There have been massive changes to the game of soccer over the last few years. Perhaps greatest among them is the advancements in technology and implementation of sports science, and Sounders FC has remained on the cutting edge in that field. Last weekend, Seattle Manager of Performance and Sports Science Dave Tenney hosted the Sports Science Weekend, with 125 attendees learning their craft from experts from around the world.
This year, Tenney not only had presenters and attendees from as far as Australia, Holland, England, Slovenia and Ireland, but also a wide-ranging background with representatives from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, as well as some of the top American collegiate programs and representatives for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
"I think it was the best group of presenters we've had," Tenney said. "While there are a lot of good people doing good work in sports science in soccer, there are a lot of bright people outside the sport of soccer that we can pick up a lot from."
In the off-season, Tenney has traveled far and wide to glean what he can from some of the top clubs in the world. Each year, he also has invited some of those people to Seattle to share their ideas and see areas that people in his field can improve.
One of the highlights for Tenney was an appearance from U.S. Ski Lab Manager Chad Gerhard.
"What U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association is doing from a sports science standpoint might be at the top of the heap in the U.S. right now, so there's a lot to learn about what their approach is," Tenney said.
Among the visitors this year was FC Utrecht Exercise Physiologist Pim Koolwijk. Tenney had been to Utrecht before to observe Koolwijk's work, but this was the first return trip for Koolwijk and he was impressed with what he saw and learned in the process.
"The quality and variety was really great. Being together with a lot of colleagues, it's great to learn that they are all facing the same problems and difficulties," Koolwijk said. "The North American view of the fitness areas is quite high compared to Europe. I think we can learn a lot about the strength and conditioning and sports science stuff here. It was three great days with people from all over the world. It's good to be together here."
Sounders FC measures elements such as heart rate, exertion and sleep patterns with the players on a daily basis. After holding weekend programs like the one in Seattle last week, Tenney and his staff can learn how to better implement the data they retrieve and how best to convey that data to the coaches.
"We're trying to find like-minded people that want to learn and are cutting edge. There is an integration of strength in the weight room translating to strength on the field," Tenney said. "We have the tools to understand that integration and we are able to pass that on to our coaches in a clearer picture to help them make more informed decisions."
Seattle has seen the benefits of that research and Head Coach Sigi Schmid is quick to point out the advantages of having a mind like Tenney's on his staff. Schmid is in his sixth year coaching Sounders FC and 15th in Major League Soccer, all after 20 seasons at UCLA. His 197 career MLS victories rank first on the all-time list, with LA Galaxy's Bruce Arena second with 163 wins. He has three College Cups, four U.S. Open Cups, two MLS Cups and two Supporters' Shields to his credit, but still he vies to stay up-to-date on the latest coaching advancements.
"As a coach, no matter what your age is and how long you've been doing it, you have to move with the times," Schmid said. "For us, it's an important part of what we're doing. I think it's helped us in terms of managing our players."
The Sports Science Weekend has tripled in size since starting in 2012, with ongoing plans to expand each year.