Creating an environment which allows players to consistently reach their peak performance level, whilst at the same time being protected from unnecessary injuries, is a fundamental requirement for fitness coaches to help a club achieve its on-field objectives.
In recent years, advances in optical tracking and wearables technology has empowered fitness staff to go further in their live monitoring of each player’s load in training using personalised KPIs, enabling them to make key interventions if they think a player is at risk of injury during a drill. The technology is also enabling clubs to set new performance benchmarks for academy squads, as illustrated in a recent case study with SønderjyskE, to help enhance development pathways and bridge gaps in performance intensity which exist between youth and senior football.
In the lead-up to the 2022-23 season, Stats Perform introduced two brand new software platforms, in partnership with long-term SPIN network partner, K-Sport, which are designed to further enhance athlete monitoring processes in elite professional football: KS Smart Live and KS Video Fitness.
Both solutions are powered by Opta Tracking data, which is captured in-venue using Stats Perform’s SportVU system, and athlete wearable devices worn by players. They have been developed to be easily integrated into a club’s existing analysis processes on a matchday as well as during their post-match performance evaluation.
With both platforms now in-use at a number of teams in Europe, we have got together with K-Sports’ team of Sport Scientists to highlight four ways that KS Smart Live and KS Video Fitness can enhance your club’s player monitoring during the new campaign.
1 – Flagging When a Player Needs a Period of Recovery During a Match
As well as being powered by data captured by SportVU, KS Smart Live also has the capability to integrate live optical tracking data from other tracking providers working in football. This means that teams can potentially utilise the player tracking from their own domestic league to live monitor players via the platform on a matchday.
The tracking data is used to power a 2D animation of the movement of all 22 players on the field, which an analyst or fitness coach can monitor as a game takes place. Alongside the animation, support staff can display up to three different performance parameters, captured from the optical system or wearable devices, as part of their live monitoring of every player. These parameters comprise performance metrics, such as aerobic or anaerobic fitness and heart rhythm, which can be tailored and customised by the club themselves.
These set parameters then power live automatic triggers in KS Smart live, which highlight whenever a player’s load in the previous 60 seconds is unusually high compared to their normal level. It is illustrated on the live animation, indicating when an affected player requires a period of rest or a temporary recovery.
As the game goes on, the software keeps a record of the number of times a player’s load exceeds their threshold, as well as highlighting when the player has low energy.
The upshot of this development is that it is now more straightforward for a fitness coach to recommend a real-time intervention if they believe a player is susceptible to an injury in the next few minutes, so that the head coach can take preventative measures to ensure that the player isn’t forced out-of-action for upcoming matches.
2 – Informing Tactical Decision-Making
There are multiple considerations at play when a coaching team is evaluating their options on the bench for in-game changes to tactics and personnel.
Whilst the physical condition of players is rarely the determining factor in such decisions, objective data presented in KS Smart Live can provide valuable insights which can help inform the final tactical decisions taken.
As well as giving coaches the ability to identify when a player is entering their physical ‘red zone’, another key feature of KS Smart Live is the ability to directly compare a player’s live physical performance with up to three other players taking part in the match.
Using the same customisable metrics created to live monitor players, KS Smart Live allows analysts to bring up a match timeline and establish how a player’s performance fluctuates in the different categories compared to teammates, which could potentially inform their on-field match-ups. These comparisons can be presented on radars or charts from tablet devices, which can make it easier to communicate insights at time-critical moments.
With five substitutions now being implemented across a number of European leagues, it will be interesting to see if having the option of withdrawing up to half of a team’s outfield players during a match will see physical conditioning becoming a bigger consideration in a coach’s tactical decision-making as 2022-23 progresses.
3- Synching Panoramic Video To Add Context to Fitness KPIs
One of the biggest developments in player recruitment and performance analysis during the past 15 years has been the introduction of integrated video footage alongside data outputs – providing an analyst with greater context of events and to ensure data insights pass the eye test.
The same thing also applies when a fitness coach is evaluating the performance of every player post-match – when there are peaks and drop-offs in a player’s KPIs during a game, what is happening on the field to influence it?
The second of Stats Perform’s newly launched platforms, KS Video Fitness, is helping a coach do exactly that, by synching panoramic match video with physical player data, captured from both wearable and tracking systems, on a match timeline.
All of a sudden, it is now possible to drop in various different physical performance KPIs on an analysis timeline, taken from a club’s cloud-based Dynamix platform, so that there is more clarity around why a player’s load may have been unusually high during specific phases of a game – such as a recovery run or a fast break.
4 – Highlighting Peak Performance During Isolated Phases of Play
Another area where a fitness coaches’ post-match workflow can be potentially enhanced by KS Video Fitness is the automatic identification of the moments in a match, or a passage of play, when every player hits their peak performance.
This is achieved by a coach using the platform’s match timeline, where they can set the start point and end point for a specific passage of play they want to analyse, before selecting the players they wish to focus on.
The software then automatically calculates all the fitness outputs for those players during the isolated period, highlighting their peak speeds and the natural fall off that followed. The data can then be exported in a table format for more detailed offline analysis.
Enhancing Elite Player Monitoring
By further expanding the context of what is happening on the pitch, Stats Perform and K-Sport are equipping teams with new tools which can help them prevent load-related injuries, inform tactical decisions based on the physical condition of players and make it easier for their staff to identify and analyse peak performance post-match .