Sparta Science turns wearable data into training strategy for athletes, teams
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Today trainers and athletes have the ability to collect huge amounts of data variables via new wearable and fitness tracking technologies. At Sparta Science, their primary objective is to translate that data into something useable.
“We’re focused on depth, not width,” said Mike Hoffmann, a former strength coach who does business development at Sparta. “The whole goal of sports science is to help sports practitioners save time. Not collect more data points.”
Sparta is a two-piece program that pairs data collected from a force plate with a comprehensive software program, SpartaTrac, that allows trainers and coaches to turn that data into something actionable.
“Rather than saying here’s a hundred different data points you can get from the force plate, we’ve found what we think are the most reliable and valid and then started diving deeper,” Hoffmann said.
In addition to training athletes at their Menlo Park, California, facility, several professional, NCAA and international teams use Sparta remotely. On the professional side, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers as well as four MLB and NFL teams use the system. Berkeley, Wake Forest and Arkansas are a few that represent Sparta in the NCAA.
As evidenced by the variety of teams using Sparta, the system does not represent one coaching ideology. Instead, it is a tool that allows coaches and trainers to use the data in a way that reflects their respective team’s culture.
“We continue to find and refine statistical evidence based principles on what type of plans have the greatest effects, but ultimately the software is the blood machine and each different organization is a different hospital and is going to prescribe what they believe in,” Hoffmann said.
Ryan Horn, director of athletic performance for men’s basketball at Wake Forest, said Sparta helped the staff make training more efficient.
“I think it provided us with almost an immediate impact not only for our student athletes to see where they were but also as a coaching staff to see what things, not could we really add, but what things could we take away and really streamline an athlete’s program and really value their time,” Horn said.
At Wake Forest, Horn says they use the force plate to test athletes every seven to ten days during the season. They’re focused on the “load, explode and drive” variables the force plate yields that give insight into strength, acceleration and injury risk.
Users can choose what extra data they want to enter into their SpartaTrac hub. In combination with the force plate data, Horn says they use the Catapult wearable system in conjunction with wellness questionnaires and subjective information to add even more depth to their use of Sparta.
“It gives us one place to go to really look at a snapshot of what our athletes are going through, what their current state is,” Horn said. “A big thing for me is to have a rich and robust database as far as being able to compare our student athletes to other athletes.”
Hoffmann said Sparta is the only company that pairs force plate technology with seven years of data that give them the ability to compare athletes and gain insight.
“Well, what we try to leverage is all the injury data and workout data, External Load/Internal Load monitoring wearables, Regen (sleep, nutrition, etc.), from all our partners and aggregate those anonymously so people can take advantage of volumes they can’t get themselves,” Hoffmann said. “If someone started now, they’d be about 20 miles behind on the marathon.”
Ultimately, Horn said Sparta allows his student athletes to engage and become invested in their own success. He said that their health and wellness is at the forefront of the Wake Forest training program.
“You need to invest in your success,” Horn said. “This is way bigger than basketball, it’s way bigger than just athletics, it’s way bigger than just strength and conditioning. These are life skills and these guys learn how their bodies perform and what they need to do to make sure their bodies are optimized.”
As far as going forward, Hoffmann noted Sparta’s goals.
“One goal is just helping elevate and validate good strength and conditioning and athletic training practices,” Hoffmann said. “All of us at Sparta have all been former former athletes, former coaches or former trainers that want to validate good practices and relate it back to medicine.”