College football players are using some new equipment to improve their practice sessions. Are you thinking high-tech shoes or lightweight padding? Some forward-thinking coaches are using GPS devices inserted into shoulder pads to gather valuable data about each player’s performance.

gps trackingThe method has been used for years by soccer and rugby teams in Australia and Europe. However, it didn’t reach the States until SEC powerhouse schools Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas A&M began implementing it. Florida State used it during their 2013 season that culminated in a national championship.

Catapult Sports manufactures the state-of-the-art monitors that record more than 400 variables per second for each player. Detailed data about speed, distance, impact of hits and more enables coaches and trainers to precisely gauge peak performance instead of using guesswork. They can also see when a player is overtraining and adjust his workload accordingly.

The devices can be used in any training conditions. During indoor sessions, the data is downloaded from ground-based satellites at the conclusion of practice. Real-time monitoring is available during outdoor sessions.

Vanderbilt University recently began testing GPS tracking thanks to new head strength coach James Dobson and his assistant coach Ben Schumacher, who brought Catapult monitors along from their previous jobs at Nebraska. Dobson appreciates the way that the technology allows them to personalize training for each player instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all method.

Head coach Derek Mason credits the GPS tracking for inspiring a recent change he made in their practice routine. Data showed that longer on-field workouts were not productive because they didn’t mirror the results of an actual game. He made the decision to opt for shorter sessions that emphasize quality over quantity.

Vanderbilt players have joked about the spy-like aspect of the devices, but many of them are buying into the system as a way to achieve their own goals. Wide receiver Kris Kentera sees it as an extra motivator to show coaches how hard he is working.

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