Lazio experience with the GPEXE monitoring system: An interview with Matteo Osti
The strength and conditioning coach Matteo Osti and Lazio’s manager Stefano Pioli have been working together for a long time. Osti has also recently become a team member of Lazio’s strength and conditioning staff which includes, among others, Francesco Perondi and Alessandro Fonte. We met him and had a chat about the GPS monitoring system and the importance of training assessment.
How often do you use GPS devices?
Basically we use them every day during training; their employment, though, has not been officially approved by the Italian Football Association, and this prevents us from using them during the match. Nevertheless, we managed to monitor the game using the video tracking system and importing all individual tracks on the GPEXE platform. This is a valid approach since it helps us with the evaluation of the workload each athlete perceives when facing a competition’s context. The only occasion in which we tend not to adopt the GPS units is the very last training before the match when our main goal is to train set plays/set pieces.
Are you more interested in a global evaluation of the training session or do you prefer to focus on specific exercise drills?
Well, let’s say that we follow the general trend of the session in the first days of the week since our main aim for that short term is to focus on the continuous process of training. Then, the closer we get to the end of the week, the more we focus on high-intensity phases. Anyway, an in-depth analysis of single exercise drills is always carried out, no matter when the match is going to take place.
Are there any observations you’d like to make about specific exercise drills?
Any intensity variation registered during the completion of homogeneous exercise drills should be constantly investigated since such an analysis is crucial to understand the general mood of the whole team in a specific technical context. We ask the athletes to play in the midfield and plan the session accordingly. We notice any variation occurred while completing certain exercise drills over time and consequently discuss unexpected results obtained on the basis of scientific observation. This is an excellent way to receive relevant and important feedback too.
We’ve been using the GPEXE device for more than a year; this means that we’ll now surely be able to make a comparison between the results we obtained the year before over the same season when we were not using the system yet. Once again we expect to gather useful information for our research.
How do you handle the entire GPS monitoring process?
The storekeepers are responsible both for the vests and the sportswear of the athletes as a whole. The players find their own GPEXE devices outside the changing room and, with the support of the staff, they wear them immediately before the training begins. Subsequently, my colleague Alessandro Fonte, who runs the GPS system, carries out a detailed analysis of data collected during the session and within thirty minutes he is ready to produce the summary reports of the performance. The coach and the players have free access to the reports. The copy we deliver to the coach contains all data which, according to our evaluation criteria, should be thoroughly investigated.
Will you please tell us a bit more about data evaluation?
We had a meeting with the players at the beginning of the season so that they could understand the importance of our research and get accustomed to the parameters they often see on the reports. Data concerning the average metabolic power value are of paramount importance in terms of performance analysis since the athletes can easily rely upon them to assess the session. As far as ball drills are concerned, evidence showed that the midfielders tend to develop a higher average metabolic power value, an index which decreases if we take into consideration the performance of the wing-backs and reaches its lowest with forwards and defenders. The reports of the players contain the role and team average values of the whole range of parameters prescribed by our model assessment whereas those of the staff include the historical average reference value of exercise drills performed during training too. The equivalent distance index (EDI) is a reliable parameter when ball drills have to be accurately evaluated as well.
What about specific work meant for specific purposes?
Our approach is basically the following: if we decide to set the EDI and the acceleration phase as our main points of reference in the data analysis, we then proceed by changing the rules and the numbers of players involved in the exercises. On the contrary, if our work is focused on resistance and the average metabolic power parameter we prefer to concentrate on recovery phases.
What happens if a player does not match your expectations?
Well, let’s say that we tend not to react immediately unless an unusual performance turns into a trend and, in that specific case, we then proceed to carry out a more detailed analysis. If we assume that those results may be linked to a lack of motivation, the coach intervenes to support the players accordingly. We noticed that unexpected data were to be related to the discrepancy detected between the workload measured via the GPS monitoring system and the one actually perceived by each athlete.
On a general basis, do you adopt the same approach to plan the training?
Yes, I would say so. Our choice to focus on acceleration or recovery phases depends on an appropriate balance between the workload data obtained with the GPS units and the players’ perceptions. The latter is not only a useful tool to monitor performance but also, at the same time, a clear alarm bell.
Did you ever think about giving the players full access to their data on the web platform?
Well, we made an attempt in this since last year but, unfortunately, organizational issues forced us to desist. At the moment we are quite overloaded and have not enough time to focus on the project, even though we would really like to implement it. In the past, we already shared data with the Australian team and we are currently working with the Italian team to have access to their GPEXE portal as well.
What is your opinion about telemetry?
I guess it is innovative and could be of great help for the technical staff but, since I haven’t tested it yet, I cannot say much more on the subject.
Is there something you wish to add as far as your experience with the GPS monitoring system is concerned?
The athletes wear the devices all week long and, in the majority of cases, during the match too. Thus, the main challenge is to develop a smaller and more comfortable tool so that they can easily bear the burden of the monitoring system. As far as data analysis is concerned, it is clear that taking into consideration too many parameters in the assessment phase might be highly misleading and result in a loss of time the staff cannot afford. I believe you should focus on the research of reliable summary indexes which could help us understand whether we are going in the right direction or need a change to improve performance.
Thank you very much, Mr Osti. We will surely follow your advice.