Thursday, May 6, 2021

SUNY Plattsburgh soccer introduces fitness trackers


If you look at SUNY Plattsburgh’s men’s and women’s soccer team in practice or in games this year, you might not notice much different, but underneath their jerseys are performance trackers giving coaches and staff brand new looks at how athletes perform and recover.

Through fundraising, both soccer teams are introducing performance trackers this season through a company called Titan Sensor. The trackers are real-time GPS trackers shaped like squares worn underneath jerseys and are attached to vests resembling sports bras. The tracker records over 150 metrics and is a rare sight in Division III sports.

“We’re really blessed to find funding for [the trackers],” said Dr. Andreas Stamatis, a sports and wellness associate professor who worked with performance trackers before at Baylor University.

Stamatis, alongside Associate Professor Dr. Dina Mijacevic, works with the coaching staff of each soccer team to help interpret the over 150 metrics the sensors track. However, as it’s SUNY Plattsburgh’s first year using the performance trackers, Stamatis and Mijacevic are in a data collection stage and are focusing on five to seven metrics.

“We’re not really taking too much action on it right now,” men’s head coach Chris Taylor said.

Of the handful of metrics recorded during practices and games, Stamatis and Mijacevic look at total distance ran, sprint speed, sprint distances and acceleration and deceleration times.

 Among the players, some of the data is almost competition and even serves as accountability between teammates.

“Guys enjoy seeing who’s the fastest and who’s the slowest,” Taylor said.

But for the coaches and training staff, they hope the data can create a safer and more effective program down the line. And as trackers aren’t used by many Division III programs, the coaches also hope to use them as a recruiting tool.

“We’re just hoping it’s maybe that extra 1% in a marginal game, help us keep the guys healthy, make sure that we’re training them at the right level, that we’re not over training and keeping players playing at their peak for as long as they can,” Taylor said.

The data recorded by the sensors alone isn’t enough to make educated decisions on lineups or training schedules, Stamatis said. In addition to wearing the trackers, players also take surveys to record areas where they feel soreness, how tired they feel and how much sleep they get. When combined all together, patterns start to form where the training staff and coaches can begin to make evidence-based decisions, which Stamatis says is one of the biggest benefits of the sensors.

“When you don’t have metrics, when you don’t have quantifiable data, you assume. You assume that you’re doing the same as in a game, but now you have numbers,” he said.

Stamatis finds the benefits of these trackers are more down the line when trainers can use a wealth of data collected over the years to better address health concerns for SUNY Plattsburgh’s players.

Another benefit Stamatis finds in the sensors is giving students professional experience. Helping Stamatis and Mijacevic are two undergraduate students and one graduate student for their independent study. The research assistants collect data and ensure the teams are wearing the sensors during practices. They hope to present their findings at a conference this November.

Stamatis hopes more teams at SUNY Plattsburgh find funding to use sensors like the ones the soccer teams use because of the many benefits he sees in them.

“Wearable technology is the number one trend in the sports world,” Stamatis said. “We are following the trend and trying to stay ahead and help our athletes get better.”

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