TUKWILA — It’s a routine most of these guys could do in their sleep, suiting up for training and heading out the door. But now Sounders players are adding one more layer. It’s an elastic band wrapped around their chests and it has become an essential part of the squad’s training.
The unit’s data is fed wirelessly into a computer that helps frame the team’s training sessions.
“We’re looking at some distances covered at different velocities, different accelerations and decelerations. It helps us vary the training from day to day; the one day might be more velocity-based training, the next day might be more of a deceleration-based training,” said Tenney.
“When I first came into the league ,everybody was on the same playing field as far as everybody would have the same training habits, the same recovery sessions, the same practices and now with the advent of these, it almost provides a personalized sort of feedback of information, ” Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said.
The machine looks at heart rate, distance covered and field position but perhaps its greatest benefit is helping players exceed their expectations.
“It’s the load that you take on and if one day you can increase the load without risking injury I think that it benefits everybody and, ultimately, that pushes you in the 80th minute to know that I’ve got the fitness during the week, the heavy load, machines say I’m good, my body feels good, then I can push it a little bit extra. Last year was the most games I’ve started in my career, so if that has any correlation to do with GPS, you know, I’ll take it,” Evans said.
Other teams and leagues are also integrating this technology but as former Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller puts it, even the best gadgets won’t replace pure talent.
“You have to have the experience to understand what you’re reading and also look at the circumstance. You can have guys who can run all over the place, but it,s not the right way or you can’t sometimes legislate for understanding the game, being in the right place at the right time, and so technology is a tool to help you, but its never going to replace knowing what you’re talking about,” said Keller.