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Acing Innovation With Female Athletes And The WTA

“You swing like a girl!”


We’ve all heard it before – meant to criticize a male for a poor swing… but in reality, no one swings like a “girl,” or a “boy” for that matter. Instead, you either swing like someone that’s had sufficient training, or not. There are two major distinctions between male and female competitors that are responsible for the popularity dominance toward men’s professional sports… neither of which are athleticism.

  1. Practice – Think about the disparity that’s built when a generation of parents gives baseballs to boys and Barbie dolls to girls. Generation after generation have predominantly pushed boys, not girls, toward sports. Although, the difference has been lessening since the institution of Title IX and girl-friendly youth programs.
  2. Size – It makes a difference in just about every sport and is one thing that you just can’t teach. But studies have shown that up until puberty, when boys begin building muscle at an accelerated pace, there is little gender difference in performance.

Women are using SAP technology to tighten the gap. Avid tennis fans are already enjoying simplicity in terms of fan engagement with the WTA Finals mobile application. It provides access to cool info like news, stats, fan polls, and even ticketing info within the convenience of an app.

But the latest game changer is the WTA on-court coaching app. It captures real-time data from sensors to record each play and instantly provides vital insight on things like serve direction and shot placement. Other teams in multiple sports have employed similar technological advances to their benefit. But the info collected in those sports has been utilized after the competition, just like it was in tennis for feedback and training – until now.

What’s so fascinating about the WTA on-court coaching app? It’s redefining the rules of the sport for a truly data-driven competition. Coaches were always permitted to step onto the court and offer advice (much like a trainer interacts with a boxer between rounds). But starting in 2015, they’ll be armed with tablets and some serious data to share during on-court coaching breaks.

Eugenie Bouchard’s coach, Nick Saviano, mentions a possible disadvantage for players who can’t afford a coach. But I see it differently. Reliance on a coach may become less of a differentiator because the data is so powerful. And WTA coach Wim Fissette states, “These statistics on the coaching app will make my job easier and advice more accurate during a match.” And since matches are often decided by only a few points, the visibility into player tendencies will not only make it more competitive, but increase the level of play to, yet again, provide an improved fan experience.

Advanced analytics leading toward enhanced tactics may be just what the trailblazing women of the WTA need to craft the ultimate male tennis compliment… “You swing like a girl.”

Volley with me @airsomers and on LinkedIn.

Watch how the app works:

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      Author's profile photo Sophia Marx
      Sophia Marx

      Sometimes throwing like a girl, means throwing like a girl. A girl who does throw like a girl, and is awesome enough to play with the boys. 13 year old Mo'ne Davis showed us this in the Little League World Series recently. She was given the guidance and had the ambition to play in the big leagues. Someone spent the time encouraging her and honing her skills. Check out how she "Throws Like a Girl" in a commercial here

      Many girls have the natural talent. Some must be encouraged and developed, but we have proof that this is possible. It's not only that men are superior at practice and size that are responsible for men's dominance in sports. It's society's perceptions. As soon as we recognize that female athletes can dominate as well, and have a following in society, we can promote more little girls like Mo'ne and get them in the public eye.

      We see this a lot in the stores with the abundance of pink in various aisles of the toy store. Let's encourage our girls to explore their athletic side. Encourage them to get into STEMS, technology, math, science. We know they are capable.

      A lot of that perception has changed with the popularity of Serena and Venus Williams, Danika Patrick, Mia Hamm, Lolo Jones, Stefi Graf, Gabby Douglas (and the entire female US Gymnastics Olympic team!), Candace Parker, only to name a few.

      Let's support our female athletes, and encourage STEMS for girls at a young age and change that perception. SAP is on the right track for sure!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Ryan, you really hit a home run with this article (had to put my favorite sport in there somehow)  it's a perfect example of technology adding value beyond just performing a task: it brings innovation, can help diversity goals, can make us enjoy our sports even more. What's not to love?

      As a mother of a girl I look forward to the time when she can decide if she wants to swing, hit, run, swim or not (she might want to be a bookworm like mommy) but whatever the choice she makes, I am glad to be witnessing the transformation of the sports experience and proud of working for a company that is leading the charge in this arena. Go SAP!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      I referee an adult, co-ed touch football league here in Philadelphia... There's one team that wins ALL THE TIME... While most teams consist of 5 guys and (the required minimum) 2 girls - this team is just the opposite. It's one male quarterback and every single other player is female.

      The team is pristine - they call well-executed plays, run crisp routes, communicate flawlessly, and are super motivated to win...big. Best of all, on the back of their pink jerseys... instead of their last name - each one says, "You just got beat by a girl." Now that's confidence and they back it up each week.