Collecting and analyzing data has transformed professional sports. Now Polk State soccer has also started to take advantage of data analytics.
The team began using GPS technology this season to gain a competitive edge by improving player training and performance.
"It gives us exact information on our players' training and performance levels," says Head Coach Steve Linamen.
The GPS tracking device, which measures 2"x1.5", fits inside the rear pocket of a bib that each player wears under her jersey.
"The system uses 13 satellites to track more than 100 data points, including speed and position on the field," says Linamen. "It can show who is in position and who is out of position on any given play.
"We can also synch the GPS info with game video, so for every play we can see the player's position, how far she ran, and how fast she ran."
The tracking devices measure 2"x 1.5" and fit easily under a player's jersey. (Photo by Tom Hagerty, Polk State.)
The benefits of analytics include helping a coach decide on the best play to call in a situation or choosing the optimal lineup to win a game. Data also plays a key role in customizing training and preventing injuries.
"One of the biggest assets is that we can look at the data and see who's in the zone, who's injury prone, who needs a rest, who needs to increase or back off their training," says Linamen.
"Data offers proof. It shows who's performing above or below average. It also helps players motivate themselves and push to the next level. They want to see progress every day."
Coaches often have difficulty discussing a player's performance when the athlete does not see what the coach sees. Data analysis, however, gives athletes quantifiable information so they can improve.
"That's important because athletes today want to see definitive information, not just hear the coach's opinion," says Linamen.
"Data helps explain why a player may not be seeing as much playing time as she would like. For example, a player might think she ran a play the right way, but now I can show her where she was out of position and where she needs to improve."
Eagles soccer purchased the tracking devices, which cost about $3,000, through fundraising efforts.