Author Archives: Caroline Heaney

On the Ropes: Depression in Boxing

By Inspire team – Corey Johnson, Joseph Bolton, Darcy Skelton and Gavin Macdonald (E119 18J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the four best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


Boxing. The ‘Sweet Science’ of sport. It is often regarded as a macho man’s profession in which there is no place for the weak. However, having said that, in the modern day it is now becoming more prominent that boxers are suffering from inner, more personal fights of their own – Depression.

Sharkey and Gaskill (2013, p. 35) state that depression can be characterised as a collective of having low self esteem, as well as a sense of hopelessness and never ending despair. One man as of late within boxing who has suffered from such an ordeal is former WBA (Super), WBF, IBF and IBO World Heavyweight Champion, ‘The Gypsy King’, Tyson Fury.

Recently, within the past year, Tyson Fury has been incredibly open about his ordeal with depression in the hope to educate others. He was the man who had it all – fame, money and a healthy family – but he also had his demons. When appearing on the Joe Rogan Podcast (How Tyson Fury Bounced Back From Depression & Addiction, JRE MMA Show #47 with Tyson Fury, 2018), Tyson recollected a story in which he was driving towards a bridge at 190mph in a convertible Ferrari which he had only recently just bought (Blair, 2018).

He stated, “I didn’t care about nothing, I just wanted to die so bad. I gave up on life but as I was heading to the bridge I heard a voice saying, ‘No, don’t do this Tyson, think about your kids, your family, your sons and daughter growing up without a dad.”

It was at that moment Tyson decided that he needed to change not just for himself but for his family. The voice that had been putting him down throughout the years had suddenly switched and become the voice for change, to get his life back on track. In the years that followed he overcame many obstacles including battles against substance abuse, weight problems and against boxing authorities to obtain a boxing license.

His appearance on the podcast was to promote his major comeback fight against American Heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder but it became something much more. Following the appearance he became the people’s champion and an advocate for mental health. Fury’s status grew furthermore after the fight against Wilder when he credited his renewed faith amongst other factors for his successful battle against his ill mental health.

Tyson Fury is a big name in the sports world who was affected by ill mental health. One boxer who was willing to talk to us about mental health in boxing was Team GB’s Lewis Richardson. In an interview with him he stated that;

“Mental health is neglected in boxing due to the image of the sport. Everyone see’s boxing being a macho sport and you have to be physical strong and fit however it is mentally tough”

Here, it is quite evident that due to the perception that modern day society has of boxing, issue such as depression and ill mental health are often overlooked. A lot of people don’t truly understand what elite athletes like Lewis has to go through.

He went on to say, “Mental health issues can come into play particularly with big and pressure fights, as you go to bed thinking about your opponent and that fight is always on your mind until the fight is over.”

From this you can see that fighters at any level can often put themselves into a negative cycle and frame of mind due to the obsession of the opposing boxer. The one thing on their minds is the fight, how can they combat their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses to better their own chances of a victory.

He later added, “Pressure of making weight, pressure of winning, pressure of performing at training and afraid of losing are all factors that could affect mental health in boxers as it is business and the pressure on them is extortionate.”

One key issue that could influence a negative episode could be the hype of positivity which ends up in negativity due to losing a fight or due to an injury in training. All these factors actually coincide with what Tyson Fury had to say himself. It is interesting to say that both boxers, who are going down two very different paths, both share similar beliefs in regards to such important matters.

Various studies show that depression effects one in every four people within the UK. Also, suicide as a result of depression is the biggest killer in males under the age of 45. The male to female ratio of death by suicide is 3:1, which is an alarming observation which needs to be addressed (Gigney, 2017). This is often the case due to the stigma surrounding men suffering from ill mental health and the lack of acceptance of the issue by the man himself.

In regards to sport, this issue is often escalated. This belief is supported by Sports Psychologist Dr Caroline Silby (Gigney, 2017) who, in an interview with Boxing World, states that;

“Elite athletes have a difficult time accepting emotional struggles and seeking assistance. However, once they do seek assistance they often apply their sports work ethic to their emotional recovery, making progress more likely.”

