Science4Football [S4F] Conference is a platform that innovative people from the world of football can use to exchange their experiences, solutions and ideas – emphasises Tomasz Zahorski, member of the Board at Legia Warszawa. – Our goal is to deepen the knowledge of the football community in the scientific context based on the practice, track record of leading individuals and entities, data and expert knowledge.
Listening to experts discussing the challenges of the physical preparation for the game during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s what we, the participants of the S4F Conference, had a chance to do. What key insights will we get from it? It’s no longer a secret! Check it out in this article.
GLOBAL PANDEMIC – HOW TO DEAL WITH COVID-19
The topics covered at the conference were wide-ranging. Still, the mainstream discussion was about the ways the representatives of the sports industry decided to take to cope with a global pandemic.
Sports clubs and federations had to instantly adapt to a new reality at the beginning of 2020. The pandemic proved which sports organisations are flexible enough to change their operations immediately in order to adjust to the external variables.
Tim Meyer, one of the speakers at the S4F Conference, was responsible for the creation of the RTP (Return To Play) football protocol first for German Bundesliga and then for UEFA European competitions during the COVID-19 pandemic. His ideas and methods were later used in many other sports disciplines.
Tim emphasised how happy he is that football managed to survive in the majority of places in the world. Nevertheless, he also pointed out that the fight is not over yet. Sports clubs and federations still should be aware of the challenges that may come soon.
One of them is protection measures that need to be taken to keep the spectators safe. Another relates to managing the physical preparation of the athletes that can’t do exercises because of the quarantine.
Łukasz Bortnik, Head of Physical Performance at Legia Warszawa, explained how the last season’s champion of Poland managed to survive during the pandemic. The physical preparation of footballers occurred to be a massive challenge due to the unexpected “calendar of lockdown”.
On the one hand, it was forbidden for the sports teams to have training together. On the other hand, all the major leagues announced that there would be a high intensity of matches just after the return from the lockdown. This explosive mixture had to be precisely analysed in order to handle it properly.
Łukasz Bortnik pictured it by quoting the Newcastle United manager, Steve Bruce, who emphasised that the “8 weeks off that the players had is probably the longest break some of these players will have in their careers”.
Legia used applications such as Zoom to be in constant contact with their players and follow their training. They also utilised it to give their footballers a chance to talk to each other and create a mentality of hard work to stay prepared for the rest of the season.
The microcycles prepared by Legia were of the highest quality. All possible parameters, such as internal or external loads on the players, were taken into account. Among other things, the oxygen power, the Borg scale and sRPE were constantly analysed.
What’s worth mentioning, Legia also managed to follow the subjective feelings of the players regarding their well-being. They achieved it by surveying their footballers every day during the lockdown. It was a pivotal method that allowed them to “stay in the game” with motivating players.
The strategy that Legia took empowered them to win two consecutive games after the return. One of the factors that led to the success of winning the Polish league championship was the culture of improving and winning.
A CULTURE OF IMPROVING AND WINNING
David Cosgrave, a Head of Physical Performance at F.C. Copenhagen, was discussing the factors influencing the “high-performance culture”. His vast experience gained in the Premier League clubs made him see the strategic view that clubs should take in order to be successful.
David explained to us a couple of essentials to build a massive brand. Once a sports club decides to set the “high-performance culture” strategy, it should define the style of the following five elements:
- Leadership should be based on clearly defined values and trust.
- Strategy should make everyone understand what the “Big Picture Goal” is.
- Culture should be defined in order to let sports organisations employ people with the right mentality and eagerness to cooperate.
- Performance Culture refers to the idea of division of everyday tasks so that the “Big Picture Goal” is reached.
- Finally, we will achieve High-Performance Culture if we invest in talented people who will be given trust and loyalty.
Similarly, as in Legia Warszawa, in F.C. Copenhagen, they also focused on making sure they’re as informed about their players’ feelings during the pandemic as possible. The crucial factor here was the trust they managed to create in the past that could be perceived as the glue making the team cooperate.
The time sacrificed on discussions about how staff can help the players remain in the high-form by the time they come back on the football pitch, paid off. The ability to create a high-performance atmosphere was easy from that point on. No surprise here – after F.C. Copenhagen returned from the lockdown, they didn’t lose in five consecutive games.
Five startups made it to the final of the 2020 edition of Science4Football & StartUp Challenge.
To me, all of them left a positive impression – emphasised Leszek Zaremba, Science4Football Startup Challenge mentor. – The exciting thing was that we had a chance to see the solutions prepared specifically for the football industry but also for other sports disciplines.
Tomasz Snazyk, a member of the jury and CEO of Startup Poland, expressed his contentment with the possibility to take part in this event. – The enthusiasm and ingenuity of some of the start-ups’ founders were impressive. Nevertheless, I had a feeling that the presentations could have been completely different if they had been held offline. Now we all need to learn new skills!
Ultimately, a company called Svexa became the winner. Silicon Valley Exercise Analytics helps in obtaining the most effective training as well as regeneration of players. The company provides athletes with an algorithm that indicates each of them personalised training information in real-time so that their performance is optimised.
Apart from Svexa, I also remember the ProgTrain presentation – said Leszek Zaremba. – The brilliant simplicity of their solution, both in terms of hardware and software, can make it widely used at various levels of games.
All participants of the StartUp Challenge agreed that the greatest value of such competitions is the exchange of information and knowledge, which contributes to the faster development of each of them.
COVID-19 made the Science4Football Conference & StartUp Challenge a unique event. The 2020 edition was unusual as it was entirely devoted to responding to the needs of the new reality in which players, staff, club managers and partners were stuck because of the pandemic – said Piotr Żmijewski, Head of Research and Development Center at Legia LAB.
Initially, the entire event was to take place in the freshly-opened Legia Training Center. – We believe that in 2021 we will all meet there – stressed Tomasz Zahorski. – Legia Training Centre is the best place to show the impact of a well-prepared and executed plan, innovative ideas, science and technology in the sports industry.
As you see, the next edition of the event is already planned. We have no doubt – as soon as the calendar of the event appears, we’ll book the dates to take part in it. We recommend you to do the same!