Each and every day, GPS devices are being used in new and innovative ways in the world of sports. We’ve reported on many, such as England’s rugby team wearing jerseys with built-in GPS devices that track their stats such as heart rate and speed, or Tour de France racers wearing GPS watches. Now, the University of North Carolina field hockey team is putting GPS to use on the field.
In August, 10 new GPS devices were purchased from Catapult Sports for $1,000 per device using money from the sports medicine program, women’s soccer program, and strength and conditioning program. The GPS devices track a host of statistics for the field hockey team, and will also be used for the men’s and women’s soccer teams.
“We hope this pilot program will help us get an idea of how useful these (devices) can be for our teams and of the ways we can use them to enhance our athletes’ training and overall fitness,” said the director of strength and conditioning, Greg Gatz.
Gatz brought the devices to UNC to measure velocity, movement of players, and distance during preseason games and practices. The GPS devices will also calculate the time players spend in different velocity zones – jogging, walking, and sprinting. This will aid field hockey coach Karen Shelton get the most out of practices by pointing out game-specific needs.
The GPS devices will also show where the players are running on the field during games. “We can kind of see if we’re overplaying one side over the other, where are the high velocity bands picked up or occurring,” said Shelton.
These GPS devices are also used often in games and in training to measure player load. Player load is a calculation patented by Catapult and combines acceleration, velocity, distance run, and other attributes. The number calculated shows the amount of stress a player is put under in a given period, whether game or practice.
For example, the field hockey team played a weekend of back-to-back games against VCU and Wake Forest, and one player suffered from calf tightness and soreness from a prior condition in the first game. Her player load was calculated at 830. The very next day, this same player wasn’t worked as hard and her player load was calculated at 600. She didn’t experience any soreness after this second game.
“It’s a good indication because we get into a playoff situation and we know that we need to have her in back-to-back games,” said the assistant strength and conditioning coach Steve Gisselman. “We maybe take some of the load off her so that her shins don’t get to the point where it’s too much of an issue long term.”
The devices will also be handy during the rehabilitation and recovery period. “It could definitely be used for rehabilitation purposes,” said Gisselman. “(Measuring) return to play would be ideal because as they return to play you can see their speeds, their ability to cut, their acceleration – their deceleration is a big one – and all of those parameters you can look at as they’re getting better. It’s one of those things that we just got in August so we’re slowly learning all of the intricacies.”