This statement is backed up by Tyson Fury himself who decided the best to overcome his struggles was to box along is long journey of recovery. He openly admits that he still has his off-days in which he has some negatives thought but that is a fairly normal for somebody going through these issues.

Depression can take effect on anybody, no matter how big or small a person is. Boxing proves this, these elite athletes who are stereotyped to be ‘macho men’ can be brought down to rock bottom as a result of depression. However, one thing to remember is that if you, the reader, are going through a battle like this then you too can overcome it with the correct support.

Links for information on Mental Health support

NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/

Time to change – https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-and-stigma/help-and-support

Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/our-policy-work/sport-physical-activity-and-mental-health/

Reference list

Blair, A. (2018) Tyson Fury opens up on depression, boxing career and Deontay Wilder fight [Online]. Available at https://www.news.com.au/sport/boxing/tyson-fury-opens-up-on-depression-boxing-career-and-deontay-wilder-fight/news-story/54479d963a55b8da9c5ede2f86660f42 (Accessed on 29/01/2019).

 Gigney, G. (2017) LONG READ Boxing needs to address its mental health problem [Online]. Available at http://www.boxingnewsonline.net/long-read-boxing-needs-to-address-its-mental-health-problem/ (Accessed on 29/01/2019).

Joe Rogan – How Tyson Fury Bounced Back From Depression & Addiction (25/10/2018) YouTube video, added by JRE Clips [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrM6WqYEj9Y (Accessed on 29/01/2019).

JRE MMA Show #47 with Tyson Fury (25/10/2018) YouTube video, added by PowerfulJRE [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNZtibrPo0g (Accessed on 29/01/2019).

Sharkey, B. and Gaskill, S. (2013) Fitness and Health (7th edn). Leeds, Human Kinetics.

The Dark-side of the Paralympics

By The Spartans – Jonathon Ingham, George Robinson, Harry Katsanikakis and Eve Williams (E119 18J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the four best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


Every four years the Paralympic games are hosted as a parallel to the Olympics. This paramount international multi-sport event has become the largest single sporting movement globally, full of numerous inspirational, admirable athletes, leading to an emotional para-sport. As the Paralympian’s have a vast range of disabilities, from impaired muscle power such as muscular dystrophy, to limb deficiencies caused by amputations, the need for characterisations is crucial. However, these classifications are of high-priority, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) (2014) illustrates the worry of predictable competition, in which the most able athlete always wins. Hence, the division of para-athletes into ‘sport classes’, established upon their impairment, preventing such concerns.

What is the classification system?

Any Paralympian has a competitive disadvantage when it comes to sport. Hence the classification system. The system allows for the division of para-athletes into their correlative sporting groups, identifying the severity of their impairments. The intention of the classification system is to decrease the impact of individual physical impairments on the overall sports performance, identifying the athletes according to their limitations in a certain sport. The athlete’s fitness, skill, power, ability, focus and tactical ability are now relatively proportional to their competitors, ensuring for equal chance at success, with fair qualifying. Athlete’s performance is dependent on the sport, each sport requires performance of different activities. Consequently, the impact on impairments differs, for classification to minimise the effect on sporting performance classification must be specific (IPC, 2014).

However, the Paralympics permits the observer ignorance, watching from behind a tv or, if lucky enough, the stadium, yet it’s not so innocent. The precise classification process allows exploitation, the IPC warned the BBC (2017) of intentional misrepresentation – athletes bluffing, pretending to have a graver disability with the hope to compete in favourable classes. Paralympian’s described the process of more able-bodied athletes being put into the same categories as severely disabled athletes, with the intention to win by cheating. In the words of hand cyclist Liz McTernan (2017) “we’re not all inspiring, we’re not all ethical”, faking disability is no different to doping.

Blood tests confirm the miss use of drugs, unfortunately, the ability to prove such impairment cheats is not so simple, with no definite way to verify allegations. Despite this, Van de Vliet (2017), the IPCs medical and scientific director, as well as head of classifications, has reassured specific athletes are monitored, with the view to identify consistent manifestation during performances, on-going investigations, with some cases being processed by external legal counsels.

What are the Dirty Tactics?

