Dragon boats and data consulting

Dave Keys knows data. At work, Dave is an experienced data architect who uses Tableau to help clients find data solutions. But for fun, Dave collects data for his competitive dragon boat team, the Manly Dragons. The team tracks paddling power and speed and visualizes the data in Tableau Public—bringing the team success in world-class events.

For Dave Keys, everything comes down to numbers—both in and out of the office.

Dave Keys is an experienced data architect, technical lead, and project manager. His company and Tableau Alliance partner, Key Data Consulting helps clients find data solutions for their business needs.

Dave also uses Tableau in his personal life, collecting data for his competitive dragon boat team, the Manly Dragons, hailing from Manly, Australia. The Manly Dragons have succeeded in a variety of competitions, including the Australian Dragon Boat National Championships in Perth, where they won eight gold, six silver, and three bronze medals. The Manly Dragons use tracking devices to measure paddling power, twisting, angles, and speed. They visualize the data in Tableau Public and share it amongst team members.

With Tableau, the team identifies areas of improvement and makes adjustments to their technique—a process that helps them succeed in world-class championships.

Powerful data for gold-medal athletes

Tableau: Can you speak about how your dragon boat team is using data?
Dave Keys, Principal: Our club, Manly Dragons, we've now had gold medals at two consecutive club crew world dragon boat championships. One of the challenges we had was moving away from gut feel on how we should be coaching and getting into something that was a bit more scientific.

Tableau: How did you move towards a more scientific approach?
Dave: I joined the committee and we started spending a little bit of money on buying devices that measure things like paddle, how much power is being applied on a paddle, twist, what angle the paddle's at, also speed on the boat, so we measure what the boat's doing.

We're now going through a process of iteratively taking that data and using it to tell us more about the way that we're able to improve our paddling technique and get better starts and individualized training for individual athletes.

Tableau: How are you visualizing that data in Tableau?
Dave: We’ve now got a visualization we're using that allows us to compare and contrast different paddlers and the way that they're doing padding technique

It makes it much easier to let that paddler know how they're doing something that might be right or wrong, and to let them visualize what they're doing. Tableau's the best tool for visualizing this sort of data.

We're going through a process of iteratively taking data and using it to tell us more about the way that we're able to improve our paddling technique and get better starts and individualized training for individual athletes.

Manly Dragon Boat Club members paddle in the Gold Coast Chinese Club Regatta. The club uses Tableau Public to visualize competition results and paddling techniques.

Tableau: What has been the biggest benefit of using Tableau Public?
Dave: Return on investment for our club is quite huge, because we're using Tableau Public, so we're able to put the results from our analysis in sports science and publishing it on Tableau Public and that doesn't cost our club anything.

Tableau: Have you received positive reactions from your Tableau Public vizzes?
Dave: We're also now getting a lot of feedback from other people that are interested in what we're doing. We've got a university that's interested in using some of the data we're collecting for their sports science fourth year student studies.

Tableau: Where would you be without these Tableau visualizations?
Dave: Without Tableau we would not be where we are in terms of the way we're taking the data and turning it into a sports science project.

We can apply the science behind the data and make it so that the club members can see how we can improve as a club. And as a result of that, we can see noticeable improvement on a lot of the things we're doing in our sport. There’s no other product comes near it from my perspective.

We'd still be in the old style coaching where the coach would be running on gut feel. We've turned it into something where we're applying sport science to the way we're training as a team, to the way we're looking at individual paddlers, to the way we're starting our races and coming up with individual training routines for individual paddlers. It's changed the way we're doing things.

Driving action with data

Tableau: Can you give an overview of your experience with Tableau?
Dave: I think that Tableau is the best tool around for making the data talk to you in an easy-to-use way.

I first bought Tableau in August 2007, version 3, and I've been using it ever since. I've been a partner more recently, and I've used it across so many different use cases—it's nuts. And there's no other product comes near it from my perspective.

Tableau: How does your company approach data?
Dave: Our focus is taking data and making sense of the data, and using the data with Tableau to come out with new insights. So we transform what for a lot of companies and sporting organizations is unintelligible data and we make it something that's very useful and can be used to drive actions.

Tableau: What has been your biggest “a-ha” moment in Tableau?
Dave: There have been a lot of “a-ha” moments. I enjoy some of the types of graphs that we can produce with Tableau. Tree maps are a favorite of mine. They allow me to pull data out in ways and change the way we're looking at data for different clients so that they haven't seen something like it before.

The color coding, I did a Stephen Few course not long ago about visualization best practices, and Tableau just does that stuff second nature. It's been built to incorporate those sorts of things in. So we're getting very good value out of it from that point of view

Tableau: Has the partnership been a good experience so far?
Dave: I'm finding Tableau an excellent partnership. I'm working with a couple of the sales girls and they're great to work with. We make a good strong team, I think.

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