Why we don't use load monitoring

Load monitoring is a topic that has heavily dominated the sports science realm over the past decade, and apparently if you’re not doing it and working with athletes one could pass judgement that you’re not doing your job. However, with the plethora of load monitoring software/platforms out there ranging from 8-22k p/year, it’s no wonder these such businesses have tried to cash in on the private school system. I’ve lost count of the number of businesses whom have offered their services to us, with very little understanding of how the schooling system works, the challenges faced, and/or the students within it.

Below are a number of reasons as to why we don’t have any such software and at this stage don’t intend on purchasing/subscribing either.

1. Homework

A major issue that sport scientists or strength and conditioning coaches fail to realize is that our profession is more of a service provider trying to assist our athletes in becoming the best they can be as opposed to subjects we are gathering data from. I’ve been involved in development programs within a school environment for over 8 yrs. (in a full-time capacity) and witnessed at least 3 instances where some form of load monitoring system has tried to be administered and failed. Mind you these weren’t done so from a coach within the athletic development arena but rather technical coaches who had got wind at the latest course that this is imperative to their program. These same coaches were left wondering why students weren’t completing their daily, weekly, or monthly questionnaires or to the best of their ability.

….. The answer is simple, they view it as homework! Students are faced with enough challenges trying to fit the various types of training in combined with their academic commitments I don’t blame them for forgetting to fill out ‘that thing the coaches wanted me to do.’

2. Reliability

If you’ve ever tried to obtain an RPE from a development athlete and in particular more so in a team setting, you’ll probably agree it turns more into a game of Chinese whispers. The rating you’re trying to receive is often very different from that which you do when you consider issues such as peer acceptance, favoritism, fear of being perceived as weak, or the opportunity of getting out of hard work should it meet the criteria. Often what we as coaches deem to be simple tasks as adults, aren’t necessarily so on face value when working with youth.

….. Bottom line, understand who values the information you’re obtaining, you as a coach with your crazy scientist hat on or the athlete and their understanding of it.

3. Resources

Whilst many coaches think development programs are a cushy gig, there are a variety of challenges or hats that are required to be worn in order to create/uphold a full-time position. Many of these involve fundraising, report writing, information evenings, offering exercise groups within the community, the list goes on. Which is why when the opportunity presents itself to actually coach- that is exactly what we do! If you’re fortunate enough to have support staff as part of your program, their best placed offering services to enhance an athletes’ development through coaching given the coach to athlete ratios are very unrealistic 1:20-30, and their assigned shift is minimal (usually 1.5-2hrs).

4. Resilience

In far too many instances in the athletic development arena the coaches trust has been lost via sport science. There has been many an instance a sport scientist has demanded- not suggested, but demanded a player come off due to excessive meters being covered only to score the match winning try/or goal, having been left out to play from the coaches’ intuition. The abundance of such data/information being provided to players has created a shift from players trying their hardest every session until the whistle is blown, to putting their hand up asking if they have covered their daily distance, and if they have why hasn’t training stopped or they been pulled out?

…… In our program we are trying to instill resilience in our students and one way to do this is to encourage them to be at their best until training, or the game is over.

5. Let Them Play

With the abundance of training opportunities available to athletes it’s no wonder they are often left confused as to which is best, or who’s methodology they should ‘buy into.’ The one thing as coaches we are forgetting is that in development programs they need to be exposed to a variety of different skill-sets in order to become a more proficient mover or executer. Pigeon holing an athlete into a certain type of training methodology or framework only limits this opportunity to increase the exposure to a variety of learning stimulants.

…… If we only allow students to complete the necessary training provided within their weekly schedule with fear of being overloaded according to a load monitoring platform, it will not only take away the fun and their future adherence within the sport but their ability to adapt and respond when placed in open environments.

6. Strength and Conditioning Coach- So Coach!

Too often the sport scientist comes out in strength and conditioning coaches to try and investigate data we may have been fortunate enough to retrieve. This often leads to the perception we are going to find the next big thing, or perhaps be able to flag the greater likelihood of an injury occurring. Stop kidding yourself! In the professional ranks teams are looking for the 1%ers and have the athlete training age, injury history, or resources to do so. The biggest impact we can make on development athletes as coaches is to coach. The limited window of time we often have with such individuals is priceless, so do what you do and coach.

…… Working with development athletes over the past 15yrs has confirmed one thing- they are extremely malleable and the likelihood of injury (unless you’re doing something a little too insta) is unlikely to occur.

7. So What Do We Monitor?

It’s almost cliché for coaches to say ‘have a conversation’ these days but in development programs there is nothing truer. With the influence of external parties from family members to friends, or ex-players come technical coaches it’s no wonder development athletes are left confused. Because every student is different as educators (remembering that is part of our role) it is our responsibility to provide opportunity for students to grasp an understanding on the things likely to be detriment to their advancement as opposed to progress it.

….. Such things include; how many mandatory days off in a week they have, how many days involve double/or triple days (2-3 training sessions in one day), how many back to back double/triple days there are, how to effectively use school holidays, how is their social circle going or what do they do for fun, and most importantly of all how are they managing with their schoolwork.

At the end of the day load monitoring has a place, as a practitioner it’s up to you to understand the importance of it combined with where it fits in your development program. I just choose to keep things in perspective.

© 2017 by Nathan Parnham

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