How technology can be integrated into athlete and team preparation

Developing a hypothetical technology plan coaches could utilize to improve athlete preparation and understanding ahead of a national team camp for soccer.

The evolution of technology has also evolved coaching practice, with the accessibility and ease of use of online tools making it a near-necessity to be included in preparation for sports training and performance. Here is a hypothetical program coaches could utilize to improve athlete preparation and understanding ahead of a national team camp for soccer.

Physical preparation

Monitoring of athlete’s physical status is a critical endeavor for national teams, as footballers play at multiple clubs with different approaches to conditioning and fitness. Implementing a remote monitoring system would be practical to ensure national team coaches are fully aware of each individual’s physical status prior to a training camp.

This could be achieved through the use of Apple Watches, which have embedded GPS, heart rate, and sleep monitoring technology. They are easy to use, would likely not be intrusive with the monitoring system used by clubs, with a relatively low cost. The data is also synced quickly. Whilst it could be possible to liaise with clubs individually to obtain the data they collect, this could be time-intensive and, given clubs often use a variety of monitoring systems, not productive for performance analysis.

Whilst not using Apple Watches specifically, this is an approach similar to that used by the Socceroos in preparation for their Asian Cup campaign in 2015. The head of high performance, Craig Duncan, says

[quote align=”left” name=”Craig Duncan”]We were able to implement a monitoring system for up to 50 players, to see how much training they were doing and their fatigue levels, all remotely from here. Once they were in camp, we had a good understanding of where they were at and then we had daily monitoring of those players. We knew how much sleep they had, how tired they were.[/quote]

This emphasizes the importance of physical monitoring in preparation for training camps, and how technology can be integrated into this process.

Tactical preparation

If the national training camp precedes an international tournament, it is critical the coaching staff are able to communicate tactical information to their players within the short timeframe available before the competition. Whilst well-designed training sessions with clear, direct information is the primary focus to achieve this, technology can help accelerate the learning process and ensure players understand their tactical roles as a team and as individuals.

At a grassroots and semi-professional level, the online software Teamapp has become the market leader for team communication. Teamapp supports video and document embedding, which is useful for coaches to supply their players with key tactical information.

At a national team level, however, a suggestion to improve tactical preparation would be to develop a bespoke app. This is easily achievable given the plethora of tools available online to develop applications for Google and Apple operating systems. It would even be possible to align the bespoke app with the physical monitoring system, especially if Google/Apple hardware was used for that purpose.

Within the bespoke app would be the ability to send multimedia and information to each athlete both collectively and individually. This could include clips of previous national team performances, highlights of tactical behaviours desired in the national team setup and/or information about the role they will play when coming into the camp.

Team culture

Embedded within this bespoke app could also be multimedia that supports the development of the team culture. This could include motivational videos, or reminders of team values. Again, a precedent for this is with the Socceroos national team, who reminded players of their role in the team culture when opening their bespoke app. As former coach Ange Postecoglou said,

For the few minutes that they punch in the data, they are reminded of their place within our set-up.

Wherever they are in the world they are a Socceroo for those moments and it’s a reminder of the values we hold.

End notes

In conclusion, it is possible to see how effectively technology can be integrated into the preparation for a national team camp to improve physical and tactical preparation, and develop team culture. Coaches should look at integrating common, easy-to-use technologies so that the technology itself is not obtrusive, but rather useful and simple for the athlete to integrate into their day-to-day activity before arriving in camp.

By Tim Palmer

Tim is a football coach, writer, analyst and sports scientist. He is currently Assistant Technical Director, Head of Player Development & Video and a coach at NWSF Spirit, as well as working with the Pararoos. Previously, he has worked as an analyst with the Socceroos, and in the A-League.

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