Advancements in both sports science and technology have resulted in the development of very sophisticated equipment for monitoring athletes and quantifying training load. At elite levels of competition, coaches may be using expensive GPS devices to keep track of player load. Blood testing, heart rate variability, psychomotor speed changes, and so forth may also be included in the array of monitoring parameters (among several others). There is no doubt that this type of data will provide tremendous insight as to the overall training status of each individual athlete. However, most coaches simply won’t have access to this type of technology as it is largely cost prohibitive.
Fortunately, you do not have to have a million dollar budget to monitor your players. In fact, two very practical and valid methods of keeping tabs on fatigue and wellness in your athletes require no cost whatsoever. Session ratings of perceived exertion, discussed previously in this post, is a valid and reliable method of tracking training load in athletes. This simply requires the athlete to rate the training session on a scale of 1-10 based on percieved exertion and then this figure is multiplied by the duration of the session (in minutes) or by number of repetitions (for resistance training). The second free but highly effective monitoring tool is a basic wellness questionnaire. This is simply a series of questions that an athlete responds to on a likert scale rating his or her perceived levels of fatigue, soreness, sleep quality etc. Below is a very brief questionnaire used in both research and in the field by many sports teams. Frequent collection of questionnaire data can be used to manipulate training for individuals who may be over or under-worked.
A recent study from the latest edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrates the effectiveness of the wellness questionnaire. Gastin et al. (2013) followed a team of elite level Australian Football players throughout a season, routinely collecting questionnaire data as players reported to practice, training or competition. The results indicated that ratings of physical and psychological wellness were sensitive to weekly training adjustments. For example, wellness improved steadily throughout a week leading to games but showed significant decreases following competition. The faster and more powerful athletes reported higher levels of strain from competition. Scores would improve when training loads were reduced, indicating good recovery. The authors concluded that the athletes perceived ratings of wellness are a useful tool for coaches to monitor player responses to the demands of both sport and life stressors in athletes. Consider implementing wellness questionnaires in your teams routine and see how effective it can be for you.
Gastin P.B., Meyer, D., Robinson, D. (2013) Perceptions of wellness to monitor adaptive responses to training and competition in elite Australian football. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, E-Pub Ahead of Print.