Notes from Andy Hudson: A new method of evaluating acceleration demands in Olympic level Hockey

Andy Hudson GB Hockey

Andy Hudson is a Senior Strength & Conditioning Coach at the English Institute of Sport for the Great Britain Men’s Hockey team which competed at the Olympics in London. Andy has provided S&C support for athletes competing at the last 2 Olympic Games and the Paralympics in 2004. Andy is a Graduate of Brunel University in West London and is accredited with the NSCA and UKSCA. He has also worked with UK Athletics sprint groups and previously ran the S&C programme for the England Netball Team. Andy has presented at the Football Association’s Sport Science and Medicine Conference and he continues to develop his knowledge and skills within running based sports.

His presentation at the 2012 UKSCA Conference aimed to provide an insight into how GB Hockey used current competition and training data to evaluate and prescribe training for team field sports. My notes from Andy’s presentation are below in bullet point format.

  • Training Prescription is influenced by:
    • Training Monitoring
    • Testing and Assessing
    • Key Performance Indicators
  • GPS data used up until now has been quantity based rather than quality based – “Time in Motion” studies counting distance covered, percentage of time above 19km/h, max speed etc.
  • There are various problems with these studies:
    • What is “High Intensity Running”?
    • Is time or distance at a given speed useful?
    • What’s more important  – the speed you attain or how you get there?
  • GB Hockey monitor athletes’ fatigue using a Drop Jump – Reactive Strength Index (DJ RSI)
  • They use this measure because ground contact time is more fatigue sensitive than a Counter Movement Jump
  • Athletes are measured as a percentage of their personal best
  • This is then correlated to various GPS values

GB Hockey

  • Critical piece of information was gained from looking at the GPS trace which showed very steep curves of accelerating from a standing start but didn’t necessarily show as high threshold running as they didn’t have the distance to achieve this before they had to decelerate again
  • However, the hard accelerations and decelerations have a large mechanical stress to the athlete
  • As a result they needed to run Sprint Profiling to assess the intensity of the efforts
  • Created their own thresholds such as hard acceleration or deceleration from low to moderate speed with their own triggers
  • Lots of max intensity acceleration/deceleration efforts had a high correlation to reduced DJ RSI
  • Increased ability to repeat upper threshold running killed the ability to do sprints repeatedly in a tournament
  • There are many factors influencing tournament prep:
    • Match Play
    • Technical pitch sessions
    • Game specific conditioning
    • Metabolic conditioning
  • But how do they compare? Are they appropriate volume/intensity? What is their effect on force production capabilities?
  • Used DJ RSI and an Isometric Pull test pre and post training in order to assess the mechanical stress of the various sessions e.g. the constant lunging and low body positions in a short sided game

GB Hockey mid thigh pull


  • Reduction in rate of force development and RSI from training were compared to match play
  • They then identified which training sessions were harder or easier, what the metabolic effect of each session was and what individual responses to each session were
  • These could be compared to games so that overload can be created or high fatiguing practices can be accounted for in the planning process
  • Individualisation is key as the varying training ages mean varying training volumes
  • Many young players who come into the squad are unable to handle the training volumes at first
  • Takeaway messages:
    • Data supports the importance of Repeated Sprint Ability in Hockey
    • Must emphasise Repeated Sprint Durability
    • Need to better quantify sessions with multiple variables
    • Recovery – who mends the quickest?

This was a very good presentation which highlighted some of the problems associated with use of technology if, as Fergus Connolly said, you do not ask the right questions of the data and technology. Andy did ask the right questions and knew that just because there wasn’t much high threshold running didn’t mean there wasn’t significant fatigue.

The use of DJ RSI and Isometric Rate of Force Development tests to quantify the effect of a variety of training sessions was interesting to see as sessions such as Small Sided Games have traditionally been hard to quantify due to the large amount of variables. Andy used these measures to educate the coaches as well as athletes on the impact of each type of session which helped their tournament planning. Also individualisation is key as some sessions will have a higher impact on certain athletes and there will also be differences in recovery rates too.

I had a chance to speak to Andy afterwards and he was extremely forthcoming and helpful answering my various questions so a massive thank you to him.


Simon Nainby is an Accredited Strength & Conditioning Coach and Tutor, Sports Massage Therapist, RFU Level II coach and an Assistant Athletics Coach. He has worked for a number of professional and semi-professional teams and he currently acts as a coaching consultant through Underground Athletics to a wide range of athletes from rugby players to Olympic Lifters. He provides physical preparation training and support in order to maximise sports performance. This consists of strength, speed and power training combined with recovery support to create a periodised programme which is essential for athletes to perform to their potential.

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