How Head Coaches Apply Sports Science Data
When it comes to a team implementing sports technology, one important factor to consider is creating an atmosphere in which athletes, coaches and front office members understand the value of the information being gathered and analyzed. In our last piece, we looked at how strength and conditioning and head coaches can help players appreciate how analytics will help their game. Here, we focus on the relationship between the data and head coaches.
Ole Miss Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach Melissa Terry discussed implementing player tracking data into game strategy.
When we first got the system we thought it would take the whole year before we would be able to make anything out of the data, but about one-third through the season when we started to realize at halftime – looking at the mileage – we could predict who we needed to give extra rest to. When we were at home, there were one or two players that we would shut down for the last five minutes of the half so they could get a 20 minute halftime and doing something to aid in their recovery before the second half. Our head coach got to the point where he could ask how certain players were doing. He might not know the specific numbers on a player but he knows that we can figure out whether we need to give that player a break.
In a case study for CoachMePlus.com, Niagara University Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Wietlispach talked about how the Purple Eagles’ coach tweaked his philosophy because of the data.
A big thing for (hockey head coach) Dave Burkholder is injuries. In my interview, he said, “I think we lead the nation in injuries.” So a big thing is reducing injuries. We do questionnaires, weigh-in and weigh-outs, we measure grip strength every morning at the same time when they wake up. We do that for CNS fatigue. That’s been really helpful. We have gotten to the point with questionnaires where it is just normal. It actually helps them be more cognizant of how they sleep and how they eat because you can’t baby sit them.
Dave and I sit down every morning and we go over how the team is feeling, what they’re saying and what their grip strengths are telling us. That has helped a lot with practices. When we first started, I gave him examples of people not playing well because they were fatigued. We were playing well on Friday and Saturday, but not well on Sunday. Coach’s philosophy had been that he would skate the team harder. I gave him examples with numbers and he bought in right away.
Former Buffalo Sabres Strength and Conditioning Coach Doug McKenney, who has 30 years experience in the NHL, on how coaches used to view conditioning vs. recovery:
The players went into training camp and would be doing two practices a day and the players would have delayed onset of muscle soreness. They would be going to the training room and the trainers would be packing ice bags on everybody. When the trainer and myself would go back to the coach’s office and the conversation would be: “Why are these guys so sore?” The conversation quickly got to how coaches were stretching them. We were on the ice four hours, which would increase the chance for more delayed onset soreness and strains and tears. Once they started to hear some of the arguments for it, they were receptive because it meant more recovery, but on the other side, coaches were saying, “We have to be prepared for our first game and we need to practice.” That was the process of people starting to say that we’ve got to back off.”
Director of Olympic Sports Strength Rick Franzblau on how CoachMePlus allowed coaches to improve their efficiency.
It’s really allowed communication to speed up. The most important thing for us is to get a snapshot of the guys and all the information before they roll off to practice. This is particularly helpful for Men’s soccer because our training block is from 8 A.M. to 11 A.M. so we have to have a system that can pull all this information in quickly so we can ask the guys some questions before they roll out to practice and make some adjustments. Another team that practices in the afternoon, you would have all day to look at the information and digest it. Particularly having the dashboard is helpful for us in that situation where guys are practicing in the morning and we need the assessment monitor that can take a quick snapshot of some important information. It definitely allows information to reach all the people that will have their hands on the athletes and make decisions with the athletes without having to email, call, text or walk up stairs.