Further investigations, such as that by the BBC (2017) uncovered the ‘dirty tactics’, manipulating the classification system. Allegedly, schemes were employed by both athletes and coaches.

  • The taping of arms. Swimmers spend days with arms strapped, the tape being removed just before classification, full extension of the limb is now unachievable.
  • Taking cold showers. A swimmer with Cerebral Palsy is submerged into a cold environment, further worsening their already weak muscle tone, or
  • The shortening and removal of limbs. Operations being held with the bid to physically distort athletes, when questioned some athletes described “advance in career”.
  • Athletes using wheelchairs solely for classification, no other time is such equipment used.
  • “Boosting”. Explained by Carpenter (2012) as intentionally increasing blood pressure stimulating the body’s energy and endurance, consequently allowing Paralympian’s to enhance their levels of performance artificially.
  • Classifiers are coaches. Specific to an athlete’s sport, coaches fake the severity of their Paralympian’s disability.

These modern tricks are now described as the para-equivalent to doping. The classification process being criticised due to sport class expansion, allowing less impaired athletes to compete against extreme cases. The classification controversy is with hope to increase medal chances, and sponsorship. Accusations of intimidation and bullying are also present, many athletes are afraid to speak out, fearful they will not be selected for the sport they love (Grey-Thompson, 2017). Cheating in the Paralympics is proof athletes are prepared to go to extreme lengths to stand on the podium.

What does this mean for future Paralympian’s?

Ultimately, the Paralympics is a means of enjoyment, internationally inspiring various social groups proving the impossible is possible. If only this viewpoint was enough to end cheating, unfortunately not.

Ongoing investigations into the Paralympian classification systems, as well as several inquiries into sporting governance are all with the intention to prevent deception. Eriksson, head coach at the Paralympics GB Team 2012, states classifiers are ‘doing the best they can’ (2017). Although, elaborates on the belief the process pinpointing the lies requires an independent organisation, comparable to the World Anti-Doping Agency, using drugs in sport and the means of prevention as guidance.

Strong evidence is a must, confirming cheats is a sensitive issue, for this reason there’s a demand for a powerful case. Paralympic cheating needs to be tackled, tougher punishment, strong repercussions, the same penalties for doping infractions. The hope independent organisations attack the frauds, depleting dishonesty and lies, allowing for less questionable classification to occur.

References

Carpenter, K – Law in Sport (2012). [Online] Available at: https://www.lawinsport.com/blog/kevin-carpenter/item/the-dark-side-of-the-paralympics-cheating-through-boosting

Peter Eriksson – I’m handing back my medal’, a Paralympic study (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/41851149

Grey-Thompson, T – I’m handing back my medal’, a Paralympic study (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/41851149

Grant, P – I’m handing back my medal’, a Paralympic study (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/41253174

The International Paralympic Committee, Official website of the Paralympic Movement (2014). [Online] Available at: https://www.paralympic.org/classification

The Week – Paralympics: ‘Faking disability is no different to doping’ (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.theweek.co.uk/paralympics/88468/paralympics-faking-disability-is-no-different-to-doping

Van de Vliet, P. – ‘I’m handing back my medal’, a Paralympic study (2017). [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/41253174

Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs – How the Desire of Creating the ‘Perfect’ Body Can Cost Your Health

By OUbloggers – Emmanouil Mandalakis, Selysia Lewis, Gabriele Leo and Sam Herd (E119 Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the four best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


The development of new technology, such as the internet, in which everyone can upload their body transformation videos, can create feelings of admiration as well as a sense of jealousy. This is particularly common in young men who have a strong desire of building a big lean body like those shown on social media.

Often, the first question that comes to mind of young men on their smartphones is whether or not they can achieve a physique like someone’s on social media, and how quickly a body like this can be achieved.

Interestingly, it is becoming increasingly common when as health and fitness practitioners you must convince young trainees that an aesthetical physique requires patience and long-term consistency; building towards health and beauty should be a gradual process. Laidler (2017), an experienced personal trainer, comprehensively explains in The Telegraph newspaper that factors such as patience, commitment, a healthy diet and specific training programmes, as well as sufficient rest and sleep, will all contribute to the handsome body one desires.

