March 9, 2015

    Understanding GPS: How to Use Data and Accountability

    Our latest guest blog post comes to us from former Sparta coach and current Strength & Conditioning coach of the New South Wales Waratahs, Jordan Troester.

    With all the emerging technology that is available in sports, it is easy to get sucked into the process of trying to track and measure everything an athlete is doing. While there is tremendous knowledge available in all this data, it is easy to get buried in a mountain of information. The real test for any set of data is how easily it can be collected, analyzed, and ultimately how you can use this data to make adjustments to your training program. GPS is one of the athlete evaluation tools that can be extremely valuable but also a little overwhelming.

    The Variables

    Just like a strength training program, GPS data can be summed up in terms of volume, intensity, and density. By looking at the data in these terms, it is much easier to build a periodised conditioning program or make sure that the training volumes on the field are following a safe progression. Focusing on three metrics for each category is a simple approach to avoid getting lost in the mass of numbers.


    • Total Distance – easy way to get a big picture look at total volume
    • Velocity 1 Zone – breaks out low speed distance that is performed at about a jogging pace (3.3-5.0 m/s)
    • Velocity 2 Zone – breaks out high speed running (5.0-6.6 m/s)


    • Sprint Zone – total distance at high speeds (6.6+ m/s)
    • Total Mechanical Load – this measure quantifies high intensity changes in velocity (acceleration and deceleration)
    • Total Force Load – this measurement is based on accelerometry that is built into the GPS unit and is an indicator of impact (with the ground and with external objects)


    • Work Rate (m/min) – simple value that shows the average speed (m/min)
    • Force Load / Min – this is really another way to look at work rate that is based off of loading rather than distance which may be more appropriate for athletes who incur more loading but are not required to cover a as much ground (offensive lineman, rugby forwards, post players)
    • Mechanical Load Quality – this is a valuable measure of fatigue because it shows the percentage of accel and decel that are performed at a high intensity. When athletes are fatigued (or get lazy) quality suffers and they start to roll in and out of movements instead of being sharp

    Understanding the variables is just the first step, the real challenge is to use the information to make better decisions about training and recovery. This starts with education and accountability.

    1. Set benchmarks to educate coaches and athletes about the demands for each player or position based on objective game data. 2. Compare game data to training session data and educate coaches about the designing drills and an overall practice plan that will specifically prepare athletes for the demands of the game. 3. Athletes are accountable for the intensity and quality of their training session. 4. Coaches are accountable for the design and of each session and the progression of their training plan.

    The ultimate goal is for data to drive decision making, but this is only possible when the data is digestible enough for coaches and athletes to understand. The SpartaTrac dashboard allows for easy import of information and customizable tracking and display of data to coaches, players, and sports medicine.

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