Sports Teams Add Software to Their Coaching Staff

Using algorithms and advanced data analysis tools, professional and collegiate teams put a digital stat sheet into play.

Doug McKenney, former Buffalo Sabres strength and conditioning coach, collected a wealth of data on his hockey players: how many shots they took, the amount of time they spent in the penalty box and the number of goals they scored, among others. But the information was stored in various shared folders and Microsoft Excel files. Some of it was even on paper hidden away in actual filing cabinets, which made it difficult to use to improve players' performances on the ice.

In the early 2000s, McKenney approached Kevin Dawidowicz, a programmer and Web developer, to help him put the data on a digital platform. The project evolved into CoachMePlus, a software platform that now tracks more than 35,000 athletes from 50 professional and collegiate teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco Giants and 2017 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins—all told, more than seven million data points.

The fully-interactive, cloud-based platform tracks players beyond the typical recruiting stats, using data sources like the CoachMePlus Athlete App. Through the app, players can access their accounts and fill out basic information, such as wellness surveys, weight, hydration levels, workout details and questionnaires from their coaches. Coaches can easily import data from any device or platform with a data export, like an Excel spreadsheet, without doing any manual entry.

CoachMePlus also has an API connection with third-party wearable technologies, such as GPS wearable Catapult, that provides access to its cloud. This allows for seamless, uninterrupted integration between the device and CoachMePlus. Coaches can run algorithms on the data sets, using built-in analytics and display tools to uncover trends and keep players healthy and at peak performance. Leveraging these advancements in data-based software isn't just good for the athletes—it's good for business.

Data Takes Over Decision-Making

By seeing the data and associated trends around factors like body metrics, hydration and sleep, coaches can find ways to minimize player fatigue, increase safety and avoid injuries.

“It's all about finding those little intervention points and giving the experts—the coaches, the trainers, the front-office personnel—a really good look at the data so they can make decisions," says Andrew Russo, a sports performance specialist at CoachMePlus.

Users can also configure the software to respond to preset outcomes. For example, if a player notes on the app that he or she hasn't been sleeping well, that can trigger a preset alert that notifies the player's coach or makes an appointment for the player to speak with the team's sleep specialist.

The ability to centrally organize, compare and visualize data isn't just changing the ways that coaches evaluate individual players—it's also affecting decisions on a franchise level. Major League Baseball's Chicago White Sox is one team that has implemented software to help with workouts, according to Russo. The team now uses software to remotely conduct off-season workouts, track in-season activities, monitor hydration and electronically distribute data between minor league affiliates.

Analytics and the Future of Training

The trend of using data to shape athletic training is quickly spreading. In 2016, athletic training facility Sports Science Lab (SSL) opened its doors on New York's Staten Island. SSL uses data along with various sports-science technologies to address athletes' imbalances and maximize performances—and it's open to the public, not just the professionals.

“Data collection and technology have a tremendous influence on training programs because they eliminate the guesswork and allow us to target the specific areas our athletes need to work on," says Matthew Reicher, head athletic trainer at SSL.

Reicher points to the example of Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry to illustrate the use of analytics and applied sports science.

“Curry's Player Efficiency Rating and shot field-goal percentage increased exponentially after he started using wearable data technology that exhibited his fatigue, shot effectiveness and muscle and movement usage," he explains. “Using visual stimulus technology has also improved his eye-hand coordination and shooting IQ, which has allowed him to become one of the best players in the NBA."

In the future, Reicher is certain that data will influence athlete training and rehabilitation. He predicts that athletes will be more efficient and require less time to recover because technology will help reduce injury risk and allow them to meet their full potential.

Rian Ervin
By Rian Ervin | August 03, 2017