However, in a world in which everything is being created at a rapid pace and everyone is rushing to exhibit their achievements, a quick body transformation is demanded to make one feel proficient and competent, as well as to show it off in their social environment! Someone who begins a hypertrophy programme to build the physique they dream of, or more specifically the ‘perfect’ body they have seen on social media, will soon find out the harsh reality; that is, the body does not change as rapidly as many people advertise. Besides, if it was so simple for us all to get big and lean, then there would be a significantly greater number of young men with the body they desire. On the contrary, if you take a walk around the majority of gyms, you will soon discover that a massive and ‘shredded’ body it is no easy feat. Most individuals cannot naturally reach extremely high muscle mass levels along with very low body fat, with the exception of some individuals who are favored by their genetics, and even this is only up to a certain threshold (Morgan, 2015).

Nevertheless, on the subject of improving self-image in gyms, the argument seems to almost always be the same: ‘how are those two guys in the gym I have been training bigger and leaner than the others? I want to be like them’. If you are constantly asking for an answer, another coach will appear from nowhere and offer you the opportunity to achieve the body you have dreamt of. They will claim they can transform you into a bigger and leaner version of yourself (Krahn, 2009).

With the hope for positive and immediate results but a false sense of body image (Jones, 2016), you suddenly find yourself becoming victim to the IPEDs (Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs) world. (Mandalakis, 2019)

‘Up to a million Britons use steroids for looks not sport’ (The Guardian, 2018). Public health experts have stated that in order to change the way they look, up to 1 million people in the UK are taking anabolic steroids and other IPEDs. Ranging from teenagers seeking the perfect physic and elderly men hoping to hold onto their youthfulness. Anabolic steroids are the biggest group of IPEDs. They are a group of hormones which occur naturally in the body and are responsible for growth, physical development and functioning of reproductive organs. Some athletes abuse anabolic steroids to help them perform better as steroids build muscle and improve athletic performance.

In a Public Health Institute study, more than half of the respondents said that the development of body image was their motivation for using IPEDs. Those who took part ranged from 17-74 years of age, resulting in the average person likely to take IPEDs to be a white male in their 30s (The Guardian, 2018).

Image and performance enhancing drugs can cause numerous health issues; including both physical and mental side effects. For example, IPEDs can cause cardiovascular diseases and permanent disruption of normal sexual function as a result of long-term use (Pope et al., 2014). Some IPEDs are taken by injecting which can cause soft tissue injury and localised infections. Furthermore, sharing injecting equipment can spread HIV, hepatitis C and other infections. In a 2013 study, 8.9% of IPED users stated that they had shared injecting equipment. As a result, it was discovered that 1.5% of IPED injectors across England and Wales were HIV positive, and a further 8% infected by hepatitis B and 5% by hepatitis C (Hope et al., 2013).

Additionally, the main risks of steroids include stunted growth in young people and hypertension; steroids encourage the retention of water in the body and thus raise blood pressure. DrugWise (2017) also states that steroids can cause irreversible changes in the female body including the risk of developing ‘male’ features such as decreased breast size, facial and body hair, and deepening of the voice.

The IPEDs world is a dangerous one… Your health should always come first.

References:
BBC (2017) Main Motivation for Steroid Use ‘to enhance image’ [Online\. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-41984527 (Accessed 22 January 2019).

DrugWise (2017) Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIEDs) [Online]. Available at https://www.drugwise.org.uk/performance-and-image-enhancing-drugs-pieds/ (Accessed 22 January 2019).

The Guardian (2018) Up to a Million Britons Use Steroids For Looks Not Sport [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/21/up-to-a-million-britons-use-steroids-for-looks-not-sport (Accessed 22 January 2019).

Hope, V. D., McVeigh, J., Marongiu, A., Evans-Brown, M., Smith, J., Kimergård, A., Croxford, S., Beynon, C. M., Parry, J. V., Bellis, M. A. and Ncube, F. (2013) ‘Prevalence of, and risk factors for, HIV, hepatitis B and C infections among men who inject image and performance enhancing drugs: a cross-sectional study’, BMJ Open, vol. 3, no. 9 [Online]. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3773656/ (Accessed 22 January 2019).

