One step past swinging a pickaxe

Here’s a fascinating piece by Chris Brown (no surprise, that) on Chip Kelly’s impact on the NFL.  He’s only been in the league one year, but he’s already exercising an outsized influence in a place that lives to copy cat.

But it’s not just his play calling that’s getting followed.  There are a couple of other items that Kelly’s been closed mouthed about that others are trying to emulate.  One of those is how the Eagles use sports science.  Brown lists what we know about that:

• While coaching at Oregon, Kelly began investing significantly in sports science, both by bringing in outside consultants and by developing in-house expertise and technology. He built principally on research first conducted for Australian-rules football.

• Many of those studies, which have since been expanded to cover a range of sports, used heart rate, GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscope monitors worn by players in practice to determine how to train for peak game-day performance3 and how to prevent injuries.4 These studies also tracked the movements that players made in games5 so teams could mold practices and training to what players did on an individualized and position-by-position basis.

• When Kelly arrived in Philadelphia, the Eagles invested huge sums into their sports science infrastructure, and Kelly hired Shaun Huls, a sports science coordinator who’d worked for the Navy Special Warfare Command for nearly five years, training SEALs and focusing on reducing the incidence of their noncombat injuries.6

• Kelly’s team uses the latest wearable player-tracking technology, and his staff monitors the resulting data in real time to determine how players should train and when they become injury risks. “On an individualized basis we may back off,” Kelly said recently. “We may take [tight end] Brent Celek out of a team period on a Tuesday afternoon and just say, because of the scientific data we have on him, ‘We may need to give Brent a little bit of a rest.’ We monitor them very closely.”

Does it work?  Well, as Brown notes, the Eagles finished last season with the second-fewest injuries in the NFL.  And, perhaps as importantly, the players sound like they believe in the regime.

Would it translate to college ball?  Don’t forget where Kelly came from:  “We used the same formula at Oregon and I spent a lot of time on how to go about it, how we think you should train, and it worked for us there and it worked for us here.”

How ’bout Athens?  I have no idea, but do find this comment worth noting:

Kelly’s chief commitment isn’t to running a no-huddle offense; his goal is for the Eagles to be a no-huddle organization. For Kelly, the benefits extend far beyond the effect on opposing defenses. “One of the benefits we have from practice and the no-huddle offense, where every period is no-huddle, is our second and third [teams] — and I’ve gone back and charted this — get almost twice as many reps as other teams I’ve been at when you’re sitting in the second or third spot,” explained Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis, a longtime NFL veteran. That has a recruiting benefit when it comes to attracting backup players, which in turn helps the Eagles discover hidden gems. “If you’re [second or third string], you want to be in our camp because you get more reps than anyone else,” said Kelly. “Because of the reps we get in practice, our guys get a chance to develop a little more. You go to some teams and the threes aren’t getting many reps — they are losing time compared to our guys.”

That does sound a bit similar to how Richt and his staff have reconfigured reps in practice this preseason.  So maybe there’s hope elsewhere.



Filed under The Body Is A Temple

19 responses to “One step past swinging a pickaxe

  1. W Cobb Dawg

    So the new recruiting motto would be something like: Come for the pick axe, stay for the hoes…


    • Charles

      golf clap


      • W Cobb Dawg

        I know, not my best work. But there’s a funny somewhere in that pick axe story trying to get out.


        • Dog in Fla

          I think you’re doing very well. If you’re taking requests, implement a little kaiser blade although some folks call it a sling blade


        • Dog in Fla

          “From top to bottom in the Eagles organization, the first rule of sports science seems to be ”Don’t talk about sports science.”

          What I like best about it is that it’s got the same first rule as Fight Club


  2. I have to admit that when I saw the thing about Coach T. having him swing a pick axe, the first thing that came to my mind was a comment on this blog back when Joe T. was first promoted that said something to the effect of us having “Jack LaLanne boxing kangaroos”. LOL.

    To be clear, I think Coach T. has done a lot of good things in his position. And with the hires that were brought in underneath him, I think we do have a good S&C staff. But it is kinda funny comparing an isolated situation like a guy swinging a pickaxe into a sand pile against what is talked about in that article.

