Technology and Sport

Decisions made by judges (or the voting panel) in the Halberg Awards have created quite a controversy.  While the first objective of this post is not to comment on them but to talk about the use of technology in sport, no doubt I’ll get fired up to make some observations about how silly the awards make us look as a sporting nation.

We’ve seen the introduction of the third umpire in sports such as rugby and league but I note that soccer hasn’t embraced technology as yet.  Cricket is also a code troubled by how to make use of technology.  The problem for cricket of course is that calling the umpires capabilities into question by suggesting that they might not be right is not cricket so to speak.

Things like motor sport use technology for timing events and they use replays of video recordings to make judicial decisions.  Swimming has used technology to time events and uses underwater viewing facilities to observe strokes.  Lots of sports use technology in various ways to aid decision making and enhance fairer results.

But in some things technology cannot be used.  Some spports such as diving or skating can’t be judged by techology, the human factor assesses things like style and execution.  I think of the musical field where the judging of musical performances is a subjective thing.  The pitch and tone, the feeling, the interpreatation of a piece is all in the listener’s ear so technology as such can’t be the judge.

And so it is when it comes to sportsperson of the year.  Who is the best team or coach?  Are the criteria based on how much public interest and how many media columns are generated by a team?  Or should the criteria be the more objective results, the number medals, the number of wins, the number of competitions won?  And does it matter if a team is consistently well ranked; does that then make them ineligible in subsequent years?

A case in point must be Gordon Tietjens, coach of the very successful NZ Sevens Rugby Team.  After guiding them to their fourth consequtive Commonwealth gold medal in 2010 he was named NZ Rugby’s Coach of the Year.  When you look at his track record of bringing the best out of young rugby players and winning world series over many (is it nine?) years how can you go past him for coach of the year?  Yet surprisingly he’s never won that award.

What would happen if someone developed an app that took all the performances of teams and players and ranked them based on things like the event result as it ranks in world standings, quality of opposition, consistency of performance and so on.  Objective data rather than subjective feelings (hype?).  At present technology runs on objective data so it would cut out the emotive feel good that seems to have played a part in the Halberg Awards.  But then we are after all human and perhaps we need events like that one to remind us that we are fallible as humans, we are only as good as our knowledge and education and people skills and connectedness.

Bring on the Rugby World Cup.  If the All Blacks draw all their games their consolation will be in knowing that they stand a good chance of being named NZ Sports Team of the Year.

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  • tillilah  On March 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I totally agree about all the hype about the All Whites which I think lead to their Halberg win! I don’t think even they thought they deserved it. I’d love to know the criteria for that award, seems like many other sporting codes outperform our most famous ones, but never get recognized.

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