Technology in Sports

It today’s world, sport cannot go together without technology. With the ever growing development of new technologies, they have always tried to be implemented into sports. Because technology can give sports something nothing else can, an unmistakable truth. Or so they say. Due to the fact that people are, well, people, they are bound to make mistakes. It is because we are human, we are not robots, that we can make mistakes, while robots make them only if they are malfunctioning. This is especially emphasized in sports, where human eyes can often deceive their owners, the referees most importantly, but also players, coaches and the fans. That is why these days there are many discussions about installing video technology into sports, mostly football. What does technology actually mean for sports?

Here I would like to emphasize that there are already sports using technology, like tennis and cricket, to name some. It helped the referees a lot, to minimize and correct some mistakes they make. But apparently, not all problems are solved like this. Players that have been playing for a longer period of time, and have not grown up with these kinds of technologies, are not convinced that it works properly. This suspicion is probably understandable, because when they were first starting their professional sports careers, they did not probably even dream about something like this would exist. But this technology has been tested time after time, and skeptical players, such as Roger Federer, have learned to live with it and accept it, although probably not so reluctantly.

This technology used in sports is called Hawk-Eye line-calling system, or just Hawk-eye for short. It was invented by a British computer expert Paul Hawkins. It is now used in tennis, where six or more cameras, situated around the court are linked together, track the path of the ball. Then those six or more cameras combine their separate views and make a 3D representation of the path of the ball. For tennis, or basically any other sport, this means that any close line call can be checked, quickly and accurately. This is not always used on tennis tournaments, though. For instance, the French Open is not using this technology because the tournament is played on clay courts and thus the print of the ball on the ground can easily be seen. Maybe this will change one day, because you can’t always be 100% sure you are looking at the right print.

These days there have been a lot of talks about introducing this technology to the sport of football. The sympathizers of this idea have been especially loud after the South Africa FIFA World Cup 2010, where a lot of mistakes by the referees have been made (an Argentina goal allowed although the player was offside, England goal not seen in a crucial moment). However, referees are only human, and they are bound to make mistakes because they can not help it, so i do not think all those critics were fair to them. On the other hand, a recent statement was made from the UEFA president Michel Platini, who is not thrilled about the goal-line technology, saying that this would reduce football to a video game. I don’t believe that other sports who have this technology have been reduced to a video game. Furthermore, he also admits that referees can make mistakes and that there are many cameras on the field that can catch any disputable moment. So why not help football, or any other sport, to see these disputable moments clearly and to resolve them without making mistakes. Or is it better to hear a mass of critics every time something like this happens? I am sure the referees would like this kind of help, then they couldn’t be blamed for anything and wouldn’t have to listen to all the nonsense people say about them the other day, or worse.

Technology and Our Kids

With most people plugged in all the time, I often wonder what effect technology is having on our kids. Some say technology is another helpful learning tool that is making our kids smarter and some say it is having no significant effect at all. Still, others propose that technology use is encouraging social isolation, increasing attentional problems, encouraging unhealthy habits, and ultimately changing our culture and the way humans interact. While there isn’t a causal relationship between technology use and human development, I do think some of the correlations are strong enough to encourage you to limit your children’s screen time.

Is television really that harmful to kids? Depending on the show and duration of watching, yes. Researchers have found that exposure to programs with fast edits and scene cuts that flash unrealistically across the screen are associated with the development of attentional problems in kids. As the brain becomes overwhelmed with changing stimuli, it stops attending to any one thing and starts zoning out. Too much exposure to these frenetic programs gives the brain more practice passively accepting information without deeply processing it. However, not all programs are bad. Kids who watch slow paced television programs like Sesame Street are not as likely to develop attentional problems as kids who watch shows like The Power Puff Girls or Johnny Neutron. Educational shows are slow paced with fewer stimuli on the screen which gives children the opportunity to practice attending to information. Children can then practice making connections between new and past knowledge, manipulating information in working memory, and problem solving. Conclusively, a good rule of thumb is to limit television watching to an hour to two hours a day, and keep an eye out for a glossy-eyed transfixed gaze on your child’s face. This is a sure sign that his or her brain has stopped focusing and it is definitely time to shut off the tube so that he can start thinking, creating, and making sense out of things again (all actions that grow rather than pacify the brain).

