Part 4 – How many athletes can you movement screen in one day in 2014

So now the KTP process was about to begin. I thought there was a hell of a lot of paperwork required regarding submitting the application. Unfortunately that was nothing in comparison to the amount of paperwork and form filling now we had received the grant.

The first thing that we had to do was recruit an associate that would be employed by Teesside University but would be based in our office and would be responsible for moving forward certain parts of the project. I really wanted to recruit a technology expert who could lead the technology innovation of the product. Unfortunately it became very apparent very quickly that these sort of people did not exist at an affordable rate in relation to the budget that we had available. We decided therefore that the best skill set we could recruit would be somebody with a good knowledge of movement development from a strength and conditioning perspective.

However, I knew what I wanted to create from an innovation perspective but that it was not going to be simple to achieve. The only way I felt we could was to use the knowledge of the project innovation lead, Professor Iain Spears, who we had managed to recruit as part of the Teesside team for this KTP.

Professor Iain Spears was the man but right from the outset after having first met him in his office (which was a shrine to motion tracking with 3D cameras hanging from every shelf and every corner) right at the outset of putting our KTP application together.  He was highly sought after at the uni and although he was part of the KTP team he would only be able to provide a small amount of time to this project. Iain was a professor of biomechanics with a tremendous passion and enthusiasm for motion tracking development with a brain and knowledge to match. Right from our initial meeting I knew that he could bring my technological ideas to life but how on earth was I going to get the time from him to make this happen. We were both Yorkshire men and similar in many ways but every time I spent some time in his office discussing innovation he had repeated people knocking on his office door asking for his time. The more I met him the more I thought he had all the knowledge and skills required but the more I worried that I just would not be able to get enough time from him to make this project successful. The KTP was a 30 month project and we had so much to achieve during this time. My worry at this point was it might take 90 months to get where we needed to be.

Part 3 – How many athletes can you movement screen in one day in 2014

4.32pm 9th March 2015 and I saw an email arrive from Jenny. At long last, I thought, an answer regarding our application! With the amount of hard work that I had put in over the last 3 months in preparing the application I thought there could only be one out come, success! As I read the email from Jenny a dark cloud descended over me. Our application had been turned down as the idea we were suggesting did not contain enough innovation. I could not believe what I was reading. I am a born optimist but never once had I contemplating this application failing. I was dumbfounded and wasn’t sure I wanted to speak to Jenny, however she was very keen to discuss the decision with me .

I phoned Jenny and while I was expecting a very desolate phone call she was still bright and optimistic, stating that the application had been successful in many ways but just had not quite got over the line for a few reasons regarding innovation.  She clearly understood my disappointment and frustration. She was also extremely disappointed at receiving the decision as she had put in a similar amount of time and effort over the last 3 months. She said the decision was no reflection of the fundamental strength of our application itself and it was still a great project, business case and opportunity and I should consider resubmitting the application. If she was prepared to push forward, I thought, then I should be also.

I decided I was not going to quit now, we could resubmit an application by the end of June 2015 and this time we were going to get it over the line and movement screening was definitely going to become affected by innovation. I though we had plenty of innovation in our original application but our new application would certainly not be rejected for a lack of it. I phoned Professor Iain Spears to discuss how we could really take this project to another level.

Athletic Movement Analysis Tool (AMAT) was going to happen and it would be full of technology and innovation. I was driving between Premier League clubs on Thursday 14th September when I received a call from Jenny. She just said ‘yes, yes yes!’. Our application had been approved. Innovate UK had accepted our application and confirmed that they thought our project of developing a technology based movement screening tool met their innovation requirements.

I had to pull over in my car to think to myself what a fantastic achievement for a small sports science based company with no knowledge of technology to receive a significant amount of innovation support and funding in order to develop a technology based product.

