Soccer GPS trackers are common in the Premier League and they are increasingly being used for assessing team performance at grassroots.
The significant advantage of a GPS system is that the performance data relates to each player. Total distance, tactical positioning or sprint distance of a soccer player are available to help a head coach with training advice.
Once you have accurate data captured by wearing a GPS tracker vest then players can push to improve performance.
Increased fitness, stamina, tactical awareness and injury prevention are all possible, based on the metrics from GPS trackers. Football players can work towards exceeding personal bests as the squad gets fitter and stronger.
In this guide, we’ll explain what GPS trackers do and how to use them for training sessions and football matches to get live data that give valuable insights.
What is a GPS in football?
Global Positioning System (GPS) is technology already found in our cars, phones and consumer fitness devices.
It works by wearing a GPS tracker that receives a signal from a GPS satellite orbiting planet earth. Pretty cool when you think about it.
This determines your accurate current location and can track your movement, speed and other measurements.
Its use for soccer players is helping clubs transform pitch performance.
Metrics like top speed, heart rate, intensity in training and matches can be ‘benchmarked’ for a base reading before you aim to boost the levels reached.
By finding out how fast a centre-forward can sprint, how much your left-back covers or where your right-wing spent the second half, football coaches can customise training sessions.
Looking after player fitness and conditioning is a key benefit of soccer gps trackers. We’ll dive into how that works later but volume of exercise and how strenuous each session is can be easily viewed.
In turn, this live data can be the basis of how individual players train in future to keep them healthy and performing at their best.
A player GPS tracker is no longer just for pro teams, with the costs of the equipment and software licence more affordable than they used to be.
With PitcheroPGS, our Team Bundle has GPS trackers and GPS vests for 20 players. It includes a protective case that charges the trackers in less than 60 minutes, a tablet for coaches and a two-year software subscription.
How are football players tracked?
A GPS tracker is a small device worn by a football player in a GPS vest. It sits in a small pocket between the shoulder blades and doesn’t affect movement.
The tracker stores all kinds of performance data that can be downloaded for analysis by soccer coaches later.
- Total distance covered
- Total active time
- Top speed
- High speed running
- Positioning Heatmaps
A PitcheroGPS tracker weighs just 37g and has a 100Hz accelerometer that captures all movements. It can be charged in 60 minutes and has unlimited storage as well as being water-resistant.
A GPS tracker football coaches use regularly will always be useful for measuring distance. You can assess stamina, recovery and fatigue with a combination of GPS metrics - but kilometres in the legs is fundamental.
Put simply, longer distances can be tracked for soccer players to complement shorter sprint work and other aerobic alternatives.
Football coaches might blend types of running or exercise across a week but GPS trackers will be able to tell who can keep going the longest.
Tracking total distance isn’t just about long runs but also managing workloads. That can be in terms of the session intensity and elevated heart rates but also weighing up how many kilometres are being covered across a time period.
Total Active Time
Total active time helps coaches know the length of training sessions or matches. It’s more useful when building up GPS data over time for benchmarking purposes and seeing how heavy or light training has been.
This is interpreted as how long a soccer player is exercising for. Allied with the GPS metric called ‘high speed running’ (see below), coaches can tailor exercise for individual players or groups.
Is your winger in danger of burnout after a spike in training? Has your full-back had the right amount of training after her ankle injury?
GPS in football gives personalised, real-time data that will add a dimension to how your players train and what edge they can gain in matches.
Who are the fastest players in your football team? A GPS tracker can settle that debate - but also ensures friendly competition across squads.
This isn’t a vanity metric either. Speed matters.
It’s the difference between a goal-saving tackle or beating that last man to get a shot in. Top speed data will also help define which players suit which positions and what tactics are used.
Talking to clubs using PitcheroGPS tells us that football players want to find out their GPS stats and how they match up against others in the squad.
There’s that competitive element but at the same time, it pushes everyone to improve for themselves and the team.
High speed running
Knowing ‘high speed running’ will monitor a football squad’s variety and intensity of exercise during a training session or a game.
With PitcheroGPS, you can easily see stats for standing, walking, jogging or sprinting, plus the amount of time spent doing each.