Jones, H. (2016) Steroid Use in the UK: What You Need to Know, ITV [Online]. Available at https://www.itv.com/goodmorningbritain/news/spencer-matthews-investigates-britains-steroid-epidemic-for-gmb (Accessed 16 January 2019).

Krahn, B. (2009) The Drug Coach [Online]. Available at https://www.t-nation.com/pharma/drug-coach (Accessed 23 January 2019).

Laidler, S. (2017) How to Build Muscle: A Complete Guide to Making a Bigger, Stronger You [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/build-muscle-complete-guide-making-bigger-stronger/ (Accessed 16 January 2019).

Morgan, A. (2015) Maximum Genetic Muscular Potential – The Models and their Limitations [Online]. Available at https://rippedbody.com/maximum-muscular-potential/ (Accessed 16 January 2019).

Pope, H.G. Jr., Wood R.I., Rogol, A., Nyberg, F., Bowers, L. and Bhasin, S. (2014) ‘Adverse health consequences of performance enhancing drugs: An Endocrine Society Scientific statement’, Endocrine Reviews, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 341-375 [Online]. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24423981 (Accessed 22 January 2019).

Join Our Team: Lecturer in Sport, Exercise and Coaching

Salary: £40,792 – £48,677
Location: Milton Keynes
Reference: 15260
Closing date: 27 November 2018 (5pm)

 

We are seeking an enthusiastic Lecturer to join our vibrant team of nine academic staff involved in writing online/print materials, overseeing online teaching and engaging in research that connects with our growing BSc (Hons) in Sport, Fitness and Coaching (around 2,700 students). You will be able to teach a range of sport and exercise related topics and work collaboratively with colleagues to develop high impact text, video and audio resources for students and wider public engagement.

You will join a team which has created an innovative Sport, Exercise and Coaching curriculum. We would welcome applications from specialists in a particular field of sport and exercise, but you will be expected to write some teaching materials outside your subject area. You will contribute to our existing curriculum and potential new curriculum (e.g. new modules and qualifications).

You must have a higher degree in Sport and Exercise Science or a related field, some published research, and a detailed knowledge of teaching this in sport, exercise or coaching. You will have an understanding of distance learning; an ability to write clearly for a diverse student audience and have proven experience of teaching in higher education.

Job Related information (including person specification)

Information about Sport and Fitness qualifications at The Open University

Information about the Sport and Fitness team at The Open University

Click here for more information and to apply

 

Student Induction 2018/19: Student Hub Live

On 25th September 2018 the School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport held an online induction event for Open University students in Student Hub Live. If you missed any of the sessions you can catch up with them below.

The School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport

In this opening video associate heads of school Eric Addae-Kyeremeh, Liz McCrystal and Tyrrell Golding welcome you to the induction event.

Beyond Trivial: What Does Studying Sport Reveal?

In this session OU sport and fitness academics Ben Oakley, Jessica Pinchbeck and Alex Twitchen explore why sport and fitness is worth studying.

Study like a World Class Athlete

In this session OU sport and fitness academics Ben Langdown, Simon Penn and Simon Rea look at how you can  apply the strategies of top athletes to your studies.

Other Sessions

In addition to the sessions above led by members of the OU sport and fitness team there were several other sessions run by colleagues which are relevant to sport and fitness students. These can be viewed below.

Using the OU Library

Tutors and Tutorials

The Student Support Team

Critical Thinking

Debate – The purpose of higher education is to provide knowledge

 

To view some of the other Student Hub Live sessions led by the Open University Sport and Fitness Team click on the link below:

Sport and Fitness Student Hub Live Sessions

 

 

 

Review of the Competing in the Dark: Mental Health in Sport Conference, March 2018

On 21st March 2018 we held our third annual sport and fitness conference, which explored the important topic of mental health in sport. By chance the conference coincided with the announcement that the government would be putting in place a mental health action plan for elite athletes. This timely event fuelled the enthusiasm for the topic before the day had even begun. We were joined by top class presenters and delegates from a wide range of backgrounds which led to some rich discussions on mental health.

MORNING SESSION

The morning session saw three diverse presentations from three of our keynote speakers. These presentations allowed us to examine mental health from the perspective of the athlete, researcher and professional body.

