Three years ago, I was the Director of Player Development and co-head coach of a U-16 girls club in Connecticut. We took a very holistic approach to training our players, striving to make them not only the best players they could be, but more importantly, the best people as well.
That team ended the year as one of the best in the region, and we were lucky enough to send more than ¾ of the team on to play at various universities across the country.
A massive part of helping them to become better people was encouraging them to take personal responsibility of their training and to take a professional approach to their preparation.
Some of our team rules included
Arrive at least 15 minutes early. Early is on time. On time is late.
If a player missed a training session, they wouldn’t start on the weekend.
Players were required to watch matches at home on their own as their “homework”.
They had to fill out an online questionnaire each week indicating how they were feeling.
Every week, as I took hours to manually log each entry, it seemed crazy to me that their wasn’t a basic tool that gave coaches a window into how intense their sessions were, and how their players were feeling.
I decided rather than pay someone to create it, I would teach myself how to code in iOS by taking an online course on Udemy.
Within 8 months, I had built SoccerPulse from the ground up.
Take a look inside SoccerPulse
The goal of app is a simple one. Know how your players are feeling so you can keep them fresh in order to maximize their performance and avoid injury.
If we examine the characteristics of football, it is a game of explosive actions. The team that plays with the most explosive, highest quality actions, and is able to maintain that throughout 90 minutes has a very good chance of winning the game.
In order for players to be explosive and play quickly, they need to be fresh. The more fatigued a player is, the slower their central nervous system will be, and as a result, a higher chance of injury and a decreased performance.
SoccerPulse focuses on four key factors to determine how “fresh” a player feels. Players are required to indicate their levels of soreness, fatigue, stress, and sleep.
With that information, the app formulates an aggregate score that we feel gives the coach a good idea of how that particular player is feeling.
I’ll be the first to admit that the system isn’t perfect, as it is largely dependent on the players’ ability to be honest with their answers (there also isn't an exact scientific formula to determine if someone is "fresh"), but in terms of being a low cost solution for clubs who want to take a professional approach to their periodization, it absolutely does the job.
SoccerPulse’s Debut with College Programs
A few college programs trialed the app during the spring of 2017, but the big test for SoccerPulse was to convince teams and coaches to buy into this concept when the results mattered.
We had 18 programs sign up to use SoccerPulse this fall, and there were some fascinating stats.
Out of the 18 teams, 6 won their conference
The 18 teams combined picked up +42 points more in 2017 than they did in 2016, and in 13 fewer games.
13 of the 18 improved on their 2016 records
One team is currently in the final 16 of the NCAA Tournament, a first.
Now correlation does not equal causation, but I think a few factors could be at play.
Having a window into how your team is feeling can help you manage the final weeks of the season better than a coach who is guessing, which matters the most during the conference tournaments.
I also believe that asking the players to report how they are feeling encourages them to take better care of their bodies, and ask questions themselves about why they might be feeling good or bad.
Last week I received this text from a coach:
"We just reached the sweet 16. Last three Games we won with last minute goals ... luck? Or maintaining freshness ?!!! And making our guys aware of their recovery ..... holistic learning ! Thanks again for such a great product"
It's small moments like this that make the hard work all worth it.
What’s Next for SoccerPulse?
I have some big plans for the app in 2018. I won’t give too much away, but with much of the data currently being driven by players, I also want to give coaches the ability to input data relative to their team’s performances, in addition to giving players individual feedback on their performances.
If you sign up for SoccerPulse during 2018, you’ll be one of the first to work with this new feature.
I’m really excited for it, almost as excited as I was when I launched the app back in April, because I think this could have a huge impact on player development.
Here's to 2018. Keep innovating and keep investing in yourself and your players.