Strength and conditioning coach, Daniel Martinez, recently talked to a roundtable of seven coaches and trainers from four different countries about several sports science topics. This is the fourth in this series of Sports Science Roundtable articles.
Daniel Martinez: What type of monitoring do you and your staff implement and how does this either inform or alter your process?
Cory Innes: We use an athlete management system (AMS) developed by the Australian Institute of Sport. This tends to be shifted towards being more physiotherapy- and physiology-driven and monitored than S&C for training measures, although a more specific strength and conditioning monitoring system is planned to be released shortly. In the meantime, I utilize Excel for load monitoring in gym exercises, as well as tracking neuromuscular measures.
I also developed a comprehensive monitoring system for badminton, incorporating training load, S&C load, tournament load, and wellness measures. However, any of these measures are only as useful as the compliance from the athletes, as well as “reporting fatigue”—i.e., the athlete’s propensity to return to a standard feedback option—as to whether you can gain true meaningful data. This is the reason we have moved back to basic communication on different training measures, as well as fatigue measures (neuromuscular) and athlete daily feedback as more effective tools to alter training sessions.
Cory Kennedy: For monitoring, we use a few different strategies, and each team will look slightly different. Most athletes fill out a questionnaire (usually Hooper-Mackinnon), and track training load using sessional RPE. This is usually collected daily, but analyzed weekly. Then we use a countermovement jump (typically three to five times a week) with most athletes for an objective performance measure. We have built a fairly robust system that takes into account each athlete’s individual variability, to allow us to view the performance through a clear lens. Finally, we have a variety of tests we collect monthly that usually have a component specific to the sport (time trials, etc.), and we use them as a reference point for the rest of our collected data.
As for process, there needs to be a general decision-making framework, and we discuss this regularly. First, we try to be fluid in our daily choices to meet the athletes where they are. Then we review where we are in the year and how much fatigue we can afford to collect. Finally, we regularly review the long-term view of our physical qualities to see if we are actually making a lasting change, or returning to square one every year.
Devan McConnell: We use a number of tools to monitor and assess fatigue/readiness and development. Subjective wellness questionnaires, HRV, and RSI via drop jump constitute our “front end” analytics. This combination is utilized to have a better indication of where our athletes are at before we begin on any given day, and what the latent cost of previous work was. The “back end” is used to inform our staff and players what we did—what the immediate cost of training was—so that we have a better idea of what needs to be done moving forward. This consists of various internal workload metrics via heart rate, sRPE, and, of course, a host of physical development parameters. These include several jump metrics, strength, and power measurements via tonnage, as well as velocity, on ice speed, and conditioning testing, etc.
Jonas Dodoo: In track, we perform CMJ (countermovement jump testing) weekly in normal phases, and drop jump and CMJ two to three times a week in high CNS stress phases. In all cycles, we will run fast at least to 30 meters through Optojump with a speed gun at least once every three to four weeks, but this can increase to once every 10 days in pre-comp phases. Jumps are mainly for performance monitoring, as opposed to fatigue. We see drops in performance values when we expect athletes to be fatigued. Drops rarely come from a significant reduction in height or stride length, but from an increase in contraction time (eccentric phase) and ground contact time.
We have used sRPE questionnaires in the past a lot, but we get so much more pertinent information verbally from the athletes on a daily basis that the questionnaires seemed like a box ticking exercise. Athletes get on the therapy table with a physio or osteo at least twice a week and this is where a lot of information is collected verbally, as well as through muscle testing, movement analysis, groin squeeze of different lengths, single leg hop or drop jump, and Nordbord.We get much more pertinent information verbally from the athletes daily than from questionnaires. Click To Tweet
The information can vary depending on the therapist, but is always extremely valuable for letting us know where the athlete is now compared to their norms. Athlete reports and medical reports greatly influence my decision-making around session content. Sometimes a hard day becomes Plan B or Plan C; sometimes active recovery day can actually become a second day of stress. We are constantly learning about the way athletes respond to training, and we are flexible with our microcycles to get the best out of the athletes while keeping them healthy.
These tools are all used in team sports as well. The difference is the flexibility around training content. The good managers listen to their staff and adjust.
Mike Boykin: The idea of simply observing athletes as they go about normal activities (walking into practice, interacting with teammates, etc.) and train was first introduced to me by Jim Snider at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As the strength and conditioning coach for the men’s and women’s hockey teams, Jim is especially attuned to athlete mood and overall energy during pre-season and competitive season, when physical and emotional loads are highest. Central to his philosophy is ensuring that what he does in the weight room is a beneficial stressor versus one that simply adds more load.
This “active observation” of athletes during all activities is our first metric at ALTIS when it comes to daily monitoring. How vocal (or not) an athlete is, the amount of eye contact they make, their posture, their weight shifts, the amount they laugh—it can all be placed on a sliding scale and compared to their normal range to help create a global picture of their well-being.
Because we work in track and field, the training itself keeps tabs on how individuals are progressing simply by timing, measuring, or weighing. While it is not as simple as seeing fly 30 times decrease over the course of the season, observing the change and interaction of various menu items and different bio-motor abilities helps to create a multi-layered understanding of where someone may be adapting versus maladapting.
The final piece—and how many people will want this question answered—involves a daily monitoring questionnaire from Athletigen through their Iris application. The questions asked and information gleaned from the application is similar to the Hooper-Mackinnon or Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaires. Having access to objective data from subjective markers helps us to avoid heuristics and biases that can skew perception from reality. Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is particularly interesting material to read on this topic.
What Athletigen has done particularly well on this front is ensure that the information presented to coaches separates acute and chronic trends from simply noise, or daily fluctuations, which can be expected from a dynamic system. While there certainly may be daily prescriptions that are altered based upon the data from the questionnaire, this will always go hand in hand with a conversation to gain a deeper understanding of why certain acute changes are occurring. The chronic information gleaned from the app allows us to examine weekly, cycle, and long-term trends as they relate to individual athletes.
Nate Brookreson: Because of the relationships that exist within our department, different monitoring strategies are utilized among S&C and their respective sports. For swimming, we examine subjective RPEs and countermovement vertical jumps all year, and look more closely at bar velocities relative to load in the strength-speed, speed-strength, and peaking phases. We also examine ground contact time and vertical jump height with our depth and drop jumps. In the pool, the coaches track starts from the blocks and push times with set loads on power racks, and speed decrement over 25/50s almost weekly to determine progress.
Typically, the information is provided to create context and open dialogue. If we see negative trends regarding our tracking and performance outcomes in dual meets, we sit and have more detailed meetings. This might include ATCs to talk about visits to the training room and nutritionists to discuss most recent body fat testing or blood biomarkers. We try to address the low-hanging fruit first (statistically significant changes in objective/subjective markers, increased visits to trainer, blood/body fat changes). If unclear, we will look at long-term trends in sRPE training loads and vertical jump, along with performance outcomes in the pool, to determine a course of action. Most of the time, issues are caught early because of the consistent communication and fluidity of how both S&C and swim and dive operate.
Patrick Ward: The three main things we utilize are morning wellness questionnaires, GPS/Accelerometer during training, and sRPE post training. This information allows us to quantify the long-term impact of training/competition on the players (wellness questionnaire), as well as what they physically did during practice (GPS/accelerometer) and how hard they perceived the session to be (sRPE). This gets fed through some analysis that allows us to flag players when things don’t look right (i.e., when things are different then we predicted them to be). Doing this allows us to have more specific conversations with the player and plan an intervention strategy, if necessary, to try and get them back on the right track.
The next installment of this Sports Science Roundtable series is: “The Best Ways to Get Buy-In.”
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