Canada Women’s Soccer: How to use performance data to win Olympic gold

By winning a dramatic penalty shoot-out in Yokohama, Japan, Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team became Olympic soccer champions for the very first time. This success came after the team picked up back-to-back bronze medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

This period of Olympic success stems from early investments in performance data and monitoring technology which helps to objectify coach decision-making, inform performance strategies, and support athlete development. Canada Soccer’s Women’s Team started using Catapult wearable technology in 2012 and their reliance on the technology has grown year on year. 

Now, the team aspires to lift the 2023 FIFA World Cup with the help of Catapult. After their recent Olympic success and their World Cup ambitions, we caught up with Head of Physical Performance, Dr. Cesar Meylan.

–> Click here to download our Catapult Vector brochure and learn more about the latest athlete monitoring solution to unleash athletic potential.

Data: Conduit for Collaboration

In our discussion, Meylan referred back to his performance management framework and how he and his team apply an objective strategy using Catapult wearable technology. See the performance management framework, in the attached video:

“We started using wearable technology in 2012 because we had and have some very progressive coaches in the team,” said Meylan. “Our coaches were really keen to know the factors that affect physical performance and, at the time, wearable technology was fairly new in North America. But we wanted to be one of the first to use Catapult to drive our insights.”

By adopting wearable technology, the Canadian Women’s team has been able to align their performance teams with one common language – data.

“The sports scientists and the data they use really brought things alive. I think that’s the collaboration the team has learned the most from. We’re now at a stage where we can translate what we see in the data and effectively present ideas to our coaches’ designs and tactics,” explained Meylan.

–> Click here to download our Catapult Vector brochure and learn more about the latest athlete monitoring solution to unleash athletic potential.

Understanding Performance Context

When the team first started using Catapult in 2012, they wanted to understand the full context and factors that impacted performance.

“The first thing we looked at was match-to-match variation amongst lead female soccer players and the different factors that influence performance … whether it’s environmental or tactical factors,” explained Meylan.

“Catapult quickly provided us with a quantifiable measure to work from and a sense of what was happening across performances. Whether it was temperature or altitude, formation or the pressing strategy that we adopted, we were able to get a more accurate sense of what was going on.”

The ability to quantify and understand the full context of performance was the primary reason for wearable technology adoption.

Meyland said: “We understand the context of our performances, we can identify the worst-case scenarios our players will be exposed to in competition. Understanding that, we can replicate that intensity in training and evaluate our team and individual’s response. Now, we’re much more certain our players are prepared for the demands of international soccer.”

–> Click here to download our Catapult Vector brochure and learn more about the latest athlete monitoring solution to unleash athletic potential.

Improved Forecasting and Planning

Today, game preparation is one of the main reasons the team uses Catapult wearable technology.

“We’re able to compare to previous games and competitions, like the World Cup, and assess our planning strategy. We can build a ‘paradise plan’ (if all goes to plan) and assess deviances from this whilst developing an athlete peaking plan,” explained Meylan.

Building these plans enables the team to move from a day-to-day focus to a more strategic one.

“Collecting data and assessing athletes’ performance history enables you to be more proactive. We wanted to develop a forecasting idea, with a clear sense of what is our ‘end in mind’ and what levels the players need to be operating and training [at] to handle the competition and ensure they are best prepared to perform,” said Meylan.

“With our forecast, we can see the bigger picture ahead of match preparation. We understand what to emphasise in training, what specific preparations we should be doing, and when we need to do it to maximise our performances.

“Furthering our preparations, we normalise the data for each individual and set them targets which relate to match demands to ensure performance readiness. Percentage to match load is a key metric that we evaluate and target off. For someone who is injured, we can objectively set thresholds, to say 70% of match load, and progressively build from there.”

This strategic focus also benefits the coaches, as Meylan and his team can provide data that shows progress to plan, and quickly outlines any deviances from what is considered the desired performance outcome – Olympic Gold or a World Cup trophy.

“Our coaches’ time is limited, our data-based forecasting enables us to identify any performance deviances so that we can quickly communicate what the focus of sessions or training blocks should be to succeed on the pitch. It also helps to guide our coaches’ tactical insights and understanding by suggesting how intense each tactical system is and build the team’s blueprint for how we want to play.”

–> Click here to download our Catapult Vector brochure and learn more about the latest athlete monitoring solution to unleash athletic potential.

Movement Profile: Soccer Specific Analytics

In September 2020, Catapult released its latest customer-facing solution for soccer, a Movement Profile analytics package for football, which introduces an unprecedented level of performance analysis in the form of classifying every movement a football player makes on the pitch and quantifying explosive movements.

Movement Profile is an algorithm built into Catapult’s premium wearable solution, Vector, that quantifies and represents the industry’s first move into understanding short-sharp movements, adding a new layer of insight into the physical demands of football.

The analytics package was created by Catapult’s in-house data science team in collaboration with industry experts and customers. It records and uses data to quantify and report soccer-specific movements such as accelerations, decelerations, changes of direction, and jumps.

For more information on Movement Profile, click here, or to arrange a demo of the soccer-specific solution, click here.

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