Why should you monitor your athletes?
It used to be the case that success in sport was based mostly on natural talent, but as competition developed, the area of practice became hugely important. Talent alone is no longer a guarantee to success; it must be combined with practice and training. Coaches and athletes are continually searching for that fraction of a percent extra that will give them the edge in competition so nothing can be left to chance. Data on all aspects of an athlete’s preparation is of significant value. If a coach can keep track of how an athlete is reacting to training, how they are sleeping, how they are eating and what their mood or stress levels are, they can make decisions based on that information. Those decisions are often the difference between winning and losing.
Does monitoring really help?
The simple answer is Yes. The key to monitoring is being able to identify potential difficulties at the earliest possible stage and to take actions to help optimize preparations and training to ensure the best possible performance in competition. Parallel to this is ensuring that your athletes are fit and healthy – both physically and mentally – and motivated to perform at their best. Trying to keep a close eye on the growing amount of detail required by today’s coach can be difficult and take time and energy away from preparation and training. This has meant that monitoring has become a huge part of a team’s regime simply because the process ultimately helps improve an athlete’s performance and provides more insight for coaches and staff.
What is the impact of monitoring?
Introducing an athlete monitoring system like Metrifit can help improve an athlete’s performance through a combination of several factors:-
Monitoring an athlete’s training program helps ensure they are in the best possible condition to train. Younger and amateur athletes often feel the strain of playing and competing for multiple teams, often with little or no communication between the different teams. Being aware of the ‘complete picture’ of what an athlete is doing can allow you to individualize training and recovery and educate the athlete on load management. Kimberley Bos, won a Bronze medal in the Skeleton at the Winter Olympics 2022 coming back from a 10th place finish in the first heat. This was the first skeleton Olympic medal ever for the Dutch and only the second Olympic medal outside of speed skating. Robert Walsh, Physical Performance Coach for the Dutch Olympic snowboarding and ski team had this to say about his use of Metrifit.
Metrifit has been a corner stone of the management of Kim’s recovery and performance planning. The data gathered over the past five years really assisted in building and adapting a programme individualized to her.
Monitoring key life stressors allows coaches and staff to educate on the affects that poor sleep hygiene, stress and anxiety have on performance and on athlete health and well-being.
If the athletes fill Metrifit in openly and honestly without fear of retribution, you get an insight into the stressors that they are experiencing not just in training but across their everyday lives – Rob Walsh, Physical Performance Coach for the Dutch Olympic snowboarding and ski team
Mental Health and Well Being
Stress, regardless of where it stems from, can have a direct impact on how an athlete performs. More importantly, it can interfere with our ability to perform routine tasks such as interacting with others, focusing in school or at work, sleeping, eating, and maintaining overall health. Studies show that millennials in particular are highly stressed and put huge pressure on themselves to achieve, often striving for unattainable perfection. High schools often replicate the training intensity found at college level and in the strive for college places and scholarships, players can be overwhelmed and become anxious and stressed. Athletes are often slow to seek help. Monitoring mood state, stress levels and an athletes’ own perception of how ready they are to perform can pinpoint issues that need to be addressed that could potentially aid in maintaining the health of athletes both physically and psychologically.
We are all subject to chronic stress, whether this is performance-related, work-related, relationships with others, or our relationship with ourselves. And because we are so busy with life responsibilities, chronic stress can go undetected, but continues to build underneath the surface. Metrifit addresses the most common lifestyle stressors:- sleep duration, sleep quality, nutrition quality, emotional stress, and joint/muscular stress. It also reinforces the important lifestyle factors that require care and attention for optimal performance on the pitch – Cairbre Ó Cairealláin – Strength and Conditioning coach with All Ireland Champions Tipperary
Illness and Burnout
Monitoring assists in identifying such potential problems as injury, illness, and burnout. Each of these factors can hamper an athlete’s ability to train consistently. If they can avoid missing training sessions, they will be better prepared to achieve success.
Monitoring also develops an athlete’s self-awareness and accountability, giving them a greater sense of responsibility for their well-being. With access to relevant data, the athlete has a greater understanding of how their own body functions. Checking in with yourself daily helps you know your body and mind and can pinpoint issues early before they become a problem.
