Notes From: Seattle Sounders FC Sports Science Seminar 2017

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Notes From: Seattle Sounders FC Sports Science Seminar 2017

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Seeing as though we are asking people to share their notes from events and conferences, it is only fair that I do so too! Last month the Seattle Sounders hosted their annual Sports Science seminar, which I’ve been lucky enough to attend two years running. Below I will share a snapshot of some of the common themes from the seminar but if you can get there in person next year, I would highly recommend it. You can find this year’s full programme here:


SSFC Sports Science Seminar 2017 Full Programme

Integrating Physical and Tactical Demands

There were some great insights from practitioners working around the world in football/soccer, including Rhys Carr (Bristol City - @RhysCarr86), Amber Rowell (Melbourne Victory - @AmberERowell), Ruud van Elk (PSV Eindhoven - @ruudvanelk), Greg King (Adelaide United - @gjking3) and Chad Kolarcik (Seattle Sounders - @ChadKolarcik). One of the most notable common threads for me was the need to integrate physical and tactical demands of the game. A number of the presentations included examples of the tactical periodization models used by various teams and coaches. This concepts states that training sessions and drills should revolve around the four moments of the game i.e. offense, defense, transition from offense to defense, and transition from defense to offense.

One of the original texts in this area is:


Oliveira, B., Amieiro, N., Resende, N., & Barreto, R. (2007). Mourinho: por qué tantas victorias?. MCSports.

[Mourinho: why so many victories?]


For some further reading on this topic (in English) take a look at:


It was consistently noted that the playing philosophies coaches aim to construct require physical attributes. Therefore, physical preparation must be incorporated into the planning and execution of the training week. Another way these practitioners tried to relate training to games was to compare the intensity of drills to game demands. For example, game intensity may represent 100% and then the intensity of specific drills are scaled in comparison. We also know that physical demands vary greatly across positions and individuals so considering session and drill information on these levels is also important.


Aligning Data with Coaching Questions

This desire for alignment goes beyond the objective information we collect, but also for the Sports Science and Medicine staff themselves. For instance, Ruud van Elk highlighted his first priority going into his environment was to try to align Sports Science language with coaching language – those from academic backgrounds need to learn to speak the language of the sport! All of the presenters highlighted the importance of appreciation and understanding of the coaches. We need to apply our skillsets to try to answer their questions.


Amber Rowell has done some great work along these lines at MVFC, carrying out studies that will answer the coaches’ questions in the applied environment and also add to the research base. For instance, the first question “how long do our players take to recover from matchplay?” has now been published in IJSPP here:

Their second question “how does match preparation (i.e. training in the week) impact on performance?” looks like a great paper that is currently in press and I look forward to reading the publication in full.


Rowell et al. (2016) Identification of Sensitive Measures of Recovery Following External Load From Football Match Play.



The speakers also discussed many of the challenges they face; I’m sure many in sport have come across these themselves. They included scheduling, travel, player recruitment, playing style/tactical systems utilised, incorporating physical development alongside the technical programme and one we experience a lot in football/soccer… coaching changes! Whilst some of these are out of our hands, overcoming them may be underpinned by strong relationships.


While technology can provide valuable information, it can also pose major challenges as discussed at this event. It is clear that managing data to be able to answer the aforementioned questions, and not just collecting data for the sake of it, is a clear priority for Sports Scientists. From selecting which technology to invest in, to the entire process of collecting, storing and feeding back that data in a meaningful way. As Ruud van Elk said the Performance staff goals are getting simple, clear, fast and functional information to the coaches.


As Stephen Smith pointed out, more data leads to more decisions but it does not necessarily lead to better decisions. There were a range of companies sponsoring the event: Catapult, POP, Omegawave, Kitman Labs, Nordbord, Sparta Science and Bruks Bars, some of which focused their various presentations on how their products can help confront this challenge of data management. Many of these companies can add value to the applied environment, as long as you know what question(s) you are trying to answer with the investment.


By Stephen Smith @stephensmith_ie Kitman Labs


Some Future Directions

“Team sports are about interactions not just actions.”


Our host Dave Tenney presented some interesting examples of analysis at the Sounders that combine physical and tactical game data. Specifically what are the physical outcomes when a particular game event takes place. For example, if the full back loses the ball what speed does he track back into position at? To me this highlighted how isolated some of our physical and tactical/systems data has become and the next step is to bring this information back together (I dare say there are many others also exploring this area).


“The strengths of one type of research are the weaknesses of the other”


I was gutted to miss the final presentation from Matt Weston to catch my flight (saving the best for last!) Matt presented on the careful balancing act between research and practice (see figure below). Despite this balancing act, Matt highlighted that it is possible to exist somewhere within a middle ground considering the relative strengths and weaknesses of each end of the continuum. This is a reminder to try to bring academic research and applied practice closer together, something we have previously discussed on Sports Discovery here:

Research & Practice: A Careful Balance by Matt Weston


“Technology is a strategic asset.”


As discussed within the challenges, technology was a major theme of the event. I’m sure that comes as no surprise. Team USA’s Director of Technology and Innovation, Mounir Zok, gave an “Apple-eque” presentation entitled Superpowers to Athletes. Following a hair raising US Olympic Team video, Mounir stated that “innovation is not optional, it is a must”. There were discussions around virtual reality and wearables the size of memory cards embedded under the skin. But despite these futuristic discussions, I appreciated the acknowledgement of the human side. He told us how Michael Phelps, his coach and his physiologist would together make a decision each morning regarding that day’s training based on how he slept and how he was feeling. If it’s good enough for Phelps…


More ‘Notes From:’

I was honoured to be asked to present at this event by Dave Tenney and would like to thank him for the opportunity to be involved. As for my own presentation, I will share some of the concepts in future blogs on Sports Discovery. Watch this space…


In the meantime, for more recent “Notes From” take a look at the following posts:


Southampton FC Sports Science Undergraduate Summit by Jonathan Woodhouse


Football Medical Association (FMA) Conference by Hamish Munro


If you would like to share your notes from an event, get in touch through the forum or our social media sites.


Jo Clubb

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3 Comments so far:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Great to read that the coach of the best swimmer in the world guide daily loads using wellness information, an approach recommended by the IOC, backed by research and that we recommend to all our clients.

  2. […] Notes From: Seattle Sounders FC Sports Science Seminar 2017 […]

  3. […] Seattle Sounders Sports Science weekend.  You can read the Notes From post all about the event here.  I was honoured to be asked to present at the event and spoke about individualising training load […]

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