A week at work: Advanced statistics, the Jamaicans, and Gersh

With the Vancouver Whitecaps on a two-week layover from Major League Soccer action, things have finally slowed down a little at the office.

Well, kind of.

Yesterday, we announced the signing of Brazilian midfielder Tiago Ulisses — just a few days after we did the same for defender Andy O’Brien — not to mention the open practice we held on Thursday.

Anyways, my point is, with no games on the schedule (and I’m talking men’s, women’s, PDL, and residency), there’s more room for creativity and more time to pursue other interesting story ideas for whitecapsfc.com.

Personally, I’ve spent the last few days working on a feature I pitched about the club’s sports medicine and science team. I’ve always been fascinated by the inner workings of sports organizations, and as a member of the Whitecaps FC communications department, a lot of it unfolds right before my eyes.

This is one of the reasons why I was keen on featuring the sports medicine team. You don’t hear a lot about them, but the work they do deserves praise.

One of the people I interviewed for this piece was Whitecaps FC strength and conditioning coach Mike Young. He mentioned that the club uses a software called Prozone to track all sorts of player data.

In a nutshell, there are eight high-definition Prozone cameras set up in BC Place (and certain other MLS stadiums). Using time-motion analysis, Prozone tracks any possible statistic you’ve ever heard of — and ones you wouldn’t think of in a million years.

The coaching staff has their own use for it, but for Young, he’s tracking the fitness data. How fast are players running? How much are they running over the course of a game? How long do they take to rest after sprints? How often do they start and stop? And so on. Essentially, Young uses this information to determine how physically demanding any given game was on a particular player.

“If they can put forth more effort, then we try to relay that to them,” Young said. “If the game was super challenging on them, then maybe we need to back off a little bit on the training on that following day.”

As soon as Young told me he could track how fast players are running, I had to ask. Which one of the Jamaican sensations is faster? Dane Richards or Darren Mattocks.

“Dane is a little bit faster for the first 10 yards,” Young said. “He’s the fastest guy in the league I’ve seen for about 10 yards.”

In those first 10 yards, Young said Richards will hit a speed of about six metres per second.

Both Richards and Mattocks will hit about nine metres per second once they get going and Mattocks has a knack for repeating his sprints without a drop in speed.

So there you have it.

If I’ve captured your interest and you want to hear more about Prozone and how the Whitecaps use it, the Province’s Marc Weber sums it up quite nicely here.

In other news, so to speak, I spent a lot of time chatting with Ghanaian midfielder Gershon Koffie last week. We’re featuring him in an upcoming match-day program, so I won’t get into much of it here, but I will say this: the kid’s a true pro. He does all the right things off the field and he’s really driven to succeed. It’s easy to forget he’s only 20 years old.

Farhan Devji
Farhan Devji is an author, journalist, and communications professional based in Ottawa. His work has appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, the Edmonton Journal, the Vancouver Sun, and the Montreal Gazette. Contact him directly at fdevji@gmail.com.

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