Since the launch of the NordBord, Vald's first product to enter the professional sport market, the Brisbane-based company has grown exponentially by quickly becoming a leading athlete testing systems provider as well as one of the most innovative sports technology companies in professional and high-level sport today.
Even if sports technology is a big opportunity and one of the single most important challenges in sport performance, very few systems have been adopted by team sports in the last years and technology implementation has fundamentally been still a sort of unexplored potential.
Beyond GPS and Athlete Management Systems (AMS), team sports have been very cautious in integrating technologies on a larger scale and this has been due mainly to two factors:
1) Lack of practical solutions with short operations time and reduced learning curve;
2) Poor understanding of the real needs of a professional team by company and tech equipments providers.
Strength and Power Profiling in Professional Sport
As i've said previously, the technology who has had the biggest impact in team sports in the last years has been GPS and this is because companies have spent lot of resources in building relations with the clients, supporting teams with dedicated sports scientists and educating them for utilization in a daily on-field context.
Monitoring training load and individual physiological responses has its value but it still represents a single part of the multifactorial aspect of human performance and athlete monitoring.
How neuromuscular system is working in order to apply force and develop power is still fundamental in the process of profiling and monitoring players and mitigating injury risk: the fact is that, at the end of the day, injury and soreness happens at tissues level and GPS do provides only systemic information whereas local muscles data are key.
By looking at the neuromuscular system and creating individual strength and power profiles for each player, one can significantly improve the efficacy of the training load monitoring as well as the success in mitigating injury risk.
I've been working with technology in professional sport for many years and the market is saturated now with lot of tech companies with dubious marketing ads and sometimes the main risk is to fall into the trap of "showing" technology rather than really making advantage of its use.
I came out with what i call pyramid of technology integration in team sports with four main essential characteristics for a successfull implementation of technology into daily team environment:
1) Knowledge, it is the main prerequisite to have and it represents the base of the pyramid. Technology is aimed to help and facilitate but it cannot replace a profound knowledge in physiology, biomechanics and performance science;
2) Interpretation, it comes right after knowledge as correct and proper understanding of the results is fundamental to avoid what i call data overuse. Selection of the right data that are most useful and transformation into actionable insight is of paramount importance;
3) Communication, which is the essential requirement for connecting the dots between the various departments (medical, technical and fitness). A common language and a shared vision is going to make the difference in correct technology integration;
4) Technology, it is not a case that it represents the apex of the pyramid. Once the first three requirements are met, a successfull implementation of technology can be reached in a professional team environment.
Vald Performance Method and Approach to Athlete Testing
The Company has a line of four products now (after having recently acquired ForceDecks), which are being used by elite teams in the most important leagues (English Premier League, Rugby Union, NBA, MLS, NFL, NCAA, MLB, AFL, A-League) and Research Institutes all over the world.
The reason of this success and the high rate of implementation of their systems by professional teams is due to the Vald's ability to understand the needs of professional staff and organizations and fill the existing gap between science and daily practice.
Here is a brief summary of the 8-points that, in my opinion, are revolutionizing technology integration and athlete testing in team sports:
1) Vald has an all-in line of products made for sport performance by sport performance experts and scientists
2) An innovative marketing approach, focused on building relations with practitioner and scientists and providing costant support and education to customers
3) The ability to translate research into field practice by carefully listen to the needs of professional teams
4) A total solution for neuromuscular profiling and athlete monitoring, covering all the aspects of strength and power testing, training and analysis
5) Easy interpretation and data visualization
6) Really useful and actionable data that one can immediately use to individualize training and rehab
7) Easy hardware and software setup with a very fast process of testing the entire squad
8) Players don't perceive them as medical testing and this increases engagement and establish an healty competition for reaching the highest score.
Future Developments and Suggestions
Of course there are still some cons and few adjustments needs to be made to significantly add more value to the system and improve the total workflow process.
We expect in the future to see a more powerful data analytics profiler with integration of force plates data in a single dashboard together with NordBord and ForceFrame as well as integration with the most used AMS systems (Kinduct, Smartabase, Kitman Labs).
Antonio Robustelli is the mastermind behind the Omniathlete Performance Concept. He is a professional high performance consultant and elite s&c coach from Italy: his area of expertise includes injury prevention, sports technology, strength training programming, speed development, recovery monitoring and return to play assessment. He works all over the world since 16 years with semi-professionals, professionals and Olympic athletes as well as professional teams in various disciplines. Regularly invited as a Keynote Speaker to hold lectures during international conferences in Sports Science and Strength & Conditioning, he is also an Editorial Advisory Board member of the Lower Extremity Review, the most authoritative magazine for lower extremity biomechanics, sports medicine and rehabilitation. Currently he is consultant for Federations, Governing Bodies, Olympians and for First Division football and basketball teams in Europe, Asia and USA.