The University of Virginia is known for developing some of the best soccer talent in the country, with the NCAA Division 1 Atlantic Coast Conference program producing the likes of former United States men’s national team captain Claudio Reyna, one of the all-time appearance leaders, Jeff Agoos, and current United States women’s team athletes, Emily Sonnett and Morgan Brian Gautrat.
Under the guidance of esteemed strength and conditioning coach, Peter Alston, the men’s and women’s programs use Catapult wearable solutions to improve team performances, monitor the health and well-being of their athletes, and support the coaching staff with objective-based decision making.
Day-to-day use of Catapult
In his role, Alston focuses on the design and implementation of performance technology for both soccer programs.
“Part of my role is to provide feedback to the other coaches so they can make decisions that are informed, accurate, and enable the athletes to develop.
“We wear Catapult in every training session and game and the information that we collect has become really beneficial and effective for the athletes that we’re serving,” explains Alston. “We’ve had a positive experience, we’ve started to invest more into athlete monitoring technology and have since become increasingly happy with the objective information that we collect and the feedback it provides.”
The benefits of using Catapult for NCAA programs
With Catapult, Alston has been able to impact various aspects of the performance programs at the University of Virginia.
1. Planning more effectively based on the demands of the game
“Given the data we can collect, coaches can now ask questions about what training should look like in a particular training week or phase,” Alston said. “We’re able to find a way to make sure that the athletes are getting what they need physically to prepare for the next game, and this helps set the daily building blocks that coaches use as they’re planning out sessions.
“It also enables us to do a post-mortem on our training performances. For example, we may end up with a much tougher session than anticipated or maybe it wasn’t as tough as we had hoped. With this feedback, you can effectively analyze where the load came from, the demands of each drill, and pinpoint areas of improvement.
“Ultimately that’s the point of training. You’re trying to optimize performance for the game, so the better we can understand the game we’re training for, the better we can prepare for it.”
2. Speeding up athlete return-to-play from injury
From a return-to-play perspective, Catapult has been instrumental in supporting the insights Alston provides to the Cavaliers’ coaches.
“We’re able to move beyond general performance insights and analysis, we can now narrow in on what individuals should be doing based on their position, development needs, strengths and weaknesses.
“Catapult serves as a useful reference for workload and return-to-play. It provides specific feedback in terms of how we should plan our sessions to return an athlete back to full fitness as quickly and as safely as possible.”
3. Goalkeeper monitoring
In addition to the monitoring of outfield athletes, Catapult detects the specific movements of soccer’s most unique position.
“There’s really not a ton of research on monitoring goalkeepers but with Catapult we’re able to create our own normative performance values associated with optimized goalkeeping performances.
“Catapult’s goalkeeping algorithm lets us measure dive quantity, dive direction, dive load and time-to-feet,” says Alston. “This data enables me to give feedback to our athletes and goalkeeper coach, ensuring we’re pushing every individual in the program to get better, and not just the outfield athletes.”
4. Live feedback to optimize each practice session
“Another benefit of using Catapult is that it integrates all of our live performance tracking infrastructure together. Rather than being out on the field with a tablet and a laptop and everything else, I can just bring one system out there and see GPS and heart rate information live.”
During training sessions, the strength and conditioning coach will look at the live athlete data to focus specifically on workload accumulation during a session.
“I’ll have the Catapult system running live and every time the athletes finish a segment of a session, I’ll make sure to take a look at the metrics and provide feedback where necessary to the coaches about whether or not we are on track for the target volume for the day, if we need to increase the intensity of a drill. Intervening in this way is another positive thing we’re able to do with the monitoring system.
Learn more about Catapult’s soccer solutions by clicking here, because you too can improve your team’s performance, monitor the health and well-being of their athletes, and support the coaching staff with objective-based decision making.
Image credit: @UVAMenSoccer