Dirk van den Berg - Oct 4, 2018

Being a coach of young players is a major responsibility. Your vision and methods will shape players’ development and their growth as individuals. You are their biggest influencer and a major stakeholder in their futures. In my previous blog, I explained how performance stats enable player development. I firmly believe that each player and every soccer team should have the opportunity to improve by harnessing the power of performance data.

To nurture your players, make them faster and stronger, and inspire them to greatness — that requires truly knowing each one. This is where data can add valuable insights, giving the coach potentially game-changing information.

"Why is data so important? What value does it bring me as a coach? How does it change my role? And how will it benefit me and my team?"

In this blog, you’ll find answers to these questions, and solutions to some obstacles you might face as a coach. It might sound obvious, but if you’re going to improve, you must begin with objective measurements of your players’ baseline performance. If you want to train your players to outrun opponents in key moments, for example, you need to know their capacity for repeat high-intensity sprints and sprint endurance.

How well do you know your players’ athletic abilities? Of course, you can see on the field who is the fastest or strongest, but how do you quantify a player’s actual workload? Or how active they are away from the ball? That’s what the Dash provides — an affordable, easy-to-use tool for capturing reliable and comparable soccer-specific fitness measurements. This allows you to understand their strengths and diagnose their weaknesses, increasing motivation and hunger to improve.

Stats let you prove your value as a coach in a data-driven world

Players aspiring to play professionally rely on personal performance data to show their talent. This has important implications for schools, academies, and coaches.

Coaches who want to show that their programs can help players achieve their goals need to demonstrate three things:

  1. Understanding player performance stats.
  2. Ability to implement successful training programs using that knowledge.
  3. Able to demonstrate player improvement through reliable, objective data, so they can prove that their approach delivers results.

Until recently, this was only available to professional athletes and clubs with larger than life budgets. We didn’t think that this was fair. We believe that any soccer player, no matter what background should have the opportunity to understand their skills & improve on those skills just like the pros.

So, we’ve built a player-centric device that is easy to use and displays statistics that are simple to understand. Pace, Power, Intensity and Endurance stats paint an accurate picture of athletic abilities. Detailed highlights both motivate athletes and point to areas for improvement.

Data brings the power of knowledge

The most exciting feedback we’ve had from Dash users? Hearing them excited and empowered by visualizing their fitness for the first time.

“They’re able to take things they may have felt and quantify them,” Elk Grove Academy Director of Boys’ Coaching Greg Rubendall told me. He believes there’s ‘no question’ coaches of all levels can benefit, pointing to post-match analysis as an example. “Is there a comparison we’re missing? Did they have as much interaction in a 3–1 win as they did in a 4 -1 loss? What can we change there?” Easy-to-understand statistics are changing his young players’ mindsets.

High-intensity demands of soccer training are often underestimated

“They want to reflect on their performance, they want to see the good moments, then think about how they can improve on the bad moments. So the integration of wearable technology with what we’re already doing using video review is really important.”

Specific training for each player

It’s no secret that specificity in soccer is important. But designing training sessions without data to help is like driving without directions.

Sports scientists have demonstrated that the high-intensity demands of soccer training are often underestimated by traditional measurements of running speed alone, and coaches can easily miscalculate how hard players need to train to meet match-day demands.

In the Dash highlights, you’ll find specific measurements analyzing high-intensity sprints, and pinpointing when during a match your players perform most of them. Knowing that shaping the play demands players sprint with a high intensity for just 4–6 seconds, a smart coach can use this data to their advantage.

Say your players’ stats reveal their sprint distances are declining notably during a match. You can adjust sprint exercises to improve this. And in future matches, they’ll be better able to perform these sprints in the 88th minute, when the game is on the line!

Strengthen your weakest link

Following baseball best-seller Moneyball, sportswriter David Sally looked at the numbers in soccer.

In The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer is Wrong, he found the single most important thing for team’s performance is the relative strength of its weakest players. — ie: Not how amazing the stars are, but how well the team can support those playmakers.

This conclusion for coaches is both obvious and super-important: spend time and coaching resources on making sure every player on the field is strong.

As a coach using the Dash, you’ll get valuable insight on how to do this, with a weekly ‘coaches’ overview’ email showing you every player’s performance.

Because you can group those by position, you’ll be able to compare how your midfielders are performing relative to one another, both session by session, and over time.

Smells like team spirit

Finally, teams already using the Dash report something else, a little harder to measure, but something we know is vital for team success — a boost to team spirit. Greg Rubendall attributes this to two things: game-style visualizations in the app, and teenagers’ culture of sharing. “The gamification of skill, the impact is phenomenal — because of the video gaming, and the way the DashTag is set up,” the longtime academy coach told me.

“That adds up to an incredible player honesty — they each know when they’re putting in, and their teammates do too. They’re all striving to get better, for themselves, and for one another,” he says.

With the Dash, we’ve created an affordable, easy-to-use tool that young players get, and want to use. That means as a coach you can create training programs that help your team reach its goals. And you will have access to the proof, the tangible numbers that you can show. The numbers don’t lie.