Ludum software designed to boost performance for rowers and coaches
How can you collect, collate and compare large pieces of data in one simple method?
It was a dilemma that faced Adrian Cassidy when chief coach of Rowing Ireland for four years.
He was managing spreadsheets from junior coaches and club coaches to monitor the development of athletes, and would then feedback how they were doing and what could be done differently.
Adrian was not alone; a coaching friend had a similar issue managing 100 youngsters and coaches.
But there was not enough time in a day for Adrian to come up with a solution: priming the cream of the Irish crop for the 2012 London Olympics was the main focus.
However, having stepped away from the role, he was able to try to find a solution that would help rowing coaches in the future – and the answer was Ludum.
“The business is Endurance Sports Research Ltd, and we’ve built three projects,” explains Cambridge-based Adrian.
“The current website, Ludum, an app called Float, which gets the data from the ergo, and there is a thing called the erg stick, which we built because the older monitors on the rowing machine don’t have Bluetooth.
“In order for the app to work to automate the collection of the data, we’ve got the stick you plug in to turn into a Bluetooth.”
Ludum is the main focus though.
It is a platform, mostly for rowing teams, that enables all the data to be collected from the athletes as automatically as possible.
It is then presented to coaches in a way that they can get some insight to change what they are doing in order to improve performance.
“There is more data in there than the coach can get at the moment, and we try to put it in a way that is succinct for the coach so that they can make meaningful decisions on it,” says Adrian.
“On top of that, there is a planning aspect. The coach can write the training programme, communicate the programme to the athletes, they can also put the crews in there.
“There are also some communication tools to send messages to the athletes or post videos they have taken of the session.
“It means that instead of having Facebook, Whatsapp, Google Docs, Google Sheets, it’s all in one place.
“It’s either manual data like times from the rowing machine or, if the athletes are wearing a heart rate or GPS device, it can import all that data in one place.”
The innovation had started as a hobby between Adrian and co-founder David Townsend to try to solve the problem at the University of London Boat, their old haunt, and help with data management and performance.
Out of their own pockets, they employed a developer in Serbia to do some coding for a website to help the club.
“We just got more people interested who said ‘I like the idea of that’, and then slowly we suddenly realised maybe there is a business in this which we hadn’t really thought at the beginning,” says Adrian.
“We had to rewrite the whole thing because it was just bootstrapped and we realised if it was going to work, we needed to have apps.
“We had to restructure the whole thing, that took about nine months to rewrite it all, and that’s where we are now. Now, we’re trying to run it as a proper business.”
The aim of Ludum is to provide rowing coaches with more insight, data and analytics to ask better questions of athletes – given there is greater education around training.
The pool of information will allow rowers and coaches to see in any given session how they did, how they trained, how much mileage was covered in how much time, creating more transparency.
“It’s getting insight to understand what the athlete is actually doing and making it visible to coaches in such a way that they can actually do something about it,” says Adrian.
Ludum has already had significant uptake from schools, clubs and universities across the world, including in the UK, US, Australia and around Europe.
It has also been used by the German and Australian Olympic teams.
“Being team-based is the unique aspect,” says Adrian. “There are other platforms that collect data, but it’s individual.
“We’re very much providing for a team so you can see the whole team at once.”
The primary focus is rowing at present – it’s the sport that Adrian and David are most familiar with – but it has scope to develop to more endurance sports such as triathlon, cycling and swimming.
But Adrian believes, first and foremost, it can play a pivotal role in changing coaching methods in rowing.
“We just feel that more and more devices and data is coming into rowing and it’s a sport that requires a huge amount of training,” he says.
“We have a culture in rowing of just doing more and pulling harder.
“I think we have almost got to the limit of that and we now need to, as a sport, be more intelligent about how we train and have better insight.”