GPS – Glorified Pedometer System?


Having access to the best tracking systems in the world, some teams are finding out that GPS and other sensors are not delivering the promises as expected. After reading Vern’s post I was not convinced that the parable was very helpful. Methodology is not exclusive, it’s a choice in what you include and how you do it. GPS use has value, but I have yet to see any coach give a clear example of what they are looking for compared to session RPE. I heard the same promises 10 years ago with Heart Rate Monitors and lactate testers. While I think motion capture tools are more valuable because they are speed and loading, at the end of the day the true problems are the scheduling of too many games and 3-6 week preparation periods.

Regardless, GPS systems will improve and become helpful aggregating and summarizing huge amounts of data. The truth of the matter the key to sport science is not the data stream or even the algorithm, it’s the intervention quality. Doing nothing or rest is great, but giving time outs for rest can’t be the job of the strength and conditioning coach only. With many soccer clubs weight rooms that could double up as a hotel fitness center, it seems that the GPS is for monitoring fatigue, half of the reality of what can be done. I love speed, but admire conditioning and medical therapy as well.

Let’s be honest here. More gadgets make it seem that we are doing more. It sounds better to talk about left ventricles in hearts than to say we are running more or slower. When we can’t lift for strength because we are afraid to get people hurt we activate. When athletes don’t lift weights at all we are working on proprioception. I think the combines in sport should be done each year, to see if athletes are rotting slowly or actually maintaining or gaining. While not perfect tests, save the perfection for detailed game analysis. Both training and field performance need to be evaluated to see what is working.

I have a few ideas for GPS use. Why not put them to use at 10pm and see what happens at midnight downtown? Athletes cell phones should tell us more about regeneration when they are at club Purple Daze at 2:00 am drinking other beverages than milk or protein shakes. What about GPS on the car’s trips to Mega Burger or Cinnabon? What about GPS tracking of the weight room after practice? Attendance to the massage area and weight room is more powerful than the best GPS and load sensor data you can get. We are resting athletes who are frankly tired from lifestyle and lack of training and preparation. Resting is important but it’s masking the problem of athletes being tired from outside variables.

The CNN article on GPS use in soccer was interesting, (thanks to my hermano) but left me thinking that we will hear the same story in 10 years with the next generation of technology. Facility motion capture is at 1000hz with fabric, meaning you are tracking 100 data points, not just the center of mass. We are not dots on a computer screen, we are humans with joints that need to be seen and communication needs to be human. I believe in technology, I just don’t think it’s used right.

I need decision trees and intervention options based on loading to believe the strength coach is monitoring effectively. Time after Time I see reports of GPS tools that look like unopened fruit cakes at Christmas, shared with everyone but not consumed much. GPS has value but I think it’s more of what we have and what we are doing versus true impact.

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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