VANGUARD ROUNDTABLE #10: ATHLETES’ RIGHTS TO PERFORMANCE DATA

In this episode, we talk with Fusion Sport CEO and Co-Founder, Markus Deutsch to get his perspective on athletes’ right to own and access their human performance data. We explore the current trends making this an important topic today, such as the transfer portal and NIL legislation, what’s in the best interests of both athletes and organizations, and the implications on human performance technology platforms. 

 

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Emma Ostermann 0:18 
Welcome to the Vanguard Roundtable Podcast, where we discuss the latest trends driving the human performance industry forward. I’m your host, Emma Ostermann. And this episode, we talked with Fusion Sport CEO and Co-Founder Markus Deutsch to get his perspective on athletes’ right own and access to human performance data. We explore the current trends, making this an important topic today, such as the transfer portal and NIL pools what’s in the best interest of both athletes and organizations and the impact on human performance technology platforms. Enjoy the episode The Vanguard roundtable podcast is brought to you by fusion sport maker Smartabase, the premier human performance optimization platform for elite sports and military organizations. To help make sense of the ever-growing human performance tech landscape Smartabase has created the HBO tech stack this resource organizes hundreds of performance tech on the market today and two outcome-based categories such as external load monitoring, hydration, performance tracking, musculoskeletal screening, and more. Download your free copy of the HBO tech stack, visit perform dot Fusionsport.com/HPO-tech-stack. Now back to the episode. Marcus, welcome to the Vanguard roundtable podcast. Before we dive into the questions, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Markus Deutsch 1:46
Hi, Emma. Yeah, thanks for having me. I think this is my first podcast. So should be fun. So yeah. Markus Deutsch, co founder of fusion sport. I’m an exercise physiologist by trade. I’m a PhD in the physiology of rugby back in the late 90s. Always very interested in all things data, and then obviously started fusion sport. So yeah, today, obviously, I’m across a lot of the company, but I’m particularly still interested in in all things data. And, you know, my Happy Places to stay very close to product and product strategy. So yeah, this is an interesting topic.

Emma Ostermann 2:22
Absolutely, absolutely. I know you and I were talking briefly, right before this. But this topic does come up every now and again. And it’s definitely very important. So that leads us into our first question of why is it important to have this conversation about athlete data ownership and access now? Look, I

Markus Deutsch 2:40
think the NFL changes have brought it to the fore in the States. But to be honest, this conversation was kind of coming anyway. You know, GDPR has been a big shake up over the last four or five years to you know, people’s understanding of their data rights. And, you know, I think the rest of the world and now very much falling in line with GDPR. And even with GDPR, they’re they’re still constantly revising that. And I think we’re gonna see more and more in this space, there’s going to be more and more scrutiny around ownership, security, data rights, from all angles globally. So yeah, I think this is is a timely conversation, and it’s one we’re going to be having for the next few years and a lot of different ways.

Emma Ostermann 3:24
Absolutely. I know, you mentioned the NHL, but we’ve also seen this and previous podcasts and conversations we’ve had regarding like player associations, whether that’s the NFL, NBA, same conversation, and definitely bringing this to light is it’s good to address it and just see where that conversation continues to bring us.

Markus Deutsch 3:44
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, but it’s complicated.

Emma Ostermann 3:47
I couldn’t agree more. I think there’s, there’s so many tidbits of information that you have to consider. And I think that’s, I think the first part of that is just Yeah, starting the conversation, but like you said, definitely complicated and many things above my head, in mind college scope that I, I would still have to research. But, you know, it’s definitely going to be interesting to hear your perspective and your insight, especially coming from, you know, a platform that like smartabase. And you know, what we are able to offer from that insight as well. So, what do you see as some of the biggest issues surrounding athlete data ownership and access?

