Blog Sports

Managing the Madness: How the University of Miami Prepares Its Players to Peak During the NCAA Tournament

For the first time ever, the University of Miami has reached the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. One of their critical success factors: KINEXON’s player tracking data which helped the Hurricanes’ coaching staff to prepare their athletes for March Madness. Tommy Otley, Physical Therapist & Sports Scientist for the University of Miami’s Women’s & Men’s Basketball program, explains the Hurricanes’ approach to promote athlete performance and provides valuable insights into training programming for college basketball athletes.

Miami University Player Tracking NCAA March Madness

Communication is key. The information must be provided in a clear and efficient way that is understood by the respective coaches. If coaches understand the importance of modulating volume, intensity, frequency, and duration factors in on-court training it’s a lot easier to speak to where we stand from a metric perspective.

Tommy Otley, Physical Therapist & Sport Scientist, Women’s & Men’s Basketball, University of Miami

Author: Philipp Lienemann

Miami’s Path to the Final Four

The common denominator for Miami’s success in the tournament has been their ability to change gears in the last third of the game – outworking, outpacing, and outshooting their respective opponents when it mattered the most. 

In the first round against the Drake Bulldogs, the Hurricanes switched to a full-court press to turn around the game in the last five minutes. The Indiana Hoosiers were outrebounded by Miami, led by an incredible performance of Norchad Omier (17 Rebounds!) who made his presence felt on both ends of the floor. 

In the Sweet 16, midway through the 2nd half of the game against the Houston Cougars, Miami turned up the heat with an 11 – 0 run and continued to make important stops on the defensive end from which the Cougars couldn’t recover. 

Similarly, the Texas Longhorns were already leading by 12 points midway through the 2nd half, but still fell short of closing out the game. Instead, the Hurricanes embarked on a 23 – 7 run led by man-of-the-match Jordan Miller (27 PTS, 7/7 FG, 13/13 FT) to turn around the game once again. 

They finished the game with an incredible shooting performance of 59.2% from the field but an even more important 87,5% (28÷32) from the free-throw line of which they made 1314 in the last 4 minutes of the game. The Miami Hurricanes kept their calm and performed at their best when it mattered the most.

Confidence in Your Own Body for Peak Performance at the End of a Game

To be able to do so in the final moments of the game, athletes need to rely on their ability to perform at a high level while tolerating increasing levels fatigue. It is the athletes’ resilience to a variety of external stress factors, physically & mentally that can make all the difference.

At the University of Miami, Tommy Otley – who also participated in a recent KINEXON webinar From Insights to Action: Leveraging Data to Improve Load Management“ – is part of a team determined to prepare athletes to peak at the right moment.

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The Role of Tommy, Sports Science and Player Tracking at University of Miami

Playing a crucial part in both, the women’s, and men’s training programming, one of Otley’s tasks is particularly important: providing the Hurricanes’ coaches and sports medicine staff with actionable insights based on KINEXON’s player tacking data to help make informed decisions. 

In our Q&A, he explains the benefits of athlete monitoring data, how KINEXON supports the planning process of adequate training programming and how he and his team make sure every athlete can perform at their optimum.

Tommy Otley, Physical Therapist & Sport Scientist for the University of Miami's Women's & Men's Basketball program

Tommy, what is a major benefit of data for your team’s training approach?
It helps us maintain a level of objectivity and contributes to having a shared language despite our differences in background and professional education tracks.

With many people contributing to training plans, how do you build common ground?
Communication is key. The information must be provided in a clear and efficient way that is understood by the respective coaches. Plus, how we plan to use the data must fit our system and goals. If coaches understand the importance of modulating volume, intensity, frequency, and duration factors in on-court training it’s a lot easier to speak to where we stand from a metric perspective.

Where does KINEXON fit in?
We use KINEXON’s PERFORM IMU in both a feedforward and feedback approach. We discuss the plan for on-court exposure before each week. Then, we use the data to quantify what the exposure looks like throughout the week compared to our plan and adjust accordingly.
KINEXON’s performance data also complements our other athlete monitoring techniques such as force plate jump testing to further determine how we can optimize our athletes’ performance. It’s all about how we optimize readiness around our on-court exposure and weight room training to be best prepared for competition.

Can you share some insights on the planning process of your training programming?
A systematic approach in communicating with the stakeholders who make decisions is key. It is important that everyone shares the same vision of how to integrate and make adjustments. Now that we have historical reference data from our non-conference and conference schedules, we have a good idea of what typical weekly ranges for different metrics look like for our team as well as individual players.
When we have a competition-dense week coming up, we discuss this in our meeting and give straight forward feedback as to what types of practices we should plan to have around the competition.

It is not as easy as saying this day should be hard and this one easy. When planning practice, the coaches are working on scouting the competition, working on our own offense/​defensive approach for the game, individual player needs, as well as considering the physical demands of the exposure. Understanding the coach’s approach to preparation for competition and how and where it is possible to adjust is key to being able to integrate appropriate modulation in training volume/​intensity in season and around periods of frequent games.

How do you manage your athletes game exposure and keep them engaged?
For example, quantifying load for high and low-minute players is vital to helping ensure we provide the latter with appropriate opportunities for exposure. Ideally, we train everyone to meet the demands they would experience in a high-minute situation. However, the schedule and competition exposure opportunities narrow down our options.

How do you counter?
We aim to integrate additional work for our lower-minute players to bring them up to the next tier of availability. We train a player who sees 3 minutes on the floor to the level of one who sees 10 – 15 minutes or one who usually plays 15 minutes to the level of 30 minutes or higher.
That way, when a rotational player slides into a higher role due to improved performance or a starter’s injury, they are physically adapted to the on-court demands and ready to play at a higher volume of competition exposure.

Is there nuance regarding exposure, or is it all about matching intensities?
There is a difference in ensuring a low-minute player has the same total volume as a high-minute player versus having the same type of exposure. Shooting for an hour after practice may bring a low-minute athlete’s Accumulated Acceleration Load (AAL) up from the jump component. However, the movement profile differs from the type of exposure our high-minute guys get in-game.

How do you modulate practice to adjust for those differences?
Ideally, we would organize game-like or live-play situations with coaches or GA’s to help them make up for the some of the competition type exposure they are missing. Usually our low-minute players have some scout type exposure pre-practice, and we often incorporate some half-court 3v3s to help bring up specific aspects of exposure the day after a game while our high-minute guys walk through or have a pure shooting exposure.

What are some of the benefits of this approach?
They benefit in two ways: we bring up their direction changes, exertions, high-intensity distance and other physical demands closer to competition. Secondly, they get exposure to decision-making and live-play preparation, which they often miss on competition days.

For more insights, download Philipp Lienemann’s whitepaper March Madness: How To Get Ready for the Hottest Time of the Year – Insights From the NCAA“ here.

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