Introducing a Global Positioning System into a Premier League Academy.

So when I joined my current club, the Academy  had no prior experience of using GPS. Our First Team itself had been using the Catapult GPS system for approximately 2 years before I joined, and the EPPP had just come into place.

In terms of GPS, I think it was the same for most clubs in the Premier League and Championship. Most First Teams had been using GPS for a couple of years, but many of the Academys had not. The introduction of the EPPP changed this and this saw it brought into the Academy System. And rightly so, its’ addition came at an important time, offering invaluable information to each club.

This is the way forward, it’s taking away the subjectivity coaches and other departments across sports have used so often before, allowing them tI become more objective. It’s not wrong to say you can’t be subjective at times, but having objective data at handto help with decisions is vital for me. Off the cuff remarks will be less frequent nowadays, with data being shown in real-time and immediately post training/matches. This is brilliant for Sport Science in England, and this I hope is going to be one of the many factors which help develop Sport Science in England to be the one of, if not the, leading countries in the World for Sport Science.

The GPS is predominately used as a daily training monitoring system. Its’ ability to continually develop and be used across a multi-disciplinary programme is frightening (if used correctly). We as an academy use it across many different departments. A couple of examples within our own Sport Science and Medicine department; include working with the lead sport scientists, and working with physios/rehab specialists to devise individualised rehabilitation programmes out on the pitch. This helps maximise the return to play procedure, and in a later blog I will explain this in a much greater detail.

The above are a couple examples of how the data is used as part of the Sport Science and Medicine department, and in later blogs I will explain these in more depth, demonstrating how the GPS can be used effectively within other departments: such as coaching and other performance analysts departments.

Back onto how it all began at the Academy. As I said above, no-one at the academy had experience of using the GPS until I came along.  This however, was my first job in full control of a GPS programme and was a big project for all of us to develop the programme into a system we were extremely happy with. It’s a programme which is being continually reassessed and developed. The programme is one that will never be perfect and one which will always be refined with an abundance of new research being published, more updates on the software and newer units being validated and released by growing companies. own experience of the data and how we want it extracting.

So approximately a week into our 2013/2013 pre season, the GPS arrived. As with I imagine all the Academy’s there was a huge investment, and It was a big day for the Academy. When it all arrived I did all the basics; labelling all the units and designating them to individual players, setting the generic parameters and selecting our variable preferences to come out of the system etc.

After the download of the first training session, we then had to design a document that would allow the appropriate data be drawn out from the exported excel documents. It can’t be underestimated how long this took us. It’s a vital part of how we interpret the data so it was important to get it right. We needed to get as much data as possible from spreadsheets so that the relevant data which can be feedback to players and coaches and sufficient amount of data for us sport scientists.

The design of the training document has basically remained the same, however it is continually being evolved. There’s more data being exported and fedback, and more advanced spreadsheets which give us so much data in a method which gives us so much and helps us interpret the data from training and matches quickly and ease. (In later blogs I will demonstrate how certain training days are fedback to the lead sport scientist).

I think one of the most important issues for us as sport scientists is the speed at which we can give feedback to both players and coaches alike. I’ve found players really enjoy getting the feedback from training but if data is fed back too slowly then their interest can wane.

Players in our squads are educated in terms of what certain variables mean. Why they are important on certain training days, how area sizes can effect the GPS variables and how particular training days can alter the variables they look at. I think this is massively important. It has to be drummed in to them that  sport science and the football work together and are not two individual aspects. I think its vital players have an idea of what they should be looking at when data is fedback and why it’s important for football. It allows them to look at their data, compare themselves to the group and reflect upon the session (from a physical point of view). Why their performance may have decreased or improved and what they could do differently, instead of us just telling them.

Frequent presentations to players helps to demonstrate to them how and why the physical parameters are important for football. Regular reviews with players examining their physical data and explaining to them trends found really do help to educate players to the importance of absorbing all of the physical data given to them!!

Another important in the feedback process as well is hope much data is fed back to the players and coaches on a day to day basis. (In later blogs I will demonstrate the different methods to which I compete this).

In my opinion, I think there is a time and a place to give players and coaches detailed feedback from the data, with this method mainly used when I have individual meetings with players about their physical data. We’ve also shown players DVDs to help show players in footballing terms also. Another time that players get detailed reports on their data is in the individual reviews. Players will be fed back the data from the lead sport scientist, with graphs indicating the areas they need to work on for example.

However on a day to day basis, unless it is felt appropriate, basic GPS variables from the training template sheet are shown to players and stuck up on the changing room wall. I think it’s important not to overload them with data but give them 5 or 6 variables which we think are important for that particular training day. Whether it’s the basic high intensity variables (such as number of efforts of distance) for big area days or Player Load, accelerations/deceleration for the small area days etc.

I have attached an example feedback sheet for the to this blog.

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