The Importance of In-Season Monitoring & Testing

December 22, 2023
In-Season Monitoring & Testing

Over the years, various physical tests have been used within football teams and academies to assess players' physical performance. This extensive list includes VO2 max, Yo-Yo intermittent tests, repeated sprint ability, agility, and linear sprinting. Nonetheless, in the last ten years, the top European football leagues have widely used global positioning systems (GPS) with integrated accelerometers and semi-automated computerised player monitoring technology for match analysis1.

With this technology, players' and coaches' physical, technical, and tactical performance may be evaluated. Such technology has the added benefit of allowing fast and precise evaluation of various performance data in real-world settings. With this technology so readily available, this begs the question, are football-related fitness tests still necessary? 

Subjective Loading (sRPE) can monitor the player's internal load. This assists in testing a player daily. Studies have confirmed the validity, good reliability, and internal consistency of session-RPE methods in several sports and physical activities with men and women of different age categories2. Take a look at our blog post on Injury Prevention for more information on this.

In-season testing can also be beneficial for monitoring progress and setting future goals. By carrying out standardised tests at the beginning of the season, the athletes are given a clear baseline knowledge about their performance. Thus, when in-season testing occurs, easy comparisons can be made between data. This allows athletes to monitor whether the training approaches and match tactics are aiding their performance3. If so, the data collected can be used to set more challenging goals and allow training sessions to be adapted accordingly. However, if an athlete is performing better during in-season testing, the data collected can be used to identify any weaknesses or challenges they are facing. Therefore, new goals can be set for the individual athlete's needs.

GPS

GPS Performance trackers can uncover strengths and shortcomings in your game that would otherwise go unnoticed. You may then personalise your training to enhance these metrics4. Do you feel tired too soon during a match? By using GPS you can break down your performance into 5-minute increments to evaluate when your performance begins to deteriorate or at what distance. You can then utilise this knowledge to enhance your numbers and become a better player.

A GPS tracker enables an athlete to calculate the Total Distance run in a Training or Match Session, which is a starting point for improving fitness levels. This could be accomplished by comparing the distance completed in a pre-season training session vs four weeks later. This enables reliable measurement of a player's fitness levels, offering a comprehensive picture of their performance and potential.

Heart Rate

For athletes aiming for high-end training, having access to heart rate data is beneficial. This knowledge of biometrics enables a well-rounded approach to training and incorporating adequate rest. To optimise your efforts, log your resting heart rate, track it during exercise, and monitor it post-recovery.

You can get fitter when you combine heart rate-based training programs with regularity and length of training. Combining heart rate-based training programs with frequency and duration of exercise can increase your fitness level. As your physical condition and health improve, you'll see positive changes in your resting and recovery heart rates.

Another valuable tool for health is a heart rate monitor. It can be used to observe how your body responds to stressful circumstances, especially in the case of cardiac patients. 

Outside of GPS and HR data, What Else Should I Test?

This all depends on the equipment and resources available to you or your team. In the ideal scenario you could utilise a speed gate or force plates, however we know this is not feasible for all teams. Below, we have a list providing the rationale for these tests.

Countermovement Jump (CMJ) or Squat jump

This is an excellent test to monitor athlete readiness as there is a correlation between sprint and CMJ performance in soccer players. It has been shown that individuals with greater hip mobility exhibited increased lower limb strength and power (5). You will need a force plate or a velocity sensor to perform this test.

Hamstring tightness is measured with the straight leg raise test

Mobility

Testing this regularly can help improve power. Stretching your body to become more supple and flexible offers many physical benefits. Such training allows for easier and deeper movements while building strength and stability. Stretching your muscles and joints also leads to a greater range of motion, improved balance, and increased flexibility.

  • Knee to wall - Ankle flexion
  • Sit and Reach - Specifically measures the flexibility of the lower back and hamstring muscles.
  • Straight Leg Raise Test - Hamstring tightness is measured with the straight leg raise test. Low hamstring flexibility may aggravate hip, knee, pelvic, and lower back misalignments. The primary objective of the straight leg raise test is proximal hamstring tightness.

