5 ways coaches will benefit from GPS Monitoring

When new fads arrive on the sports scene there are some early adapters and also a mass of coaches who need a little more convincing.

So it was about in 2008 when performance monitoring using GPS technology first arrived on the scene. Since then this tool has evolved from being a very expensive moodily used exclusively by elite teams with large budgets into an affordable solution that can be used by coaches at all levels to benefit their performance and preparation programs.

Initially the benefit of a sports scientist was required to “translate” the data accrued into something resembling actionable information. However companies in the GPS space, such as VX SPORT™, saw the absolute benefit in innovating with an affordable, actionable system that can be used by coaches at all levels and grades without the need for sports science background. The premise is simple; regardless of age or level every player deserves both the chance to engage in a training program that will allow them fulfil their potential as well as looking after their welfare through responsible and appropriate programming and load prescription. Quick to spot this reality VX SPORT™ has evolved  it’s GPS product over four generations into a system that is now used at schools, academy and every amateur level in a variety of sports across forty-plus countries globally. Each of these coaches also has the reassurance that the VX GPS technology and software they are handling is the exact same as that used by many of the world’s leading teams and sports organisations.

So just why have so many coaches at amateur club and academy level chosen to engage in player monitoring of late; surely it cannot simply come down to the fact that monitoring is now affordable even for those on tight budgets??

Not at all in fact. Coaches have realised that in order to offer their players training and preparation that is progressive, appropriate and fit for purpose they needed a level of insight into both game demands and training load measurement that their experience and intuition alone could not give them. Of course years of experience gives a coach the “feel” for what is required but as we see time and again teams underperforming due to fatigue or succumbing to “overload” injuries, the necessity for simple, concise and objective feedback became very apparent.

It is not enough though to suggest that coaches should engage with GPS monitoring technology just to join the race and ‘keep up with the Jones’ – there has to be a more compelling rationale for coached to invest time and resource into the athletic monitoring of their players.

Having seen many coaches and clubs adapt the practice over the past 3-4 years it has become clear that there are five primary reasons as to why coaches see this monitoring as justifying their time and resource investment

  1. Are your players actually ready?

As coaches we may think they are but do we know they are? Athletic monitoring quite simply allows us to monitor the performance of players in match situations in order to contrast and compare the physical outputs of players over a period of time – for sure we need to look deeper than just the match stats for distances and intensities but if we see endurance and intensity levels climbing higher then we know we are in a good place…..conversely if we are dipping or stagnating this may lead to other conclusions.

2. How do I plan my training prescription?

Quite simple really when we monitor. For example, we may monitor 2-3 matches to establish simple distances, intensities, work-rates metrics and perhaps heart-rate data. From here we can then plan how we will plot our load for the week based on a multiple of the match load e.g. if a player runs on average 600 high-speed metres per match then we, depending on the time of season, choose to us a multiple factor of, for example, 2.2 times this load i.e. 1320 metres. This means we need to cover 1320 high-speed metres in our training week – how we factor that across three sessions, for example is then down to our time management and periodisation. Again when we split out our load we can monitor 3-4 simple metrics to ensure our sessions are giving our players what they need.

3. Overuse injuries

First off we need to acknowledge that there are many causal factors in players injuries. Monitoring will certainly not eliminate injuries but it can help identify those players that are over-reaching and who may be more susceptible to injury. We can also see perhaps from some simple metrics that a players outputs are down versus group average in a session where they seemed to be trying hard. Most likely fatigue has set in and this quite possible will end in injury owing to overloading a fatigued system.

4. Asking better questions

Not only will monitoring athletic markers benefit from a physical training prescription angle, it will also have benefits for the coach in other game-related regards. Asking better coaching questions is a key to progression throughout the season and here monitoring can be front and centre as a solution. Video analysis, for example, may answer our “how”and “what” questions but adding in athletic monitoring will bring us closer to the answers of our “why” conundrums.

Two examples.

You have identified that your team start games slowly. What to do?? How about monitoring your warm-up to see if there is a volume/intensity balance and if the warm-up ever reaches the intensity and speed levels that adequately prepares players for what is coming in the match.

As a coach you instinctively know that your substitutes are not having the desired impact. How about examining their warm-up pre their arrival on to the field. Has it prepared them to hit the ground running so that they do not need to catch a second wind at the height of the match??

(Admission: In the past I have been helpedno end by these two pieces of monitoring alone and continue to see the benefits with coaches new to monitoring who may only engage in these two areas to start with)

5. The worst-case scenario

So we train all season but when the heat really comes on in big games fatigue sets in and mistakes are plentiful and costly. Why?? Because we haven’t prepared the players to a “worst-case scenario” level. In short we have never brought our players in the training/practice environment to a place the exactly mimics the demands experienced at the height of competition. Greek philosopher Archilochos pointed out many eons ago that “we do not rise to the level of our expectations but fall to the level of our training”. This mimics what we see in the big games – players falling victim to never having entered the “red-zone” in training that mimics what they experience at the height of the match. Simple monitoring of workloads, efforts and intensity helps identify what the coach needs to work towards to ensuring players are 100% conditioned to the very worst demands they will face on the field.

For sure GPS monitoring of players takes time and a little effort – however even with the limited examples above it is clear how consistent monitoring of players will have a compound effect over time towards ensuring that your coaching, training and overall preparations are as specific, appropriate and responsible as is possible.

Why guess when you can assess??

For more detail on how the Match-Fit and VX SPORT™ have been benefitting coaches and their staffin Ireland, UK,EU, Africa and beyond mail me now at paul@matchfitireland.comor call on +353 86 8595155

Your performance will thank you!

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Paul Clarke

Since 2002 Paul has developed a reputation for expertise in the vital performance-related areas of coaching, S&C, sports science and performance analysis. Teams, clubs, organisations, coaches and players from Ireland, UK, Europe and beyond have benefitted from the insights offered by the Match-Fit business as a result of the tailored and customised approach taken to creating a performance solution specific to each client. Through keeping performance and the player at the heart of all solutions, Match-Fit clients have realised that the solutions delivered not only benefit competitive performance but also the club/organisation as a complete sporting business entity.

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