive in the current conditions and the objective is to strengthen them into mixed plays. If there are 2,000 men in a competition, of which 15 or 20 have reached professionals, the total number of women in that tournament can be around 50. Therefore, what its organization seeks is to incorporate more women into esports.
The German gamer Sayna has accompanied Fischer during her exhibition and has shown herself to agree with his words. When there are tournaments for women, she said, it is not strange that they remain “stuck” because the level of play is not as high as in the mixed plays, where there is little female presence.
To get started in the esports, she has recommended university settings, where it is more difficult to receive toxic insults for being a woman. That was the way she found to be able to play at ease and learn. However, she has confessed that it is not easy to combine studies and video games, because both require a lot of dedication. “It’s not good to stay until the early morning.” So that the facilities that allow a gamer to develop as a professional arrive, the important thing is that there are references that open the way to others and reach the most important competitions.
“The menstrual cycle may influence performance and injuries”
Eva Ferrer, physician at female FC Barcelona and its training categories, has explained the operation of the app that players use to monitor their cycle and that training can be personalized to minimize the risk of injury. The key is to control the peaks and troughs of the hormone system, the doctor has told us, because knowing the physiological level of each player allows them to address their training loads, the minutes of play they dispute and individualize their treatment. For example, in relation to the cycle and ligament injuries. The app is still under development, but it will be key to optimizing the performance of elite players.
On this same table on providing new technologies to sports clubs, Loreto Quintero, director of strategic projects at La Liga, has explained how AI is used to detect from fraud in the results of a game to selecting images to include in social networks. Peter Demopoulos, from Realtrack Systems, commented on how Wimu, the device used by FC Barcelona in all its categories and sections, works to monitor performance. This is a system with data obtained from 30 teams, only at FC Barcelona, and more than a thousand players.
“It is very important to share the inner life of women, their complete life”
The entrepreneur Helen Guillaume, founder and CEO of Wild AI, specialized in calculations to avoid financial risks, has presented a project to monitor the women’s cycle, since many changes in a woman’s life are related to it. Every day, in fact, several hormonal changes can occur and if you are menstruating, these are constant. “It is very important to understand the internal life of women, their complete life,” she said. While marketing sells that women are “frail and weak, with mood swings,” what is hidden is lack of knowledge and lack of understanding of their bodies. The technology that she sponsors is used to monitor the cycle, measure training loads and also modify the diet as appropriate. Together with her, Anna Gudmundson, CEO of BioSelf Technology, has presented a device to address stress crises. Sensate serves to obtain the benefits of meditation in less time. “It helps the body to help itself,” she said, “since stress can be good in certain situations, but never constantly, as it damages the immune system and the prefrontal cortex, where empathy is felt and decisions are made”.
“The technologies of the future will be based on the personalization of the data”
ESADE professor, Invanka Visnjic, has moderated a panel on new technologies and sports with Elisabet del Valle, co-founder of Onalabs, Maurici A. López-Felip, CEO of Kognia, and Iván Contreras, co-founder of HUMANoX. The participants have explained the importance of real-time data monitoring, whether positional data, or data related to impacts on the ball or other players or biomarkers. The official competitions still must solve the problem of determining who the rights to that data belong to, but they could soon be incorporated into the broadcasts and sports news. However, the viability of technological advances for elite sports is always determined by the expansion of the end user base. The new generations of athletes will be more empowered with these technologies, but advances have to create products that can pass from athletes to citizens and at that point their greatest development will occur thanks to the customization of the data. The move from big data to small data.
