How to use GPS football tracking to improve your game

Football team using GPS football tracking

Real Madrid, Liverpool, Juventus, PSG. These are just a few examples of teams that use GPS football tracking every day. In fact, among the teams appearing in the top 5 leagues in Europe, it is hard to find one that does not use performance tracking technologies.

Why is GPS football tracking so popular among the best teams in the world? What are the benefits of using such systems and how can they be optimally used in your team? You will find the answers to these questions in our article.

Enhancing football players’ development

Youth football GPS tracking

This is probably one of the biggest advantages of GPS football tracking systems. The key aspect affecting the development of players is properly conducted training. This is often emphasized by the best coaches in the world:

You play at the rhythm you train at. If you train badly, you play badly. If you work like a beast in training, you play the same way” – Pep Guardiola

If you put the wrong petrol in the car, it’s not going to go very far. For a human being it’s exactly the same, you have to prepare the right way– Arsene Wenger

Anyone can play a game of football, you see a game on a Sunday, pub games, they all love a game of football. The real players had a practice ethic about them– Alex Ferguson

(You can find more inspirational coach quotes like this inside the keepitonthedeck article).

A perfect training session is one that provides the body with stimuli for development, while not overloading it too much. How can you support your players’ training using data from GPS football tracking systems? By controlling the workload of your players.

Different systems provide different amounts of data to coaches. The Sonda Sports system gives access to 26 statistics for analysis. All the data is available in simple to interpret graphics in our athlete management app.

By observing an athlete’s reaction to individual training stimuli, you can perfectly adapt the training loads to his needs and abilities. The following statistics may be especially useful:

Training Impulse (TRIMP)

Training Impulse on graph

The player’s internal training load based on the resting heart rate, maximum heart rate, average heart rate achieved during training, and the training length. This data will help you to assess the player’s level of internal stress.

If the training leads to too low (relative to the average in time) values of this statistic, it is worth increasing the training load. Analogously – if the loads are too high – they should be reduced. A workload which is inappropriately matched to the athlete’s current form can negatively affect his performance during the match or increase the risk of serious injury.

Distance covered

Distance Covered in football, displayed on graph

If within the same training group, the results of a given player significantly deviate from the distance covered by the rest of the team, it may mean that he did not put enough effort into the training. It may also mean that he has the first symptoms of an illness or injury.

Take a closer look at his involvement during the training session and, if necessary, intervene – for example, by comparing his results to the rest of the team.

Sum of time in the Red Zone (RZ)

Red Zone (RZ) in football, displayed on graph

The Red Zone is the effort performed (at the level of > 85% max HR of a particular player). Training in the anaerobic zone is crucial for improving performance and building muscles. However it is very stressful for a player’s body and needs to be used with caution. Finding the point where you provide the player with the right incentives to develop while not overloading him is crucial for his development.

Red Zone efforts will also help you in an objective way to assess which players are training to the maximum of their abilities, and who needs additional motivation an increased training load.

There are also many more statistics that will be useful during analysis.

Observation of the impact of training sessions on the player will enable to prepare training drills ideally suited to the needs and capabilities of the team.

Conducting an analysis of the effects will also allow you to experiment with individual combinations of training regimes, cycles and customization, in order to achieve the best results during the match day.

By using a combination of your experience and knowledge as well as reliable data from the players’ body, you will be able to maximize your positive influence on the team and its performance.

 

Sports injury prevention

Gareth Bale suffering sports injury

As a coach, you’ve most likely come across a situation where your key player has been injured several days before an important game.

This may disrupt the tactical plan, generate a lot of stress, reduce morale in the team – in effect, it can significantly affect your team’s chances of achieving success.

This also has certain economic costs:

  • According to research, players in the Spanish leagues spend an average of 16% of the season recovering from injuries. This translates into losses of around 188 million euros per year.
  • According to the JTL Sports Injury Index in the 2016/2017 season injuries in the Premier League cost English clubs up to 177 million pounds (an increase of 12% year on year), and the average recovery period after an injury was 35.2 days.