Keynote 1: Helen Richardson-Walsh, MBE
Reflections on a career in elite sport

The day kicked off with and inspiring and often emotional presentation from 2016 Olympic Gold Medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh.

Keynote 2: Jessie Barr, University of Limerick
Mental health stigma within an Irish sport context

Next up was our our invited PhD student speaker Jessie Barr who shared her research exploring mental health in elite athletes. Jessie’s presentation saw her draw on her fairly unique position of being a both a researcher and an Olympian.

Keynote 3: Richard Bryan, Rugby Players’ Association
Lift the weight: A player association perspective on mental health in professional sport

In our final keynote presentation before lunch Richard Bryan shared some of the the positive work that is being done to support the mental well-being of rugby players.

 

AFTERNOON SESSION

The afternoon session started with the parallel sessions where a wealth of diverse and informative presentations took place. These were followed by the poster presentations. Congratulations to Emily Lake (Career ending injury experiences of professional rugby players: A loss perspective) for winning the prize for best poster (sponsored by Switch the Play).

The day ended with our final keynote session from Dr Kitrina Douglas and Dr David Carless ‘“I couldn’t be successful without it being the most important thing”: The impact of stories on mental health in sport‘. This innovative session explored mental health in sport using stories and narrative case studies. The session was highly impactful and a fitting end to what was excellent day thanks to all of our presenters and delegates.

Click on the links below to view other posts about the Competing in the Dark Conference.

Conference: Competing in the Dark – Mental Health in Sport, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 21st March 2018

Competing in the Dark Conference Flyer

 

Join our team: Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Salary: £39,992 – £47,722
Location: Milton Keynes
Reference: 14942
Closing date: 24th August 2018 (5pm)

We are seeking an enthusiastic Lecturer to join our vibrant team of nine academic staff involved in writing online/print materials, overseeing online teaching and engaging in research that connects with our growing BSc (Hons) in Sport, Fitness and Coaching. You will be a specialist in sport and exercise psychology, with a good knowledge of a range of other sport and exercise related topics, including coaching, and be willing to work collaboratively with colleagues to develop distinctive distance learning materials for students and wider public engagement.

You will join a team which has developed an innovative approach to Sport, Exercise and Coaching education based on our expertise in distance education and will contribute to the maintenance of our existing curriculum and potential new curriculum (e.g. new modules and qualifications).

You must have a higher degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology or a related field, an established research profile, and an excellent knowledge of approaches to studying this area. You will have an understanding of distance learning; an ability to write clearly, sometimes outside of your subject area, for a diverse student audience and have proven experience of teaching in higher education.

Job Related Information (including person specification)

Information about Sport and Fitness qualifications at The Open University

Information about the Sport and Fitness team at The Open University

Click here for more information and to apply

 

What do the Numbers Really Mean? Interpreting England’s Match Statistics at the World Cup

By Alex Twitchen

It won’t have escaped most people’s attention that the World Cup begins on Thursday 14th June with Russia, the tournament hosts, playing Saudi Arabia.  England begin their campaign on Monday 18th June against Tunisia with a more muted sense of expectation than before.  As in previous tournaments England’s matches will be dissected by an army of pundits ready to offer their expert verdict on the team’s performances, but during this World Cup every pass, movement and attempt on goal will be scrutinised and supplemented by an increasing array of statistics that try to provide a more insightful analysis of each game.  Whether on television, newspapers or through social media you will find England’s performances measured by such things as: time in possession of the ball, number of shots attempted, the quality of these shots, percentage of completed passes, number of corners and free-kicks awarded or conceded, distance covered by each player, and the types of passes between players.  But what do these statistics really mean, how, as spectators and fans, might we interpret these numbers and use them to inform our own verdict on England’s performances?  In this blog I will outline two of the most commonplace statistics and show why we should treat them with a degree of scepticism if we really want to know how well or badly England have played.