Implementing monitoring and encouraging compliance
Understanding why you are using an athlete monitoring system and its role in your day to day training is vital to ensure successful implementation and to allow you to evaluate its use against your main objectives. Implementing a system because another team is using it, or because you think its the norm are not good reasons. The same monitoring system with the same functionality can be implemented in two separate teams with completely different outcomes based on the rationale and education of both athletes and staff on its purpose and main objectives.
“Metrifit has been a great asset in helping guide the numerous decisions we make on a daily basis, that have a direct impact on our athletes well-being and progress. The platform is extremely user friendly and the reports and analytics that reflect the data collected daily, can be catered to what you are most specifically curious to know about the athletes both individually and collectively” – Aaron Mansfield, Head Coach, LMU Lions, Loyola Marymount University
It is important to implement it in a way that gets everyone on board. Some key points to take into consideration are:-
Educate and Inform
Educate on why you are implementing athlete monitoring. Demonstrate the ‘how and why’. Having data to back up your instincts can enable better conversations with your athletes, that not only improve the individual athlete, but the whole team. Explaining that can make a huge difference.
Start with the Basics
It is tempting to start into monitoring with great enthusiasm and energy and decide to conquer all and monitor everything. In the busy world of the coach and athlete this isn’t always the best approach as it can be overwhelming and take up too much time. Start simple and add complexity as you go. Consistently gathering data in a small way is better than gathering lots of data that you never have to time to look at.
Buy-in staff and athletes
It is important to get buy-in from athletes and staff to ensure success of any monitoring that you decide to implement. Education is important and staff and athletes need to feel like they are part of the process. When you are collecting wellness and training data, the trust levels between coach and athlete in relation to honesty and use of the data are critical for success. Athletes need to be shown how the data is being used and more importantly how it benefits them. If the athlete takes the time to complete subjective wellness and training information, they can become disillusioned if something they deemed important was ignored or used against them. Likewise, all staff and management should be on the one page about the use of monitoring to ensure consistent messaging about its value.
Create good habits and develop consistent routines. Start with the basics and what you can manage effectively. It is important to set a minimum standard at the start for your athletes. And it is important in the initial phases to monitor and manage this to help everyone get on board. It takes some time to form a habit – often longer than the 21 days quoted by many – and it is easy to forget to fill in your daily questionnaire initially. Use alert notifications or calendar reminders to help with this and appoint a staff member to be responsible for checking who has logged and who hasn’t in the initial weeks.
It is critical to give feedback to your athlete. Most athletes like to feel that they are being listened to and that the effort they are putting into inputting information is actually looked at and used by coaches and staff to provide actionable feedback. This could be as simple as a conversation to find out more about a stress issue. If athletes realize that the information they input is used to invoke change they will buy into it more easily.
Monitoring an athlete helps us to learn about their patterns of behavior and habits. Capturing that data allows the coach to evaluate it and analyze it, which in turn helps them get the best possible performance out of the athlete.
Metrifit promotes authentic conversations and learning regarding sleep, stress, nutrition and other key factors that can prove immeasurable to both coaches and athletes. In the modern sporting world, the gap between winning and losing can come down to fractions of seconds, millimeters, or squeezing out that last ounce of energy. Data on all aspects of an athlete’s preparation is of significant value. If a coach can keep track of how an athlete is reacting to training, how they are sleeping, how they are eating and what their mood or stress levels are, they can make decisions based on that information that might just give them the edge they need. Metrifit’s new athlete lifestyle profiling product takes up very little time for busy athletes (about 5 minutes each month) but provides you with actionable insight to help improve your team’s performance and more importantly highlights the key lifestyle stressors that are affecting the health and well-being of your athletes.
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Athlete Self-Report Measure Use and Associated Psychological Alterations by Anna E. Saw, Luana C. Main, Sam Robertson and Paul B. Gastin
Nutrition for Athletes | International Olympic Committee
Monitoring Training Load to Understand Fatigue in Athletes by Shona L. Halson
Optimizing performance and injury prevention by sleep monitoring in adolescent athletes
Mobile Athlete Self-Report Measures and the Complexities of Implementation by Ciara M. Duignan, Patrick J. Slevin, Brian M. Caulfield and Catherine Blake