Schwenninger Wild Wings Take the Ice with Firstbeat: Better Training, Better Team

Success Story with Schwenninger Wild Wings, Ice Hockey

The Schwenninger Wild Wings, founded in 1904, are a professional ice-hockey team competing in Germany’s top league, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. During the off-season the Wild Wings started using Firstbeat Sports Team monitoring system to evaluate training and guide player development. With the 2015-16 season now underway, we caught up with Petteri Väkiparta, a member of the team’s training staff, to see how things were going.

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Schwenningen’s Ashton Rome (44) defends the puck against Munich’s Matt Smaby (27) and Mads Christensen (12).

For Petteri Väkiparta, incorporating Firstbeat Sports Team Plus monitoring system was easy. In part, this was because he was already quite familiar with the system from his work with the Espoo Blues in his native Finland. This earlier work taught him how important monitoring and analytics can be when working with players. “It is really good because we can really see how players are doing during the practice, and it helps us to plan the next week,” he says. The system also helps monitor the progress of players returning from injury.

During Wild Wings’ practice sessions the Firstbeat Sports Team receiver is set up on the official’s bench. The device has a 200m range which allows the entire ice surface to be monitored during training sessions. Each member of the Wild Wings wears a monitoring belt during all the team’s practices and games. According to Petteri, this comprehensive approach is important because it allows players to see what is really going inside their body. “[This is how we] help them to get better as an athlete and as a hockey player.”

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The receiver’s extended range also allows monitoring of the team’s supplemental outdoor training which includes track and field type activities. He jokes that while the device range is good, it can’t quite follow players during a 5km run. He continues by pointing out that data stored in the belt’s memory is downloaded from the device after such a run making post-run evaluations possible even when out of range of the receiver.

As experience with the Firstbeat Sports monitoring system grows, the players themselves have taken a deeper interest in the feedback. These days when a player has a weird feeling before or during a game, they’ll come over and ask about their heart rates to see how they are doing. “Then we come, and see and talk about it. And that gives them more understanding about what happens.” Going forward, Petteri envisions a point where players are even more interested in the data than he is as a coach. Players see their bodies as tools and this helps them understand what happens inside, so it is quite natural for them to be interested.

According to Petteri, the Firstbeat Sports Team system doesn’t just help players improve. It can also help coaches become better at their own work. “We see [the data] everyday, how they are doing.” Examining these reports over time helps coaches develop the team’s practices and drills. “Maybe you need to do it a little longer, or a little shorter, or talk less.” With the Firstbeat Sports Team system the length and content of training can be modified based on data and analytics which place coaching decisions on solid ground.

Since the system is used during every training and game, ease-of-use and data accessibility are particularly important issues for the Wild Wings’ coaching staff. In these critical areas, Petteri reports that the Firstbeat Sports system passes with flying colours. “It’s pretty easy and simple to work with and there is no time gap, because it goes straight to the computer, so you don’t need to download it… some systems you need to download it and you need extra time then.” The advantages of the system are clear to him: the data is accessible and saved on the computer right after the training.

Thanks Schwenninger Wild Wings for being a Firstbeat partner and sharing your insights of using our Firstbeat Sports System!

Images: Schwenninger Wild Wings

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