    Kelly is definitely a clever/innovative guy. And while I’m sure he is involved in their scouting and so forth, without having a lot of time tied up in recruiting, it’s gonna be interesting to see what all he comes up with over the next few years.


  3. Bulldog Joe

    Great to see the extra reps for everyone at practice.

    Looking at the size of this year’s annual green jersey flock, it does not appear everyone at Georgia has bought into it.


  4. Macallanlover

    This sounds similar to what I read FSU has been doing. Didn’t hear about it until last season but they have been doing this for some time, I think some guy from NASA is working with, or was hired by the athletic department. Very interesting technology that allows them to set the peak performance level and when to “run anoth ‘n on” as Sheriff Taylor would say. The potential for reducing injuries via a set of data points is great info for a trainer/coordinator to have. Wonder if it would have kept Crowell from raising his hand to come out after every 5th play?


    • Lrgk9

      Dropping the Pall Malls and Lucky Strikes woulda done it for GunTota.


    • gatorhater27

      Yeah, they have an actual rocket scientist on staff. They haven’t had as many injuries the last few years, iirc. Couldn’t hurt to try – what’s a few million bucks here and there?


    • Is it September yet?

      FSU has been using this for four years. I believe the article I read back in June also said Bammer and 2-3 others in college were using it. I know it was hard for McGarrity to pony up the dough for the pick axe so there is no way he parts with his Scrooge McDuck vault of cash for this.


      • Bulldog Joe

        Imagine what this program could do if it actually wanted to win, instead of funneling as much athletic money as possible to the UGA Foundation?


        • Mayor

          It’s not the whole organization that’s the problem BJ-it’s the guys who control the money. The coaches and players certainly want to win.


  5. Juan

    Great post, Senator.

    This is some interesting shit, man.


  6. Does it work?

    Yeah. It works. Stanford’s S&C is based on that model, or one very similar, basically a custom S&C for every position and even individual player. Their result speaks for itself.

    And yes, it’s far superior to what we were doing up until this year, IMHO. We are beginning to move somewhat in that direction, slightly anyway, as Richt hired an outside firm to help develop certain position groups this offseason. How effective it was remains to be seen, but it looks OK so far.

    I’m not too concerned about all our injuries, in terms of their relationship to S&C (a change from previous years). Concussions, fingers, sore shoulders, etc., are gonna happen. IDK how S&C could prevent those.

    I’m glad to see us moving forward a little with S&C. I’m hoping we’ll do something similar with nutrition, because I suspect, like S&C 2 or 3 years ago, it isn’t on the cutting edge at all.


  7. UFTimmy

    FSU used the same GPS and player data gathering system last year, and they had an exceptionally good year with regards to injuries. Whether that’s just lucky or a trend remains to be seen, but this is definitely an area that’s going to be picking up more teams, I think.


  8. Cosmic Dawg

    As a big fan of CMR, it’s effing ridiculous that we’re even having to talk about this. Yes, an athletic dept with deep pockets like GA should have been on this train years ago. And training to match the demands of game day – short bursts but nonstop over the course of the entire practice, not waiting in line to take your reps.

    Forget beating ourselves with drug suspensions and recruiting, we’re apparently still in the mid-20th century with training. The stupid pick axe moment felt a tad too much like a redneck warden prodding a dude on a chain gang – totally sent the wrong message imho, and I am hardly Mr. PC.


  9. W Cobb Dawg

    “…used prevent injuries.”

    Halt work on the IPF and go ahead with an order of 100,000 monitors immediately!!


  10. 69Dawg

    Bulldawg Illustrated had a video on the company in Australia that makes the monitors and software that analyses the data. They know in real time the distance a player has run, how he is running (straight ahead or serpentine) and his vital signs. I’m not sure they use it in a game because Aussie Rule football uniforms are like rugby uniforms so their is not a good place to put them. Any way they can tell when a player is stressed physically and they can rest him so he does not get injured just because he is fatigued. UGA needs to open the purse and let the moths out and invest in this state of the art equipment now and not wait and play catch-up like we usually do.