Last month, FiftyFive.One reported on former Seattle Sounders strength and conditioning coach Jarryd Phillips joining Minnesota United. This addition to the technical staff can be seen as another step towards being MLS-ready — and not just because of his experience in the league. Phillips brings a sports science approach to training that is rapidly becoming the norm in the league.
“A lot of the guys are super competitive so it doesn’t matter if they really are doing well or if they are feeling fatigued. Whatever it is, the guys want to play.”
Sports science can trace its history back to ancient Greece and the writings of Galen. While the Loons may not “spend their lives in over exercising, in over-eating, and over-sleeping like pigs,” they also aren’t reliable for providing an honest and objective assessment of their fitness. “A lot of the guys are super competitive so it doesn’t matter if they really are doing well or if they are feeling fatigued. Whatever it is, the guys want to play. Doesn’t matter how they’re feeling. So the chances are, on most occasions, they are going to tell you ‘no I’m good, I’m good, I’m good’ and fair play to them, I think if I was playing, I’d probably do the same thing,” admits Phillips.
What sports scientists like Phillips are after is a more objective assessment of player performance and condition that can be used to prescribe an individualized, targeted training regimen. What they want is data. Lots of data.
To get this data, players wear harnesses resembling sports bras. Inside are sensors to track their every movement — from large to micro. Hundreds of data points per second can be taken and either monitored real-time or compiled into reports later for analysis. When paired with heart rate monitors, the data provide a more detailed picture of what’s going on for an individual player.
According to Phillips, “From an objective standpoint, it really gives us an opportunity to measure up and really prioritize their weeks and the training sessions accordingly, so that we can make sure that the guys are optimally ready for game day.“
Used mostly at the professional and college level, teams in sports of all sorts use the technology. Notably, 14 MLS teams are listed among the clients of two major players in the field: Catapult and StatSports. The Seattle Sounders are among those using Catapult and are seen as a pioneer in using the technology.
While the research is still inconclusive, anecdotal reports point to the wearable tech reducing injuries in players. In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors credit the adoption of Catapult technology with the transformation of their team from being one of the most-injured teams in the league to becoming one of the least. That’s an anecdote that will spark hope for many in the Loon Army who have experienced quite a bit of heartache in this season plagued with injuries.
The team is currently in talks with Catapult. If they can come to an agreement, players will start wearing the devices in both training and during matches, racking up the data points.
“To be able to put that into good, solid, visual feedback for the coaches and management is really my main goal. It gives us a good, clear roadmap of where we’re trying to go.”
Jeff Rueter contributed to this report.