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Colorado Rapids assistant coach Paul Caffrey has two extra computers on his desk—not to check his stock portfolio, but to track players. Caffrey pores over data that shows, in detail, how well players are functioning in practice and the morning of a game, in order to get the most out of their training. This year, Adidas is using MLS teams to test miCoach, a new program that collects movement and cardio data in increasingly comprehensive formats. As the team kicks off another season, we break down five ways Caffrey uses this technology to build better athletes.
Caffrey focuses on trends. If a player’s aerobic numbers are sliding downward, he says that 80 percent of the time the result is a soft-tissue injury like a pulled hamstring. He aims to sidestep the potential problem by altering a player’s training before injuries happen, which improves stats without putting additional stress on fragile muscles.
Each player’s body works differently. Caffrey is constantly trying to determine the metabolic cost—the amount of energy used—for a player while doing X amount of work. Based on individual readings, he may have one player lift weights the day after a game while telling another to jog to optimize recovery and
Players undergo physiological tests to set baselines for aerobic fitness. Monitors transmit data to Caffrey that allow him to determine whether a player is over- or under-training and to estimate appropriate recovery time.
When the Rapids implement miCoach this season, coaches will be able to follow a player’s power output (how quickly he gets to the ball or changes direction) in real time and consult a heat map to see how much time each man is spending in different regions of the field.
Caffrey charts team fitness goals for a full month of training and games on a whiteboard in his office. He uses the data to help determine how hard to run the team in the days leading up to a game versus the morning after and varies the intensity of sessions appropriately.