Entering his fifth year with the Seattle Sounders of the MLS, David Tenney is highly-regarded in the sports science community as a Fitness Coach that understands the requirements of helping athletes reach their athletic potential.
Joining the Sounders after two seasons with the Kansas City Wizards, Tenney has worked from a variety of angles within the ‘world game’ – team captain for Virginia Tech University, earning his B.I.S in Coaching Science at George Mason University while working with both collegiate soccer programs, playing professionally with Germany’s SV Linx and FC Rastatt, playing for six years in the Continental Indoor Soccer League, while completing a UEFA/European ‘A’ licence soccer coaching course in the Czech Republic – and has turned to Catapult Sports to monitor the physical characteristics of his world-class MLS athletes.
“Catapult has given us the opportunity to better quantify the mechanical load and physical load performed in training,” Tenney explains. “It has aided the coaching staff in selecting exercises based on whether we want to overload PlayerLoad, velocity load, or aerobic parameters – giving us a more precise framework from which to work off of.”
Known in particular for his valuable work getting injured Sounders players back on the pitch faster, Tenney’s name is generally the first mentioned when athletes are asked about their road from recovery. In particular, when Seattle winger Steve Zakuani scored his first goal in 17 months after returning from injury early in 2012, his first reaction was to run to the sideline and hug Tenney.
While he notes that this notoriety is “flattering” and shows “that the system we have in place is working”, he is also quick to promote the benefits of Catapult’s athlete tracking technology when it comes to player rehabilitation.
“There are several areas that Catapult can be used to improve a fitness coach’s ability to bring a player back from injury,” Tenney says.
“First, it’s easy to assess and monitor the peak velocities an athlete may achieve within a session. This is one metric that we monitor specifically, before a player is considered for match play again. Secondly, it helps us choose the right exercises to slowly overload certain muscle groups that may be more susceptible to a re-injury during the rehab process.
“A player may optically ‘look’ close to 100% in training, but athlete monitoring will give us more evidence as to how close a player can perform max velocity, sharp change of directions, and high-intensity work in comparison to training sessions prior to the injury.”
A big part of that analysis is the use of the revolutionary PlayerLoad metric, which is the only accelerometer-based work metric on the market that provides one number which summarises an athlete’s physical output, and “has proven to be beneficial to monitor over-use in the quad, hip, and adductor areas.”
From the data collated through Catapult Sports technology, the Seattle Sounders have adjusted their three-game-a-week schedule to include ‘non-impact recovery’ on the day after a game – which involves 20 minutes on a spin bike, foam rolling, stretching, and some mobility and stability exercises.
“The biggest issue we have regarding training programs and recovery work is the decision of how much specific work to do the second day after a game. Many soccer coaches want to begin to do a lot of field work again, thinking that the players have already had one day off, but I have found that typically, players are still in a pretty fatigued state still 36 hours after a match.”
Soccer is an alactic-aerobic sport where players will complete between 50-80 sprints per game for a total of 10-14km, resulting in players needing extended recovery time and substituting strength gains during the season for necessary stability and corrective work that may prevent injuries.
A strong believer in soccer-specific training, meaning that athletes should spend most of their practice time on the field using a ball, Tenney understands the huge advantages of having wearable athlete tracking and knows the benefits of sports science in soccer.
“Having seen some of the top practitioners of sports science work throughout Europe and here in the US, I feel like athlete tracking has helped us really determine optimal loading schemes in training. I am a big believer in the phrase, ‘train as hard as you should, not as hard as you can’, and I feel like athlete monitoring gives coaching staffs a better sense of what that type and intensity of training should be.
“One of the biggest perspectives GPS and athlete monitoring has given us is the subtle changes in match demands from year-to-year. I think that AFL athletes wearing GPS systems and sports scientists being able to inform clubs how the demands of certain positions have evolved is massive when it comes to training and recruiting. I just wish that soccer would be able to have Catapult GPS data used within the game.”
And in case the measurement of every movement by an athlete in competition isn’t enough to help fitness coaches monitor periodization, rehabilitation, player comparison, tactical analysis and making better use of training time and meeting game demands, the upcoming development of ball tracking technology for soccer has Tenney excited about that added element of analysis.
“Ball tracking will be able to give sports scientists a whole new perspective on how athletes work relative to the position of the ball, as well as with the ball. How do the speed and distance of passes change over a game? There will suddenly also be a bigger set tactical data points available to sports scientists once ball tracking is also available.”