Important GPS parameters in performance analysis (Tom Joel)

29 APRIL 2020

In the first part of the interview with Tom Joel, Men’s Lead fitness coach at Iceland National Football Team, explained the differences between training at the club and the national team. Among other elements, he talked about the challenges associated with International Football. In this part of the interview, he will discuss the most important GPS parameters and what kind of information he reports back to the coaches.


When asked about which 3 aspects Tom thinks are the most important GPS parameters to analyze, there is a small hesitation before he answers the question: it is quite hard to make a top 3. But one of the elements which is key to Tom’s way of preparing the players for the match demands is clear: exposing players to peak speed during the week between matches. So the first variable which he lists in his top 3 is the maximal speed reached during a session. He uses this maximum speed to analyze whether players are exposed to more than 90% of their maximum velocity in a targeted session.

In line with this aspect, the second aspect that Tom would name is the distance covered in the higher speed zones (first zone: 15-20km/h; second zone: 20-25km/h; third zone: >25km/h). He analyzes this to understand the high speed running load of a session and/or drill.

The last aspect which he would list in his top 3, is the overall load of a session or exercise. This is best captured by the total distance covered and PlayerLoad (i.e. the sum of the accelerations in three directions: front-back, left-right and top-down). And even though he is aware that in most cases total distance and PlayerLoad variables will give the roughly same information, he noted one important case where this is not true. When an exercise is performed with small field dimensions, players often do not cover much distance. So describing the load of that drill with total distance, would not cover the true intensity. Instead, a variable that captures the load of accelerating/decelerating and changing direction would suit better. Since these movements result in higher PlayerLoad values, the overall intensity of these exercises is better captured by PlayerLoad.


Knowing which aspects Tom views as the most important GPS variables to analyze, it is not surprising that these key metrics also form the basis of the information he gives back to the coach. On top of his report, Tom provides the team average for the key metrics, after which he also reports the individual values for these metrics. To make it easier to compare different players with each other, he groups the players according to their playing position. Another aspect that he always reports back to the coach is the duration of the session. Even though a session might not be that intense, if players are on the field for a long time this can be fatiguing for them as well.

Especially at the national team, where the focus is on avoiding fatigue, sessions shouldn’t be too long. Hence, he thinks that this is an important element for the coach to know.

Tom Joel: “JOHAN is supporting trainers and coaches on how to prepare their team and individual players for their best physical performance”


As a last topic of the interview, we asked Tom about his view on the JOHAN Sports Advice Module, which is a widely used module by coaches who work with the JOHAN products & services. He explained that the concepts and ideas that JOHAN has put in the Advice Module are really interesting. And by implementing these concepts, JOHAN translates scientific principles to the individual data of all players. He has seen that the Advice Module is making sure that players are exposed to different types of football activity: not only playing exercises on small field dimensions but challenging trainers and coaches to also play exercises on larger field dimensions. Next to these practical advices coming from the Advice Module, he also thinks that it is important that trainers and coaches are made aware of different training principles. For example, by implementing the AC-ratio in the Advice Module, trainers and coaches are made aware of the importance of a gradual increase in load over time. Hence, he thinks that this module is a great way of supporting trainers and coaches on how to prepare their team and individual players for their best physical performance.

We want to thank Tom for sharing his interesting ideas with us. And of course, we wish him and the national team all the best for the upcoming qualification rounds for the European Championship! In the near future we will share more experiences of (fitness) coaches with GPS monitoring, so keep reading our blogs!