Tuesday, June 12, 2012

This is not news ...

Hat Tip to Madame X for this one.

She found this article, "Navigating injury: Can GPS help reduce player burnout?" from CNN.

I'll be honest, this was not real exciting to me as if footballers are just getting wind of this type of technology now, and ways to use it ... well, its just disappointing.

This type of technology has been around for a long, long, time.

Way back in the early 2000's I even worked at a company that did this type of work, Trakus. It is (now) a Wakefield Massachusetts based company that specializes in tracking for broadcast, near real time positioning of horses.

Back in the day, it did the same thing for hockey players and was used in the 2001 NHL All Star Game. A sample output of the technology is shown below.

Photo courtesy InterSystems
Without getting into the 1's and 0's of it, a player is tracked in real time, and that information is stored digitally and able to be regurgitated to get statistics such as distance, speed, acceleration, playing time, and so on.

Now, GPS and GPS type system (like the Trakus system above) have been around for a while, and recently with the advent of low and lower cost electronics have been made available to the "prosumer" (like me with my cycling stuff), and the consumer (like most of us with a GPS in their car).

The suggestion from the CNN article is a very simple, and very known one which is, if you track your effort, you will know how you should be training, and when you should be resting to avoid burnout, excess fatigue, and therefore injury.

Honestly, anyone who is really, really serious about training knows about periodicity and training, and may even track their efforts through a commercially available device, such as the Garmin 405CX that I have.

Heck for me I am even measuring power outputs on my bike during rides. This is hardly advanced stuff and is absolutely essential to me training. An example if how this looks can be found here.

This information can be really useful for match analysis as well. Take at look at "Stuck on the Diagonal" and "Just a High School Match?" from last October and you'll get a sense of just how powerful a tool it is.

If professional coaches are just getting wind of this type of stuff now, they are way behind the curve.

My sense is they have known about it for a while now as there are some really talented exercise physiologists working with teams. What I believe is that there will be great resistance to this on (2) fronts.

First, because it goes against "tradition" (whatever that is) the use of GPS systems will not be easily accepted.

Second, these devices will not be accepted because it puts data on the page that can significantly effect players salaries and transfer fees. As a result players unions and agents may fight to prevent such collection. Can you see the discussion, it goes something like this:

Team Management: Gee Becks, you want a 3 year deal? Let's take a look at your stats last year. Wow, you played in 25 matches and ran an average of 6.5 miles per match. That's down 13% from the previous year. Also, your average speed was down over 2 MPH as well. How about a 1 year deal?

You think I'm kidding.

Players, coaches, and referees are fired for their performance, and often times that is based on objective data such as how many wins, losses, goals, serious incidents, and so on. Imagine if there were a whole set of digitally collect stats for all of these folks? Can you imagine how these would be used?

Now, as we all know, soccer is much more than that. Even the best team on paper can produce horrible results. Just take a look at my poor Radio Shack Nissan Trek cycling team. On paper, the very best team in the world, hands down. In reality, they could not put a beach ball in the ocean if they were standing in the middle of the Atlantic, right now anyway. I am holding my breath for Le Tour however.

It's a piece of the puzzle, and one that can be really abused by those who choose to manipulate the data for their own devices ... as many do.

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