Compared to the last World Cup in Cairo, India’s conversion from qualification score to podium finishes has risen by 34 per cent. If it was 50 per cent in Cairo, in Bhopal it grew to 84 per cent.
Those are the kind of numbers Beauchamp has been working on over the last one year, but that is nothing new for the former ice hockey player.
His stints as the McGill University coach or a sports scientist and high performance director with the Canadian Olympic Association, International Olympic Committee, the PGA Tour and much more has all been based largely on data analytics.
That is something he has introduced to Indian shooting, in an attempt to make better decisions building up to the Paris Olympics in 2024.
But he has just started, said Beuchamp, in this interview with Timesofindia.com.
Q. First home world cup for you as India’s high performance director. How did it go?
I think it went very well. One of the facts is that we were concentrating on qualification to podium finishes. In Cairo we were 50 per cent of conversion in terms of qualification score to podium finishes and here it was 84 per cent. So that was an improvement. Coaches did a good job in preparing the athletes this week and the past week in camp on the finals preparation.
Q. When you came to India, what was your view of the system and the structure that was followed here?
I knew what I was coming into, I have worked here before. In a high-performance programme, we generally have 30 people in a high performance department for each sport. Here, we were starting from scratch. So that makes it difficult. I am working as a team with (NRAI president) Raninder Singh. We are trying to implement a lot of new ideas and interventions, working with the coaches and athletes. Soon we’ll be building our department up in the next month or so.
Can you share more on that?
We are looking to get into data management and converting data into usable information for the coaches and athletes.
Data management is an area that previously was not looked at or not so seriously at least for shooting in India…
I am looking at numbers in everything. I am heavily interested in data analytics and how it can support decision-making for the organization. Sometimes when you make decisions based on data, and you talk to athletes and coaches, you get better decisions. But when you have no data, it’s difficult to make accurate assessments. So the data management part is very important. So we take it seriously.
You come from a background of ice hockey and golf. Can you tell us more about that and how does it help you here in shooting?
The principles of play are the same in ice hockey and field hockey. We are concerned with goal-scoring opportunities and the quality of those opportunities. Defence – looking at defensive positioning and what is the space that you’re allowing on each shot.
How do you correlate that here?
Team sports and individual sports are different. I used to work in professional golf in North America, on the PGA Tour and the Canadian Professional Tour and the national team. The concepts in golf with regards to routines are the same as what we use in shooting. I have done research, looking at the quality of the shot-cycle routine in golf, and we use the same concepts in shooting. So I am applying my own research to shooting. I did this in 2011 with Heena Sidhu for the London Olympics and going forward for Rio. I did it a little bit with Abhinav Bindra as well, post London – between London and Rio. And the concepts are very similar to golf.
Abhinav has been very gracious. He has offered to be a mentor for some of our athletes. We have already sent some athletes to visit Abhinav and he has talked with them, spent time with them and we will ask Abhinav to do more mentoring and as a performance advisor to myself in the organization. Rudrankksh (Patil) has already had a day of mentoring with him.
Can you explain a bit more the ‘concepts’ part you mentioned?
You analyse the pre-shot phase, the execution phase, the follow-through phase, the loading phase. You look at the times involved in those phases and then you look at the breath cycle and you look at the time of triggering. You put all that together and you get an individualised shot-cycle report. That serves as a blueprint for coaches and athletes.
Q. You have mentioned the data analysis of 50 per cen and 84 per cent. If you were to compare it to other countries, where does India stand?
Well, it becomes situational because we had a home-field advantage (in Bhopal), so (that’s why) 84% may be somewhat elevated. Like our next one (event) will be in Baku and (we will) look at that and see what our percentage scores of conversion are. The conversion factor in all sports is calculated (based on) how many athletes qualify for finals and how many people end up on the podium. So it doesn’t matter what sport, we are doing the same conversion factors.
Q. Is bringing India back to the Olympic podium after two medal-less Games the bigger part of your job profile?
We need a multi-dimensional plan. To get on the podium, we need technical, tactical, physical, mental and emotional parameters. We are gathering data in all of those.
Q. Are you doubling as a mental conditioning coach as well in this role?
No, I am not working as a sports psychologist. We have four who work with the NRAI, and they are working with shotgun, pistol, rifle, etc. I supervise all of that, and I supervise all of the sports science we have with physios, nutritionists, strength & conditioning and so on.
Q. What kind of data do you look at in shooting?
For the shot-cycle in competition, it is the execution phase, whether it changes with regards to triggering. So if they are normally 14 seconds and they have like 10.8s and 10.9s, and that’s their signature best time for shooting, you look at other times when they are shooting maybe in 10 seconds, 8 seconds. Why did they rush those shots? Then you need to look at the breathing patterns and heart rate, and we do that not in competition but off-site. I have built physiological software to measure all of that. So we know exactly what the shot-cycle signature is for each athlete for the best triggering.
Q. In archery, there is a heart rate monitor. Is it something we can bring into shooting in competition?
Heart rate monitor is good, but it only gives you heart rate. We have many more parameters. Not only the heart rate, but we do the respiration rate, skin temperature and muscle tension. We can measure all of that, including heart rate variability.
Q. Was this done in Indian shooting before?
Yes, I did it with Heena and Abhinav. But not as a team.
Q. How does this help?
One of the factors in building a champion mindset is the ability to self-regulate tension, stress, pressure. So by giving the athletes those tools, we enhance their self-awareness on how to do that. We do that using a five-step process. First we assess what’s going on, then we do some education, then training, then we put them in pressure simulation and then we evaluate the process.
Q. You had a lot of meetings over the last 6-7 days. Can you just tell us what those entail during a competition?
We have coach meetings, we have sports science meetings, we have athlete-coach meetings. The more meetings you have, the more communication you have. From our perspective, we need to enhance communication in as many different ways as possible.
Q. Do you believe that the structure you are trying to set here was missing because young Indian shooters in the past haven’t been able to take the next step?
The high performance structure that we are trying to implement is what all high performance organizations implement. It’s just that we are starting from scratch. In many countries, we have high performance programmes that are already existing, and they would be departments of 30 people. Right now we are two and growing — I and Raninder Singh.
Q. Does it help to not be a member of the shooting fraternity to come into the sport and take a fresh look?
Sometimes it does. If you are working in your own sport, you bring in your own cognitive bias. So because you come in with a learning mindset, you end up learning a lot more. But if you think you know everything, then you have a fixed mindset and you don’t learn.
Q. How does all that help in final decision-making related to a plan or maybe an athlete?
We have heart rate variability analysis, we have physiological analysis, wellness analysis, player profiles, we have training analysis, competition analysis, medical, strength and conditioning, nutritional analysis. So to integrate all that data, you need a data management system, so that we can look at algorithms and make predictions and insights and make better decisions as an organization.