Truth in sport

Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation. 


Tutor: François Merland/ sports coach and biomechanic

Project manager: Stéphane Coulaud


A project in two parts, requiring rigour and intuition. The pupils first learned about the knowledge and methods used in biomechanics to explain performance in sport. In the second part they applied this knowledge to a particular object: betting on professional championships.
The Truth in Sport project aimed to explore the field of possibilities between the scientific principles of biomechanics and the randomness of sports bets. The idea was to think of biomechanics as a discipline whose basic principles could be applied to game-playing and to considered, rational projection.

This workshop compared the scientific approach of biomechanics to betting on sports events. We wanted to know whether this discipline could provide sure, or at least probable, answers in a field which partly depends on human factors that are hard to foresee, especially in team sports where most predictions are made.

In the first phase the tutor introduced the field of biomechanics, especially applied to sports. The French football championship was chosen as the first “field of prediction”. The pupils were divided into groups of betters and chose different teams to represent the championship fairly. Each class was then asked to predict the results without taking statistics and predefined parameters into account.

In the next phase, the predictions were compared with the real results to spot mistakes and correct them for the next predictions. In the following sessions, new data were introduced (statistics for each player in the previous and current seasons, overall team statistics, number of goals, etc.) to refine the predictions.

Still working in groups of betters, the pupils applied the same approach to team sports other than football, such as volleyball, basketball, rugby, and handball. From one session to the next, the predictions were systematically compared with the real results and then analysed.
In addition to team sports, predictions were made for individual sports which are more firmly anchored in the collective imagination as regards betting.
In addition to the theoretical work, the pupils were given a real test in the physical education class. They realised how hard it is to predict performance and results with certainty, even with the aid of biomechanics.

Partial reports were presented on a regular basis throughout the year. Working from scientific principles of biomechanics, the pupils bet on sports matches, especially in the French football championship and compared their predictions with the real results. 


Outings (selection):

Participating schools: 
- Class (3rd), Collège Madame-de-Sévigné, Gagny
- Class (5th SEGPA), Collège Colonel-Fabien, Saint-Denis