The most advanced GPS user in the National Football League, Tom Myslinski of the Jacksonville Jaguars first started playing with athlete tracking in 1996 while working with the Cleveland Browns.
Being the longest-serving Catapult user in the NFL, Tom also previously used the technology at the University of North Carolina monitor player loads.
“All we are is stress regulators, so it was a way we could put objective numbers instead of making assumptions on whether it was a hard or a medium or a light day. “So when we talked to our coaches we had more knowledgeable information, rather than just saying the athlete said it was perceptually a hard practice or perceptually an easy practice. We could actually back that up with numbers”.
Using the system predominantly for medical monitoring, given the newness to the NFL, Tom says “we really can look at the cost of each individual period, if an athlete is hurt, and use his return to play (RTP) work to actually re-create practices or periods for our athletes to see how ready they are to play”.
Knowing the difficulties in introducing new technology to a new sport, Tom has a challenge in preaching the potential of Catapult. “It’s an introduction process because the football staff we have now haven’t used it before, so it’s up to Alex [Hampton, Strength Assistant] and I to reintroduce it to our coaches – and to show them what kind of objective numbers that we get and how it can help the coaching process”.
The Jaguars are now proficient in their use of the technology. “We look at total odometer, high intensity yards, accelerations, decelerations, contact load, and PlayerLoad. We look at all those variables. As an athlete becomes fatigued, obviously he’s going to expose himself to slowing down over the course of the season, or he’s going to become injured. The more that you can teach him about how fit they have to be to play this game, I think it’s going to be very important”.
So what have those metrics revealed to a student of the game?
“I always knew this but the lack of any true speed in our game. It really just shows our game is truly acceleration and deceleration, which I think is a big point. When you really sit back and look at it, the total amount of volume that a practice is. Our practices can be two hours outside and there’s a lot of volume that’s covered. You realize how much time our athletes are on their feet. When you look at their number of high intensity, medium intensity, their overall volume, it’s important to quantify”.
An ex-NFL player, Tom understands the importance of getting the athletes themselves on board too.
“It’s educating the athlete. As a retired athlete myself, the more that I knew about my body the more informed I was, the more self-aware I was, the better I could take care of myself. To me it’s an educational process”.
And how has the process influenced your role and eased your workload? “Definitely easier and harder to the point, because it’s challenged me to become a little more creative in the design of training. “We like to say that we’re all constant learners and that’s very important, and that’s what Catapult has helped me do is become a constant learner. Kind of find new, creative ways to get training done.
“The big thing is economize. They’ve taught me how to be more efficient in my training, which I think is very important. Secondly, it’s given me a better overall view of the athlete, a training snapshot of the athlete, so I can see what the training load is for the athlete, enabling me to zero in a little more. And the third one, to be honest with you, is that it’s made me a better strength coach. It’s taught me more, and the more that I know, the more I can give back to my athletes”.
One of many Catapult clients to take the technology with them to a new program, even a new league, Tom acknowledges the importance of a close relationship with the sports scientists that develop the technology used so extensively by one of the NFL’s healthiest teams. “You guys have been great. From Michael Regan, who any time I need to get a hold of him he gets right back in touch with me. I never have any problem communication-wise, or back and forth. “It’s been super, the customer service has been”.