Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What are the key leadership skills required by sports professionals? lessons from Sir Alex Ferguson

Coaching a team or leading a sports science and medicine team requires leadership skills. People have different perceptions on which is the most effective approach to achieve top performance. Better to learn from the top leaders. 

Sir Alex Ferguson is one of them and in this video he is sharing his thoughts and practices. It is worth watching clicking here  

Improve players' aerobic capacity to protect them from injuries

The general consensus up to date is that rapid changes in workload are associated with higher risk of muscle injuries. To monitor the workload trends, practitioners now employ the acute (last week) to chronic (last 4 weeks) workload ratio.

It seems, although the data are limited, that a ratio between 1 and 1.25 is protective to injuries in professional soccer players. The question is: does this range of values apply to every player?

In a 2016 study, 48 professional soccer players belonging to 2 elite European teams were followed for one season. Weekly workload was monitored and the muscle injuries were recorded. Aerobic capacity was assessed with the Yo-YoIR1. Their results showed that players with high aerobic capacity presented lower risk of injury despite the rapid changes in weekly workload compared to players with lower aerobic fitness. 

Therefore, one of the training objectives should be to improve aerobic capacity. I believe these findings apply to all levels of team sports athletes and to most age categories, respecting the windows of training opportunities. 

Take home message
Players with high aerobic capacity are able to tolerate the rapid changes in workload better compared to players with lower aerobic capacity.

Malone et al (2016). J Sci Med Sport [Nov 9 ahead of print]

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What have we learned from UEFA Champions League so far?
We are reaching the end of the round of 16, with 2 matches missing tonight, and here I have summarized lessons to be learned so far.

Lesson 1: Don’t always trust the numbers: From a data analysis perceptive Sevilla FC could have won the match yesterday. Compared to Leicester City FC, they had more ball possession (68% vs 32%), more passes completed (531 vs 199!), higher passes accuracy (86% vs 70%) and more attempts on target (5 vs 4). In addition, Sevilla players covered greater distance running compared to Leicester (106.2 km vs 104.4 km). Though, Sevilla lost the match! Last week, PSG players covered much greater distance in the field (110.4 km vs 105.8 Km) though they were defeated by FC Barcelona. Match winning is so complex and affected by not only technical and physical elements but also other factors like players’ desire to win (!), robustness of the team, fans’ support.

So, what’s going on? Are the data we collect (huge amounts indeed) useless? No, this is not the case. Data are needed and will assist in making more intelligent solutions. It’s not about the data; It’s about how you interpret the numbers. Smart data interpretation require the ability to read the context!

Bottom line; numbers have a meaning when someone attempts to interpret them looking at the context. In one of our papers we have addressed the issue of critical thinking in football performance and I suggest you have a look should you are more interested in this area. Here is the link

Lesson 2: Smart planning leads to success. Leicester are not doing well in the English Premier League but they are very successful in the Champions League. I assume the Club has made a decision right from this season’s beginning and prioritized the objectives based on the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Lesson 3: Smart support may raise the team to a higher level. I am sure you all agree Leicester FC have been a successful example of smart planning and decision making at all levels. Science and medical staff play a role in this success story. Proper training and recovery periodization and injury prevention strategies are key action plans that can add value and boost the team's performance to a higher level.

To learn more about how this is happening in Leicester City FC I advise you to watch the video with the Head of Sports Science speaking

To learn more on how intelligent approaches may help the team to achieve more, you can have a look at resources below

-effective recovery strategies