By Tyler Lindon
NFL teams are using a variety of technologies to monitor different aspects of performance. Let’s look at some of the most common inputs a human performance optimization (HPO) platform like Smartabase brings together in a single, centralized system.
- Load Monitoring
- Movement Screening
- Speed Assessment & Development
- Strength & Conditioning
- Velocity-Based Training
- Bodyweight, Body Composition, and Hydration Tracking
NFL teams need to be able to track what their players are doing on the field, which is where GPS technology from Catapult and STATSports comes in. Traditionally, coaches have been most interested in maximum velocity as a measure of intensity and total distance covered for volume. Recently, they’ve also started banding velocities to see how much work players are doing at 50, 75, and 90 percent of their max velocities. It can also be useful to assess the number of high-intensity efforts, accelerations and decelerations, and changes of direction with accelerometer data. Integrating a GPS stream into Smartabase enables NFL teams to quantify practice data and evaluate it alongside other measures of external load that come from weight room sessions, speed testing, and so on.
To help customize and individualize training plans, NFL teams establish baselines for various physical performance metrics. These can be captured for returning members of the roster and new players acquired via the NFL Draft or by trade during the assessments that accompany pre-camp meetings. They utilize force plates like VALD ForceDecks or those from Hawkin Dynamics to evaluate a countermovement jump. This enables performance staff to evaluate the load, explode, and drive phases of the jump, which show how much force a player produces and how quickly they do so. VALD NordBord allows teams to assess hamstring strength. They can then compare a player’s results to normative values for each position in Smartabase to see if they have a power or strength deficiency that can be addressed through individualized programming.
Speed Assessment and Development
Technology: VALD SmartSpeed
Another way for NFL teams to establish performance benchmarks in the offseason that they can compare to in-season output is to test players’ sprinting velocities. Speed gates such as VALD SmartSpeed are the most common method. Staff can either conduct individual sprint workouts or evaluate the entire squad. Both are beneficial to identify speed deficiencies that can then be addressed in training. 30- or 40-yard drills are used as an assessment tool to see if a program is having the desired effect or needs to be adjusted. Shorter build-up sprints like the flying 10 or 20 are utilized to maintain in-season speed and assess readiness for training with lower injury risk than longer runs. Using Smartabase, the performance staff can view how a player’s speed in a session compares to their historical baseline.
Strength and Conditioning
NFL strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches need to create annual programs and then establish session, weekly, and monthly load and intensity targets. Systems such as TeamBuildr and BridgeAthletic make program design and execution easier and allow the performance staff to personalize them to individual players. They can compare goals for sets, reps, and max percentages to actual totals recorded throughout the season. Integrating this data into Smartabase enables the S&C staff to show what players have done in the weight room over time, which provides accountability if a player gets hurt.
Whether players need to simply maintain their strength, speed, and power or develop these physical qualities, velocity-based training (VBT) is a proven method widely used in NFL weight rooms. It allows players to be more explosive with lighter loads, reducing their injury risk. Tools like GymAware and Perch enable S&C staff to see in how many sets each player hits their workout goal, such as emphasizing accelerative strength. The head S&C coach can also see if players at every rack are receiving the same stimulus, which is otherwise difficult to do given the size of an NFL roster and how few practitioners there are to oversee their training.
Bodyweight, Body Composition, and Hydration Tracking
Technology: Rice Lake
Almost every NFL squad asks players to weigh in and weigh out before and after training. Members of certain position groups are required to report to camp at a predesignated weight and stay at it, or they might be fined. Smart, Bluetooth-enabled scales simplify this process and provide basic body composition data. They can also be utilized to improve player safety and hydration by recommending how much an athlete needs to drink to replenish fluids lost during practice or games.
To learn more about how Smartabase can help your team centralize your performance data to drive better decision-making, please contact us.