The Evolving Modern Professional Athlete

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Technological advancements have developed the player’s roles and responsibilities in professional athletics. Whether these changes relate to on-court performance (equipment/training advancements) or off the court branding (social media, advertising, fan engagement), the modern-day athlete plays a much more advanced part than athletes of decades prior.

To learn more, check out this infographic created by Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program.

The Evolving Modern Professional Athlete infographic

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Lebron James is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Lebron’s history is hard to ignore. Though he was born to a single, 16-year-old mother that struggled to keep a roof over their heads, he found the game of basketball and his purpose in life. From his humble beginnings, he made a star-power name for himself as the future NBA star that he would soon become. What’s more, he did all this while still in high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

The media attention was intense, even in those early years, but he quickly showed that he was ready to hit the big leagues upon high school graduation. That media attention has spilled over into social media to the point where every move he makes and everything he tweets is dissected. As of this writing, the media is scrambling to figure out what it means that Lebron has stopped following his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Instagram and Twitter. (April 4, 2016)

Of course, Lebron’s star power is extremely valuable, and his tweets and Facebook posts are worth substantial money. A simple, 140-character Tweet from Lebron James tweet is worth nearly $140,000. For sponsors, this marketing power offers massive value that players of the past did not possess. New basketball shoe styles in the past were marketed by having the best players wear them in games; today, Lebron James both wears them and tweets about them as well, magnifying the impact and the sales.

Athletic equipment manufacturers have long used professional athletes to augment their branding. Arnold Palmer used his star power to enhance his income while also increasing the sales and revenue for over 15 corporations. Michael Jordan and Nike were intertwined from the beginning, with Nike building its advertising around him and every little boy lusting for a pair of “Jordans”. Later, Gatorade made its now-famous commercials with the tagline, “I want to be like Mike.” Undeniably, Jordan-endorsed branding for those products earned him millions for helping to promote them. Even today, he continues to promote products to the tune of a hundred million dollars every year, even though he’s been retired from the game since 2003.

Today, those same manufacturers are creating athletic equipment aimed at enhancing performance and are looking to the game’s star athletes to help them promote this equipment and make lots of sales. These technologies include:

  • Biometric equipment – includes heart rate monitors, pedometers and body fat monitors. This type of equipment is designed to help reduce injuries and keep athletes healthy and performing at their optimal ranges.
  • The MotusPro is a training tool that can track more than 40 batting and pitching metrics to give players data that point out mechanical trends and any issues. It is especially good for rehabilitation, where it will help trainers and coaches assess progress and schedule workouts and practices accordingly to get athletes up to playing form.
  • Catapult wearable analytic devices allow runners, baseball, basketball and football players and coaches to track fatigue and overuse, preventing injuries from overtraining. Catapult lets you know when performance begins to deteriorate due to fatigue by measuring it biomechanically. It also has heart rate monitoring, and this combination allows for objective decisions to be made that will help reduce the risk of injury.

Likewise, equipment developments continue that make sports safer for the athletes that love the games. This is true for star professional athletes and those involved in school or local athletics.

  • Composite tennis racquets are a relatively new development, and they help prevent tennis elbow while also allowing the ball to be hit harder for more speed. The carbon composites allow the flex pattern of the racquets to vary, managing stiffness at different frame points and decreasing the vibrations that radiate back to the athlete.
  • AMP Sport is a software application designed to help athletes prepare and perform their best. It helps to design workouts and practices and analyzes gameplay while giving lots of data and feedback to trainers, coaches and athletes.
  • Today’s bicycles are mechanical marvels, offering special wheels, pneumatic brake levers and pedals that make them more stable than ever and easier to ride than in the past.

The future holds many new and exciting concepts to further enhance athletic performance:

  • Adidas has a shoe called Future Craft 3-D in development, and it will be a complete model of the athlete’s foot, matching it perfectly for optimal comfort and needs.
  • Game Golf is coming to Apple, Pebble and Android watch. This shot-tracking software will track and capture all performance data in real-time automatically, so golfers can review and adjust accordingly.
  • Augmented and virtual reality is becoming mainstream, and the amount of data transmitted to athletes allows them to reenact plays that happened on the field, analyze them and predict outcomes. Virtual reality headsets also emphasize the exact areas where an athlete or his play strategy needs some additional work.
  • NBA teams are already using a system called “Player Tracking” that will certainly be continually tweaked as it develops. Currently, there are at minimum six cameras in each NBA arena that are pointing to the basketball court to capture and analyze the efficiency of the team and each individual player. This type of analytic camera system can automatically point out areas of concern and help the team improve its overall performance.

The modern professional athlete will continue to evolve and with the help of technology, their on the field performance and off the field marketing power will continue to change and do so at an even faster rate than before.

Learn more about earning your online Master of Athletic Administration from Ohio University.