Sep 14, 2018
Tapping Into Technology

When Manatee High School Head Football Coach Yusuf Shakir wants to know how hard one of his players has worked during practice, he no longer has to guess. He can simply download the answer.

According to an article in the Bradenton Herald, Shakir’s squad has become the first high school team in Florida to begin using the Catapult GPS tracking system, created by PlayerTek. That means that this season, under their pads, Manatee players are wearing lightweight neoprene shirts containing small GPS devices inserted in a pocket in the back. The devices track the players’ movements, and data can be sent to a phone or computer for analysis.

Shakir was sold on the technology earlier in his career when he saw it used in the football program at Florida State University. Last spring, he was able to use booster club funding and private donations to put the high-tech shirts on his own players, and he explains that it takes the guesswork out of evaluating their output.

“You basically get to study your athletes and see who has run a lot and who hasn’t run a lot,” Skahir said. “A lot of times you see some players that may be gassed and you’re like, ‘Well, why are they gassed?’ One of the examples they gave was (FSU’s) Rashad Greene, the receiver. They felt like he was slow, but they looked and he had ran 7 miles in one day.

“It’s just a great way to study your kids and just a great way to understand how to practice,” he added.

Manatee’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Rich Lansky is also benefiting from the influx of information. With GPS data in hand, he can see exactly how much energy a player is expending both in practice and in the weight room, allowing him to better tailor workouts and recovery.

“All stress is cumulative,” Lansky said. “The body doesn’t know whether they’re doing power cleans or whether they’re running up and down the field or whether they’re playing basketball.”

The GPS data isn’t the only information Manatee players’ uniforms are gathering. In addition to the high-tech shirts, they wear Riddell InSite helmets, which record information on hits. If a player has a headache, Shakir can check the helmet’s data and find out when he was hit, where, from what angle, and with how much force.

Having that information can benefit his players when they want to move on to the next level, according to Shakir.

“If you sign a kid from Manatee, you can track every single hit a kid has had since ninth grade,” he said.

But student-athletes with their eye on college football aren’t Shakir’s only focus with the high-tech gear. He believes the extra technology serves an important role in keeping average athletes safe, pointing out that while sophisticated equipment is more commonly found at higher levels, the diversity in ability on a high school squad makes it even more important to outfit players with best technology available.

“They study them in college and the pros, but they don’t study high school kids. And this is where you have the largest gap in talent,” he said. “Because you’ve got people that are going to be future All-Americans and future Hall of Famers and then guys that won’t ever play again another day in their life. So you have that large gap of talent, so you have to monitor to make sure you’re putting kids in the safest position possible.”

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