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RFID's Sporting Life

Capturing performance data in real time helps athletes improve their game—and coaches and federations determine which players to back.
By Jennifer Zaino
Aug 25, 2015

The Montreal Canadiens lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the National Hockey League Stanley Cup playoffs this year, but the players headed off the ice with their heads held high. The team posted 110 points in regular season play, finishing second overall in the Eastern Conference, just behind the New York Rangers.

The Canadiens attribute much of their 2014-15 season success to their enhanced training efforts, which includes the use of Sport Testing's athlete assessment solution, particularly during summer development and training camp sessions. The solution consists of Sport ID passive ultrahigh-frequency RFID bands to identify athletes via an RFID handheld reader before they perform a particular drill; wireless Sport Gate photoelectric timing gates that use Sport ID data and the company's Core Capture algorithms to match athletes with the measurement results from specific drills in real time; Sport Hub software for collecting results that can be displayed on any screen or even a leaderboard to motivate players; and Athlete Manager database software, which provides reports on which to base analyses of player performance.

Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens use the solution to test a number of variables relevant to the sport of hockey, says Pierre Allard, the team's strength and conditioning coach. During a circuit, for example, it will benchmark how quickly a player reacts to lights and colors that indicate whether he should move right or left. "That's a good test, because you want to see if the players controlling a puck can make good decisions," he says. "Another test is to measure the capacity to repeat sprints, which is also an important value for hockey players." The results, he adds, help him determine what aspects of play a team member needs to work on, and develop ways to improve them.

The RFID bands make the whole process convenient, Allard says, because they accurately and quickly match players to results. "Once you set up the system and get used to it, you save a lot of time, because you can start to collect data," he says. "And with RFID, you are able to go fast."

Over time, Allard can use the collected data from players running different drill combinations to create standards, such as minimum and maximum values of speed, strength and power. Understanding what constitutes good values for NHL players, for example, can help monitor the progression of young draft players, he says, "to see if they are going in the right direction over time from a physical condition standpoint."

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