What’s more, if you’re coaching a youth football team, each injury may mean an even longer recovery period. According to data from the JTL study, the average recovery time after an injury for a youth football player (U-21) was 45 days. This means that a young player needs on average around 21% more time to get back to full fitness.

 

Do you want to use GPS tracking in your team? Click here and get a free quote!

 

Not all injuries can be prevented. Some of them are completely accidental (e.g. collisions during matches). However, most injuries in team sports (up to 90%) are caused by soft tissue damage.

You can reduce the risk of these injuries by using GPS football tracking systems to control your players’ training loads. In this case, however, it is worth looking more broadly – both at external and internal loads.

The analysis of statistics the following statistics will be helpful:

Player Load (PL)

Player Load in football, displayed on graph

Player Load is the root mean square of changes in acceleration and deceleration per second. This is one of the most important metrics used in team sports, due to the fact that the players are often exposed to frequent changes of direction and physical contact with their opponents.

This data will help you to keep under control the external stress put on the players. You can find out more about how we measure Player Load in Sonda Sports and how it can be interpreted in our short Player Load guide.

High-Intensity Distance and Very-High Intensity Distance

Very-High Intensity Distance in football, displayed on graph

It is respectively the distance travelled at 70% and 85% of the maximum speed for a particular player. This data is extremely important, especially in football and rugby.

Too many high or very high intensity sprints directly translate into the risk of hamstring injury, which is very frequent in these sports.

High Metabolic Load Distance

High-Metabolic Load Distance in football, displayed on graph

This is an improved version of HID, because it also takes into account acceleration and power. It is a more energetic approach, showing how much energy a given player has lost during a particular effort, and is a measure of the intensity of movement.

Because it’s more flexible than HID and VHID, High Metabolic Load Distance can be successfully used for general exercise analysis. When analyzing HMLD for sports injury prevention, it is worth looking primarily for long-term positive deviations from the norms of a given player. As with HID and VHID, this type of deviation may indicate an increased vulnerability to injuries.

Volume & Intensity

Analysing Volume (how much the player trained) and Intensity (how intense the training was) you can assess the overall workload to which a given player was subjected.

It is important to keep these loads under control. Of course, the interpretation of these indicators will vary between individual players (due to different fitness potentials). In the case of the Sports Sonda system, we recommend keeping:

  1. Volume at a level between 80 and 160%
    Training Volume in football, displayed on graph
  2. Intensity at a level between 60 and 80%.
    Training Intensity in football, displayed on graph

Thanks to the analysis of the above indicators, we can easily ensure that athletes are training with optimal workloads. This prevents “over-training” and “under-training” (which may be equally dangerous to health) and helps to significantly reduce the risk of injury.

 

Identify talents & motivate your players

GPS football tracking systems can be used in identifying talents

GPS sports tracking systems can be successfully used to find young talents and support their development. This is especially important for smaller clubs and football academies, for whom transfers of prospective players are the basis for expansion.

Thanks to the data from GPS football tracking systems, it is possible to quickly evaluate players on the basis of their physical and mental parameters. You can check not only an athlete’s response to particular exercises, but also his ability to regenerate and respond to individual training stimuli.

By conducting tests using GPS trackers at the recruitment stage, you can easily identify the most talented players, determine their potential and prepare a dedicated development plan for them.

As a coach, you can also quickly spot weaknesses (e.g. low anaerobic endurance) and strengths (e.g. high diligence) of the player. This is invaluable information that can significantly affect the decision of whether or not to buy a player.

This partly eliminates the information gap between the parent / agent / former club and your team, and helps to make better and more profitable transfer decisions.

The key statistics to pay attention to when testing new players are:

  • Maximum Speed
  • Heart Rate
  • Distance Covered
  • Heart Rate Thresholds
  • Average Speed
  • Average Heart Rate

In the case of young players, it is worth comparing them to their peers. However, it is important to take into account the varied pace of development at that age.

