As GPS devices become more integrated into everyday life, they’re being used to track everything from wayward pets to your pizza delivery. Did you ever envision a time when GPS could help improve your fitness by tracking your athletic performance? It’s a real possibility thanks to some innovative usage occurring right now by the USC Trojans football team.

USCLogoThe road to the football field started back in 2009, when a group of students from Marshall School of Business at USC traveled to Australia as part of a Learning About International Commerce program. One of their activities was a visit to see the Sydney Swans, an Australian Football League team that was already using GPS devices to collect analytics.

Julia Plotts, associate professor of clinical finance and business economics at Marshall, was the supervising faculty member on the trip. Upon the group’s return, Plotts reported her observations to Marshall Dean James G. Ellis, suggesting that the method could have applications for the USC football team as well. Ellis put Plotts in touch with Mark Jackson, the school’s senior associate director of athletics, and the two worked together to implement the program for the Trojans.

In early 2015, after Jackson visited Australia for an in-person look, the school successfully reached a deal with Catapult, the company that created the GPS technology to track player movements. The device captures and documents approximately 1,000 data points each second to amass a collection of data including maximum velocity, player load and recovery time.

The GPS tracking system was officially rolled out for USC’s first regular season game on Saturday, September 5, where they trounced Arkansas State by a final score of 55-6. Jackson and the team’s coaches plan to use the enhanced analytics set to improve practice methods and help prevent costly injuries.

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