Cutting edge performance analysis technology on the curriculum for sport science students

A new education partnership between LJMU and Catapult Sports is ensuring that students have the skills and experience needed to excel as professional coaches and sports scientists.

The wearable Catapult technology is used to improve the performance of athletes and sports teams globally. Students across the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences are being taught how to utilise the kit, and analyse its data, so that they are working to the expected industry standards.

Dr Ian Sadler reflects on how the skills will boost the students’ career opportunities

Dr Ian Sadler, Subject Head in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said: “Learning how to use this type of cutting edge technology will equip our students with the knowledge and hands-on experience in a range of contexts - from performance analysis for athletes to movement patterns of children in a physical education setting.

“Understanding how to use this tech will prepare students for the placements they undertake, many of which will be with premier league football clubs and professional sports teams, who use this technology day-in-day-out, or in schools and local community settings where it can really enhance their output.”

Dr Sadler added: “They will also find themselves one step ahead of other graduates when they go on to pursue careers upon completion of their studies.” 

Catapult is delivering a series of workshops with around 150 students, teaching them to undertake each stage of the data collection process. From experiencing the wearable kit and carrying out drills in mock training sessions, to creating reports and analysing the athletes’ performance looking at variables including distance, speed and direction.

Student Ciaran Williams shares what he learnt

The first sessions took place this month with a cohort of PE and Sport and Exercise students. Final year Science and Football student, Ciaran Williams, plans to use the techniques he learnt to support his degree research.

He said: “Being able to see all the data and movement being recorded in live time gave me broader understanding of the metrics that can be recorded with the trackers, as well as how the software can be used within live football.

“There are a lot more metrics that can be measured with the GPS software than I initially thought and the skills I picked up in the session will be crucial in me being able to complete my research.”

Dr Sigrid Olthof explains how the skills can be applied in practice

LJMU tutors and lecturers will now build upon these basic skills through their advanced teaching during the rest of the academic year, ensuring that students are aware of the full capabilities of the technology and how to apply it within their practice.

Dr Sigrid Olthof, Lecturer in Performance Analysis and Analytics, said: “Through their studies and as they progress into their professional careers, our students will join multidisciplinary teams working alongside coaches, sports scientists, performance analysts, strength and conditioning coaches and medical staff. They will need to be able to understand the variety of questions and needs that the different disciplines in their team will have.

“By learning how to use the information from Catapult, we’re giving students the skills and knowledge they will need to support sports teams in the right way. They will be able to improve training sessions, monitor athletes, and work together with other support staff using the data available to them to improve performance.”

LJMU’s state-of-the-art sports hall is equipped with indoor LPS tracking infrastructure with means that the wearable devices can be tracked inside, as well as outdoors using regular GPS tracking.

To date, only students studying science and football, sport coaching and sport and exercise science have been taught to use the Catapult technology, but the new education partnership means that students across the wider school can now benefit.

Dr Olthof added: “It’s quite unique, there are not a lot of universities that have this Catapult kit, and we are lucky to have the technology here. It enables us to use it for many different purposes - for teaching, for research, for demonstrations with coaches and PE teachers working across Liverpool - it’s nice to have that and to share with everyone the opportunities with the system."

Further benefits of having the tech on campus

Alongside teaching, academics and PhD students already use the technology to undertake research with elite athletes. One current project will take data from a professional academy team for a study on small-sided games. This project gives valuable insights in player development and coach education.

The school is also in discussion with JMSU to explore how students could use the technology in conjunction with university sports teams, to help them gain extra experience outside of ordinary teaching times. The additional hours, applying their knowledge to a real-life environment, would allow students to hone their skills.

The enhanced partnership between LJMU and Catapult Sports has been agreed for the next three years.

Jacob Sherwood, Senior Business Development Manager at Catapult, said: “Our student enrichment partnership with LJMU will allow students to gain a critical insight into the theory and application of athlete monitoring systems in an applied environment. Students will finish the course with the ability to interact with and analyse real-world athlete monitoring data, and interpret the information gathered from these data to inform decisions about athlete management.

“As well as receiving a certificate that they can add to their CV to showcase to potential employers that they are Catapult certified.”

Find out more about the work of the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at LJMU and the courses available to study.


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