Part 2 – How many athletes can you movement screen in one day in 2014

I left school in 1988 before computers were even introduced into schools. In fact the year I left school I think the first computer arrived and filled a whole room! Despite this, somehow my frustrations with testing/movement screening and trying to create individualised training plans for a lot of players led me to contemplate technology as a means of improving this process. This was not something that I had either any knowledge of or experience in and I was still not sure why I thought technology was the “holy grail” but perhaps I thought it must be able to help with at least making testing objective and quick.

My issue was technology might be the answer but how the hell was I going to develop a technology product without any knowledge of technology or the money to invest in such a product. I wracked my brain for a few weeks without any success. The money required to develop a technology product was astronomical and I just couldn’t see a way forward.

During the 2nd week in October I was about to put this idea to bed as I just couldn’t see how I could make it happen. Then as if by magic I was having my regular weekly coffee at the Costa in Wetherby with Matt Portas and we were discussing our usual subject of improving movement screening with young athletes. Matt Portas, who at the time was a senior lecturer in sports science at Teesside University and was helping us to enhance/improve our movement screening battery of tests out of the blue, suggested a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Teesside University as they were a University that had a focus for technology and might be interested in discussing a project. I had never heard of a KTP so now had my homework in place for the next few weeks.

In November 2014 a bubbly Jenny Hudson (Business Development Manager at Teesside University) walked through the door and sat down to discuss my idea’s around a KTP. Instantly I was impressed by Jenny’s enthusiasm for my idea and totally surprised as I was very skeptical that a large university with a reputation for technology would want to discuss a project with a football coach born in 1969 who had very little knowledge of technology.

As we discussed my idea in more detail I genuinely started to get the feeling that Jenny was impressed with my idea and that she felt there would be an opportunity to apply for a KTP which would be funded through Innovate UK Ltd. I left the meeting with a large smile on my face thinking I must have come up with a good idea for a technology based University to be interested. During the meeting Jenny confirmed that if your application was successful then you would receive a serious amount of funding to bring your idea to life.

Little did I realise the journey that I was about to undertake regarding the KTP.

How many athletes can you movement screen in one day in 2014?

It was 8.30pm in the evening in 2014 and I had just finished carrying out the rotary stability test from the FMS movement screen with the 42nd young player that I had tested that day. I was working for Pro Football Support at Sheffield Wednesday FC in their indoor centre and I looked around at the number of academy players that we were both movement screening and fitness testing. My colleague James in the area next to me was carrying out the core stability tests with the u14 age group players that I had undertaken the FMS testing with earlier in the day as we started the testing session at 2pm. Sheffield Wednesday contracted us (Pro Football Support) to carry out their movement screening and fitness testing with all their academy players on a 6 weekly basis.

Further over in the corner of the facility was another of my colleagues doing the hip extension test on the physio bed with a group of u10 players. As a company (Pro Football Support) we had developed a very comprehensive movement screening protocol which included lots of tests and provided good detail but was so time consuming to carry out and far too subjective in its assessment. That evening which was the 4th day of testing that week at SWFC with their academy players from 2pm-9pm I drove home thinking my passion for helping young players improve their athletic potential was seriously starting to wain.

I knew the next day would not be easy either as I would be looking at the results of the movement screening testing and then trying to create individual training plans for each athlete from the results of their FMS screening process and other mobility, stability & flexibility tests that they had undertaken.

The rain was pouring down outside in a typical British day & I was writing the individualised training plan for the 12th player that we had tested yesterday. Each of the FMS scores were so similar for each player especially at a young age. Also visually as I had kept thinking during testing they all seemed to move in the same way. This 12th individualised training plan was practically the same as the previous 11 I had just written and surely this should not be the case.

I was struggling to concentrate on these training plans as the rain was lashing the windows and my thoughts continued to be that there must be a better way of screening athletes which was far less time consuming & a way to make it easier to create an individualised training programmes which would not be factored around an FMS score of 14 to 16. I had been using variations of this process for the past 14 years. I told myself things had to change