“There are game plays that can only be seen by a basketball genius; a normal person needs data analysis”
The NBA’s analytics and statistics team are at the forefront of new sports technologies worldwide. Sydney Sarachek has explained that the development of these tools has two aspects: one, which serves to make better broadcasts and to inform more precisely and deeply about the game; another, which has served to revolutionize it. As he explained, “there are very complicated game pitches that can only be seen in the eye by a basketball genius, a normal person needs data analysis.” For this, the NBA records 10 billion data per season, one and a half million per match. Its treatment with AI serves to generate algorithms that reflect aspects of the game that are otherwise very complicated to perceive. Thus, defenders, for example, can quantify the pressure to which they are submitted by an attacker or how much distance each player needs to throw, which is what serves to mark them according to their characteristics. On the amateur side, the great advantage is occurring in the customization of the information that is consumed. The big objective is that you can configure the highlights so that the user can see what he/she wants of each match or of every match, because if something moves NBA’s provision of information is being aware that the fans are different and have different interests.
“The greatest challenge of sports startups is to obtain funding from the female world”
Jaymee Messler, creator of The Players’ Tribune, explained what the creation of this pioneering platform entailed in the world of sports and social media. In 2014, when social networks were still in the first phase of development, he created this communication system between athletes and athletes with fans which managed to break moulds. The athletes not only shared information with each other, they also eliminated intermediaries to transmit their messages, the traditional press, with which they were not satisfied. In addition, they could put the accent on topics that they considered really important but the media ignored. They took control of their narrative. Thanks to this initiative, many began to talk about problems that were taboo until then, such as mental health. In addition, the platform was able to attract sponsors who signed contracts with athletes who stood out in The Player’s Tribune or with all those who were registered. Continuing with an innovative aim, Messler has now taken advantage of successive legalizations of betting in states where it had been prohibited to, through the Gaming Society, educate in gambling and promote that it be done responsibly.
“The better the data control, the better the performance you’re going to have”
Alex Abrines, a basketball player at FC Barcelona, is currently injured, explained all the technology surrounding an athlete for his/her recovery when he/she is in this situation. His problem is with the cartilage that has worn out over the years. At home you have a machine that helps you move your knee effortlessly and others that apply micro frequencies. They serve not only to shorten time frames in a recovery, but also to minimize the risk of relapse when you return to the pitch.
Regarding training and match technology, Abrines has highlighted the role played by data in performance. They are used to appreciate subtle details such as which leg is most loaded when it jumps, which helps to avoid overloads, or to correct aspects of the game that are not seen at first glance. In addition, off the pitch, controlling sleep, rest and nutrition also serves to improve performance. If you drop in the score percentage, you can use the data to look for the causes, “for these small differences you can win a match,” he concluded.
Within the framework of the Sports Tomorrow Congress, Dr. Eva Ferrer, physician of the first female team of the FC Barcelona, and Dr. Gil Rodas, physician in charge of Barça Innovation Hub, they have presented a unique event dedicated to the advancement of the knowledge of female sports.
Albert Mundet, director of the Barça Innovation Hub, presented the V edition of the Sports Tomorrow Congress, reminding that it is essential to promote the culture of collaboration in the sporting field. These conferences are used to learn about the trends that will transform the world of sports. And this year the central theme of all of them will revolve around the greatest revolution that contemporary sports has known: the incorporation of women into professional categories that were practically reserved for men.
Sports performance is largely determined by the ability of medical and technical staff to reduce the risk of injury to players and, when they occur, to manage them in the best way possible. Are there differences between men and women when creating a rehabilitation programme?
Retirement is one of the biggest problems affecting professional female athletes. The salary gap that the female sections suffer does not allow the same proportion of women to finish their career with a secured or resolved future.
The profile of women’s football is currently rising rapidly, which is helping to boost women’s sport in general. According to Dr Ian Rollo (Gatorade Sports Science Institute), this phenomenon is a resurgence, as in the first decade of the 20th century, women’s football matches attracting more than 55,000 spectators were played in England.
On a break while preparing their Champions League match against Hoffenheim, the coach of the female FC Barcelona, Jonathan Giráldez, and the players Alexia Putellas and Marta Torrejón have connected with the 5th edition of the Sports Tomorrow Congress of the Barça Innovation Hub on the day dedicated to methodology to explain how they face the most difficult challenge that may exist in the sports competitions: to continue winning after the season.
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