Podcast #7: Interview with John Lythe

Podcast #7: Interview with John Lythe

In episode seven of the Complementary Training podcast, I am talking to John Lythe.

I can call John my big brother. He was more than helpful with his support and advice from sport science, Excel to personal/life issues. I am really lucky to know this lad. We finally met in person when I was in Doha in 2014/2015. You do not know a person until you drink couple of pints with them. 🙂

As most of you know John is Excel and sport science wizzard. I’ve used this interview to pick his brain on numerous topics.

Here is the summarized transcript:

Who is John Lythe?

By day:
I sit well behind the scenes and support Olympic performance in NZ – I work in the space between IT and the support teams (doctors, physios, S&Cs, Physiologists etc). I look after the Athlete Management Systems and other software tools and I also make sure that staff have the tools to do their jobs i.e. the right computer(s), the right phone, the right software and technology tools

Previously I was a sport scientist/S&C – 5 years of general sport science + 7 years of team sport work in senior roles – S&C, Physiology, Performance Analysis (Head of Sport Science for Football and then Field Hockey)

By night:
Excel and systems development – i have a few international contracts in Football, Rugby and misc others

In between I drop my kids at school and spend lots of time with the family at home – something I never used to do when I was training athletes!

Why did you start ExcelTrick4Sport?

Firstly why Excel – while I was an aspiring sport scientist I used it as an efficiency tool and an ideas machine – I created systems for training load, wellness, strength programming, test results, GPS data etc. Having skills in this area helped me be better (and different to other S&C’s)

I initially started the channel to keep involved with the S&C world and expand my global network. Now I have realised that there is a major need in the system and that I have the skills to help. I had been giving tutorials at work for years so it was an easy step to make a Youtube channel. Helping people out has become addictive. Solving problems for others has made me a few $ and given me some significant insights that help with my day job and with my own ideas.

How important is data literacy for S&C coaches and sport scientists?

You either need to be able to do it yourself or have someone to do it for you – few people have luxury of assistants with this skill so only choice is to learn and be self sufficient. Data literacy makes it easier to separate wheat from chaff – there is currently a lot of stuff out there not worth the $ or effort – Social Media is making it hard – half are saying it’s about coaching and half are saying you need to be doing VBT, using GPS, force plates and monitoring everything that you can – time and money are a problem. You need to get information from your own environment and not from research papers. Data is growing exponentially so get used to it – IOT and Wearable tech boom is not going away.

Issues in data driven management? What are the issues you stumbled upon?

Data integration is the critical step (yet to be done well by most) – stage 1 is presenting multiple data streams in a dashboard; stage 2 is doing stats and modelling

Data usefulness/application comes down to the coach-staff-athlete culture – part of the job of an S&C is to influence/educate coaches and athletes. Making data useful is an art form.

In New Zealand we operate a coach driven model where people make decisions – data is just there to support and influence.

New technologies: R, Python, PowerBI, Tableau – what would you recommend learning?

Whatever is most useful to you right now – Excel is always going to useful and Google Sheets and other free tools are also perfectly fine.
All software in the future will be config i.e. you will be able to do everything with a mouse (or your finger on a touch screen). Examples in excel are pivot tables and a charts. You don’t need to code anything or write formula but you do need to understand how your data is laid out and what you need to click and drag to build a report or do your analysis

If you want to dig deeper then learn to code in Python or R or VBA or Java (or anything)

What are the current projects you are working on?

I am half way through making a Performance Analysis Excel course with Rob Carroll/The Performance Analyst. This is a basic to advanced walk-through of specific excel tutorials for Analysts

I am working on a long term project to create a team sport monitoring system in Microsoft PowerBI ( for football, hockey, sevens rugby & netball). It will have several data streams, use APIs, phone Apps, have data connections to our medical software and match performance systems and be searchable with plain language queries – I still have plenty to do but I am excited about this one

Suggested material for interested listeners?

My success is to do with doing so I suggest that people create a project and use it as a learning vehicle – then use Youtube, Google, books and conversations to learn what they need to learn to get the project over the line. Don’t forget to live a little, life experiences will help you be a better S&C.

John can be found on Twitter @athletefitness and at his website athletefitness.co.nz. Also, make sure to check out his YouTube channel.

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I am a physical preparation coach from Belgrade, Serbia, grow up in Pula, Croatia (which I consider my home town). I was involved in physical preparation of professional, amateur and recreational athletes of various ages in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, martial arts and tennis. Read More »

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