TECH

Aussie Schools Adopt Same Sports Technology As Pro-Athletes

Teachers have already reported a mark improvement in students' motivation and interest in their fitness.

11/10/2017 7:43 PM AEDT | Updated 11/10/2017 7:50 PM AEDT
Supplied
The device looks simple but the results come with in-depth performance analyses.

Australian schools are adopting GPS-based sports science technology currently used by professional athletes to increase students' knowledge of their own performances and overall motivation for physical activity.

GameTraka, a wearable GPS unit designed by sporting software developer Sports Performance Tracking (SPT), is currently being used by more than 30 schools around the country as a learning tool for the classroom and allows for students to analyse their own workouts and performances.

The unit pack -- which comes with the GPS hardware, a torso vest and access to online SPT software -- tracks the running distances, top speeds, heat maps and intensity of a person during a sporting match and allows them to analyse post-match data and compare it to other people, making it useful in custom designing training regimes and avoiding injury due to excessive fatigue.

Supplied
You simply pop this device into your vest, play in a sporting match and the rest is done for you.

Swan Hill College, which is based just south of the Victoria-New South Wales border, is one of those schools currently using the technology to get students interested in their own physical activity.

Whitney Kennedy, the head of the physical education and health department at Swan Hill, told HuffPost Australia the GameTraka device has seen a boost to students' motivation towards sport and lets them compare their own exercise to the elite results of professional athletes.

"[Students] do like to compare their data to that of professional athletes so they can develop an appreciation for just how good some athletes are," she said.

"I would say that there's also definitely been a significant improvement in motivation levels to learn about how GPS devices can be used in sport to prepare, train, and prevent injuries.

"It creates a bigger scope for our learning and it's raised their awareness for the fact that this is the way that sport is going and this is what we can achieve by using this device and in the future, this is how the device might change so that we can apply it to different sports."

Supplied
The data analysis of performances lets students see where and how they were pushed physically, so they can improve in the future.

She also said that many of the students from the Swan Hill area "live and breathe their sport" and the device supports teachers to prepare students for their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) studies while also placing a focus on improving sporting results.

"It is really important in terms of the development of our kids that we stay up to date with current trends and things that are happening within the sport and recreation industry," she said.

"We try and adopt those sorts of concepts in schools so that when [students] move into careers... they're not unfamiliar with some of these concepts that are being brought into the industry.

"We have a couple of classes that prepare our students for VCE in Years 11 and 12 in teaching things like energy systems and training methods and principles -- the data that we have received from those devices assists in that and makes it easier for those kids who learn in different ways to understand those sorts of concepts."

And according to SPT's community manager, Mack Rivett, it's this technology that allows for anyone from young people to adults who consider themselves a grassroots, amateur or semi-professional sports person to engage with their own physical development.

"Kids will go out and play a game and, through the GPS with GameTraka, they can see which energy systems are being used the most and can see all these things and then can create training programs that would best suit for certain sports," he told HuffPost Australia.

"Kids will want to take it away to their games and use it for that competitive side and see how far they're actually running but at the same time, kids who want to develop a background in sports science or a more professional sporting arena can be more inclined to monitor their progress because they can see the benefits from it.

"It puts a bit of ownership on the kids as well -- they can really start to develop and keep tabs on their own personal development and health. We've seen this technology is really helping kids keep that competitive edge."

Despite this Rivett also said that, while there are parents that might push their children too hard, too early when it comes to sporting performances, that has not been an issue so far and the learning benefits of GameTraka outweigh the negatives.

"Anywhere you go there's going to be competitive parents. I think that's just going to be a given factor -- you get those parents most weekends," he said.

"[But] you're only going to be kidding yourself if you're trying to guess what muscles you're using, what distances you've run, what speed zones you've hit -- you need facts behind what you're trying to say.

"It needs to become part of the actual [schooling] curriculum because at the moment, people are writing down movement patterns. Now with our heat map and GPS technology, they can use these stats they've recorded themselves and use it as part of their school units."

As for Kennedy, she told HuffPost Australia the GPS technology is a sign of "the way that PE (physical education) is going with sports analysis" and that she can see it becoming a mainstream part of Australian students' learning.

"With these GPS devices, there is a lot more that you can access. Moving forward, it's the way that PE is going with sports analysis, training principles and training programs and injury prevention," she said.

"There's so many more injuries with younger people now that schools are going to want to know what that means for training loads and those sorts of things.

"There's no question moving forward that it won't be used within classrooms -- not when the data is readily available to us."

More On This Topic