Time in possession of the ball

One of the most common metrics used is time in possession of the ball.  Since the inauguration of the Premier League in 1992 the title winning team have been in possession of the ball for an average of about 55% to 60% of the time across all their games during the entire season.  Leicester’s amazing 2015-16 title performance is the exception since they won the league averaging just 44% of possession.  During the 2017-18 season Manchester City averaged just under 72% of possession but Swansea were relegated despite averaging 45% of possession which was more possession than 7th placed Burnley (44%), 10th placed Newcastle (42%) and 15th placed Brighton (44%).  Putting this another way Swansea were relegated having had more possession during the season than Leicester had when they won the title two years earlier.

Whilst having more possession of the ball is important, it is not necessarily a reliable measure of success.   Arsenal fans might appreciate this observation when their team lost 3-1 at home to Manchester United last December with Utd being in possession of the ball for just 27% of the game (https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/arsenal-fc_manchester-united/statistik/spielbericht/2872256).

If we require a further lesson we should look back to the last European Championships when England lost to Iceland having had possession for 68% of the game and making twice the number of passes.  It is possible that England could, like Leicester, defy the numbers and win the World Cup having had less possession over the course of the tournament than their opponents.  This is unlikely, but we should exercise caution in assuming that having more possession of the ball is a straightforward indicator of a successful performance.

The number of successful passes completed

Another popular metric that you may see concerns the percentage of passes each player and the team successfully completes.  As with percentage possession time the number of successfully completed passes can be mis-leading because it does not identify the type of pass, where on the pitch the pass was made or the extent to which the pass helped to create, either directly or indirectly, a goal scoring chance.  Take this as an example, a Centre-Back has a pass completion rate of 85%, on face value this seems pretty good but when we look more closely at the passes we see that they are predominantly short passes played backwards and sideways when not under any pressure from an opponent and unlikely to help create a goal scoring chance.  Compare this to another Centre-Back whose pass completion rate is only 50% but many of these completed passes have helped to create a better attacking threat and led to more goal scoring attempts.  In this example you begin to wonder about the value of the metric since it tells us very little about the outcome of the actual passes completed.

Final thoughts

This World Cup and England’s performance, like no other previous tournament, will be dissected, analysed and examined through the application of statistical metrics.  Yet, as with any form of statistical analysis, we should ask important questions about what the numbers mean and how they might otherwise be interpreted.  What seems an impressive number could actually distort our understanding of what is really happening on the pitch.  The increasing use of statistics in football is certainly welcomed and provides some different insights into the game, but we should also view them from a critical and sceptical perspective and not let these numbers dominate our interpretation and understanding of the game.

Student Story: John Curd (part 2)

Back in 2016 we featured John Curd in one of our ‘student stories’. John has a truly inspirational story and shows how studying with the OU can really turn your life around. John has now completed his BSc (hons) in Sport, Fitness and Coaching and recently attended his graduation ceremony. As you can see from the photographs he had a great day. As one of our older graduates John is proof that’s it’s never to late to achieve your dreams. We are very proud John and all of our sport and fitness graduates. If you have recently graduated and would like to share your graduation photos and/or tell us what your graduation day was like please contact us at WELS-Sports@open.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To read part 1 of John’s student story click here.

To read all of our student stories click here.

Join our Team: Lecturer in Sport, Exercise and Coaching

We are seeking an enthusiastic Lecturer to join our vibrant team of nine academic staff involved in writing online/print materials, overseeing teaching activities and engaging in research/scholarship that connects with our growing BSc (Hons) in Sport, Fitness and Coaching. You will have good knowledge of a range of sport and exercise related topics and be willing to work collaboratively with colleagues to develop high quality distance learning materials for students and for wider public engagement.

You will join a team which has developed an innovative approach to Sport and Fitness education based on our expertise in distance education, and will contribute to the maintenance of our existing curriculum and potential new curriculum developments (e.g. new modules, Masters degree, higher/degree level Apprenticeship).

You must have a higher degree or equivalent professional knowledge in Sport and Fitness or a related field and a good understanding of approaches to studying this topic. You will have an understanding of distance learning; an ability to write clearly and cogently for a diverse student audience and have some experience of teaching in higher education.

Job Related Information (including person specification)

Information about Sport and Fitness qualifications at The Open University

Information about the Sport and Fitness team at The Open University

Click here to apply

Closing date: Thursday 16th April 2018 (5pm)