Nov 8, 2016
Tracking Recovery

High-tech GPS tracking units have quickly become a staple for professional sports teams and those at the highest level of college sports. The insights they provide help coaches fine tune their practice and training plans to optimize performance and keep athletes healthy and in the game.

Now, high schools are joining in the act. According to an article from the Dallas Morning News, two Texas high schools—DeSoto and Coppell—are among the 30 high schools nationwide reported to be using a GPS system from Catapult Sports, which claims more than half of the NFL and 50 major college teams among its clients.

The system works by implanting a small device with a GPS transmitter and accelerometer into a harness that is similar in size and appearance to a sports bra. It fits comfortably under any playing equipment, such as shoulder pads. The data from the device is processed by the system’s computer software to provide coaches with detailed information on the wearer’s activities. This can include distance covered, acceleration, speed, work load, exertion levels, and more.

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Shortly after practice, coaches receive a report detailing each player’s results from the session. For example, coaches can use this information to see whether players are performing as well as expected or if their performance is dropping due to fatigue.

At both DeSoto and Coppell, some of the most helpful information is the data on running symmetry, which shows whether a player is favoring one side of his body over the other. This can reveal underlying issues that would go unnoticed by the human eye.

“Sometimes you’ll talk with a kid and he’ll say, ‘I’m great, I’m great,'” Coppell Coach Mike DeWitt told the newspaper. “But I can say, hey, you’ve got a 12 percent running imbalance.”

DeSoto Head Athletic Trainer Scott Galloway said the symmetry data has helped the team tailor activities to meet each player’s needs. He feels this has played a big role in a 65 to 70 percent reduction in soft tissue injuries this season compared to previous ones.

The two schools have also honed in on “body load,” a total-exertion value that looks at distance run at different speeds, acceleration, deceleration, tackling, and blocking.

DeSoto even changed its practice schedule based on the data. Previously, the school would practice hard Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before backing off on Thursday. Now the team does mental preparation and walk throughs on Wednesday, and the players appear to be fresher on game day.

“There are things we can now identify instead of having a subjective answer from a kid,” Galloway said. “In years past, you were just guessing. We’re able to see things now we’ve never seen before.”

The cost of the system varies based on selected features and abilities, but a basic plan typically ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 per year. At both schools, the booster club is covering the cost of the system, which includes 30 units at Coppell and 45 at DeSoto.

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