Aug 2, 2017Using Metrics, Part Two
Last week, I introduced the topic of implementing sport science into a high school training program. You are probably now wondering, how do we incorporate advanced metrics?
When starting off two years ago, we decided the best area to target was recovery. Too many programs focus solely on the allocation of load and intensity during training without considering how recovery and regeneration are managed. In order to achieve engagement from athletes, recovery needs to be integrated into your program just as much as training.
Before we dive into our metrics program, I want to caution coaches to approach any new sports science endeavor by thinking about “depth before width.” It’s easy to get caught up in a new training method or technological device, but it is vital to explore any program addition fully before going ahead with it. This keeps the new element from becoming overwhelming or unmanageable.
With this concept firmly in mind, we chose hydration as our initial monitoring metric. Our athletes all have access to water on a daily basis, so it was an easy variable to track. Plus, hydration status has been linked directly to performance, injury risk, and even concussion recovery. In looking at all the variables, it had the potential to make the biggest positive impact while adding the least amount of negative stress to our athletes or coaching staff.
Our first step was establishing a daily hydration goal for each athlete based on consuming 0.5 ounces of water for every pound of bodyweight. In-season athletes, those training two or more hours a day, or heavy sweaters added 18 to 24 ounces to that goal.
Then, by dividing their total ounces by 16, we told athletes how many water bottles to drink each day. (Sixteen ounces is the volume of a standard water bottle.) We had athletes record their daily water bottle consumption on a chart and kept track of how many bottles they fell short of their established goal (if any).
During the first month, we found out just how under-hydrated our athletes were — the average daily water consumption was only 3.25 bottles (52 ounces)! However, by the third month, that number had skyrocketed to 7.75 bottles (124 ounces), which met or exceeded most athletes’ hydration goals. Not only that, but parents and coaches confirmed athletes were drinking water more often, and they started feeling better. What was it that engaged them in this process? We measured their water intake and, therefore, it mattered to them.
Since this first attempt at monitoring was successful, we added a little more depth to our system with a wellness questionnaire. Borrowing from one shared at the 2015 NSCA Coaches Conference by Brandon Marcello, PhD, CSCS, PES, CES, former Stanford University Director of Sports Performance, we decided to focus on three areas of recovery and regeneration that athletes could control: hydration, sleep, and nutrition. We picked these metrics to increase athletes’ engagement in the process and empower them to make needed changes to their lifestyle.
For hydration, we continued to monitor how many bottles of water athletes drank a day. With sleep, they recorded how many hours of sleep they had each night and rated its quality (poor, normal, good).
To target nutrition, we started measuring how many meals each athlete consumed daily. The goal was five, and a meal was defined as consumption of greater than 500 calories in one sitting — anything less was considered a snack. We also charted whether athletes skipped breakfast, had a small breakfast (shake or bar), or had a “full” breakfast, which meant it had to total at least 500 calories and consist of 55 percent carbohydrate, 25 percent protein, and 20 percent fats. Finally, we had them check off if they drank a recovery shake following their daily training session.
Athletes initially completed the questionnaire when they arrived for their daily strength and conditioning session. After a few months, however, we found it was easier to utilize an online form on Google Docs that the athletes could fill out during homeroom or at home.
The information gathered from the questionnaire generated good points of conversation. We were able to observe trends and adjust our approach with athletes based on any issues we identified. Yet, one issue with the questionnaire was that it only showed us athletes’ behaviors in hindsight — we couldn’t use the data in real time to determine their “readiness” or modify training sessions accordingly.
To solve this problem, we partnered with Kinduct Technologies to design a website-based software platform where we could collect, organize, share, and analyze data in one centralized location. Accessible from a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, Kinduct’s system allows us to better understand our data, make more informed decisions, and take decisive action.
Every morning, either on their way to school or during homeroom, our athletes log on to Kinduct with their smartphone or school computer and answer a simple questionnaire that collects data on quantity of sleep, quality of sleep, bottles of water drank, number of meals eaten, whether breakfast was eaten, academic stress, personal stress, training difficulty, sport difficulty, recovery breathing, whether a recovery shake was consumed, and resting heart rate. This process takes less than two minutes to complete.
We decided to add questions on stress and readiness metrics when we transitioned to the Kinduct platform because we finally had a system that made data management as easy as data collection. Kinduct opened the door for measuring metrics that were outside the athletes’ control (like how hard a practice was).
Once athletes are done with the questionnaire, their responses are uploaded to Kinduct immediately. The system uses their feedback and any predetermined training goals to produce an overall readiness score from zero to 100.
What do we do with this information? Use it to make more informed training decisions. Based on an athlete’s score, the time of year, how the coaching staff views their effort and execution in practices and games, and how they are responding to training, we determine what modifications need to be made daily. For instance, a low score may result in exercise regression or switching the athlete to a recovery-based workout.