It is no secret that professional and college football teams are always seeking an edge on the competition and ways to improve performance. Over time technology that is classically only available to programs with extensive budgets has become more accessible to the masses.
One technology that fits this mold well is GPS tracking. More high school football programs have moved into GPS tracking as it becomes increasingly affordable and easier to use.
Programs all over the country use GPS tracking as both an athlete monitoring tool and in many cases for performance assessment. When used as part of an overall coaching system, GPS tracking can effectively guide and inform the following processes to name a few:
- Athlete Load Monitoring
- Rehab and Return to Play Planning/Assessment
- Athlete Profiling and Benchmarking
- Training Session Design and Periodization
“I cannot say enough about the impact SPT has had on our football program. Our decision to utilize this game changing technology was about being smarter as coaches and having our athletes' health and performance at the top of our priority list. - Scott Galloway, Head Athletic Trainer, Brewer High School
Key Metrics used by Brewer High School Football included:
- Total Distance - A key marker for volume, total distance is the full distance traveled in yards (at all speeds) for the duration of the performance
- Hard Running - When an athlete is travelling at a speed greater than 10.1mph. Hard Running Distance is the total volume accumulated above this speed. *Given the more intense nature of hard running, there is a need to measure and monitor to ensure athlete fatigue levels can be identified.*
- Hard Running Efforts - An athlete must maintain the hard running threshold of 10.1mph for longer than 1 second to register a hard running effort. The ability to repeat hard running efforts can be a strong determinant of high level athletic performance.
Why does this matter? By tracking and monitoring an athlete's high-speed exposures helps coaches establish baselines unique to each individual athlete. If you are a coach that manages a large volume of athletes, there is a strong case to build weekly high speed running exposures based on athlete positional groups. Training sessions and drills can then be designed around positional needs for high speed exposures in mind.
Hard Running information (eg. an athlete's weekly total volume vs their average volume of the last month) can then be used to determine if an athlete is achieving an appropriate weekly loading. Thus, helping to reduce over (or under) loading an athlete therefore reducing their overall risk for soft-tissue injury. An approach such as this will also go a long way to ensuring your athletes have adequately prepared for game demands.
Further to the application of individual load monitoring, high-speed related metrics also hold significant value for competition preparation. By training and adequately exposing athletes to the physical performance demands that you expect to see in game play, each athlete and positional group can be sure that they are fully prepared for both game conditioning and intensity.
“It's awesome having SPT to help track our athletes progress throughout a season so they can continually give their best performance every week during games. It's one thing to say an athlete is fast, it's another thing to be able to pull up the data and show college coaches just how fast our kids are and how much they are working daily; so it's also a great tool in the recruiting world for the kids.“ - David Porter, Wide Receivers Coach
Some coaches may be wondering? Football is not a sport where athletes complete large running volumes, why should I care about GPS data? Not only can SPT GPS hardware track GPS data, but it also captures data via an on-board accelerometer.
A key metric to monitor on a per player basis is 2D Load (an accelerometer calculated metric). 2D Load captures all forces that an athlete undergoes on the horizontal vector (think running, changes of direction, accelerating/decelerating and impacts).
“There’s no doubt that we have reduced the number of soft tissue injuries, maximized our game day work potential, and best of all we have the data to support all of the decisions we make!” said Galloway.
Position Coaches should monitor their athlete’s load to reduce the risk of injury and gain insights as to when extra training can take place to maximize performance. Football athletes and positional groups require tailored levels of training that vary greatly. By having visibility of the demands that each group undergoes in training and games, coaches can then manage athletes and design training accordingly.
2D Load is especially valuable for the monitoring of OL/DL. Given the fact that athletes in these positions do not typically cover large running volumes, there is still a need for a position appropriate metric. These athletes undertake large amounts of work in a very small space (Impacts, COD, Pushing etc). By monitoring 2D Load, there is now a valid and reliable method of training OL/DL workloads.
Successful Outcomes Achieved Using GPS Technology:
- By monitoring total distance through the week, players were able to see faster speeds and peak performance on gameday. Given athletes had completed optimal/tailored weekly workloads (aimed at priming them for game day).
- Using GPS data to ensure optimal workloads are being undertaken by athletes and ensuring they do not complete larger than necessary loads - Fresh athletes on gameday off the back of optimal weekly training loads via established benchmarks/goals.
- Prepare athletes for the next level. When you reach the NCAA, there are procedures and processes embedded within these programs. By having an early exposure to them, you know what GPS is, you know what tracking is, you know what sleep monitoring is and you are in a better position to succeed at the next level.
- Inform coaches and provide insights into weekly training practices. This is demonstrated with two key points: Coaches being able to design training drills that replicate game demands across positions and allow coaches to plan for athletes undertaking appropriate weekly workloads (training and game inclusive).