How Voice Assistants Impact Coaching, Training, and the Athlete Experience

Voice assistants, most notably available in wireless bluetooth headphones, wearables, and glasses, will impact sports training and athlete development. Athletes will leverage voice assistants to improve their training experience and improve their skills while coaches will use voice assistants to reenforce their teachings and keep an eye on the mental state of their athletes. And this is just the beginning.

The sports industry is one of the largest industries in the world with an estimated value of over $500 billion and with one in four adults being active in a sport. The use of technology on a whole is also on the rise for example American football team, the Carolina Panthers, use of augmented reality to showcase a panther running around the stadium. Premier League teams like Manchester City and Tottenham have made use of Amazon’s Prime Video to showcase behind-the-scenes clips. Both sports teams, coaches, and athletes are making use of existing and emerging technologies in order to reach their full potential.

Voice Assistants are the perfect next step for coaches, athletes, and teams to take. Voice Assistants are everywhere, accessing and customizing them to suit your individual needs are really easy and companies like Amazon are looking to make it easier. An athlete can already access apps and skills that use voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa for health and fitness-related purposes like nutrition tips, brain training, and health monitoring.

Reinforcing Knowledge

It is important for athletes to remain fit and healthy at all times especially when they are expected to play. This is by no doubt a difficult thing to do which is why athletes will hire coaches, nutritionists, and personal trainers to keep them on the right path. The disadvantage with this is that they can be expensive and are not always available. It is also very difficult for athletes who are just starting out to get access to the best nutritionists and coaches.

This is where voice assistants come in, they are cheaper, available 24/7, and available to almost anyone all around the world. New athletes can get access to the same information and tips that professional athletes use. Track by Nutritionix and Talk To Track by Genesant Technologies are both free fitness apps that provide workout routines and tips along with nutritional advice. An added bonus is that they both allow for the use of voice. These two apps would be great for new athletes looking to get a spot in a team or on the big stage. An athlete can use apps like these to track the number of calories they take in and burn on a daily basis, these apps are so good that they could remove the need for a nutritionist altogether.

An athlete in a team sport could use a voice assistant to remind them of games, the importance of these games, and the time they need to get to training. An athlete should be able to ask Alexa or Google Assistant to remind them of the tactics to be used in the upcoming match and the role they will play and get an answer. This will both reinforce the individual’s knowledge about what they are to do in the upcoming game and could even boost their performance.

Major sports teams have a fitness level tracker on each of their players that tell the coaching staff about the player’s physical and health status. Making it accessible by a coach simply saying, “Alexa, how ready is David for our game on Saturday?” could make a world of difference and save a lot of time. We wouldn’t stop there, a coach should also be able to ask either Alexa or Google Assistant for the best type of training to make a player just coming off an injury get back to full fitness as quickly as possible. Both Alexa and Google Assistant would have a wide array of data of previously injured players with the same injury, what worked best for each player, and provide the coach with the best answer out of all the possible answers. 

Guided Training

Training is the most important thing to an athlete, they train more than they play the sport as practice makes perfect. For athletes training is simply not enough, they need to know their progress and they usually have questions like, “Did I perform better than last week or last season?”, “How quickly am I improving?” and “How can I get better?” Of course, these questions are usually directed to a member of the coaching staff or friend, while these people do have good intentions they may not always provide the best answers.

Many persons in sport usually wear a device, like a watch, that tracks their performance like steps, heartbeat and calories burnt. There are also many apps and devices available to the general public that allows you to track these things and get a real-time update. RESPA is a wearable sensor that tracks your breathing during your workouts. It can be connected to Amazon Alexa and you can ask Alexa for information on your breaths per minute to analyze your fitness activities. This device also works well with athletes who do yoga for relaxation purposes. A device like this is useful to see if you are breathing too heavily or too lightly for the activity you are performing and can help you make a decision that could save your life.

Professional athletes also do extra training at home and are used to and sometimes train better when someone tells them which exercise to do next or how many sets they have left. Both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can and are in some cases being used to do this. Athletes can give their workout routines to either Alexa or Google Assistant for them to read it. There are also wearable devices that measure the length of the stride and how fast you ran and you can ask Alexa to give you this information at any time. 

While this is all great, there is still room for improvement, having a skill that monitors the athlete’s heart rate, steps, and breath can be used to tell the athlete in realtime whether they are performing better than yesterday, will soon surpass their previous record or tell them to step up the pace because they are lagging behind. A skill like this could really help athletes where a coach wouldn’t be able to, for example, if an athlete is doing an activity and is pushing themselves further than their body can handle perhaps because they didn’t eat enough food and there is a possibility of them passing out, their wearable device will be able to detect this before the coaches can and tell the athlete to stop the activity potentially saving their lives.

Mental Health Monitoring

"We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day, we're human, too,” when Simone Biles made this statement defending the reason she withdrew from the final competition in the Olympics the whole world was reminded of the grim reality that athletes suffer from mental health issues. Naomi Osaka said in an interview with Time magazine, "I do hope that people can relate and understand it's OK to not be OK; and it's OK to talk about it.” She also shocked the world when she decided to not attend the post-match news conference at the French Open and later withdrew from the tournament itself. It is very important that athletes focus on their mental health as they are very young and people will always put huge expectations on them to sometimes achieve the impossible. The media and sports fans are always looking for the next Micheal Jordan, Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, and Tom Brady and will put the expectation to achieve what these greats achieved on a 19-year-old.

The question is always what can an athlete do? Luckily we live in a world where our emotions, feelings, and expressions are constantly being monitored, whether it be through the watch on our wrist, the car we drive, or the tone we communicate in with our voice assistant. We have watches that can detect and monitor uncommon sleep patterns and test your resting metabolic rate. Voice assistants can tell which mood we are in by listening to our voice and analyzing how we sound when we ask a question or say something that makes us happy, sad, or depressed and they can use this information to detect when an individual may be suffering from mental health issues.

So voice assistants can detect when athletes have poor mental health, they can also assist athletes in improving their mental health. Persons who suffer from mental health will eat at strange times and forget to drink water. Voice assistants are capable of reminding you when you should drink water and can suggest to you a time to get something to eat. They can even kick start an athlete’s day with a motivational quote, daily affirmations, and meditation apps. Athletes can listen to podcasts or music on Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant and a fitness tracker like Fitbit will constantly remind them to visit a healthcare provider. There are also games that athletes can play on Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa like Jeopardy, Guess the Drawing, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Akinator.

Athletes are constantly trying to do better and while we may not see the hard work they put in behind the scenes we definitely see the outcome when they make waves by breaking a new record or simply creating one. With voice assistants constantly improving on a rapid basis athletes and coaches can make use of these tools to ensure that they are on top of the game. With Alexa and Google Assistant by their side they have access to the world’s knowledge including the best dishes to cook to get certain types of nutrients, the best training to do to achieve the desired result, performance updates, and mental health monitoring. It is possible for an individual or a team to develop a skill or set of skills specifically tailored to assisting athletes to reach their full potential.