Cutting edge training

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

SEATTLE -- With so much at stake, professional soccer teams are always looking for an extra edge.

Everton, who will be facing River Plate in an exhibition game Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium, thinks they may have found one with their new state-of-the-art fitness monitoring system.

"It's actually a GPS system, which works off the satellites," said Everton fitness coach Dave Billows. "We have in our stadium where we play in Goodison Park, the system which measures how far the players run in the game, how many sprints they've done, what kind of load they've taken on.

"Until recently there has been no portable system that can be used in the training ground. This one has come out in the last couple of years. We've only started to use it recently. It's vital to try and quantify the training load during the week."

Essentially the players wear a small monitoring device during practice, which can measure their heart rate, how fast they're running, and how much ground they've covered. The results are beamed back to a laptop computer, which can be analyzed immediately.

"We'll watch it over the next season and see what trends and what patterns emerge over the year," Billows said.

"We'll see if we do a set volume during the week at a certain intensity, does that improve the certain performance on a Saturday (game day). If we drop below a certain parameter, does that mean we're not fit enough, we're not strong enough on a Saturday? We have to watch it, analyze what happens and see what trends develop before we can make any conclusions from it."

Coaches now also have hard evidence that a player may be slacking off.

"The players hate me," smiled Billows. "I have a few nicknames I'm not allowed to repeat. It's part of the process of getting the most out of the players physically. The game has become more and more athletic."


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