“I owe a lot to the school, my path was laid out nicely for me, but it’s all about being in the right position – that’s where BGS came into the mix.”
Meet Deborah Sides
Cycling Performance Analyst for the British Cycling Team, Deborah Sides, attended Bradford Grammar School in Sixth Form.
She dropped by the school to let us know what she had been up to recently, including her journey to Rio 2016 and beyond…
“I came to BGS for Sixth Form and I really wanted to study the A Level PE course which I’d heard was great at the School. I knew I could also get the support I needed to balance this alongside the academic side of things including Biology, Chemistry and Psychology, all of which I wanted to study.
I absolutely loved it at BGS. The sports facilities are renowned and I played every sport available to me under the sun. I was also lucky to have the opportunities that BGS opened up for me when it came to looking for good Universities. I ended up studying Sport and Exercise Science at Bath University for four years. This included an industry placement in Australia, and it was fabulous to get hands-on experience in an area that I love.
The School helped me in that I had all the qualifications and experience I needed.
“So I was at the top of my game when it came to applying for a job—as these jobs are quite rare to come by.
I owe a lot to the School, the A Level PE programme was fantastic and I loved every minute of it, alongside the Biomechanics side. The movement and physics of sport, it’s all so interesting.
The teachers also supported me with my work experience and selection of Universities. They treat you as an individual and tailor their support to your needs. Even now, the teachers stay in touch and support me. They like to know what I’m getting up to. You’re not just a name, they really care about you and your future.
At School I did a lot of work experience and really got my name out there with lots of different sports teams, and the same went for University. The year out in Australia was an unpaid year trying to get the best work experience I could. It’s about speaking to everyone you can. Making those contacts.
After University I completed a PHD. I worked with British Athletics for three years and then British cycling for three years. My path was laid out nicely for me, but it’s all about being in the right position— that’s where BGS came into the mix.
I cycle myself and I could see how the Cycling Performance Analyst position for the British Cycling Team was the pinnacle of jobs in this field.
“Cycling is Team GB’s most successful Olympic Sport, so I knew I wanted to reach for that.
I remember standing in the Sixth Form Centre on the day that London won the 2012 Olympics bid and thinking – ‘That’s where I want to work’. My dream came true, I was at London 2012 and then Rio 2016.
There are two Analysts for the British Cycling Team including myself, so we both attend all the training sessions, travel to all competitions and video the cyclist’s performance. We then break this all down, looking at the times they’re producing andthe technical work (the powers they’re producing on the bikes). We also work alongside the team pursuit squads, especially when trying to get that Olympic Gold medal. Both the women and men’s teams won Gold at Rio so that’s fantastic news. It’s really exciting to be in a job like this!
When you analyse the cyclists you take down all their training data and put this into a database. Then you look for trends and patterns in their performance to try and see which training is most beneficial. All the training is individualised, based on the athletes and their position in the team. The data I capture helps to decide who makes the team selections for the Olympics, so you’ll start with eight cyclists and eventually this is narrowed down to four, based on all the data gathered.
It’s also interesting to look at the opposition, so I also analyse other countries to predict what they’re going to do at the Olympic games, so that we can try to be faster. At Rio we were—which was great!
“Next, we’ll start all over again for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and look at different ways of doing the sports analysis to stay at the forefront of Olympic success.
We’re constantly thinking of new ideas and we’ll have younger athletes coming in. I spoke to a BGS pupil today who’s interested in cycling, so it’s lovely to pass all this experience and knowledge on to current BGS pupils.
“I absolutely loved it at BGS, the sports facilities are renowned and I played every sport available to me under the sun.”