How to get the most out of benchmarks

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How to get the most out of benchmarks

In previous blogs we have discussed the value of GPS-monitoring for team performance optimization. However, when you first start monitoring your team with GPS, the results of the different load variables might be hard to interpret. Your players might, for example, cover 500 sprint meters in a match. But without a reference, it is hard to tell whether this means that sprinting capacity is a strength or a weakness of your team. Therefore, trainers often want benchmarks. This allows them to compare the performance of their team with other teams. But how are you going to compare your team to such a benchmark? And what other ways are there to benchmark your team? In this blog we explain how you can get the most out of benchmarks.

To be able to compare your own team to other teams, you need to create a team average of your team first. Since there is variation in the load between matches,  it is advised to include at least 3-4 matches in your team average. Logically, it is important to only include players in your benchmark who have played the whole match. Besides the variation between different matches, there is also variation in load between player positions (click here for positional benchmarks). Wingers and full backs cover more sprint distance than central defenders. If you include relatively more central defenders in your team average you will get an underestimation of the team average for sprint distance, whereas including relatively more wingers in the benchmark will cause an overestimation of this team average. To control for these differences in playing positions it is advised to include 3 defenders, 2 midfielders and 2 attackers of each match in your benchmark.

Once you have created the benchmarks for your team, you are able to compare these values with the benchmarks of your competition level or other levels (ask our sports scientist for benchmarks of more competitions). By comparing your team average with the benchmarks, you are able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your team. If you notice that your team needs to improve on sprint performance, you might set a new training goal for this. By including position-specific sprint exercises (see Table 1), you might be able to improve this capacity. This way, you are not only putting your team’s performance into perspective but you are also making optimal use of the benchmarks.

Table 1: Position-specific sprint exercises

However, comparing your team to other teams is not the only way you can use benchmarks. Following your team/players over time, and therefore referencing with your own performance can also provide insights into the progress of your team. With the example above, it is important to monitor whether your training goals are being met: do the position-specific exercises lead to improvements in performance? But even if you have not set such specific training goals, it is worth to monitor the progress of your team/players over time (see figure 1). In this figure, you can see that Player 1 is improving his sprint capacity over time, whereas the sprint capacity over time of Player 2 is decreasing. This decreasing trend of Player 2 should trigger you to consider changing the training load of this player. Does the player appear fatigued, you might want to decrease the training load of this player. Otherwise, consider adding sprint exercises to the training program of this player to improve his sprint capacity.

Figure 1: Progress of sprint intensity over time for 2 players; where player 1 improves his sprint capacity, whereas player 2 shows a decrease over time.

Conclusion

Once you start monitoring your team with GPS-data, it might be hard to interpret the data. By comparing your team with the performance of clubs of the same level (or other levels), you are able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your team. However, before you can compare your team’s performance with other teams, you need to create a reliable team average. This can be done by (1) monitoring your team during multiple matches; (2)including only players who have played for 90 minutes in your team average; and (3) including 3 defenders, 2 midfielders and 2 attackers of every match in your team average. Though, comparing with the performance of other teams isn’t the only way to benchmark your team. Following the progress of your team/players over time can further help you to improve the performance of your team.

JOHAN’s Tip of the week

Besides monitoring your team over time during matches, you can also track the progress of your team during exercises. Our new reporting module allows you to generate an ‘Exercise progress’ report. In this report, you can monitor whether the intensity of an exercise increases or decreases over time. If you want to improve in the match, you need to constantly challenge yourself during training!