Briarwood Christian School

Founded in 1965, Briarwood Christian School is home to one of the most successful athletics programs in the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA).

As Briarwood continues to develop its athletics program, the school recently started using Catapult’s PlayerTek technology to monitor the performance of athletes across its football teams. As the Director of Athletics at Briarwood, Jay Matthews is central to the school’s use of the system. He first heard about the technology while his daughter was studying at the University of Alabama.

“My daughter was in the Honors College at the University of Alabama and some of their engineering students were helping the Alabama football program with their reports for the trackers,” Jay explains. “I had a long conversation with one of the students and got very interested in how the information could help us.”

Once Jay had done his research and got buy-in to use GPS tracking technology at Briarwood, he began to introduce and test the PlayerTek system among the school’s football players.

“We decided to take a year and test 30 athletes in practice and games,” says Jay. “We started with football this fall and will transition to soccer in the spring.”

The athletes and coaches at Briarwood find the technology to be important for accountability and intervention where necessary. PlayerTek also gives the coaches key metrics to manage training load.

“We believe it is instant accountability for each athlete and creates a great opportunity to compete against yourself,” Jay says. “It confirms what we notice, but might miss. And if an athlete is struggling, we have objective data that allows us to meet with the player to see what may be happening with them.

“For football we monitor PlayerLoad, especially the chronic to acute indicators to know who need more reps and who needs less. We look at four main metrics: top speed, total distance, total distance in the speed zone, and PlayerLoad.”

When it comes to establishing effective processes around the technology, Jay stresses the importance of having the capacity to understand and implement the data received from it.

“You need to have the ability to actually use the information,” says Jay. “For us, that meant creating a part-time position for a Technology and Data Systems Coach who works with students to gather and print out reports for the coaches.”

In terms of the reception the technology has received from staff, players and parents, Jay believes that the majority of people connected to the Briarwood program see the PlayerTek data as an important asset.

“The data is a valuable asset in making practice and health-related decisions,” Jay explains. “The ‘sports bra’ takes a little getting used to, but our players diligently use them and they have been embraced by the team. To help engagement we send out some fun information from time to time about how fast someone ran, or how far a receiver ran.”