Markus Deutsch 4:27
Look, I mean, and personal opinion, I think if people have data collected about them, they should have access to it. Whether or not they’re able to share it. I think that’s, you know, how they share it. I think that’s where that’s where we might get a bit of a wild west situation. You know, I think about kind of thought about a bit of a left field parallel to this. This morning was, you know, I think back that I’m old enough to remember when social media sort of first came out, especially ones like Facebook, and you know, and everyone thought that was great. Everyone thought well Got this freedom to kind of tell everybody what I’m doing and stay really connected and share or share my life with everybody. But a lot of people got themselves in trouble, because they shared the wrong things, you know, they’d post photos of their big nights out, and then their employers would see that and things like that, at the beginning, people didn’t think about the consequences of what they were posting. And, you know, that, to me is, is probably a pretty big issue that we need to think about. You know, I think that the other potential issues, you know, around even if, you know, if an athlete athletes do have the rights to sort of post that, and let’s say that post their data about their weekly training load or something like that, and the post might be quite negative, oh, look, look how hard they’re making me work or how much they’re overtraining me here at this college, and can be used quite negatively. I think part of the issue there is that, you know, the college or the subject of that accusation won’t have any ability to respond, which is Yeah, again, that could get quite could get quite messy. There’s a few things like that. I will say, I think it’s also there’s a lot of positives to it. I’m not I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I think it’s great that more athletes can have the limelight, I think it’s better in terms of fairness and equity of sort of spreading out, you know, spreading out the love as, as the saying goes, and you know, more athletes in different sports getting more more of the money rather than than just the star quarterback. You know, I think that’s, that’s a good thing. I think we’re just gonna have to tread very carefully. I mean, I look, the thing is, I guess I’m not on the tools, as they say anymore. So and I know you are Mr. I mean, you know, many things you do you work with a lot of our, our sporting teams and colleges. So yeah, what are you hearing from sort of from in your consulting role? What are you hearing from people about their challenges? What are they worried about? Absolutely, yeah.

Emma Ostermann 6:55
I think it’s twofold. First, I wanted to address, you know, your social media reference, I think I was perfect. Because before it like, it’s when I go back to like my coaching background, you, you look at us, like a simple a simple day, whatever that day might be. But when you just post that one thing, or you have a conversation about that one training session, it doesn’t provide the full context or the full picture of what was trying to be accomplished. So that big picture, and I think you hit the head on the nail, when you said, the, the, the organization or the team, they want to be able to respond to be able to provide feedback on that. I can definitely relate to that. Because, you know, when you do have, you know, athletes accessing data, posting data, and it’s one snapshot of one instance, it loses the context. So I think that was a really great point you brought up. But yeah, definitely within my role, the consulting role here, you definitely hear it every now and then. I know there’s some new some new guidelines, where athletes do need to have access to their data. And it’s been able to create that access through our system, to make it easy for the athletes to be able to to be able to go in access, whether that’s whatever it might be, it can be trainload data, it can be health data, you know, and that just ranges from a wide array of different institutions and organizations. But I think like, once again, it’s once they have access to that data. That’s that’s going to be the next biggest question is, well, what’s the next step with that? And I think that’s, I think there’s still some uncertainty, because I definitely don’t know as I’m not the boots on the ground within those institutions, or organizations. But that would be my next question is, what’s the next step now that that data has been accessed? What are we doing with it? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Absolutely. Um, so then just moving on, what do you think is in the best interests of the athletes? Do you think they should have access to their data on a regular basis? Do you think it should be monitored? What are your thoughts regarding that?

Markus Deutsch 9:03
Or whatever, despite whatever, I think I think the horse is gonna evolve, and I think we’re gonna have a choice. I think that’s just the way security and privacy going globally. So if I think it’s, you know, I guess, do I think it’s a good thing? I definitely think there’s a lot of positives to it. It’s great that athletes can get more exposure, they can get more money, get more brand recognition and personal brand. I think those are all, you know, potentially, really positive thing. The other thing, which I think is really positive, is that I think it will get athletes more engaged in their data, and more engaged in their data environment. And I think that could be a real positive for the field as sort of performance science and everything. Right. So I think at the moment, a lot of a lot of programs or a lot of, you know, sort of data performance programs. I kind of criticize, want to criticize, but you know, I think a lot of athletes don’t engage that much at kind of more of a HECM, the vampires sucking data out of me to go into some hole where I’m never going to see it, do anything about it or really even understand that right? So whatever do you do you think? I think this is potentially really good, because athletes now are going to be like, Well, hey, I actually really need to understand this stuff, I’m gonna start using it for my own purpose. Right. So hopefully, what it’ll do is actually create a real common understanding and real common and really higher level of engagement around all things data, which I think is going to be great for the athletes, you know, so that they can actually really understand their data and, and work with the coaches and performance staff on it. You know, so that’s a real cool, positive. Absolutely. Let’s hope it goes that way.

