First things first – understand your athletes
“Understanding the positional demands is critical,” Pell said.
This makes intuitive sense – a wide receiver will be covering loads of distance at high speeds, but a defensive linemen won’t be very happy if you asked the same of them. These gargantuan humans fight ferociously, with huge impacts, but they do it in a very small space. When we look at how these athletes can be assessed using GPS technology, we are comparing apples and oranges. Or maybe celery and oranges.
This leads Pell down two very different paths – firstly the path of the wide receiver.
“I’ve been really surprised by the capacity that these guys have. When we look at sprinting, it’s sometimes double what you would see in an AFL [Australian Football League] game,” Pell, who boasts an extensive work history in the AFL industry, said.
Here Pell is using running KPIs, which may include total sprints, sprint distance, and high-speed running. By controlling these factors from a physical perspective, the sport science team can reduce the risk of injuries, which may occur when athletes perform too much high-speed work.
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The other path is that of the really really big blokes.
“Your inside guys are just getting bashed and crashed continually,” Pell said.
These athletes aren’t running very much, which means Pell has to find another metric to ensure that they can quantify the training load.
“Our player load KPI is a validated metric – it’s really good, especially in the management of the bigger players. That’s where player load from a volume perspective [comes in], and then going deeper into that with the respective bands, that is really critical,” Pell said.