Kuba Samel is the only coach in Poland who makes a living from american football, the first native who won the championship in 10 years – and in addition – without losing any match in his first year as head coach. This season, he will lead Panthers Wrocław in the European League of Football, a new international project that brings together the strongest teams on the continent. This means a higher level, greater challenges and requirements, especially in terms of physics.
You will play your first game in the EFL on June 19. What is your attitude towards it?
We feel that it will be a very intense and demanding season, but we believe that it will allow us to develop. It’s hard to say whether the level of the game will be higher, because all these teams are unknown to us. We do not know what level they will represent, but we expect very tough competition.
And what role will physical preparation play?
The whole strength and conditioning aspect of preparation will be extremely important this year, because not only we will face a tougher competition, but we will play on ELF rules, so the game will be longer, we will play a 50-minute quarter. That’s why our players put in extra work this year in the gym and get ready for all these aspects.
How exactly did you prepare?
At the beginning of the preparatory period our guys mainly focused on gym work and building endurance, strength and speed. Then we focused on the technique, preparation on the field and at the end putting all of it together with the complete product in June.
That is why you decided to introduce GPS monitoring?
First time I saw in practice using a GPS system to monitor players was in the United States in a college program of football players. That was the first time I saw it, and I saw the extreme benefits of it. When we came to Wroclaw and we saw the opportunity to cooperate with a Wroclaw company Sonda Sports here and to recreate that professional environment, it was extremely important for us to give that to our players and the coaching staff.
What are its greatest benefits?
The biggest advantages when you work with GPS monitoring – you can see athletes in real life and also after practice. You can monitor a lot of data, so you can really focus on stuff that is very important for your athletes, depending on how many acceleration they did, how much distance they covered. All the stuff that is not easy for us to measure with real time or even just filming them with a local camera.
How does it work in practice?
When you take the GPS data, you can watch all the players, what they do and you can see exactly what they’re doing in practice, you can see if the practice program’s correct. Are the guys getting enough work, are they covering enough, are they hitting the max speed. If not, you as a coach can see that and you should correct your practice. Every day we use Sonda Sports to look at our athletes and also for injury prevention. We can see who is overtraining and undertraining, so we can get some very good results, especially in the preseason but also in season.
The physical effort in football is very diverse – strength must go hand in hand with speed, endurance and excellent physical preparation. Which aspects are most relevant to you?
The whole aspect of strength and conditioning for American Football is extremely important. We must be not only fast but also have strength on the line of scrimmage especially when we do with our lineman that use their brute strength to move opponents on line of scrimmage or to get pass and get to the quarterback. So, overall, this is an extremely important part of our preparation for the season. Our athletes spend a lot of time in the gym, especially before we start our preparation for the season.
And what’s your goal?
For us, the biggest factor is explosive movement. The whole game of american football is a collection of explosive movements, because one play is between 4-6 seconds, that’s our number one goal. So everything that helps our athletes be more explosive – that’s our goals.
What about the other parameters?
Unfortunately, because we don’t have a large coaching staff as in the United States, we focus on some essential parameters that are important for us to monitor the players, like I said before, to look if they are undertraining or overtraining. One of the key components that we look at is max speed, the speed in sprint, the distance they cover, so thanks to that we can see how much they do in practice, is it an efficient practice and how much they do in games.
You have been using GPS tracking for almost a year. What conclusions did you manage to draw?
After using the Sonda system for the full season, we can see some things that we are only thinking about. Now we have data that proves what we were thinking. One of the main things that I can say we saw was that it’s extremely hard to recreate the game speed in practice. We saw a difference between the max speed, the sprint distance that players did during the games compared to practices. So, thanks to that we can also show the players how important it is to get as close to their max speed as possible. Because the less difference we had in between those parameters the better they perform in game.
And how do the players approach it?
When we introduce the system to our players, they are very competitive athletes. So, every time we showed that data that we presented after each practice, they compared to each other and they were competing to be the fastest, to do the most work, cover the most distance, all of those components were acting as extra motivation to our players. They really wanted that, and that was an extra benefit we had using the Sonda Sports system. So, using the data that we can collect through the Sonda Sports system, it is extremely important in coaching and working with players. We can show them what their area of improvement is, we can monitor them, we can watch if they are understanding or overtraining, so it is also extremely important for injury prevention.