Interview with Jose Fernández | Sport Science Analyst | Houston Astros MLB
First of all, thank you for giving me the chance to do this interview and congrats on the great work you are doing with thermography and Thermohuman in Sport Sciences.
As per my background and experience, I have a degree in Sport Science and Physical Education and a Diploma in Strength and Conditioning from the University of Madrid. Professionally, I just recently joined the Houston Astros Baseball Club from the Major League Baseball as a sport scientist and analyst. Before that, I used to work as a consultant in the field of athlete monitoring and implementation of technology and information strategies with mostly football teams in the UK, and later expanded with some other organizations and athletes in the US. Finally, last year I was in China working with a professional basketball team in the Chinese Basketball League (CBA).
I am particularly interested in researching ways to leverage current performance environments in team sports and the integration of sport science processes with other aspects of training and competition.
When did you start being interested in technology?
Ever since I started coaching young basketball teams. I remember using spreadsheets to organize different aspects of training and being able to provide technical and tactical coaches with some gross information on training loads and demands for every drill they would use on the court as well as the overall training session, so that we could better come up with a training strategy for each week.
Strength and Conditioning wise, the first technology I used was a couple of jump mats I built myself using Chronojump and implementing them to get some sort of power and speed metrics over the season.
I don’t really know how I progressed from there to some of the things that I have done more recently but it is probably a natural process as a result of reviewing current data, come up with some questions and trying to find answers. Ultimately, there are always other coaches driving the field of innovation and technology an I also learn them.
What tools do you think are currently making a difference?
In my opinion, nothing really. It is more about the environment where each tool is implemented and the human group behind it. This is a key factor on the impact and magnitude that technology and information have on players and coaches’ behaviors and ultimately performance.
A lot of information would simply not be available without technology and we can’t neglect that but it comes down to determining what information we need or want to have available and when. From there, evaluate what are the options to collect that data and finally pick the one that fits your environment better within your possibilities.
How we go about interpreting and analyzing that information and communicate it to players and coaches and link it to specific interventions is key. It’s easy to write about this but the difference between teams getting more from the same tools is ultimately behind the process itself, not the tool.
How do you think thermography can help a professional team on a daily basis?
At different levels probably. Thinking load management for example, it can be useful to determine how certain structures are being requested during training/games and the posterior recovery rates. Eventually, as data starts to accumulate coaches can use it to adjust or determine interventions. Again, everything is limited in isolation but within an integrated strategy it can provide another level of information that help us build a more detailed picture of each athlete.
Modelling training and load is very popular but we can still do more on modelling soft tissue function over time and thermography can help in this area. At the end of the day injuries happen at this level.
On the other hand, the platform developed by Thermohuman is a huge step forward and makes it a lot easier for coaches to implement thermography in real professional environments, not just for analysis but also facilitating image manipulation, automating regions of interest and data aggregation, within time frames that are actually realistic in professional team environments.
How do you see things going in the future with technologies?
Anything from wearables to smart video capture and more are available now to anybody and it will only get bigger. That is exciting but it comes down to how organizations are able to use that to get an advantage and for me the important aspects here are:
- Being able to find the right staff to provide direction, before anything else.
- Being patient and consistent as it is ultimately about impacting the culture, not using technology.
- Invest in powerful analytics departments in order to advance the field of analysis and interpretation to create a competitive advance.