Emma Ostermann 10:49
Yeah, and I would agree, and I think, you know, kind of going through from that perspective, especially with, with athletes getting getting their data and their access to their data. One of the things that would be key and important is, who are the right? Who are the people who are sharing this data? You know, because that’s going to bring in that education component? Whether that, like, Who is the one, whether it’s a simple graph, or is it just raw data? Cuz I think that would be, you know, another really important step and avenue to explore is we can give athletes these data, but are we educating them on what to do with it? And that engagement aspect of it as well?

Markus Deutsch 11:27
Yeah, that’s gonna be the, I think that’s gonna be the critical piece. It’s really like, like, the social media thing. You know, I remember that. Again, back to that I remember a lot of the proteins and things like that players were getting themselves in all sorts of trouble posting things out on social media. And, you know, people didn’t see that coming. And then, over the next couple of years after that, there was suddenly a really big push on education at the teams where they would settle the players down, or they educate them on the use of social media and things like that. And then it came largely right. You know, I mean, it still happens occasionally. But, you know, it was it was a wild west disaster to start with, and then they did manage to rein it in, to a large degree with with good education around. So yeah, that’s definitely the answer.

Emma Ostermann 12:11
For sure. And, you know, we touched on the athletes, but what if we switch it? What do you think is the best interest for an organization like universities and sport academies?

Markus Deutsch 12:22
I think there’s a lot of positives there as well, some of them that the organizations will like some of them that they won’t like, but it good for them anyway. Right. So I think on the ones that I think they’re like, look, again, I think it’s a good opportunity for organizations to get more exposure, especially organizations and sports that aren’t in the sort of big four, you know, like, I think it’s a good opportunity for sports to be promoted. That’s a good thing. I do think, and again, the whole athlete engagement around data is definitely a positive, you know, being able to, you know, have a good driver to get your athletes to engage with your performance staff, and coaches and really understand their data really buy in be more, you know, more engaged with entering data and all that sort of thing. I think that could be, that will be a really positive as well, right. So there’s definitely positives to it. And the positive that will be a positive that people might not like is that it will make people be a lot more focused on their security. And, you know, people might not like that. But it’s a good thing. And it’s good for them, because it’s going to, you know, it ultimately, if if people have to embrace good security practices and privacy practices, their decrease of making a mistake, and having a really serious incident goes down, and that’s good for them, even though they might not think it’s much fun at the time. So yeah, I think there’s some really good positives in all directions. Yeah, as long as it’s done properly, and everyone’s educated, right?

Emma Ostermann 13:52
There’s always there’s always those caveats of you know, we need to make sure these boxes are ticked, in order to go smoothly. We’ve got these, these positives, but you know, the landscape is changing, there’s new, there’s new policies, guidelines coming out for different organizations within the collegiate settings, specifically, there’s now a really big rise within the transfer portal. So you see athletes going to a university, say for for a year, and then they’re going to they have the ability to then transfer to go to a different university if things aren’t going well or for whatever reason that might be with these incidents, like these types of events happening, where where do you see data, being able to like having access with to data being created for eat these types of events? Whether like ease transfer of data for two different institutions, how do you see that plane?

Markus Deutsch 14:45
Yeah, that’s gonna be really interesting one, you know, again, hopefully what it drives is a bit more standardization around the data that’s been collected with people realize that by embracing a bit more standardization Across the board, you know, you’ll get more consistency of that data flow. Hopefully that’s positive that comes out of it. Probably not. Or it might take at least take a long time for that to happen. Yeah, but definitely challenging. I mean, I think that, you know, the danger there is that organizations and professionals within organizations might become very gun shy about the data they’re recording, you know, it might become, and that’s the potential downside of this whole thing is that people are sort of like, oh, well, God, if I put that in the system, it’s on record, and not just to my own organization, but to other organizations into the whole world. So maybe I just don’t put that in. And I think that’s a real danger. Because then what you’ll get is a decrease in the data quality, you’ll just get a whole bunch of useless vanilla data, that everybody shrugs their shoulders and goes, Yeah, well, they just didn’t enter the truth. So that’s a real concern. I don’t really have an idea of how to how to counter that. That’s a really tricky one. But yeah, that’s definitely the potential downside here is that people just they’re too scared to put data in. So let’s see. But that one,

Emma Ostermann 16:13
yeah, I’d agree it’d be it will be interesting, especially as the landscape continues to change to see how we adapt to these new changes, and what ends up coming. So from a technology perspective, what do you think needs to happen to move forward or to move to help move the industry forward to those desired ends?

