Case Study: Hull City AFC

Steve Barrett has been at the University of Hull for nine years and was previously an undergraduate and a part-time master’s student. Steve is currently finishing a part-time PhD project in association with the university. His first full-time job in football was with Scunthorpe United FC where he was an Academy coach/sports scientist/performance analyst/scout. How would Steve describe a typical day at the club?

“Basically, setting up all of the athlete monitoring practices at the club. My aim is to be proactive with the data, so I spend time speaking to the coaches trying to help plan our training practices to fit our periodisation model. We then monitor the players real-time using the MEMS devices and we all muck in and do any additional sessions/ specific drills with the players during/ after training. Post-session I will conduct the training data analysis and longitudinal reporting before then speaking with the medical staff and coaches regarding the session feedback.

“The issues you have are in gaining the trust of both the coaches and the players first of all. It might be the case of not overpowering people with information in order to build that trust and respect. Main thing for me is showing that you care and understand their emotions rather than just see the players as data”.

“Just having a normal conversation with the players is often the best approach to generate some buy in and questions about their wellbeing.

“The equipment is now just part of their everyday kit. They have actually now imposed fines on each other if they forget to wear their MEMS device during training, which is something generated themselves. Nothing to do with the staff whatsoever!”

When did Steve find out about Catapult?

“My first exposure to Catapult was back in 2007 when Dr. Ric Lovell had one of the first systems in the UK. We were involved in a research project in conjunction with Teesside University and Middlesbrough quantifying the demands of matches and training in football (from which we published a research paper on).

“Been using the Catapult system for 8 years now. Prior to that had experience of using the old 1-Hz GPSports devices within the university.

“We use Catapult at the club because it’s the most validated and reliable product available that has been shown through peer-reviewed journals on a consistent basis. One of the key things when reporting data back to coaches and players is that you have confidence in the numbers you are feeding back. The fact you can check the quality of the data (HDOP, number of satellites, signal strength, etc.) is a big thing as a quality control check. As scientists we should always be challenging the data we get. Every time we challenge the data from Catapult it’s a positive outcome.

“It’s one of the biggest parts of my job at the club and provides us with objective data to give us confidence around the messages we are giving. It helps us to understand our training methodology and prescribe certain training drills to ensure a training load is undertaken for the session that ties in within our aims and objectives as a club. It also acts as an educate tool for both the coaches and players, in which they are starting to understand why certain parameters will differ depending on the drills used. Why should players/coaching staff look at high speed running for a drill that’s in a 20 by 20 area, when it won’t reflect how hard they work?”

Steve’s most important metrics depend on both the individual and positional demands.

“A lot of focus within football training is on small sided games, but training sessions consist of other components such as tactical drills which are just as important for the physical load a player experiences. A useful parameter for us is PlayerLoad to look at the players movements overall and in each of the individual axis. We will also look at ratios between different parameters, such as PlayerLoad and total distance, to assess player’s locomotor efficiency. All our reports are geared towards the individual’s maximal values (average of 3 maximum values), so the data is relevant to each individual.”

“We had an interesting case where we used Catapult devices on a player during rehab to understand limb imbalances. There are practitioners trying to use data gathered from the scapula position to understand these imbalances. However, when we have conducted research (published in IJSPP) we found that the centre of mass is a much better position to place the units to reduce the noise from the devices. We then look at the PlayerLoad that goes through both the left and right legs and use video to synchronise with the data during treadmill running. This has helped to make clearer imbalance assessments of the player during rehab. I must stress this is only during straight line treadmill running”.

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