FC Saarbrücken have been making waves in German football this season with major cup wins over Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively.
The Bundesliga III outfit have been partnered with STATSports since March 2022, using our GPS performance tracking technology to optimise fitness levels and reduce risk of injury.
So, in FC Saarbrücken’s case, how does a third-tier team compete with the big boys in Germany’s prestigious DFB Pokal Cup? We sat down with the club’s Head of Strength and Conditioning, Max Di Laurenzio Smith, to ask him how he utilises our technology to optimal effect…
Can you explain how a club like FC Saarbrücken use GPS technology?
For me, GPS devices are pivotal to our every day work flow and decision-making processes. We use the devices to help us monitor load and make sure we hit our physical load objectives for the training day, week, and month, and periodise our on-pitch programming with accuracy and confidence.
The live GPS system is extremely important for our return to play protocol for injured players and makes on-pitch rehabilitation sessions easy to program. We can make sure the player is hitting the metrics necessary to get them back into team training and into the match day squad as quickly as possible.
It benefits us by being very accurate and easy-to-use. We can make sure our players are staying in safe training zones and the confidence to know when we can push them and when we need to rest them. It helps us get our players back on the pitch sooner and stay on the pitch.
How do FC Saarbrücken use live data? Does it influence decision making during training or games?
We use the live data during training, rehabilitation sessions and match days. In training we use the data to keep an eye on certain players and make sure the squad is getting the proper physical stimulus we are looking for on that day.
We use a threshold of about 15% for training days, so we are not overloading an athlete too much, too quickly. Similarly, we’re also making sure we don’t underload them.
We also have certain players that have adapted training methods and don’t have the same physical loads as others, so we will be able to use the live data to decide when some players come out of training and when some need more training (top ups). The live data is very important for us in that way.
In terms of match day, we will keep an eye on certain players and if they are having any “spikes”. I will inform the coaching staff and we will sometimes use that as information to make substitutions depending on the player and the match.
Rehabilitation is one of the most important uses of the live data. We use it in our return to play process and progress the players through certain metrics to make sure they are able to get back to their old physical load and ideally produce better outputs upon their return to play.
Are there particular metrics the manager/coaching staff are interested in?
They are always interested in what might be described as ‘traditional’ metrics such as total distance, sprint distance and number of sprints.
They also enjoy when I explain the importance of metrics such as HMLD and DSL. So, about 4-5 metrics in total, and then they have me there, as always, to help when they have questions.
After training sessions and match days, they always look forward to seeing what our output is for the day and see if it matches how they’ve seem the game.
The coaching staff is very open to my input on the data, and, if I am reporting players being tired or if loads are greater than normal, then we will often adapt that player’s load, or take action to make sure they are ready to go on the weekend or if they need more recovery time.
Do you get buy-in from the players via the data?
The buy-in from the players is huge. For both match day and training, they are always checking the iPad after to see what they did, who was the fastest, or ran the most.
We educate the team often about the metrics: what to look for; what are good metrics for them, and what bad are for them.
So they typically like to look at distance, sprints, top speed, accelerations, decelerations, and HMLD. They always look forward to seeing the match data report afterwards, and what they did.
Does the GPS tracker data make the players a) more competitive with each other b) more eager to push themselves to improve ?
It 100% makes them much more competitive with each other. And when we do max speed work, especially, they are eager to see how they competed.
We put a leaderboard in the gym as well, so they like to see if they can move up places for top speed or total distance.
They like to see how their numbers improve over the season especially when we start to hit January, February, March and are at our peak for the season.
Why choose STATSports?
The decision was pretty clear from a quality stand point. From the first chat I had with their support staff, I felt from a customer experience, it was going to be the best option for us.
From day one, we have had nothing but positive experiences with the devices and the software. Whenever something didn’t go as planned, getting it sorted was simple and fast with the account manager always being available.
As a smaller club with limited staff and only recently investing in technology, it is important for us to have something that makes life easier, not harder, and that’s exactly what we get from STATSports.
What does your STATSports account manager do?
Matt just gives me confidence that if I have questions or need anything he will be there to help and it will always be solved that day or the next, without questions. That’s very relieving for me especially with no other staff working with me.
How important is it for you to keep pace with top clubs in your league and the leagues above?
It is without question that it is one of our most important tools to make sure players are fit and available for matches.
Like any team you want and need your best players available more often than not, and that is one major thing that STATSports helps us with.
We are able to make sure players are hitting the metrics we need, when we need, and they are exposed to the load that is right for them.
In a sport that is filled with so many uncontrollable variables, we do what we can to control what we can, and that give us the best opportunity to play at our optimal level as often as we can.
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