There is no denying the ever growing importance of data and analytics in professional soccer. In today’s sport’s world, being able to quickly and easily track player performance and activity is crucial to both the development of players and the success of the team. Products like the Apple Watch and the WHOOP bracelet have capitalized on these trends in recent years.
Wearable products that allow user’s track their exercise and cardio. One place where these devices fell short was the ability to track weight room performance. While these devices allowed you to track recovery and cardiovascular related data, there was no way for them to really track and quantify weigh room related data. Data in relation reps, positionality, velocity and power were not being collected by these technologies.
A New Technology Out of Cambridge, Massachusetts
Photo Credit: Perch
In comes Jacob Rothman. Rothman, a 2016 graduate of MIT, started his company, Perch, while still in undergrad with the help of a couple of his classmates. Recognizing the weight lifting niche as an area lacking in robust technologies to track and analyze performance.
Unlike the wearable fitness trackers, Perch offers small, compact cameras that allow athletes to record workouts. The cameras are attached directly to weight lifting racks as opposed to being a wearable technology. The recorded data is then instantaneously sent to a tablet which analyzes and displays data in regards to reps completed, peak velocity, peak power and more.
Catching Up With Perch CEO, Jacob Rothman
Last Word On Soccer was lucky enough to speak with Jacob and discuss Perch and it’s journey. Perch has recently began partnering with several Major League Soccer clubs as they look to expand. Rothman explained that when getting started with Perch, they started by targeting more weight room intensive sports, such as American football. However, with the game of soccer, especially in America, moving in a direction that places increasing value on more intensive weight training, Rothman knew that Perch could be put to good use within Major League Soccer.
“Our sweet spot right now, just being a young company without fully penetrating the market yet, is American football. It’s because it’s more of a weight room intensive sport. That’s part of the culture of the sport, and therefore, you’re certainly investing a lot more money into those areas.”
Perch and Soccer
While he knew the way football teams and soccer teams train in the weight room is entirely different, he knew that Perch could be of great benefit for soccer players as well.
“What we’re seeing is that there’s a huge, huge role we can play within soccer. Understanding the value proposition might be slightly different in that you think weightlifting is not part of the soccer culture, but it’s actually starting to become one.”
Rothman explained with soccer being a sport that requires high levels of stamina and endurance that there is a huge value that Perch can provide in helping soccer players and teams analyze and track ways to improve these areas in the weight room.
“Soccer is much more of an endurance sport, you’re constantly running. But what really separates the great players (from everyone else) is being able to sprint past somebody, explode past somebody, jump higher than somebody.”
Rothman went on to explain that the weight room is more than a place to just get bulky and put on mass. It’s also a great place to work on and develop power attributes to improve speed and explosiveness.
Making the Weight Room Fun
Rothman also wanted to find a way to get athletes truly excited about hitting the weight room. In any sport, definitely in a sport like soccer, where there isn’t as much of a traditional weight room culture, it can be difficult to get players excited to be there. If you’re not motivated to be in the weight room, the odds are that you won’t be performing at your highest level.
That is why Rothman set out to add an essence of gamification to the Perch technology. Perch offers dashboard functionality that tracks player weight room performance and allows you to compare the data across all players on the team from a tablet. This allows players to really see their own progress in live time, something that was virtually impossible to track without technologies like Perch. He also feels that it adds a level of healthy competition. Players can now compete against one another and can actually see the results, see who is performing better than who and by how much, etc.
“How do you encourage people to lift? How do you motivate them to lift? One of the ways that we can help that is through gamification. You’re collecting this data and then you put it up on a leaderboard and the athletes are all of a sudden much more engaged.”
Rothman also noted that the gamification aspect of Perch helps coaches and training staffs really justify the importance of weight training.
“You can show an athlete how they’re getting stronger, more powerful over time and correlate that to say, ‘this is gonna help you perform better on a field’. So it’s easier to get athlete buy-in that way.”
Perch and the MLS
So far, Perch is partnering with three MLS teams: New York City FC (NYCFC), Los Angeles Galaxy (LA Galaxy) and Charlotte FC. Last Word On Sports had the opportunity to speak with Charlotte FC Head of Performance, Adam Parr and discuss his excitement to be working with Perch as well as the positive results he’s seen in just the short time using the technology.
