New GPS devices aid ?eld hockey team

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Preseason training for the North Carolina field hockey team was slightly different this fall than in previous years.

In addition to knotting laces and donning athletic gear, the players also strapped on 10 new GPS devices.

These devices were purchased in August from Catapult Sports for $1,000 per unit through money from the sports medicine program, strength and conditioning program and women’s soccer program. They are used to track a variety of statistics for the field hockey team, as well as the women’s and men’s soccer teams.

“We hope this pilot program will help us get an idea of how useful these (devices) can be for our teams and of the ways we can use them to enhance our athletes’ training and overall fitness,” said Greg Gatz, director of strength and conditioning.

Gatz first introduced the devices to UNC as a way to measure velocity, distance and movement of players during games and practice.

In addition to these assessments, the GPS monitors also calculate the amount of time that players spend in different velocity zones — walking, jogging and sprinting.

This information helps field hockey coach Karen Shelton tailor her practices to game-specific needs.

“We find that the longest sprint in a game is 73 yards,” she said. “We don’t need to be doing 120 (yard sprints) if the longest sprint we’re ever going to run is 73 yards. So we can go shorter and sharper in those training distances.”

The monitors can also determine where the players are running on the field during games.

“We can kind of see if we’re overplaying one side over the other, where are the high velocity bands picked up or occurring,” Shelton said.

The field hockey team also routinely uses these devices in training and in games to measure the all-important player load.

The player load is a patented calculation by Catapult and combines velocity, acceleration, distance run and other critical attributes.

The resulting number indicates the amount of stress a player incurs in a given period, such as a game or practice.

In the field hockey team’s weekend of back-to-back games against Wake Forest and VCU, one player experienced calf soreness and tightness from a previously existing condition after the Wake Forest game. Her player load for that game was calculated at 830.

The next day, the player didn’t have to play as hard against a less-challenging VCU team. Her player load for that game was calculated at 600, and she didn’t experience any soreness.

“It’s a good indication because we get into a playoff situation and we know that we need to have her in back-to-back games,” said Steve Gisselman, assistant strength and conditioning coach. “We maybe take some of the load off her so that her shins don’t get to the point where it’s too much of an issue long term.”

Though there haven’t been any catastrophic injuries on the team thus far, the devices can also be utilized during the rehabilitation and recovery period.

“It could definitely be used for rehabilitation purposes,” Gisselman said. “(Measuring) return to play would be ideal because as they return to play you can see their speeds, their ability to cut, their acceleration — their deceleration is a big one — and all of those parameters you can look at as they’re getting better.”

“It’s one of those things that we just got in August so we’re slowly learning all of the intricacies.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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