[Guest Article] Moneyball Madness by Carl Valle

[Guest Article] Moneyball Madness by Carl Valle

Moneyball Madness

by Carl Valle


“IMA, Inertial Movement Analysis, will triple theamount of basketball relevant data… that kindof tool is going to make a real difference.”

-Catapult Sports

Data is now the new currency for medical and performance staff, and the real question is – are we really doing what we think we are?  As the social media landscape paints a distorted view of reality, the hard truth is where are we now before we ask where are we going. Like any honest reflection, it’s better to look back years before Moneyball and ask if we are being truthful with what we are doing now first before adding more responsibility of training and medical data. Every week a new online article or interview of a sports team creates a facade of utopian training environments and medical staff that are brighter than Dr. Gregory House. If we are to truly evolve, the most important starting process is creating transparency with what is happening at this moment. Before we can start claiming to create proprietary metrics and innovative algorithms, are we doing a good job with the basics? With pop culture clamoring for kindle or iPad versions of the Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, we should likely be reading how the muscular system signals adaptation before thinking outside the box and being cute.  Global warming and predicting who the next president is going to be is brain candy for professionals, but we must master the core concepts of what we are responsible for directly before expanding to other fields for radical solutions.


 I would argue the real problem with data is not the data itself, it’s who is filtering the information and retelling the story of what is happening. It’s far more interesting to talk about the left ventricle and hypertrophy with “cardiac” output rather than share the pains of soccer players having an allergy to iron and avoid the weight room.  Even if one was increasing thickness of the heart, how much is going to really change with a professional athlete that is 30 years old? Now that the GPS craze is a pandemic in the US with every team lined up to get a catapult system, how many of the teams are doing the basics well, such as making sure full range pull-ups are enforced, running through the line during conditioning runs, and doing warm-ups with a purpose? Of course all of us are not having problems with athletes eating poorly and not stretching with gusto, it’s just the other teams that are not doing it right.

When the basics become boring, training must be reinvented or bastardized with new equipment and rather boarderline methods. Professional teams are buying 30,000  dollar force plates but for what reason? Half the time most teams are on the road and barely any of them are training besides foam rolling and clamshells exercises to activate glutes that sleepy . Speaking of shells, the professional has become a  shell game or gypsy ploy of equipment and methodologies to hide from the inconvenient truth with working with athletes. Sometimes they act human and don’t do things we want them to do. Athletes are not race horses. Everyone is afraid of being the fall guy for injuries, teams are training like senior citizen “Sliver Sneakers” programs to avoid getting hurt. Yet most the injuries at the pro level are from being out of shape and weak from forgetting what got them there. Ironically several professional teams claim to have force plates to “crack the code” with movement patterns but injuries are not decreasing. The display of power by large purchases comes with the demands of keeping athletes healthy and performing, and looking at the physioroom updates online , hamstrings still get pulled.  No matter if the team is using  individualized thresholds with IBM smarter planet software or teams cracking the gode with special ratios of acceleration and deceleration during practice, people are still tearing ACLs.


Put the “Big Rocks” first – back to the basics


Much of the innovation is crippled now because every start-up company  wants the minimum viable product (MVP) to pitch funding to investors, not sell an actual product to teams looking for real tools and solutions. With coaches wanting to appear like they are doing something or ahead of the curve, they just “thin slice” a brief pilot study to create an illusion of evidence based approaches. Add in some nice data visualization practices and now everyone is getting subjective ratings, sleep data, and recovery profiles with their team. Of course this is only one week out of the year, as everything looses it’s luster and the next big thing comes along.The real question is how much daily data teams are really getting that is meaningful. Random practices that are prepared for only tactical purposes collect heart rate data then summarize players with “technicolor dream coat ” palettes with magical zones. The problem is that interventions should be good leg training, but somehow mutate to  TRX rows and breathing exercises versus finding more collaborative ways to work with team coaches so something is left to train the lower body. The only vocal complaints about products are the small minority  of people who train or collect data for extended time periods but are party poppers because they share the limits with the real world. With the next biomarker being tweeted by the gurus, the problem repeats with glorious failure, especially when players have season ending injuries making us wonder how the movement screen or core stability DVD is working.

I am a physical preparation coach from Belgrade, Serbia, grew up in Pula, Croatia (which I consider my home town). I was involved in physical preparation of professional, amateur and recreational athletes of various ages in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, martial arts and tennis. Read More »