By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Advancements in sports sciences is a growing discussion among athletic teams, collegiately and professionally. Whether it be focused health, performance-related, or even both, progress is being made. This season, the Penn State men's soccer program took a step in the right direction as it started monitoring its athletes in more detail.
If you go to a game at Jeffrey Field, you may notice each Penn State men's soccer player wears an elastic band under their jersey. You also may see an individual on the Penn State sideline who's concentrated on an iPad.
These are steps in the process of implementing a new heart rate monitoring system with other innovative features. It's the first time they have experimented with this technology, and so far it's been successful. The men's soccer team looks to start a trend for athletics on campus and collegiate soccer as a whole.
"Every single session, anytime we train in any form, our guys are putting on a heart rate monitor that in real-time, we can look on an iPad and see exactly where their heart rate is," said head coach Bob Warming.
Not only does the technology determine heart rate and how much time a player is in the target heart rate ("the red zone"). It also shows how many sprints and accelerations a player does through the course of training or a game. For example, speedy forward Dayonn Harris discovered he wasn't running enough sprints for his position according to the technology, so he's made an adjustment to his game. After training sessions, Warming said Harris constantly asks if he's been doing enough sprints
"It's been wonderful for our players," said Warming. "It's been wonderful for our staff to really get a look and monitor our players to keep them healthy, to see who needs to sprint a little more and to see who needs a break."
Another element of the new technology includes the element of detecting how long recovery time needs to be for certain players according to the amount of work that's put in during physical activity. Everyone isn't the same type of athlete so these types of technologies help reinforce recovery decisions.
"One size doesn't fit all in training," said Warming. "One size doesn't fit all in terms of recovery."
Senior midfielder Mason Klerks runs some of the most mileage on the team during games at about 10 miles. Klerks can check how much he's ran during the game and see where he's ran according to a heat map generated from the technology.
"It's really cool to be presented that information," said Klerks.
You might wonder how all of this came to fruition. Warming, a very connected coach in the soccer community, heard from a former athletic trainer about this new form of technology. Warming became excited about its potential and then formed a partnership with Penn State kinesiology researcher Andrzej Przybyla. Przybyla has worked in kinesiology for almost a decade with a specialization in human movements while earning a Ph.D. in spine biomechanics.
Andrzej, commonly referred to as "Dre" by team personnel, leads the team's research efforts by collecting and analyzing each athlete's specific data. "Dre" then relays his findings to Warming in a more simplistic, understandable form
"I spend a lot of time analyzing the data and trying to figure out how I can help coaches and provide them information they need," said Przybyla.
"He's a genius for what he's doing," said Warming. "He's able to compartmentalize 10,000 columns worth of data into something I can read very quickly at a glance. I think he's setting a new standard for what can happen around the country with his technology."
"Dre", a former soccer player and current youth coach within State College himself, and Warming know with time they'll be able to learn more about the players through the technology. Although the technology has been beneficial so far this year, Warming and "Dre" are especially excited at establishing the database for underclassmen players over the course of the next few years. With more data input, predictions and growth can be measured more accurately which will lead to advances in athlete potential, performance and health.
For more information on Nittany Lion men's soccer, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.