An interview with Erik Svendsen
After its return to the Premier League, Watford FC achieved its goal to remain in the first division for another season. Erik Svendsen, the sports scientist for Watford FC, shared with us how the staff used GPEXE during this year.
How often do you use GPS devices and which specific exercise drills do you usually keep under close supervision?
At Watford, we use the GPS devices for all pitch based sessions, both squad and individual and we also use them for all non-competitive games such as pre-season and in-season friendlies and reserve games. We have also been fortunate enough to be able to import data collected from a video tracking system into the GPEXE platform. This allows us to keep accurate tracking of all the players.
We generally monitor the sessions as a whole and we split the sessions into the different drills completed to give us a broader understanding of the session content. There is usually a couple of exercises a week where we focus especially on the intensity parameters and therefore the players will be kept under extra supervision during these drills.
Who is in charge of the entire GPS monitoring process and how does the strength and condition staff work as a whole?
The sports science department at Watford consists of four people, our head of sports science Giovanni Brignardello, senior sport scientist Ben Dixon, strength and conditioning coach Jack Baxter and myself. The GPS monitoring process is overseen by our Head of Sport Science, who will present the data collected to the coaching staff. My role is to ensure that the necessary data is collected and to build reports based on the collected data. This will then be presented to the rest of the department as well as to the medical department, to ensure that everyone has an idea on what the players are doing on the pitch. Everyone in our department is able to use the system, so when undertaking individual sessions or rehabilitation sessions they are able to monitor the players themselves, thus ensuring that all work is being as efficient as possible.
Which are the most important parameters in terms of data analysis and how do you assess them?
When analysing any objective data it is important to not spend too much time looking at numbers that you can’t affect. We believe that analysing a few parameters that we see as important has more value than collecting several numbers that might give you a similar outcome. We tend to split every session into volume and intensity. The main parameters we use for the full squad training is total energy expenditure (j/kg) as a volume measurement and then metabolic power and the equivalent distance index for intensity. We also use different parameters for individual sessions or rehabilitation sessions based on the aim and objectives of the sessions.
Do data tend to influence the overall training schedule?
In certain aspects, yes it does especially on an individual basis. Since we are able to accurately monitor everything the players do on the pitch we are able to predict how much work they should be undertaking at all times. If a player surpasses his predicted workload over a longer period we believe that he is in a greater risk of picking up a potential injury or sustain a high level of fatigue that might lead to dropping in performances. Therefore we are able to prescribe what we believe is the correct amount of training for each player, meaning that some players might not complete full sessions or be kept back at certain days. This also works when players are “under” training and they need extra “top-up” either after the full session or on another day.
What is your opinion about telemetry?
We only started using the telemetry fully this season and for us it has become a valuable tool for assessing the training load of the players during the session. As mentioned earlier we try and prescribe the right amount of training for each player and by using the telemetry during the session we are able to see when a player has hit his desired training load or if someone need to do a bit extra. Since this type of technology is still quite new to us we are looking forward to utilising more of its potential from next season onwards.
Is there something you wish to add as far as your experience with the GPS monitoring system is concerned?
Having now used the system for three seasons we are very pleased with the continuous development of the system. In terms of data analysis, it is important to keep up to date with the latest technology and trends and we feel we are able to do so through the use of GPEXE.
Do you generally share data with the athletes?
On a general basis, we do not, players tend to misunderstand certain aspects of the data collection by just focusing on the quantity of the measurements and comparing themselves to their teammates. In order to reduce any confusion, we won’t put all the data available for the players to see, but saying that we are always on hand to show the players certain data if they ask for it, but we want to be able to explain it to them at the same time.