When you do shut off the tube, don’t be surprised if you have a melt down on your hands. Technology has an addictive quality because it consistently activates the release of neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure and reward. There have been cases of addictions to technology in children as young as four-years-old. Recently in Britain, a four-year-old girl was put into intensive rehabilitation therapy for an iPad addiction! I’m sure you know how rewarding it is to sign onto Facebook and see that red notification at the top of the screen, or even more directly how rewarding playing games on your computer can be as you accumulate more “accomplishments.” I am guilty of obsessive compulsively checking my Facebook, email, and blog throughout the day. The common answer to this problems is, “All things in moderation.” While I agree, moderation may be difficult for children to achieve as they do not possess the skills for self discipline and will often take the easy route if not directed by an adult. According to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children spend about 5 hours watching television and movies, 3 hours on the internet, 1 1/2 hours texting on the phone, and a 1/2 hour talking on the phone each day. That’s almost 75 hours of technology use each week, and I am sure these results are mediated by parental controls and interventions. Imagine how much technology children use when left to their own defenses! In a recent Huffington Post article, Dr. Larry Rosen summed it up well, “… we see what happens if you don’t limit these active participation. The child continues to be reinforced in the highly engaging e-world, and more mundane worlds, such as playing with toys or watching TV, pale in comparison.” How are you ever going to get your child to read a black and white boring old book when they could use a flashy, rewarding iPad instead? Children on average spend 38 minutes or less each day reading. Do you see a priority problem here?

With such frequent technology use, it is important to understand if technology use encourages or discourages healthy habits. It’s reported that among heavy technology users, half get C’s or lower in school. Light technology users fair much better, only a quarter of them receiving low marks. There are many factors that could mediate the relationship between technology use and poor grades. One could be decreased hours of sleep. Researchers from the Department of Family and Community Health at the University of Maryland found that children who had three or more technological devices in their rooms got at least 45 minutes less sleep than the average child the same age. Another could be the attention problems that are correlated with frequent technology use. Going further, multitasking, while considered a brilliant skill to have on the job, is proving to be a hindrance to children. It is not uncommon to see a school aged child using a laptop, cell phone, and television while trying to also complete a homework assignment. If we look closer at the laptop, we might see several tabs opened to various social networks and entertainment sites, and the phone itself is a mini computer these days. Thus, while multitasking, children are neglecting to give their studies full attention. This leads to a lack of active studying, a failure to transfer information from short term to long term memory, which leads ultimately to poorer grades in school. Furthermore, it is next to impossible for a child to engage is some of the higher order information processing skills such as making inferences and making connections between ideas when multitasking. We want our children to be deep thinkers, creators, and innovators, not passive information receptors who later regurgitate information without really giving it good thought. Therefore, we should limit access to multiple devices as well as limit duration of use.

Age comes into play when discussing the harmful effects of technology. For children younger than two-years-old, frequent exposure to technology can be dangerously detrimental as it limits the opportunities for interaction with the physical world. Children two-years-old and younger are in the sensorimotor stage. During this stage it is crucial that they manipulate objects in the world with their bodies so that they can learn cause-effect relationships and object permanence. Object permanence is the understanding that when an object disappears from sight, it still exists. This reasoning requires the ability to hold visual representations of objects in the mind, a precursor to understanding visual subjects such as math later in life. To develop these skills, children need several opportunities every day to mold, create, and build using materials that do not have a predetermined structure or purpose. What a technological device provides are programs with a predetermined purpose that can be manipulated in limited ways with consequences that often don’t fit the rules of the physical world. If the child is not being given a drawing app or the like, they are likely given programs that are in essence a lot like workbooks with structured activities. Researchers have found that such activities hinder the cognitive development of children this age. While researchers advise parents to limit their baby’s screen time to 2 hours or less each day, I would say it’s better to wait to introduce technology to your children until after they have at least turned 3-years-old and are demonstrating healthy cognitive development. Even then, technology use should be limited enormously to provide toddlers with time to engage in imaginative play.

