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Wearable tech for Sunday League

FourFourTwo is at Fulham’s training ground in a leafy corner of south-west London, wearing what, to the untrained eye, appears to be a black sports bra over the top of a football shirt. 

It’s not our usual look, but our attire is compulsory, as it is for the other 21 journalists who have joined us to try out PLAYR; a weareable designed to help amateur players prepare, perform and recover like professional footballers.

It’s the latest innovation from Catapult Sports, who have developed a range of monitoring devices, which are now used by 1520 clubs across 35 different sports, including some of the top football teams in the world.

PLAYR consists of a smart pod, smart vest and a smartcoach app. There is no on/off button, instead the pod is activated magnetically once it has slid inside the vest, where it begins monitoring 1,250 movements per second, which Catapult says is accurate to within one metre. All the data is then fed back to an easy to an easily navigable app on your smartphone. 

But what exactly does it measure? While the devices worn by pro players record up to 70 different metrics for sports scientists to interpret, three key areas of your performance are recorded; distance covered, sprint distance and top speed. 

Your results are then compared to Catapult’s mountain of data from elite players. Even better, suggestions are offered ahead of your next session, from the intensity it needs to be to improve your fitness to nutrition and recovery options to ensure you’re fresh the following day. All of the feedback is tailored to your age, gender, position and training schedule.

So how did FFT get on? We were put through a light session by two leading fitness experts, Chris Barnes and Tony Strudwick, which was equivalent to a routine performed by players the day before a match – or matchday minus one - as it’s known amongst sports scientists. 

We’re not used to having our every move monitored and that had an impact on our work rate as we pressed the opposition to try and reach the same intensity as professional footballers. Our efforts were equivalent to 70% of a Premier League player’s and the app recommended a cold bath for optimal recovery. 

Also of interest is a heat map on the PLAYR app, which tells you exactly where you moved around the pitch, so you can work on your positioning. You don’t have to worry about the pod running out of gas during a session, either, with a full charge lasting up to three matches. 

With a better understanding of your game you could become a better player and learn how to prepare, perform and recover like a professional footballer.  You can buy PLAYR for £199 from (opens in new tab).

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