The collaboration uses TietoEVRY’s 360° Training and Wellbeing service platform to process data on coaching, training, sleep quality and stress levels. The solution has already been tested with some of Finland’s junior coaching groups in the Nordic Combined winter sport.
The starting point for the pilot project was to determine what kind of data the coach needs, which source systems can provide that data, and how it should be processed in order to support everyday coaching.
Ville-Pekka Inkilä, Head of Research and Development at the Football Association of Finland (FAF) is eager to find out how different types of training affect football players’ physiological condition and rate of recovery. Inkilä got interested in the project after hearing about it in the Eerikkilä Performance Center, and together with Hannele Forsman, Director of Eerikkilä Performance Center they defined the type of data to be collected during the project.
“In football, the fastest runner is not always the best player,” says Inkilä. “The sport also requires agility and jumping strength. We aim to measure these attributes with sensors. We will also use wrist devices to collect data on sleep and stress levels.”
Performance is about more than endurance
FAF chose Käpylän Pallo's under-15 boys’ team as the test group for the project. The 20 members of the team are already familiar with using heart-rate monitors and motion sensors from Finnish sports-device manufacturer Polar. The aim is to start collecting data as soon as Covid-19 restrictions ease enough to resume proper training sessions and matches.
“As the test subjects are minors, data will be collected with their parents’ consent. From the point of view of data protection, it is extremely important that only the player and their coach have access to the data,” says Inkilä.
“Endurance is important in football, but it is not as significant as in some other sports,” says Inkilä. “Data can show us, for example, whether the distance travelled in training is sufficient enough to improve anaerobic fitness.”
“Change-of-direction and speed can be tested in the same way. If a player is already strong in these attributes, then it’s important to measure whether that player can fully utilize these abilities during a game. If not, then the reason for that must be established,” he says.
Striking a balance between gut feeling and data
In non-pandemic times, the team trains or plays matches several times per week. To get a full picture on performance, it’s important to monitor sleep and recovery data in addition to data gathered during training.
But data alone cannot reveal everything about performance. For example, data does not differentiate between or reveal sources of stress, which could be school, sports or something else entirely.
“It’s important that the coach communicates with the players,” says Inkilä. “Data cannot replace all that the coach sees and hears when working with the team. It can only support a hunch or prove it wrong.”
“15-year-olds develop at an incredible rate, although the rate varies a great deal from individual to individual. So it’s impossible to predict how each player will develop with suitable and regular training,” he says.
“It’s important for FAF to be able to support the development of players with the aid of data. In team sports, the coach should be able to see how each individual can best help their team in their role. We want the players to develop faster and better, and get engaged in the sport. Data helps us more than educated guesses,” says Inkilä.
Supporting other sports too
At TietoEVRY, the project is managed by Intelligent Wellbeing Area Product Owner Niina Siipola.
“It’s great that FAF found the solution useful, so that we can develop the application together to meet the specific needs of football,” says Siipola.
“Over the longer term, the systematic collection of training data enables a more detailed analysis of the players' development and allows us to utilize prediction models in coaching. This way we can better support the development of players in both football and other sports,” she says.
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