HAShe day after a spectacular Toulouse-Perpignan (43-34), Stade Toulousain manager Ugo Mola and former Usap strongman Christian Lanta met on Sunday morning at the Théâtre Ducourneau in Agen. Not to replay the match, but to debate within the framework of the Michel-Serres Meetings on the theme: “From data to AI, sport in the face of technological progress”. “The use of data to optimize performance arrived at the beginning of the 2000s,” explains Mathieu Defontaine, “sports scientist” and former USAP physical trainer. “GPS sensors have evolved and…
HAShe day after a spectacular Toulouse-Perpignan (43-34), Stade Toulousain manager Ugo Mola and former Usap strongman Christian Lanta met on Sunday morning at the Théâtre Ducourneau in Agen. Not to replay the match, but to debate within the framework of the Michel-Serres Meetings on the theme: “From data to AI, sport in the face of technological progress”. “The use of data to optimize performance arrived at the beginning of the 2000s,” explains Mathieu Defontaine, “sports scientist” and former USAP physical trainer. “GPS sensors have evolved and data analysis is expanding. »
“We must not forget that the stopwatch was invented to measure performance,” recalls philosopher Raphaël Verchère. Over the past few decades, we have seen an increasing computerization of sport. » Motorsport, ocean racing and cycling are the three disciplines that draw the most from this data. Rugby has not remained airtight. “We only saw advantages,” assures Christian Lanta, the last manager to have guided SU Agen to the final in 2002. “In addition to the video, we found there the tools to measure physical abilities players, have their profile and make them work accordingly. »
Scheduling training, improving performance or measuring workload to prevent injuries, data is everywhere and has become a very lucrative business. The managers of Toulouse Football Club have even used it to successfully recruit their players for three seasons. “This makes it possible in particular to associate motor preferences,” underlines Ugo Mola. The idea is still attractive, particularly for the complementarity at the hinge level.” But the manager of the French champions, who are immersed in figures, warns: “These tools must remain in place of the tool. »
“Isn’t the risk of data that a coach uses it to exonerate himself when he fails? »
Is there a fear that artificial intelligence will take the place of technicians to decide on team composition or strategic choices? “We have physical, medical data and performance indicators, but these are only decision aids,” insists Ugo Mola. We must not forget the context in which we take them. ” A concrete example ? “In the Top 14 final against La Rochelle, Ntamack has been counter-performing for ten minutes, he plays his 31e match of the season, all the visionaries say we have to take it out. But when he scores the winning try in the 78the minute, he hits his absolute maximum speed of the season! »
The coaches’ refuge?
Examples of the unfortunate use of data, at a time when even the ball and the pitch are now connected, Ugo Mola has dozens. The most telling? “In 2019, England can win the 6 Nations Tournament by beating Ireland. The coach takes out his two best players who have reached the maximum of their physical data and they lose the match…” Aren’t all records broken when athletes are pushed to their limits? No data measures this capacity to transcend oneself. “We must maintain this element of sensitivity and not only refer to these data which nevertheless remain extremely important. »
The Toulouse manager has also learned to use it as a lever: “In measuring performance, when we access high standards in data, it increases confidence. » He played it at a time when he thought his three-quarters were losing momentum. “I retrieved the data from La Rochelle and I showed my players that even less well they were still going faster than the Rochelais who were improving. You nourish your confidence and your ability to believe. » But we must also be wary of the figures. “Our benchmark match in terms of data when I was in Perpignan was a 50-point defeat against UBB! », warns Mathieu Defontaine.
For Ugo Mola, “good morning” says much more than data about a player’s fitness level. “This is the best data. As the ability to generate emotions remains the basis. » So when the national coach defends his record for four years with figures, Christian Lanta does not say that “Fabien Galthié takes us for idiots” like Richard Dourthe, but he questions: “Is the risk of data not not that a coach uses it to exonerate himself when he is in failure? »
When Mola almost signed for the SUA. Originally from Sainte-Foy-la-Grande (Gironde), Ugo Mola knows the Armandie stadium well. “My grandfather who lived in Nérac was a fan of the SUA, I went with him to see the matches in Agen when I was little. I admired this game at Agenaise in the 80s with Philippe Sella, but also this pack which was monstrous. » An SUA jersey that the current manager of Stade Toulousain almost wore during his career as a winger or full-back. “The president at the time, Bernard Lavigne, contacted me to come and play in Agen in 1996. It was a good start for me to sign. But I finally joined some friends in Dax. He was very angry with me. »
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