Monitoring and Readiness- Alternate Points of View

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It looks as if the reaction time test has been forgotten mainly because it simplicity it isn’t a very “sexy” test and does not need hi-tech equipment.

-Henk Kraaijenhof

The most important monitoring device is the auricle, or human ear. At the end of the day the relationships between athletes determines what the coach is able to do. I am strongly in touch with technology, but the ancient martial arts and meditation methods are also very effective. We need stronger contrast for monitoring. Smarter technology and smarter athletes that understand their bodies. After reviewing different programs and asking about monitoring, it seems that every is playing around with things versus doing it. I would rather fail miserably with a team than pretend to be using something, and that is the problem. We have too much pretending and not enough doing. I fail each year to integrate or embed true monitoring options each year, but the good news I know why. Poor user interfaces on apps, bad workflows, and even faulty equipment. It happens. What shouldn’t happen is the nonsense I see on twitter and three patterns exist.

The Research Regurgitation- Guru reads a few studies and is instantly an expert and is doing miracles with the information in his or her program. Note the blogs or guest articles are very long and never include video or example of athletes or training.

The Data Doctors-Thanks to Moneyball, the opportunity for coaches in sport has become a farce with some. Everyone is showing off the data they are collecting in small bites to paint an unrealistic picture of the most advanced monitoring system in the world.

The Bards Tale- This includes how the super coach is doing miracles with his or her ability to see angles to the nearest degree, see intricate compensations, feel facial energies, and perform miracles. This of course is loosely based on both the research and data.

Fortunately we have good coaches out there that are actually practicing what they preach. For example Dave Hamilton had a wonderful presentation on GB Field Hockey. It was one of the best I have seen in a long time. Hamilton defines monitoring as

A set of activities designed to help establish the acute training status of an athlete, so that appropriate and timely training adjustments can take place to ensure on going performance targets are attained.

It’s harder to separate readiness and monitoring, so I would say that readiness is a subset of the monitoring process. So what are best ways besides having a small ratio, more time with the athlete, and better culture? What are the best methods and technologies to help? I don’t have the answer as I am not cracking any codes, but I do have some counterpoints to the companies that are making some claims. To be honest, I don’t support ANY platform and encourage all organizations to build your own with a data vendor. The talent is not solving professional sports injuries, it’s dealing with investments of billions, not millions. Although people have passions for sports, I have seen major software platforms get stripped and destroyed by smart data experts who coach part time. They know enough about training and sport to see the big picture, but they are also dealing with complicated problems that you can’t hide from or lie your way out of a conference powerpoint.

Passive- HTML5 options make quick and cheap software for web 3.0 and this is a major mistake. Restwise app is not leveraging the technologies of the smartphones, otherwise it would be asking better questions. Sensors in the phone give more indication of the athlete than 5-8 subjective questions. Spin offs such as FUNF and other creations understand the hardware is spewing precious information that coaches need, not readiness to train or How is your sleep today. Lame. I made that mistake for 15 years but now the devices on the phone are making enterprise apps really see the true undercurrent. Why ask about sleep when the GPS on the phone shows you are at Club Jaguar at 3am with an entourage (SMS and bluetooth) posting facebook updates of bottle club life. Sleep? Actigraphy isn’t perfect, but add in a smart shirt and you are getting HRV and sleep stages. Why ask when you can capture. Developing the app is easy, the hard thing is making it profitable if you are a developer. Time will tell where things go. Less input the better, as passive data collection is the future.

Collaborative- If an athlete is in pain, that biomarker is the hardest to manage. I use 1-10 and record it, but I see the challenge for organizations to collaborate and see data that will be helpful to strength coaches, medical people, and team coaches. If the data is useful to you, perhaps it would be useful for everyone? Too many walls exist between the weight room and the physio room. Then we have team coaches seeing both fields to make the final decisions. Open collaborative environments share information and their opinions. Google docs is underrated for organizations with extreme budgets.

Engaging- If the athletes don’t buy in, forget it. HRV, Wellness Scores, power tests, it’s all tainted unless the athlete finds the experience engaging and rewarding. Why talk about soreness when no massage or when the head coach doesn’t adjust or even know about soreness. I have seen toxic relationships between athletes and staff because the athlete aggregates data better than the lame medical software being supported now. The human API is still superior, manly because most companies are trying to keep eyeballs, not share them. You must demonstrate the use of the data for every effort the athlete puts in. Drawing blood but still providing the same meals isn’t going to help raise vitamin D. Doing power tests yet killing them on Sunday for conditioning is a great way to anger monday morning morale. Athletes what to feel empowered and voice their feelings, and it’s up to the program to show they are but explaining why some approaches may conflict those feelings or thoughts.

Now the next question is how estimating the training load is working for teams is working. GPS? No decrease in hamstrings or combine records in speed develop coming from that. HRV? What teams are getting it year round in the US? Show me an entire set of data from a US professional team and I will run the Boston Marathon in a gorilla suit. Yet how many talk about this stuff on twitter? How is the ANS going to deal with a foot fracture? How is GPS going to see the relationship between hamstring pulls and weight training when most of the work is on Bosu balls? Training loads are not HR totals or GPS reports. They are the strain on all of the systems and the impact in recovery or remodeling time of the season. I think motion capture and other data will help explain that managing training load is half the battle. The true need is to manage the volume and deal with mechanical risk. An athlete pulling or getting injured when fresh is a sign that fatigue isn’t the only factor.

1- Create benchmarks or targets for the season with adaptations or therapy milestones. Take last year’s data and make a working model, even it’s crude or far from perfect.

2- Combine subjective and objective data sets to calibrate and involve the athlete to be part of the process and not a guinea pig. Keep it minimal and a rhythm that is realistic. I don’t test top speed every week but I measure the practices to see how it develops.

3- Lifts are the easiest to quantify. Speed and Conditioning as well. The real issue is the program design allowing all of the factors to improve the outcomes. Hard to measure mitochondrial density from interval training, so it’s best to estimate other factors in blood and fiber composition from Tensiomyography and power testing.

4- HRV should be treated like biological breadcrumbs for the next year and to give input in fatigue. Following it too much is foolish as medial gastroc problems will not show up on a mobile app. HRV tells the story but does it match the results? It must be combined with other data sets.

5- Readiness tests must be minimal or they may create the fatigue one is trying to monitor. Drop Jump tests in the NBA is gong to be hard, but it’s very sensitive so it could help team sports like American Football. Athletes will get board so they may appear less ready, hence why HRV is both great and a challenge to capture. How many times over a 10 year career do you think Metta World Peace wants to do a vertical jump test each week? Is it sustainable?

6- Training and feedback is the best data. What people do and how they do it is good. Athletes rolling around or making sweat angels after a core circuit may hint to fatigue or boredom. The smile metric is my KPI as the process needs a good mood.

The future is going to be more passive, more neurochemical, and far more engaging. The coaches will have the same challenges as before with new emerging ones. It’s up to us to share realistic solutions that make everyone work together.

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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