How Chip Kelly is using tech to make the Philadelphia Eagles fly

Eagles training room technologies main

The arrival of the Kansas City Chiefs in the City Of Brotherly Love for Thursday’s NFL matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles will be assessed by most football fans in terms of the clash of coaching. Andy Reid, who called the shots in Philly for the past 14 seasons, found a new home in the offseason with the Chiefs, leaving behind a franchise whose fortunes have fluctuated like the NASDAQ since their 2005 Super Bowl appearance. Enter Chip Kelly, a new school would-be savior in his first NFL gig. As the highly successful head coach of the Oregon Ducks, Kelly earned a reputation as a man of innovation; innovative offensive schemes, innovative philosophies, innovative approaches. His practices could be mistaken for Saturday night at Philly’s hottest club, what with all the loud music blaring and bodies moving everywhere at breakneck speed.

Kelly’s innovations extend beyond the field and into the training rooms beneath Lincoln Financial Field, too. As Sports Illustrated’s Jenny Vrentas recently wrote, Kelly applies all sorts of science and technology from Monday to Saturday (or Thursday, as the case may be), and he even has the NFL’s first “Sports Science Coordinator” in a man named Shaun Huls. If that title sounds ridiculous to you, express your opinion to Huls at your own peril – he’s schooled in Brazilian ju-jitsu and spent five years training Navy SEALS.

Kelly and Huls have deployed a boatload of gadgetry in their efforts to right the Eagles’ ship. And while Philly is hardly alone in implementing gizmos and data in their player assessments, Kelly’s track record of innovation makes his efforts particularly interesting. The team guards details about this stuff like schematics for a SEAL mission, but if they win Thursday – or, better yet, return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 – here is some of the training tech likely to be at least partially responsible:

Catapult OptimEye

Catapult OptimEyeWhat it does: Sophisticated motion tracking to generate data during workouts

How it works: A matchbox-sized tracking device that can be placed between an athlete’s shoulder blades using a compression shirt, a pocket sewn into a uniform, or attaching the device to shoulder pads. Utilizing GPS, accelerometers, inertial movement analysis, and heart rate monitoring compatibility, OptimEye records data 100 times per second and logs things like velocity, heart rate, distance, metabolic power, acceleration and deceleration, direction changes, and jumps. All of this is transmitted wirelessly via ANT and graphically displayed for coaches and trainers to make real-time assessments of their players’ training load levels, establish benchmarks for training performance, and monitor players recovering from injury.

“Put simply, our technology essentially forms a dashboard for elite athletes, no different to what a Formula 1 car has always used to show vital information to enhance performance,” says Catapult’s Boden Westover. 

EliteForm Integrated System

EliteForm Integrated SystemWhat it does: Measures form, velocity, and power during weight lifting

How it works: Elite Form’s specially-designed 3D cameras monitor a gym’s bench, incline bench, squat rack, and other weight-lifting stations and record an athlete’s form and speed. The system then generates “power numbers” in real time nad logs performance in a database, which allows for customized weight-lifting workouts based on an individual athlete’s established baselines and goals. Additionally, the cameras provide enhanced video of the exercises themselves, allowing athletes to improve form and technique through analysis.

As Elite Form’s Skip Cronin puts it, “At its optimum, you can create a paperless [weight] room with the ability to train to objective real time metrics.”


OmegawaveWhat it does: Metabolic and cardiac system analysis

How it works: The Omegawave system includes a variety of sensor hardware and algorithm-powered software that work in concert to assess a broad range of an athlete’s biochemistry. A test administered prior to working out determines the athlete’s relative readiness in terms of heart rate, gas exchange in the circulatory system, central nervous system and hormonal system metrics, among others. This information is pushed to both the trainer and the athlete, as well as logged in the cloud to create a comprehensive database of overall preparedness that can track the effectiveness of different training regimens and identify when athletes can push themselves and when they should scale back their training loads. The end result is more efficient training and demonstrable mitigation of injuries.

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