Many young football players at certain stages of development show less fitness or strength than their peers. This results from a slower pace of growing up and a lower biological age.

Therefore, in this case, it is also important to pay attention to psychological aspects. A hard-working and ambitious 12-13 year old can achieve much more in the future than his better biologically, but less committed friends.

A great example is Jamie Vardy, who was rejected at the age of 16 by the Sheffield Wednesday academy as too short and physically weak.

Jamie Vardy wasn't considered as talent

Before he was selected as FWA Footballer of the Year and sensationally led Leicester City F.C. to win the Premier League, for many years he had to combine football with factory work. There are many other such examples. This perfectly illustrates how much attention should be devoted to assessing the potential of young players.

In the case of adult players, focus should be placed on comparisons according to specific positions and tasks on the pitch. A central midfielder fighting for the ball will naturally have higher endurance than a withdrawn defender.

Conducting comprehensive performance tests on adult players can also help in selecting better individual instructions for particular players.

For example – it is often worth considering expanding the scope of tasks on the pitch among the strongest players, so as to maximize their natural predispositions.

Using GPS sports tracking data is also important in the process of motivating footballers.

Cooperating with coaches from different continents for several years, we have noticed a certain regularity – the fact that players are becoming increasingly accustomed to using information about their performance.

The most ambitious players are starting to ask their coaches for insight into their results and comments after the training sessions. Using the Sonda Sports GPS football tracking system, they also gain access to our app in which they can monitor their efforts and analyse their progress over time.

Data from the system can also be used to show the athlete that during the last training his effort has decreased – for example, by comparing his performance to another player who is competing for his position.

Proper performance data analysis

Coach analyzing the data in football

Measuring data alone will not help your team develop. The key aspect here is properly conducted data analysis, drawing the right conclusions and consistent work on improving the quality of training.

In one-off performance tests, you can rely on nominal data (e.g. specific values of the Player Load or Metabolic Load index).

However, if you want to achieve long-term improvement of your players’ skills, the most important aspect is to analyze trends correctly. Therefore, it is very important that during the first 2-4 weeks of measurements, the training intensity should be similar, and the data from this period should be used to establish the mean values as a reference point for future analyses.

Here is an example of using averaged values. Despite maintaining a similar intensity of training, in one of the players you observe sudden decreases in the maximum speed or deviations from the standard heart rate (high resting HR, poor pulse restitution, no ability to train with submaximal heart rate values).

If you do not have a reference point, you will most likely not be able to correctly spot these anomalies. However, thanks to a comparison with mean values, you can quickly notice if the player’s condition is worse due to fatigue or a minor injury or illness, which he did not report to the staff.

In this situation, it is worth giving this player a break in the next match or temporarily reducing his training workload so as to protect him from a serious injury or a decline in form.

The situation is similar when it comes to HID (High-Intensity Distance) and VHID (Very-High Intensity Distance). Let’s assume that during the last few training sessions you notice a significant increase in the distance travelled at a very high intensity in player A.

In this situation, it is worth adjusting his training regime, e.g. by introducing additional biological regeneration. This will significantly reduce the risk of overload injuries in the lower muscle parts.

 

Conclusions

GPS tracking football systems can help you make better personal and training decisions.

The most important benefits of using this technology are:

  • Enhancing players’ development
  • Sports injury prevention
  • Identifying talents
  • Motivating players

These benefits can be achieved in the short-term (better assessment of skills before a transfer, evaluation of the level of preparation before the most important matches) and long-term (support for the development of players, reduction in the number of injuries).

However, it cannot be undermined that GPS systems have become an important element used in professional football teams.

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Would you like to learn more about the possibilities of using GPS systems in your team? Contact us – we will help you select the right solution and implement it!

Image sources:
https://www.premierleague.com/news/596905
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gareth_Bale_injury_(5194451707).jpg


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