When he was first approached by Catapult ahead of the 2016 J.League season, Shun Otsuka of Consadole Sapporo was immediately interested in adopting the system. He had heard about GPS being used in soccer and believed it would be a great way for him to monitor and condition his athletes.
Fast forward to today and Shun is one of the most well-known users of athlete tracking systems in the J.League and has noticed some trends from his team.
“When comparing tracking data between the seasons we played in the first and second divisions, I noticed distance and sprint metrics weren’t significantly different,” says Shun. “However, there were much more explosive efforts seen when the team started playing in the first division, and even more this season when our manager changed and demanded more intense movements.”
Shun believes that a higher level of competition demands more from his athletes, and whether it be proactive or reactive, it doesn’t change the fact that these movements put more stress on his players.
“Just looking at this data may mean nothing to some people,” says Shun. “But it tells me how my players may be at risk and how I need to condition them to the new environment.”
During the 2018 season, Sapporo’s new manager Mihailo Petrovic has allowed Shun to be responsible for specific portions of the training week to keep players in good shape and prepared for competition.
“I communicate a lot with the GM and scouting department of the club,” says Shun. “I send them match data and it’s been a good tool to start discussion when evaluating our players.
“We had a veteran who started getting more injuries this season, but we couldn’t tell if it was the player getting older, or because the training methods changed and he was finding it difficult to adapt. Whatever our conclusion, the important thing is we wouldn’t have been able to have the discussion before we had the technology.”
While Shun understands Catapult can be beneficial to the club in terms of return on investment in several ways off the field, as a physical coach he has predominantly seen the benefits on it.
“I understand that the wearable devices aren’t going to eradicate injuries,” says Shun. “What I know is that this is a tool that helps me understand where my players are in terms of their condition, and how I can manage their loads and intensities in my portion of training. This helps them to be prepared for what is demanded by the manager.
“Even if a player unfortunately gets injured, I can learn from that, and understand my athletes more. As a result, each season numbers of injuries have been decreasing.”