Ticats overhaul camp practices
Determined to avoid injuries
Armed with the data from two seasons of digitally monitoring 24 players as they went through daily practice, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are changing their schedules at training camp and for practices during the regular season.
The football layman might not immediately notice, but longtime observers will recognize that the first day of practice during regular season will now be a lighter one, physically, rather than the heaviest of the week.
And in training camp, every third day will be less physical than the two before it, with emphasis on mistake correction, walkthroughs installing new plays and systems, and mandatory weightlifting.
It’s all designed to avoid the avalanche of injuries that have overrun the club so often in the past four years.
“You’re trying to eliminate softtissue injuries,” explains head coach Kent Austin, who worked with noted strength and fitness consultant Matt Nichols to create the changes, based on information from monitoring company Catapult, which tracked the two dozen players via monitors on the back of their shoulder pads.
“It’s a huge issue. If it’s not THE top priority here, it’s 1-A. Obviously, there’s a direct correlation to your best players playing and your probability of winning.
“There are precursors to soft tissue injuries. There are red flags. It gets really technical, but it relates to tracking of player load throughout the week. And when they hit warning areas because of the load they have been subjected to, you have to pull off it, because the risk for injuries, especially soft tissue, goes up.
“We remodelled our training camp and regular season to closely match our data, which was in line with the current research in the industry.”
The measuring system is GPSdriven and monitors “hundreds of things,” including total distance travelled by a player, his velocity, change of directions, intensity of work and overall workload.
Austin says there are both macro and micro effects.
On the micro level, this year players’ energy output, total-workload bearing and intensity levels will be monitored in real-time, and coaches will adjust individual situations accordingly, right on the field. “Say, for instance, Luke Tasker is getting close to his total load and intensity for a given day, we’d rearrange the plays that have a probability that he’s going to be involved in, and put them at the front of the line, then get him out,” Austin says. “We’re kind of doing that anyway, with our eyes, we’re just bringing more science to it.
On the macro level, the data compelled football operations to alter the team’s gameprep schedules.
So during the regular season, the first practice day of a week which traditionally — across the CFL and in Hamilton for decades — has been a heavy physical day, with play installation and the players often in full pads, is now “more of a recovery day.”
It will include walk-throughs for play installation, and periods of strength and conditioning.
Day 2 will now be a heavier day, more like the old Day 1. At training camp, it’ll be two-on, one-off. When camp opens Sunday, there’ll be a normal training camp practice. Monday will be the heaviest in the cycle: the dreaded “two-a-day” which separates a pair of practices by a 20-minute rest and nutrition period. Then Tuesday will be like the new Day One of the regular season: “There will be football, but it’s a recovery day.”
Then the three-day cycle begins again on Wednesday.
“It’s part of our overarching high-performance plan,” Austin says. “This is one element. But there’s nutrition, there’s sleep, there’s strength and conditioning, there’s sports psychology.
“But we’re doing it in baby steps. We’re going to gather our own information. We know our players,” he added.
“We suspect certain things that are co-relations to performance or lack thereof and then we’re going to get analytics to mine what WE say to mine.”