It demonstrates how productive sessions can be and what time is spent standing around rather than raising the heart rate.
Football coaches can choose ‘custom speed zones’ for their players to track the levels of intensity and for how long. These can be customised to match the current fitness and potential gains in future.
With all of these tracking metrics for athletes of any sport, there’s the physical conditioning versus recovery equation.
That’s to get the best performances when it matters in competitions but also to avoid injuries.
Default speed zones are below (in kilometres per hour)
- Walking is <6 kmph
- Jogging is 6-12 kmph
- Running is 12-18 kmph
- Sprinting is >18 kmph
Accelerations / decelerations
By now, you should be able to answer the question: Why do football players wear GPS? It’s not one piece of analysis but the ability to read GPS metrics that complement each other.
How far and fast does a football player move? How active are they during training? What level of exertion or intensity is reached and for how long?
Which brings us to accelerations and decelerations.
To boost a football team’s performance, how players speed up and slow down over short distances can be benchmarked too.
Measuring this will identify a base reading for every football player wearing their GPS vest. Once a coach knows how a centre-forward or right-back accelerates or decelerates then that can be worked on in practice.
Football can be a stop-start sport with free kicks, corners and throw-ins. These breaks in play offer incremental opportunities to improve how you speed off to create space for a pass or stretch for a tackle.
By measuring movement in this way, all players can get better at how they start over the first few seconds or slow down to change direction and turn.
It can also be taken into account when watching player fatigue and injury risk or how they return to competitive action.
With PitcheroGPS, the threshold for accelerations and decelerations is set in advance (metres per second squared m/s²). This can be adjusted for future training.
Wearing their GPS vests, footballers are then recorded how often they go over that figure (accelerations) or go below it (decelerations).
In football, there are huge benefits to knowing where your players spend their time during a training session or a match.
This is where the GPS tracker in the vest comes into its own.
Tactics are all well and good - but are your players in the right areas of the field at the right time?
The positioning heatmaps will show dark red areas for a higher concentration of time in that part of the field with lighter green or no colour to signify the opposite.
It gives an overview that coaches can use to inform players and set up training to address any weaknesses or strengths.
Did your centre-half spend most of the semi-final in the final third? Are both wingers being tied up in midfield?
We all learn in various ways too and sometimes seeing a visual representation (heatmap) is an easier way to get a point across than describing a tactical situation.
Stopping injuries from occurring in the first place due to over-training or a player's comeback post-injury are two more ways a GPS tracker can make a difference.
Wearing a GPS vest tells a football club’s support team exactly how much a player is doing and the levels attained.
PitcheroGPS can also highlight to a football coach the number of ‘impacts’. With football being an impact-heavy sport in terms of tackles or a heavy landing, measuring this is important.
You can view the number of ‘impacts’ a player had in any training session or match. This can be used to adapt future training and manage player workload.
Injuries will always happen, particularly with contact sports like football, but coaches can lessen their likelihood.
Many things come together to produce results and success - but you need your best players fit and firing for as long as possible.
How PitcheroGPS can help your football team
Sports clubs, like Cambridge RFU, are using PitcheroGPS to understand their playing squad better now and in future.
You might be asking yourself: ‘Which is the best GPS tracker for football? The answer lies in the features, price and feedback from clubs. The superior product is one that combines all of these.
Our GPS system has been rigorously trialled and tested. Pitchero understands the demands of grassroots sport as well as any company. That’s why our GPS web app is easy to use and understand for coaches and players.
No confusion and absolute pinpoint accuracy.
Cameron Wilson is the Strength and Conditioning Coach of West Bromwich Albion Women’s FC. His feedback was: ‘The PitcheroGPS system is brilliant. It’s one that us, as coaches, understand really well. The players understand it well too. It uploads really quickly, it’s easy, it’s a really good system to use.’
The PitcheroGPS Team Bundle includes:
- 20 x GPS Player Trackers
- 20 x Player Vests
- 1 x Coach Tablet
- 1 x Charging Case
- 1 x 2-yr Software Subscription
Request Your PitcheroGPS Demo
Just get in touch if your football club, academy, school, college or university wants to have a demo of PitcheroGPS and all of its features.