Three combined passions that will help your sporting success
I have been obsessed with sport from a very young age, both participating and watching. At School, my parents were incredibly supportive and my brother and I got involved in horse riding to a high level, tennis, athletics, skiing and many more sports. Almost every weekend we were away competing in one sport or another, and every day I was doing some form of training (whether I realised it or not at the time), playing hours of basketball on the uneven back lane where my dad had erected a net, or hitting tennis balls against the garage wall, or biking through the woods behind the house. I watched a lot of sport and would religiously watch Trans World Sport on Channel 4 on a Saturday morning to catch-up on all the worlds sporting news (no internet back then with instant updates!). I would watch every sport ... apart from Lawn Bowls (not the best sport for TV, but great fun to play!). I really wanted to study sports science at Uni, but my parents (with their best interests at heart) said there was no future in sports science. Instead, I went off to Aberdeen Uni and studied physical geography, which I enjoyed, but wasn't passionate about.
As a teenager, I had competed in Modern Pentathlon, but Aberdeen didn't have a modern pentathlon club, so I ended up joining the triathlon club, and that's when I got into cycling. I was an OK triathlete, and was ranked number one junior in Scotland, but poor swimming and dodgy Achilles meant I couldn't excel. I did, however, spend hours reading training books and magazines, and watched a massive amount of sport really developing an understanding of what made successful athletes excel. A year in Australia introduced me to the ozzie work ethic and focus on technique - what a great learning year that was. It was at this time that I made the switch to XC mountainbiking, partly because I was not enjoying triathlon and partly because I wanted a new challenge. It certainly was that. My technical ability back then was non existent and fear prevented me even thinking about line choice.
At the same time I switched to mountainbiking, I ended up doing a PhD at St Andrews Uni (still in physical geography), and this is where my passion for science and analysis really developed. It was also when I got into filming. I was captain of the Uni cycling club and there was a University-wide filming competition, so we decided to enter. I found myself at 4 am in the morning editing and completely unaware of the time and enjoying the whole process far more than my PhD (I had found my true passion). This is also where my passion for filming downhill developed and when I started to see the potential for using video in analysis and line choie.
All I needed to do now was to combine all three of my passions - sports, filming and science (analysis) - in one career and I would be laughing. It took a while, but I've finally done that, and come full circle, to be operating as a sports scientist and offering a sports performance analysis service, where I get to do video analysis, analyse masses of data from my Catapult S5s and watch sport for a living. Who knows where I would have ended up if I'd done a sports science degree straight out of school, but I'm glad I took this convoluted route, because I'm now getting to analyse the amazing sport of downhill mountainbiking, and see where time is won and lost on the world cup circuit!
Visit our Sports Lab page for a look at what we do.