Saluting the World’s Best Tactical Athletes
Kevin “Kit” Parker first heard of WHOOP when a student of his at Harvard came to him “with some technical questions” about the product he was developing. “I was encouraging them to consider sleep,” says Parker. “Sleep plays a crucial role in performance and everyone in America is short on sleep.”
Parker is not your ordinary Harvard professor (if there is a such a thing). In addition to being the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics, and director of the SEAS Disease Biophysics Group, Parker is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Parker began serving in the Army in 1992 and had two tours of combat duty as a paratrooper in Afghanistan following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
In 2011, he returned for two more missions as part of the Gray Team. “We investigated traumatic brain injuries,” Parker says, “and the doctors found that sleep deprivation often exacerbated them. I’ve been in the Army for 20-something years and I’ve been over to Afghanistan several times, I think what we’ve learned the hard way in the military is that the lack of sleep will break you down.”
Now a member of the WHOOP Advisory Board, Parker believes the Strap can have a great number of benefits for those in the military:
“If I’m a special forces team leader and I have all this data on my soldiers, I can call my higher ups and say something like ‘We are green on everything except sleep. Everyone in my platoon is short on sleep. We need to sit them down for a few days.’ Right now we don’t have a system for that. There may also be members of your unit who are performing where they need to be, but the physiological metrics are telling a different story. When you dig deeper, something is wrong. They may be worn out by stressors we have a hard time understanding. I know as a combat leader myself I would love to have that kind of data about my soldiers.”
Parker sees advantages for individuals using the technology as well, adding “the thing with soldiers, like athletes, we love numbers and quantitative data and we want to have it easily accessible. We also like graphics that we remember. The WHOOP technology allows me to come away with a picture of how well rested I am, how fit I am, how I’m performing.”
He also tells a story of how WHOOP can help soldiers look out for each other, in turn enabling them to function better as a unit:
“The most constructive use of peer pressure that I’ve ever seen was when I went through basic training at Fort Knox. We realized real quick that if someone in the platoon wasn’t complying with the drill sergeant’s vision, everyone was going to suffer. Peer pressure can work in a constructive manner, especially when it comes to exercise and team performance. Whether you’re monitoring your team or crew, making people accountable for their fitness is important–you can all live healthier.”
Simply put, no matter who you are, “better data means better decisions,” Parker says.