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A Visit to the Atlanta United Facility: 3 Takeaways

This past fall, I had the privilege to meet with Ryan Alexander on site of Atlanta United FC training facility to learn more about how the organization uses technology and analytics to guide training and make informed decisions.

I first heard Ryan speak at a Strength and Conditioning Conference at Kennesaw State Back in 2017.

It was perfect timing for me as I was looking for more precise ways to be able to track my athletes’ activity away from the gym with me.

How much energy were they burning during practices?

How are they recovering between practices and games?

How could I use this information to better my program and still get intended results without “burning out the athlete?”

Each of these questions was answered during Ryan’s lecture, and peaked my curiosity enough to make the investment in to GPS tracking for my athletes.

Here are 3 big takeaways I got from my very educational visit to the Atlanta United Training facility:

  • Metrics are objective and reveal everything

From how many passes an athlete made during practice, to how far each one of those passes were, they get tracked and recorded.

On a white board directly next to Ryan’s desk, is a color-coded lineup of numbers and symbols that looks something close to what you might see at NASA.

Couple that with excel spread sheets that look almost like something out of an MIT statistics doctorate class, and you get a compilation of impressive statistics that leave a revealing blueprint.

Only the trained eye would be able to understand.

As cryptic as the concert of symbols and numbers were, each stat line had a purpose that revealed predictive trends that could enhance an athlete’s career and health.

Knowing how many sprints the athletes took during practice, how many calories they burned during a game, having knowledge of how deficient in strength one leg is in comparison to the other, allows the sport scientist, strength coach, and the head coach to make informed decisions on an individual basis on how to structure practices, nutrition, and training programs so that the player can optimize their own performance and reduce injury risk.

The collective metrics taken create the blueprint on how to refine and peak the elite athlete and guide the organization.

In a way, these variable statistics provide a daily assessment for coaches to evaluate to determine what the best move should be. Determinants are no longer black and white but part of a complex system that make up a holistic approach to more informed decisions for precision results.

  • In establishing peak performance, you must take a holistic approach

As I chatted with Ryan more, I found out how much each player’s lifestyle factored into their programming and coaching guidance.

How did this athlete eat this week?

Logistically, how long does it take to get to practice?

What kind of effect does the type of turf or grass have on player performance?

What other stresses might be going on in the athlete’s life?

What is the best way to coach a professional athlete who is only a teenager?

So while it is important to know tops speeds, total distance, and the typical GPS statistics, it is also important to know what other potential limiting factors can affect the desired outcome for each athlete.

A player who might have gone out the night before may require a different training strategy to accommodate his lack of recovery.

An athlete who constantly eats fast food on the way home from a training session unintentionally increases his body fat, thus having an effect on his top speed and power output.

Each day athletes have to get surveyed so that every variable can be taken into consideration when appropriating a program.

At the end of the day, the coach must ask 2 important questions:

What caused this great performance?

What caused this not so good performance?

Sometimes, it can be outside factors.

  • It takes a team of professionals working collectively to WIN

Everyone from the receptionist at the front desk, to the head chef in the cafeteria, to the head coach, the athletic trainers, the fitness coach, to the sport scientist; each of these people play a role in the success of the team.

Ryan, the sport scientist collects the data.

He and his team compile it, daily, and presents this to the coach in an understandable fashion. They each then meet with the fitness coach to see exactly what interventions to take so that the team is in the best shape possible to excel in the teams playing scheme.

They then consult with the nutritionist and chef to make sure that their nutritional needs are met to properly fuel their bodies to handle the demands and enhance recovery.

Everyone HAS to be in sync so that the needs of every single athlete can be met, and the coach’s schemes can be fully realized through athletes primed and ready to go on a physical and mental level.

Atlanta United is a World Class organization, and that was evident in just my first visit there with an extremely knowledgeable and passionate leader at the helm of their athletic development.

After only a few years in the MLS, they have already made their mark as longtime contenders in the league. From the way they run ship, it is no surprise that they took home the MLS Cup at such a young age.

The technology has definitely made a difference for my programming and training my athletes!