Note: This is a continuation of information from part 1 (read it first if you haven’t yet).
We have had a very successful run of using Google Forms for athlete monitoring so far. The total fill-out time seems to run about 2 minutes, not including quiet sitting for some of stuff we test. We are also able to get some fairly useful information out of it that has helped us to stay on top of how the athletes are handling training (plus school and life) stresses.
Here is what we ask about:
- Resting blood pressure
- Sleep length
- Sleep Quality
- Motivation to train
- Soreness Location
- Diet normality
- Recovery methods used
- Current Injury (each side of the body)
- Indication of location of any NEW injury
Each of these variables gives us a general picture of how they are doing. Any of these in isolation (with the exception of the injury questions), is not terribly useful. However, in aggregate, can give a great view of the status of a particular athlete.
For example, if we notice that an athlete is reporting higher fatigue than normal, hasn’t been sleeping well, shows a lower than normal cheerfulness, and has a low motivation to train, it is a great indicator that we need to chat with them! Having a good relationship with your athletes is a good way to pick up on some of these things, but you can’t always catch them, especially if you’re busy, or you have a high number of athletes. However, an objective measure is a great way to get a handle on how an athlete is doing.
An important thing to mention is that whenever possible, you should talk to the athlete before making a judgement- did they get in a fight with their significant other? That could easily explain not sleeping well, and not being cheerful (which might result in higher fatigue & motivation to train). Did they have a really rough test that morning? You have to get the story and add context to what you find.
You also need to take into consideration what “normal” is for the athlete. Do you have somebody that consistently sleeps 9 hours each night? If so, then a night of 6 hours might be out of the ordinary. Do you have an athlete that is the nervous or timid type? They might report a high nervousness on a regular basis, while your more relaxed athletes do the opposite. No one variable in an athlete monitoring survey like this can tell you everything you need to know. You always need context to interpret this correctly.
In the same way that any one variable (again, not including the injury questions) is not enough to “diagnose” a potential problem with your athlete, neither is a single day of reporting enough to make large changes to training (although it could be, depending on your conversation and feeling about athlete- make a judgement call!). Where you want to start being careful is when you see consistent trends of alarming numbers.
Here is an example:
You have a normally easy-going, very cheerful athlete, who typically sleeps 7 hours per night, has a resting heart rate of around 70 BPM, blood pressure of about 120/80. For 4 out of the last 5 days, they have reported feeling tired, nervous, frustrated, sleeping 5 hours per night, resting HR of >80 BPM, and BP of >140/90. This is a situation where you want to intervene and figure out what is going on.
Context matters here too!
Are you at the end of a 5 day tournament? Of course they are going to be strung out! Are you at the end of an overreaching week? This is probably going to happen!
However, if you are in a phase of moderately hard training, and most everybody else is responding well, then maybe you have a problem.
These questions should be fairly self-explanatory as to their benefit, but we have them broken up in a certain way for a reason. First, we want to see when something is no longer “injured” (but again, when something disappears from the spreadsheet, you should ask the athlete about it, or if possible, the athletic trainer). Secondly, you really want to find out when something new crops up. Athletes are not always going to tell you about injuries or “tweaks” when they happen. In an ideal world, they would, but sometimes they forget, or don’t really want you to know. Whatever the reason you don’t hear about the new problem, it is really helpful to have a system of “checks and balances” (just like having the athletic trainer to ask too!) to help make sure you have the whole picture.
In all, Google Forms has given us a great tool for athlete monitoring. Hopefully, all of this information gives us an improved ability to make better training decisions. I hope that you take it upon yourself to try out a system like Google forms to collect data or a pre-packaged system like Sportably. If you’re sufficiently lost on how to set this all up, I’ll be making another post in a few weeks on how to do just that. Stay tuned.