Technology is changing the way children learn to communicate and use communication to learn. Many parents are using devices to quiet there children in the car, at the dinner table, or where ever social activities may occur. The risk here is that the child is not witnessing and thinking about the social interactions playing out before him. Children learn social skills through modeling their parents social interactions. Furthermore, listening to others communicate and talking to others is how children learn to talk to themselves and be alone. The benefits of solitude for children come from replaying and acting out conversations they had or witnessed during the day, and this is how they ultimately make sense of their world. The bottom line is, the more we expose our children to technological devices, the worse their social skills and behavior will be. A Millennium Cohort Study that followed 19,000 children found that, “those who watched more than three hours of television, videos or DVDs a day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms and relationship problems by the time they were 7 than children who did not.” If you are going to give your child screen privileges, at least set aside a time for just that, and don’t use technology to pacify or preoccupy your children during social events.

There’s no question that technology use can lead to poor outcomes, but technology itself is not to blame. Parents need to remember their very important role as a mediator between their children and the harmful effects of technology. Parents should limit exposure to devices, discourage device multitasking, make sure devices are not used during social events, and monitor the content that their child is engaging in (ie. Sesame Street vs. Johnny Neutron). Technology can be a very good learning tool, but children also need time to interact with objects in the real world, engage in imaginative play, socialize face-to-face with peers and adults, and children of all ages need solitude and time to let their mind wander. We need to put more emphasis on the “Ah-ha!” moment that happens when our minds are free of distractions. For this reason alone, technology use should be limited for all of us.

Sell Results – What Every Technology Salesperson Needs to Know

Late at night when everyone is sitting around the bar at the national sales meeting, sales legends are told. Tales of early wins and dramatic closes. Sales people who closed big deals against terrific odds. The competitive upset. The first million-dollar deal.

These stories create the soul of the company’s culture. The sales people who closed these deals are heroes. They did what no one else could. They saved the day. They closed the big deal. They made a difference.

If you listen to enough of these stories at enough different technology companies patterns start to emerge. One interesting commonality is that there are so few sales heroes. In the early life of a technology company there is often a sales force of 20-30 people, yet there are only one or two ‘superstars’ who outsell all the rest. These ‘sales superstars’ so dramatically outperform the rest of the sales organization that their feats become legendary.

What makes these exceptional salespeople so special? Why can they close deals before anyone else can? How do they sell the solution before the product is even built? How do they crush the competition? What do they know that you don’t know?

The exceptional sales person sells results.

Exceptional sales performers do a better job than the rest of us because they know what information they need and how to get it. They are not necessarily more intelligent than the rest of us. However, they are fast learners. They know the right questions to ask. They have the capacity to become ‘instant experts.’ They use social and cognitive frameworks to help them to make sense of a fast changing world. They continually update their perception of the market with new information and are capable of using these insights to find and develop new opportunities.

Exceptional sales people are also good at generalizing their experiences into principles to guide their actions. They can relate what they experience in one situation to another. They are very creative in applying what they learn to a wide network of potential customers. They think outside of the box. Once they understand the fundamental value proposition of a new technology, they are very good at finding ways to apply the technology to new business applications.

Sales superstars are good networkers. They know who to call to help them think through opportunity scenarios and how to engage visionary executives in a way that builds a sense of excitement around the new technology’s potential. They are also good communicators. Once they understand the capabilities of the new technology, its value proposition and how it can be applied to support business strategies, they are very good at succinctly getting their message across. They can ‘net it out.’

If we know what makes the exceptional sales person successful, why are there so few of them? The answer is simple. Most sales people don’t have information they need to sell.