Sports technology isn’t as new as you might think – it’s as old as civilization itself.
In an enthralling trip across 2,700 years of sporting evolution, the award-winning sports engineer Steve Haake tells the stories of 13 technological breakthroughs – from the ancient Greek starting line, though the vulcanization of rubber, to marginal gains – that have transformed the intimate relationship of technology, sport and culture, the delicate balance between tradition and modernity, and sometimes even the rules of sport themselves.
Drawing on 30 years of experience as a researcher working for some of the biggest companies in sport, Haake takes readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of the world’s best sports research centres that design, build and test the equipment we take for granted: from javelins, golf clubs, footballs, tennis rackets and swimsuits to goal-line technology, activity trackers, prosthetics and barefoot running shoes.
Along the way he describes the science behind the innovations and the ambition and obsession of the charismatic inventors who created them. As with much of science, breakthroughs happen when mistakes are made and an innovator seizes an opportunity. In sport, these moments often come during play: a slight nick on a ball that makes it fly further or an unplayable pitch that helps to create a new boot.
Now that sporting performance is reaching a plateau, we are relying more and more on technology to improve sport – and, bizarrely, the ruling bodies of sport are sometimes spending almost as much time on researching how to limit performance as companies do on enhancing it. How do we decide when a technology has overstepped the mark? How do we decide when it’s technical doping? And what if all the performance claims are hype and it’s all about the advertising?
Entertaining, authoritative and thought-provoking, Advantage Play addresses these and many other questions and considers what the future might hold, be it the analysis of big data collected at tournaments, new Olympic sports such as skateboarding or ’steampunk’ experiences that mix modern athletes with old technologies.