Virtually unheard of before the early 2000s, athlete performance tracking has made use of advanced GPS-capable hardware and software as well as huge advances in the miniaturization of such technologies as gyroscopes, pulse oximeters and accelerometers. Today, athlete performance tracking devices enable a level of individual performance analysis that is vastly beyond anything prior generations of coaches and athletes knew.
Still in its relative infancy, the advantages for early adopters of this technology are enormous. Individual athletes’ strengths and weaknesses can be quantified with astonishing precision, giving coaches the ability to build teams that put exactly the right players in the right positions and situations. Here is a list of the 5 top benefits of using athlete performance tracking.
For up-and-coming athletes, especially those with college-level aspirations or beyond, training consistently, hard and smart is a decisive factor in long-term success. Field sports like soccer, football, lacrosse and baseball require formidable skillsets that can only be obtained through constant, yearlong training in the right way.
However, overtraining can pose a serious risk to the athlete themselves as well as to the team’s immediate prospects. Coaches have long understood that overworking their teams in the run-up to game day is a bad practice, in every sense of the word. But until the advent of athlete tracking capabilities, deciding how far to push their athletes was always a gut-level call.
Now, it’s possible to use precise athlete metrics to decide not only when to throttle back and when to go all out at the team level but also at the level of the individual athlete. This ensures that key players will be in top form when game day comes. Player workouts can be tailored to just the right days so that athletes have both adequate rest and sufficiently rigorous practice sessions to yield maximum improvement throughout the critical high-school years.
Especially for burgeoning athletes, self-awareness of every aspect of their on-field performance may be lacking. One of the key jobs of good coaches is to draw players’ attention to both their strengths and weaknesses. But especially in the case of the latter, getting players to really understand their own shortcomings can be a difficult process when the players themselves may believe that their coaches’ observations are inaccurate or exaggerated.
With play-by-play tracking analytics, however, coaches’ jobs are made far easier. Players can be shown hard data of their in-game performance, information that is simply impossible to argue with. And the quicker that players can recognize their own shortcomings, the more likely they are to fully commit to training past them.
For both athletes and teams, injuries are a scourge to be avoided at all costs. This is doubly true for injuries that are preventable, either being precipitated or caused by training that put the athlete at high risk of incurring them.
Athlete tracking can provide powerful insights into what training thresholds are appropriate for any given athlete. Avoiding overworking and keeping fatigue and stress within safe limits both in game and during practice can have a phenomenal effect on reducing overall injury rates. This can be done with a high degree of rigor through establishing red flags for injuries, parameters that once exceeded greatly increase the risk of a given athlete sustaining an injury.
In one instance, a high-school football team was able to reduce its total player injuries by 87 percent through the use of athlete tracking systems alone.
From a coach’s perspective, sports software is game changing. Coaches who run combines or other talent-searching events can easily make objective valuations of what they are seeing in recruits. And with today’s sophisticated athlete tracking systems, this goes far beyond recording 40-meter times or measuring vertical jumps. Coaches can view every aspect of an athlete’s performance as they would play in game, giving a remarkably holistic view of an athlete’s complete skillset and how it might fit in with the current needs of the program.
Likewise, coaches no longer have to guess when it comes to deploying talent. With a trove of objective data for every player on the roster, coaches can build their teams out as if they were piecing together a fine-tuned racing engine, relying each step of the way on engineering-quality data and even running simulations of how various team configurations might perform against real or hypothetical adversaries.
Athletic tracking can dramatically reduce the number of players on a team’s disabled list. However, injuries still happen. And when they do, athlete tracking can help tailor programs that minimize the athlete’s time on the injured list as well as the chance of new or recurring injuries.
As both coaches and athletes know all too well, one of the biggest risk factors for developing a new injury is already being injured. For injured athletes, overcompensation tends to put far more stress on joints, bones, ligaments and muscles, exposing the athlete to a far higher risk of getting hurt. With athlete tracking software, coaches and players have access to 100 percent objective performance data that lets them know when a previously injured player is back to pre-injury performance levels, still getting there or whether they currently have a long way to go.
In this brief overview, we’ve merely scratched the surface when it comes to the benefits that athlete tracking can offer.
Another area where athlete tracking can make a world of difference is in whole-team performance modeling where coaches can look at snapshots of how their team is performing in an almost infinite number of situations. Objective team-level data also helps coaches design targeted practice regimes, maximizing the use of limited practice time to cover areas where big improvements are a priority.
Whether you’re a coach or an athlete, sports analytics software is a game changer. There can be no doubt that programs and athletes that are able to successfully harness the potentially huge advantages that athlete tracking systems confer will be well positioned to excel into the medium-term future.
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