Incoming freshman student-athletes are be some of the most technologically advanced individuals ever to play the game. They are incredibly accepting of new technology, and it’s no wonder. These students have never lived a day in which Google did not exist. To them, advanced technology is as commonplace as newspapers or television.
“These student-athletes are extremely savvy and they are accepting of new technology right away,” says Jake Cox, former head football strength and conditioning coach at Villanova. Cox used Polar technology at Villanova to track and assess his student-athletes, and he says he expects this of his incoming athletes. Today, Cox is Associate Director of Athletic Performance for Football at Baylor University.
“It’s easier to get student-athletes to use new technology now than at any other time in collegiate history, and it’s pretty powerful,” he says.
One method Cox used was to ask student-athletes to wear a smart, wearable wristband that tracks activity data at five intensity levels. It also tracks the wearer’s sleep patterns, which help Cox understand how prepared his athletes are for practice.
“When we were doing that with our guys, it was really positive,” he says. “My staff liked it too; it is valuable data.”
At the same time, Cox holds some of the best technology back from his athletes in an effort to positively reinforce their behavior. He calls this approach “earned use.”
“When you come to Villanova, you’re lucky to get into the weight room and perform the warm-up properly,” he says. “After you can do that, you have to be strong in order to use some of our other technology tools. Plus, you have to be coachable.”
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When his athletes see that only the top guys, who have proven themselves, are the ones who get to utilize some of the most unique and interesting technology, it encourages them to focus and perform better.
“When they see our best athletes getting the cool gadgets and their choice of supplements instead of just chocolate milk, it made our athletes want to do better,” he says. “Providing any of our athletes – especially during the 3 to 5 years we had them here at Villanova – with constant incentives to show up and give good effort is a good thing. They want to be a part of that.”
Cox keeps it simple for his athletes as well; he’s not weighing them down with a bunch of directions and protocols.
“It’s important to keep technology simple for everyone. I just say, ‘Here’s a bracelet. Wear it. Now sync it to your phone,’” says Cox. Athletes of another generation may not be so willing to accept that tech on their wrist without hesitation. “I give them a charger and tell them to keep it charged, and sync it once a day. Then I just log in and look at the data.”
This article was written by Paul Markgraff, managing editor of AFCA Magazine and AFCA Insider.
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