Catapult would like to thank its 24 attendees that flew to Hawaii for its inaugural American football Performance Workshop over Pro Bowl weekend.

Catapult clients represented:

  • Seven NFL teams (Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins)
  • Six college football programs (University of Kentucky, University of Minnesota, Baylor University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Oregon, Florida State University)
  • One AFL club (Gold Coast Suns)
  • One Australian university (Victoria University)
  • One High Performance institute (Canadian Sport Institute)

The workshop brought together some of the smartest minds at the intersection of sport science and strength and conditioning in North America.
The Performance Workshop was held on Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa over two full days (with a customary Hawaiian-themed welcome buffet dinner).

Day one started with a presentation by David Tenney, Sports Science and Performance Manager at the Seattle Sounders of the MLS, titled “Development of a Risk Profile”.

David begun by expressing that there are no ‘right’ risk models, only useful ones, and that the four phases of metric creation – opportunity, survey, analysis and communication – need to be followed in order to ‘keep it simple’.

Analytics is an exciting term for a lot of professionals working with sports data, but David reiterated the fact that before you drive the sexy Ferrari (start playing around with Catapult data) you need to first map out the road (set up your database).

The next step is to give it some time. In the first six to 12 months, all you should do is collect all the relevant data. Between 12 and 18 months, you should use the data to create and test your model. And then the final step is to evaluate the results of the model and make tweaks – personalising the process along the way.

Flipping the switch on the athlete risk analysis, David suggested that instead of spending your time trying to protect your vulnerable athletes, you should find the guy that stays robust enough to last an entire season without injury and emulate his training program for the rest of your athletes.

Attendees then split in to roundtable sessions to discuss:

  • ‘PlayerLoad as a marker of training load/fatigue’, moderated by Erik Korem
  • ‘Development of metrics’, moderated by David Tenney and Matthew Varley (Lecturer in Exercise and Sport Physiology, Victoria University)
  • ‘Athlete asymmetry and Inertial Movement Analysis (IMA)’, moderated by Chris Barnes
  • ‘Integration of heart rate data’, moderated by Darren Burgess

Following lunch, a “Stories from the field” panel was set up with the four presenters discussing the ins and outs of athlete tracking technology across a range of teams – sharing some funny stories and explaining what they found to be effective in everything from getting buy in of athletes to monitoring expectations from coaches that want to see results instantly with data.

Day one wrapped up with a presentation by Chris Barnes, Sport Scientist at West Bromwich Albion FC, who talked about “Athlete individualization: A primer for athlete profile management”.

The first thing Chris showed in his presentation was that despite working in different continents and in different sports (Chris also consults for Great Britain Basketball), his approaches to sport science and performance monitoring of elite athletes is very similar to David Tenney.

Using an early car analogy, Chris explained that not every athlete is a Ferrari – and therefore not every athlete ‘loads’ in the same way. Also, load needs to be divided in to cardiovascular (the engine), locomotive (the dashboard), and mechanical (the chassis).

Because each athlete is different, you therefore need to monitor them individually, and find which metrics apply for each athlete. If you try to analyse vast amounts of data across an entire team, it simply becomes noise.

The differences in the athletes can also be due to movement mechanics, genetics and positional demands.

Following the conclusion of the first day’s discussions, the group put education to the side to catch some waves on the world-famous Waikiki beach.

Wearing the brand new OptimEye S5 units – the first tracking device in team sport to use GNSS – we had some fun with the data and awarded the longest wave, most distance covered, and the highest speed among our mixed group of beginners and advanced surfers. In particular, Michael Regan (Catapult Product Development Manager and regular surfer) and Nate McGlone (new Catapult employee and former professional skateboarder) were naturals on the perfect waves.

Day two started with a presentation by Erik Korem, High Performance Manager at the University of Kentucky, who presented on “Game Readiness: The Art of Athlete Preparation”.

Erik started with advice to all attendees: “Scrutinize everything, but be nice about it.”

He then expressed the importance of fluid training models, before explaining the four key components for athlete readiness: physical preparation, mental preparation, technical preparation and tactical preparation.

In the field, the two major categories for quantifying training loads are external load (quality, quantity and organization of the stimulus), and the internal load (physiological response) are what make up the complete training process.

With a variety of measurement tools at the University of Kentucky, a large component of Erik’s High Performance program is gaining compliance from his athletes. They must understand how the information is being used and who will see it, you should show them reports and how the information will enhance their individual performance – because without this you can create fear of reporting and therefore the information is invalid.

In the afternoon, Michael Regan presented on “Big Data is like teenage sex… (everyone talks about, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it).”

Following an informative account of how Catapult fits in to the growing trend of analytics and big data, Michael went away from the script and showcased Catapult’s three new innovations: OptimEye S5, ClearSky and OpenField – a personal athlete analytics platform that had everyone in the room excited about the direction of the technology.

Day two closed out with a presentation from Darren Burgess, High Performance Manager at Port Adelaide FC, titled “Data Mining: Making Sense of the Data and Reporting This Effectively to Coaches”.

Darren brought unique experience to the workshop with his prolific background in the English Premier League with Liverpool FC, and explained the differences in the UK compared to Australia and the US in terms of sport science and performance monitoring.

Knowing his audience, he demonstrated what has worked for him in the past 11 years of using GPS-related data and relayed how this could be applied in American football.

Catapult would again like to thank its attendees for making the trip to Hawaii so soon after a long NFL and college football season.

The next Performance Workshop will be In Cologne, Germany in early May.

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