Inside the sports science department at the Swansea City academy

Sports Science can often be regarded as a complicated and grey area, but it essentially involves using objective measures and data to best inform practise and optimise football and physical performance. At Swansea, we break Sports Science down into six key areas:

GPS & training load (TL) monitoring
Recovery & regeneration strategies
Health & wellness monitoring
Growth & maturation
Fitness testing & movement screening
Nutrition strategies

Let’s take a closer look at sports science at Swansea:

GPS & TL monitoring

GPS units are small tracking devices players wear in the infamous sports bra. Players will wear these units for all training and match competition. They have been ground-breaking in the industry because of the wealth of information they provide on players’ physical output and TL (the biggest contributors to soft tissue injuries). From the data, we are able to quantify exactly what players are doing. Key metrics include, total distance, higher speed running, sprint distance, accels and deccels, velocities travelled and player load (demands on the body in different planes of motion). From this information, we are able to regulate training output, to allow for consistency on a week-by-week basis. Big fluctuations in TL are a big X! We also ensure players are exposed to each metric, above and beyond the output they would experience in a game, to ensure they are physically prepared for competition. They are also incredibly important tools to allow for the safe and structured rehab of injured players.

Health & wellness/recovery

Health and wellness monitoring are very important, as they provide objective and subjective information on how players are physically and psychologically coping with the demands of football. They can show the first signs of fatigue, allowing our department to be proactive and reduce a risk of injury. Every morning, players will check in with myself and complete a short questionnaire assessing their sleep quality, nutrition quality, stress levels and energy levels. They will also highlight any sore areas and complete objective tests to assess the strength of their groins and hamstrings. If players show red flags within their tests, we can look to delve into the reasons why, and adjust their programme accordingly. Fatigue can often be the result of poor recovery strategies, including sleep duration/quality and nutrition, so we ensure we provide players with extensive education on this… which they of course thoroughly enjoy.

Fitness testing/movement screening

Fitness testing and movement screening is used to assess the physical output and movement competencies of each player within the academy. It is vital information, as it allows the S&C team to individualise a player’s physical development programme. It also allows us to benchmark the demands of each position, at each age group, within the academy. From there, we will benchmark from our first team, as that is ultimately the direction we are preparing our players for. Over time it also gives us the ability to assess the effectiveness of any interventions or programmes we may put in place. Tests include various jumps to assess power, sprints, agility tests, and the player favourite.. the HR max test. Movement screening involves filming players completing various movements including squatting, single leg exercises and landing mechanics.

Growth & maturation

Growth and maturation assessments are regular tests that are carried out on a monthly basis to assess the rate of growth within our academy players. We take various measurements, including height, weight, seated height and leg length to determine a player’s biological age (as opposed to chronological). This is because players experience rapid growth rates at different ages, and within one age group, it is more than plausible to find differences of over three years. That is pretty huge for a 12-year-old. During accelerated growth, players will experience lots of neuromuscular difficulties, and the tests we carry out are aimed to identify this as soon as possible, which can provide vital information for medical and coaching staff. It allows us to monitor the player more closely, and be aware of how this can affect football (and physical) performance and development.

I hope this brief insight was helpful and enlightening, as to what goes on behind the scenes at a Premier League Academy.

 

Rob Rowland on Linkedin
Rob Rowland
Academy Lead & U23s Sports Scientist - Swansea City
Rob is the Academy Lead & U23s Sports Scientist at Swansea City. His role involves working day-to-day with the club's U23 professional development squad, competing in Premier League 2, delivering Sports Science support to players, medical staff and coaches. He also oversees the Sports Science programme for the rest of the Academy (U9-U18).

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