Coaching Tools: Athlete Monitoring

Coaching Tools: Athlete Monitoring

If you’re partial to any news and views relating to sport, you’ll be familiar with the terms “athlete monitoring” and “wellness data”, and perhaps even “the numbers tell us she is good to go!”

The holy grail of sport science is to create the one number that gives us an indication to the status of an individual athlete. The ultimate goal being performance optimisation and injury reduction. Using input from a range of variables, attempt has been made to develop modeling equations to perform this function. However, performance – or more correctly, “fatigue” has multiple origins: physiological, biochemical and psychological. Furthermore, considering the individual response each athlete will have to the training dose and the environment in which she functions, it seems it would be extremely difficult to distill this to a figure that is both reliable and valid.

The current era of sports analytics means that elite athletes are getting tracked every step in their journey: …various technology captures how hard they are working, for how long and how often;

… the quality and quantity of their sleep, nutritional intake and recovery strategies are assessed;

…power outputs, performance measures, results (training and competition) and physiological parameters are tracked to determine adaptation and response.

Whilst none of these things will ever replace the need for a coach to get to know her athletes, there is no doubt that such measures have transformed the way athletes are training.

What’s more, a significant amount of this technology is available to anyone interested in quantifying their training or activity levels. The market is flooded with sports watches, training apps, heart rate monitors and GPS devices… most of the time, it’s not a question of whether you’ll get one, but which one?!

At the very core of training tools such as the ones listed, is the notion of collecting training and performance information. The most fundamental method of all is to use a training diary.

Training diaries / training logs / program cards are integral to effectively monitoring training loads and progress. The age-old question: “How do you know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been?”

In its most basic form, it is simply a written account of reps, sets and load.

More complex formats will attempt to more accurately quantify training loads as well as capture a range of other information relating to wellness, mood state, performance measures and basic physiological factors (e.g. heart rate and hydration status.)

At Melbourne Girls Grammar, we are teaching all girls who use the Fitness Hub to enter their training session data in their program cards. Programs are prescribed and made available through the (online) coaching software, Visual Coaching Pro. The information entered (by the student) tells us how often they are training (are they committed?), and what they have achieved in relation to exercise selection, training volume (sets and reps) and intensity (load). This then guides how we assess them and where to next.

A training diary is one of the most valuable tools you can use if your goals are to improve. The greatest benefit being to help individuals learn to be their own best “coach.” Used well, students and coaches will:

  • Observe performance trends over time: A poor training session can be a negative experience and leave you feeling flat, but the reality is we are all going to have them from time to time. It’s more important to note your progress over time, rather than pay too much attention to single training sessions in isolation. Part of this, is noting whether the performance trend is on the downward slope – this demands investigation into the program itself.
  • Be kept accountable to your training and your goals: If we don’t record what we do, it’s easy to “over-estimate” how much training we do, or how hard we trained. Keeping an accurate log of your training keeps you honest!
  • Be motivated: Especially if you record personal milestones and achievement. Once a goal is achieved… what will your next one be?
  • Learn how to train: Effective training isn’t about training as hard as you can, as long as you can, as often as you can. Your training diary will show you whether you are approaching every training session exactly the same way, and this may provide some answers as to why you might stagnate, over-train or get bored. Learning to train is the hardest lesson to absorb, and I’m not sure that we ever stop learning these lessons. Reflecting and evaluating our training helps to guide the future path for better results.

Sally Bailey, Director of Artemis Programs