How Spurs, Man Utd and Juventus use 'most powerful wearable in sport'

WHEN Jesus Perez looks at his smartwatch during a Tottenham training session, he's not checking how long it is until the canteen opens.

The Spurs fitness guru and his staff use watches to track up to 50 live player metrics – such as high-intensity sprints, fatigue and metabolic power - during both training and matches, using the APEX system developed by Irish tech firm STATSports.

Along with Manchester United, Arsenal, Monaco, Juventus and Athletic Bilbao (to name a few), Spurs are clients of the cutting-edge Newry-based firm.

APEX is STATSports' third generation GPS system and was launched this summer. It is described as "the most powerful wearable in sport” and Richard Byrne, Head of Business Development for the firm, told TGG: “This is the most advanced athletic performance device ever released."

The first part of the kit is a pod, including an embedded processor, 18Hz GPS, 400Hz accelerometer and Bluetooth, which is cocooned in a vest or base layer top. STATSports say the technology provides ‘the most precise live metric data in industry’.

For the first time, live data precisely matches the information downloaded at the end of a session.

“Previously, many companies struggled to provide accurate live data,” Byrne explained. “That was a big issue, especially when clubs were rehabing players. Now with Apex, live data is accurate."

The technology can be used indoors and outdoors thanks to the firm’s patented MAPPS (Multiple Augmented Performance Positional System) technology, which combines GPS and ultra-wideband transmitted by two miniature beacons. Previously, GPS in stadiums has been a problem, because the roofs could cut out the signal. MAPPS has solved this problem, ensuring there is no data drop-out in stadium environments.

Clubs are able to live-stream data as a session or a match is ongoing, using the APEX app on a smartwatch, tablet or smartphone. “The feedback we are getting from the clubs so far is that they are loving the watch,” Byrne said. “Players and coaches can easily see what athletes are doing live, which is particularly important for rehab."

At the end of a session, a report can be downloaded in three clicks. The dashboard has a tactical analysis function, which integrates video, heat maps and positional graphics from other companies, such as Opta. This means a coach could drill down to see what a player's heart rate was when he missed a shot or what his speed was travelling when he made a killer pass.

We’ve reported a lot on load on TGG and APEX enables coaches to monitor both individual and team load, as well as including a ‘readiness to train’ function, which asks players six customised questions about their fitness and condition.

Thirty Apex devices, with drills applied can be downloaded in just three minutes using the hub and bluetooth allows other devices, such as EMG (electromyographic) garments, to be brought into the mix. But, as we all know, data is only as good as the impact it has on training and matches. So we went to a practitioner at a Championship club to get their feedback on APEX:

Rhys Carr, Head of Sports Science at Bristol City:

“When I started at the club (in November 2013), one of the first things I did was introduce GPS. Before, the club had been using rickety old heart rate monitors, which only tell you about cardio. We’ve used STATSports since then and APEX is a definite upgrade on anything I’ve used before.

“STATSports have listened to what practitioners wanted. Now, the live data you get is the same as what you download at the end of the session. We can view it on iPads, phones and on smartwatches too, when previously it was all on a laptop. That can make rehab really bespoke. A player could be 30 yards away from me when they’re doing their sprints, but I’ll know their speed and how it compares to the targets we’ve set and can relay that to them. ‘Come on!'

“Every morning the manager [Lee Johnson] has a meeting with me and the rest of the coaches and we’ll know what we want from a session technically, tactically and physically. APEX helps us to monitor and deliver that.

“The players have really bought into it too. They’re millennials who are very comfortable with technology and with data. Every day they’re in my office asking what their scores were for a particular session. It’s helped with buy-in and in explaining why we’re trying to do.

“There are a lot of bigger teams than us in this division, so we have to utilise every tool available to bridge the gap. APEX is certainly important in that.”

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