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Sports science with a green twist

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A collaboration between a sports science institute, an environmental organisation, and a Japanese e-commerce company? It might seem an unlikely one, but the Singapore Sports Institute, Save the Beach, and Rakuten made it happen with the Rakuten Green Tour last Saturday at the Singapore Sports Hub.


This tour, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative that promotes the conservation of our natural environment, seeks to use the sport of beach volleyball as a vehicle for social good — in this case, saving the beaches.

rakuten Participants of the Rakuten Green Tour pose for a photo at the Singapore Sports Institute. Photo: SportSG

Working hand-in-glove with the SSI in Singapore, Rakuten sought the integration of different cultures and sectors of society at the event, namely elite sports performance, environmental concerns and awareness, and the bringing of sports to the community, in a bid to further social goals.

The participants of Saturday’s event included volleyball players from Singapore, Japan, and America, as well as Rakuten staff. The players were invited to try out the SSI’s radar gun and video delay facilities before heading out for an exhibition beach volleyball match.

Alongside SSI chief Bob Gambardella, Misako Ito, director of the Japan Creative Centre at the Embassy of Japan, Singapore, and Mie Kurosaka, executive officer and head of the CSR department at Rakuten, also graced the occasion, which was held in conjunction with SJ50, the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan.

“We have activities with beach volleyball players all over the world because they are playing in nature, looking into the skies, on the sand, without sandals, and just with a net and ball,” Kurosaka commented on the Tour.

rakuten National beach volleyball players from Singapore, Japan and America test the power of their serve at the Singapore Sports Institue Biomechanics Lab. The data is gathered using a radar gun, a piece of technology that tracks velocity. Photo: SportSG

Referring to the unique aims that the SSI hoped to fulfil through the Singapore stop of the Rakuten Green Tour, SSI biomechanist Hiroki Ozaki also shared: “The main purpose of the Rakuten Green Tour is to clean up the environment. At the same time, we can get data, such as the ball velocity. We’ve never worked with beach volleyball players before, so we don't know about the speed. We’ve got good data from good players today. In future, we can explore such data [options] for all our local volleyball players.”

The biomechanists were able to gather the data using a radar gun, a piece of technology that tracks velocity. As the athletes got up to serve or spike, their speeds were reflected on a large screen, allowing them to assess their own movements more accurately.

rakuten SSI chief Bob Gambardella (right) with Koichi Nishimura, Japanese volleyballer and Save The Beach President at the Rakuten Green Tour. Photo: SportSG

An iPad application known as “Video Delay” was also utilised, which according to Ozaki, provided real-time feedback of the motions recorded. Simple and easy to use, the app was a real hit with the international volleyball players, who were able to review their serves immediately after and correct their moves accordingly.
“I seldom use sports science equipment when I train in beach volleyball. This is very interesting and useful,” enthused Japanese beach volleyball star and Save the Beach president Koichi Nishimura.

“And it’s free! Anyone, not just professional athletes, can download and use it,” concurred Ozaki.
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