GPS research helping women's soccer optimize performance

Alyssa Kopsidas high fives a teammate during match warmups.

Lynchburg, Va. -- One could say the University of Lynchburg women's soccer team knows where it's going.

Like, down to the square meter.

Several Hornets players have spent the 2018 season wearing GPS units throughout practices and matches, chips that tuck into a pocket of special sports bras which track where players go, how much effort they exert, and other data such as top speeds and time spent at specific effort thresholds.

With the help of alumni donations during Give Day last spring, Lynchburg's women's soccer coaching staff raised enough to purchase the GPS system, called GameTraka, from the Australian company Sports Performance Tracking.

The idea is to use this data to analyze how to optimize player performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Senior forward Alyssa Kopsidas (Rockville, Md.), an exercise physiology major, is incorporating the technology into her own senior research, pairing the data from the GPS units with 17 of her teammates' participating in her study.

"I'm seeing if there's a correlation between higher levels of anxiety and performance," Kopsidas said.

Those players self-report their anxiety levels right before a match (or a training session), and Kopsidas will compare that data with the GameTracka collections to see the effects of those mental states on physical performance.

Dr. Sean Collins, a Lynchburg professor of exercise physiology, serves as a faculty adviser for the studies. While no formal academic research is ongoing, Collins is helping head coach Dr. Todd Olsen and his staff interpret the data they have collected from the GPS units.

"Where the value will be is to monitor these athletes as we go through these progressions, especially with these younger players," Collins said.

Collins' role will be to help Lynchburg's staff answer three questions: "What is offseason training going to be like? What does preseason training need to look like? And what does [strength & conditioning] coach Ed Smith do with this data for offseason training?"

Answers to those questions will help Lynchburg develop a program that is, hopefully, much more free from injury and optimizes player performance on match day.

"It's not subjective anymore," Collins said. "We can start to see people who have had drop-offs in training based upon their data."

Even in the first year of the study, Kopsidas has seen a difference in the program's training strategy.

"I think Coach is more focused on rest and recovery," she said.

Something about it is working. Lynchburg is headed to the program's second-straight NCAA Division III tournament third round, when on Friday they'll play second-ranked Messiah at 5 p.m. at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va.

RELATED: Webcast: No. 17 Lynchburg vs. No. 2 Messiah, 5 p.m. Friday

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--LYN--

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