Markus Deutsch 16:32
Yeah, look, I think, obviously, firstly, people need to keep being more and more diligent about security, and cybersecurity, that that’s really happening anyway, you know, like the amount of work we now that we have to do with all of our certifications. And, you know, we’ve been through three major certifications in the past year or so a lot of work a lot of cost, but you have to do it. And that’s just gonna get, and it’s not exciting, it’s not fun. But it’s really important. And that’s just gonna get more and more, you know, I think we’re gonna get, you know, there’s still a lot of people running around with data on laptops, and, you know, sticking it in, you know, Google Sheets or whatever. And, you know, I think there’s going to be a major shutdown on all of that, over the next couple of years, people are going to have to really follow best practice cybersecurity, now that this is getting out there, because they’re going to have to be able to prove that it didn’t come from them, if there’s a data leak, or a data breach, right. So yeah, if an athlete shares the wrong data, or things like that organizations, and people are going to have to be able to prove that it wasn’t on them. So I think that from a technology perspective, that’s going to become even more important than it is, I think, the other thing is probably, you know, and this is where technology’s going as a whole is that there’ll be, again, a lot more importance placed on the ability to seamlessly interchange data. So they’ll be a lot more emphasis on, you know, really good. And again, really secure API based data exchange, you know, open API’s and public API’s, that’s something we’ve been doing a lot of work on lately, as well. But then any public API that we’re putting out, you know, again, because you know, you’re gonna end up in probably a situation where you have, you know, different products, which are sort of almost consumer products that the athletes have, that one can aggregate this data from various places, pull it all together into almost their own sort of personal portfolio. So everything’s going to have to connect really seamlessly. So that that’ll be another forcing function that which, again, is a good thing, it makes solutions better. And, you know, certainly the way the world is going in terms of a lot of other technology. So probably the two main things I can think of,

Emma Ostermann 18:38
for sure, yeah. And I think he once again, hit the head on the nail, it’s, you know, finding the solution. You know, right now, we’re just, we’re continuing to test and we’re in that investigation stage, I would say, and, you know, as we continue to move forward, well, we’ll definitely I’m unraveling, you know what that solution might be, but we don’t have enough information collected yet to be able to, to get to that. Yeah, to the answer.

Markus Deutsch 19:00
Yeah, I mean, as usual, with any of these things, I think, you know, humans are sometimes a bit a bit with their own worst enemy. I think we will break a lot of eggs on the way. But yeah, I do think overall, it’s a positive thing. And it will end up being a positive thing, as long as they get really proactive and on the front foot with the education piece. That’s pretty much what we have, and the security piece, I think that’s what really needs to happen. And organizations really need to understand the importance of those things, and not just see what happens.

Emma Ostermann 19:32
Absolutely. Marcus, this has been a really insightful conversation that we’ve had today. Is there anything else that you would like to to add from your, from your point of view on this topic?

Markus Deutsch 19:42
No, I look, I think it’s, it’s been great to learn about it. It’s been, you know, prompted me to to really read up on it and learn a lot more about it. So thanks for that. And no, look, it’s it’s I think we’ve had a good yeah, good discussion. So but yeah, be interesting to see what what the community says about it and any extra ideas and maybe we can do Got a follow up on that in the future

Emma Ostermann 20:01
perfect for any of our listeners wanting to, you know, reach out to you to be able to connect what would be a way for them to touch base with you?

Markus Deutsch 20:09
Probably the best way is just hit me up on LinkedIn or hit the fusions for website just via the contact form and yeah, always my two cents is free as I say.

Emma Ostermann 20:21
Perfect. Marcus, thank you so much for joining us. Like I said this this conversation has been very insightful and helpful. And if you found this conversation valuable, please follow the Vanguard roundtable podcast on your favorite platform and share with your friends and colleagues. We’ll be back next month the Vanguard roundtable podcast is brought to you by fusion sport maker smartabase, the premier human performance optimization platform for elite sports and military organizations. This resource organizes hundreds of performance tech on the market today into outcome based categories such as external load monitoring, hydration, performance tracking, musculoskeletal screening, and more. To download your free copy of the HBO tech stack, visit perform dot fusion sport.com forward slash HBO dash tech dash stack

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