Do you know what your athletes are doing right now?
How professional sports teams are affected in their ability to support training regimes for their athletes in the face of COVID-19.
by @Adam Riggs-Zeigen, Director of Product, Formsense
It was apparent in early March, that the COVID-19 virus was going to hit the world of professional sports hard and quick. The first narratives around the on-going NBA season quickly dissolved into suspended games and stories of infected athletes. What has effectively become the “Great Pause” became a crisis for professional team owners, team managers, and their trainers.
WHAT WE DECIDED TO DO
As a company building products to help athletes maximize performance and reduce injury, we sought to understand specifically how COVID-19 was affecting the health and fitness professionals that work with top-tier athletes.
By acting quickly in mid-March to send out a broad survey to dozens of staff at sports teams around the world, we managed to gather insights into just how their livelihoods were being affected.
Specifically, the survey’s focus was to understand the impact of COVID-19 on staff’s ability to monitor and interact with their athletes in the face of quarantining and social distancing. Respondents represented over 20 different sports, from top teams & organizations, including the NBA, Major League Soccer, Division 1 NCAA teams, Serie A Italian Football, Olympic Sports federations, the Italian Tennis Federation and the English Premier League. Of note, The Upside helped gather responses from coaches (e.g. Italian Tennis Federation, Olympics Sports Federations..) and trainers as part of this survey. This is a follow up to our recent article gathering testimonials from Top coaches/trainers/Startups on what to do during COVID-19 crisis.
Teams were not prepared for the disruption to athlete training
WHAT BECAME IMMEDIATELY CLEAR
While the monetary losses of a paused season have certainly been an issue, for the support staff at these organizations, it became clear that the most valuable assets of high-level teams — the athletes themselves — are at risk.
Generally speaking, teams were not prepared for the disruption to athlete training and the support needed to oversee hundreds of professional athletes forced into “shelter-in” situations. Many athletes were left without access to a professional-level training facility and certainly without in-person oversight of a team trainer.
PRIMARY CONCERNS OF ELITE SPORTS STAFF
Across 19 different questions, we measured the impact to support staff looking at everything from concerns they had to tools they were using to stay in contact with their athletes. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has greatly disrupted the ability of staff to interact with their athletes.
As shown in the graph above, over 90% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they have less awareness of what their athletes are doing on a day-to-day basis.
In addition, as shown in the graph below, the biggest worries for staff are their ability to ensure their athletes stay in the proper shape (87%) and their ability to treat their athletes’ existing conditions (81%).
Also, as shown in the table below, the primary motivation for coaches and trainers to monitor their athletes remotely while play & practice are suspended is to ensure that athletes maintain their level of fitness, according to 49% of the trainers that participated in this study. 23% of them also said that ensuring that their athletes were complying with stated protocols were their main motivation there.
To help mitigate these concerns, staff are getting creative in terms of how they interact. Over 86% are utilizing text messages to stay in touch with their athletes, nearly 70% are doing some form of video chatting and only 2% aren’t doing anything.
As shown in the table above, while over 1/3 are using some form of wearable device with their athletes today, there are few products that are delivering secure, remote monitoring of exercise protocols and success metrics. When asked about what kind of data & solutions staff would like to be able to use, the most commonly requested were Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measurement, GPS tracking, Rehabilitation/Rehab tools, and Movement/Motion analysis tools.
Additionally, sports staff are clearly asking for some form of video recording of their athletes so they can assess their movement and fitness. Without the established systems that elite sports staff are used to having on-site, this area presents a clear opportunity for innovation.
HOW TEAMS RESPONDED
So far, organizations have provided varying levels of guidance to staff.
Some have been specific, instructing staff to use “home workouts + fitness programs via email with contact through WhatsApp”, while others have been vague, with guidelines like “Stay in contact with athletes remotely” or “Continue as best as possible”.
What was particularly surprising though was that, as shown in the table below, over 53% of respondents shared that they did not receive any guidance on how to remain in contact with their athletes. This highlights a clear opportunity for organizations to step up and provide staff with clear, specific guidance on how to handle this situation.
MORE REMOTE MONITORING METHODS NEEDED
One of the most meaningful data points to come out of the survey was how open staff, and likely athletes, are to using remote tools. While it was no surprise that training staff would be open to additional tools, what did surprise us is how dramatic that reported interest was!
As shown in the graph below, nearly 70% of respondents stated they are now more open to remote monitoring tools than in the past and over 60% of respondents felt that athletes are more open to remote monitoring tools than in the past.
Even when the impact of COVID-19 lessens, staff overwhelmingly agree (82%) that remote measurement will still be important.
Now, more than ever, elite sports staff need tools to better keep track of their athletes and ensure they stay healthy, fit and connected.
As shown in the table below, 58% of the coaches who participated in this survey belong to pro teams, vs 21% from college sports teams.
As shown in the table below, 58% of the coaches who participated in this survey belong to a soccer/football team, vs 13% worked for a basketball team.
Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has greatly disrupted the ability of staff to interact with their athletes. Over 90% of respondents agree or strongly agree that they have less awareness of what their athletes are doing on a day-to-day basis.
The biggest worries for staff are their ability to ensure their athletes stay in the proper shape (87%) and their ability to treat their athletes existing conditions (81%)
Organizations have been slow to provide guidance to staff with over 53% of respondents sharing they did not receive any guidance on how to remain in contact with their athletes
There is more acceptance of remote monitoring:
•69% of respondents are more open to remote monitoring tools than in the past
•62% of respondents feel athletes are more open to remote monitoring tools than in the past
Even when the impact of COVID-19 has lessened, staff overwhelmingly feel (82%) that remote measurement will still be important
This research was conducted by formsense, a San Diego-based startup making smart apparel that delivers real-time, remotely monitored biomechanical insights. Today, we’re focused on our mission to maximize performance, accelerate recovery, and reduce injuries for professional sports teams and their athletes. Tomorrow, formsense technology will be available to the millions whose daily lives are affected by problems with their form — with applications in physical therapy, at-home fitness, and amateur sports.
Visit us at formsense.com to request a demo of our technology.