The 505 Agility test is a test of 180-degree turning ability. The test may also be adapted for sport-specific testing by having the subject dribble a football or hockey ball through the course or bounce a basketball. For this test you’ll require start/stop timing gates or a stopwatch, non-slip running surface, and some cone markers.

Bronco Test is a hard-aerobic running assessment where participants have to complete a sequence of shuttle runs over 60m, 40m, and 20m for five sets. The participants aim to complete the test in as quick a time as possible.

One of the key features of the PlayerData app is the ability to conduct surveys with your athletes.

Surveys are Key

Surveys become valuable when integrated with session data to delve deeper into players' performance. For example, a coach can ask players to complete a survey post-training, seeking feedback on their perceived strengths, encountered challenges, and areas for improvement. These surveys can also capture data on athletes' Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), a scale measuring the intensity of their effort from 0 (easy) to 10 (maximum). By including this question, coaches gain insights into athletes' internal load and subjective experience during performance. Analysing this information alongside the app's metric data enhances the overall comprehension of athlete performance, aiding coaches in injury prevention and avoiding burnout from overworking athletes6,7.

Wellness Monitoring

Utilising surveys to gauge how an athlete feels after a series of intense games or training sessions is valuable in determining the course of their next training session. If metrics and survey responses indicate signs of fatigue, it becomes evident that the athlete requires a break to allow adequate rest and recovery. 

Player Engagement

Surveys provide an excellent means to involve players in sessions actively. The actions they take during a session are crucial, and providing them with deeper insights into their performance output and emotions before, during, and after can enhance the overall results. Analysing surveys in conjunction with session data aids players in recognising the influence of their feelings on performance. Furthermore, reviewing past performance alongside completed surveys can spotlight areas of improvement or focus for the players. For more details on this please check out our surveys blog post.

How to Use PlayerData to Test Players?

Progress Tab

This will help to show progression or regression over two weeks across all metrics.

PD Chat & Reports

Use PD Chat & Reports to get players' personal bests over a longitudinal period to allow better comparison.

Segments

You can utilise player Segments to carry out the Bronco test - tracking the players' distance for the test duration. Calculating the player's top speed, HI distance, and MPM.

Surveys

You can create customised Surveys on our PlayerData app to use alongside our GPS equipment to suit your staff and players. For guidance on creating a survey on the PlayerData app, check out our support page on creating a survey

Use our system to create Session RPE, export the surveys as a CSV, and then multiply the RPE by the minutes they have undertaken in the session. 

References:

  1. Svensson, K., Alricsson, M., Olausson, M. and Werner, S., 2018. Physical performance tests–a relationship of risk factors for muscle injuries in elite level male football players. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, 14(2), p.282. 
  2. Haddad, M., Stylianides, G., Djaoui, L., Dellal, A. and Chamari, K., 2017. Session-RPE method for training load monitoring: validity, ecological usefulness, and influencing factors. Frontiers in neuroscience, 11, p.612..
  3. Turner, A., Walker, S., Stembridge, M., Coneyworth, P., Reed, G., Birdsey, L., Barter, P. and Moody, J., 2011. A testing battery for the assessment of fitness in soccer players. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(5), pp.29-39.
  4. Haugen, T. and Seiler, S., 2015. Physical and physiological testing of soccer players: why, what and how should we measure?. Sportscience, 19, pp.10-27.
  5. Stølen T, Chamari K, Castagna C, Wisløff U. Physiology of soccer: an update. Sports Med. 2005;35:501-536. 
  6. Doherty, R., Madigan, S.M., Nevill, A., Warrington, G. and Ellis, J.G., 2021. The sleep and recovery practices of athletes. Nutrients, 13(4), p.1330.
  7. Petit, J.M., Burlet-Godinot, S., Magistretti, P.J. and Allaman, I., 2015. Glycogen metabolism and the homeostatic regulation of sleep. Metabolic brain disease, 30, pp.263-279.
  8. Munro, A. G., Herrington, L. C., & Carolan, M. (2012). Reliability of 2-Dimensional video assessment of frontal-plane dynamic knee valgus during common athletic screening tasks. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 21(1), 7-11.

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