Head of Fitness
Munster, an Irish rugby union powerhouse and longtime Catapult client, are a brilliant case study on how to implement the Catapult system by having everyone involved in a club buy in to the technology and understand its benefits.
Led by Head of Fitness, Bryce Cavanagh, Munster wear Catapult OptimEye units in every game and every training to monitor all of their players’ data to know who has been working too hard and who needs extra attention.
Cavanagh explains the basic principles of Catapult and how they use athlete analytics as a predictor when monitoring their athletes. “It can measure impacts, accelerations, decelerations, different changes of direction – numerous different data sets”, Cavanagh said. “We use that data to then compare players and monitor players and we’re now trying to take that monitoring to where it’s prospective rather than retrospective. So rather than looking at what happened and reacting to it, start to use it from a predictive point of view”.
Cavanagh’s technologically-minded Conditioning Assistant, Will Douglas, is the practical applier of the Catapult system at Munster, and understands its uses and importance in assisting putting objective data to his otherwise subjective work. “I come in nice and early before the players get in here and I’ll have all the vests labeled and set up and assign each unit to a player and then set up my laptop, get the live aerial ready for when the players appear”, Douglas said.
“Some days we’re using it for monitoring, so the load monitoring is a big one. For example, Felix Jones gets every ounce out of every training session so sometimes that’s dangerous and we have to protect him from himself. “So we’ll use that to maybe modify his training and give him something different. But then we’ll use it with the players too for motivational purposes”.
Somewhat unique in their approach to integrating the Catapult system across the entire club, Munster also involve their playing list to access the data after trainings and games as a motivational and competitive tool.
Felix Jones, an Irish international player, uses Catapult to monitor his own load during the week and as a competition among teammates after the games. “The interest of it during the week is to monitor your load, just making sure you don’t do too much. “And then after a game, it depends game to game, the conditions make a big difference, but I like to look at it competitively to see who gets the highest reps or the highest distance, or whatever”.
Utilising the athlete analytics to help their training meet their game demands, and save time by incorporating fitness testing in to regular team training, Munster also spread the Catapult system across their medical staff to quickly flag whether a player has surpassed their pre-determined load levels to not risk unnecessary overuse injuries.
“During training, Bryce will come up to me and ask whether we’re getting enough conditioning or what we’re getting out of the session”, Douglas said. “Then you might do an off-the-cuff conditioning session. Similarly, medical staff look at it and ask me to flag up whether a player has reached a threshold. “Say, for example, when a player is coming back from injury and you don’t want him to go over a certain volume that we know is a lot for him. Then we’ll flag that up and they can make the call then. It’s just more information so we can make decisions. “At the moment we’ve got every single game and every single training session [on the software] so we can start to do more with this information now. So it’s going to hopefully start influencing next season, like preseason, what the best-case scenarios are going to be in the game – in terms of how much distance is covered, tackles, accelerations, decelerations, all these sorts of things, so we can say the worst four-minute block looks like this or each position is this, and then we can design specific drills to emulate that of a game”.
Munster is a classic example of the Catapult system infiltrating an elite team across all levels to ensure meaningful data is used in meaningful ways.