Dragon Boating & Data Analytics
[Mastering Data]

The context of the story

For our director, 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. KeyData and Tableau, help 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.

"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."

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.

Dragon boating team in action

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 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. 

The "a-ha" moment

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 representatives and they're great to work with. We make a good strong team, I think.

Have a look at the Dragon Boat Tableau Dashboard

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