Parr has been in the health, performance and sports science space for over ten years. His first experience within professional soccer was a strength and conditioning internship with Chivas USA, a formed MLS side. His time with Chivas really drove his interest in continuing his pursuit in strength and conditioning within pro soccer.
A Changing Game
In 2018, Parr took on a similar but full time role with the San Jose Earthquakes former USL affiliate, Reno 1868 FC. After a few years in Reno, Parr moved into a strength and conditioning role with Minnesota United FC before landing in Charlotte just under two years ago. Given his position with Charlotte as well as his plethora experience in strength training, Parr was able to provide insight into how rapidly modern sports’ technologies are evolving.
“Even in just last five years, things have started to really explode. Especially in weight room when it comes to technology. Obviously there’s always been certain parts of technology that were utilized, especially in university settings where you had access to some of the big old school force plates or TENDO units and you, were able to measure certain things, but it was kind of few and far between.”
Parr also noted that in addition to just advances in the technology itself, these technologies have also become noticeably more affordable. He noted that the continuous growth of weight room training in professional soccer has created a lot of competition in the performance and weight based technology space. This has made the ability to implement different technologies noticeably easier.
“In the past, it was really whether or not you could get your hands on it. Through say, research departments or if you just were lucky enough to have really big budget. Nowadays, like I said, in the last five to seven years, things have become so much more accessible because it’s so much more common. Economically friendly as far as the cost of certain things. It’s just caused there to be an explosion with data that coincides with what you’re doing in the weight room.”
When asked to elaborate on the team’s experience with Perch specifically, Parr noted his past experience with the technology from his time with the Earthquake organization. He also mentioned that Charlotte demoed Perch as well as several of its competitors back in 2022. Parr noted that he felt Perch to be superior to the competitors.
“I’ve known about Perch for a while. We had a couple in the San Jose Earthquake organization, um, at the first team level. I’ve always had in the back of my mind that when I got to a spot where we had the funds to be able really go all in that was the company (Perch) I wanted to work with.”
When discussing what truly separates Perch from its competitors Parr, mentioned several features and functionalities that really stand out. One being camera technology which makes Perch much more user friendly than competitors that require monitors and wearable devices. Perch is easily attached to weight lifting racks and once attached, doesn’t need to be moved. As opposed to a monitor or wearable device where either every player needs their own or it needs to be constantly passed around from player to player.
“It’s effortless. Yeah. You have the camera system, it’s on the rack, it’s right there.”
Although the team has been using Perch’s technology for a little over a month, Parr noted that he is already noticing positive changes in how player’s are approaching the weight room. He mentions the dashboard/app based design of the technology as a major draw, especially for today’s athletes.
“The guys have their profiles. They click, click, click, and then boom, they can go. Obviously in this day and age of athletes they’re used to iPads, iPhones, video games, et cetera. That’s the generation they grew up in. I think it makes it easier to buy-in.”
Parr noted the increase in healthy competition in the weight room due to the dashboard technology and gamification aspect of Perch. Players have really enjoyed having the ability to compete with one another and view results in real time. Parr also spoke to how useful it is to track performance for a group of players who say play the same position. Seeing how players of a particular position are performing side by side, what workouts seem to be benefiting this group the most. Where is this group excelling? Where are they struggling?
“Say it’s all of our right backs in the weight room. You’re driving that competition just within that position group. Then it’s not just team wide, but it’s even more focused. And, so for me, that was kind of another big thing was getting that instant feedback, making it effortless for them to be able to switch back and forth and look at each other’s scores while they’re going through and to, and to drive that competition.”
Parr stressed the importance of being able to receive instantaneous data and feedback, especially at the highest level of professional soccer. Being able to receive and analyze data in real time to track player performance and recovery is crucial. Having the ability to see when a player needs a rest day to avoid injury as opposed to pushing through an intense workout can help to decrease injuries. Basically, the more quickly you can receive large amounts of data the more efficiently you can adjust training regiments on a day to day basis. This allows you to constantly optimize workouts for individual players in a way that has never been possible before.
The Sky Is the Limit
Despite only using Perch technology gfdgd gfdgd gfdgd gfdgd gfdgd gfdgd gfdgd gfdgd gfdgd gfdgd gfdgd for a short period of time Parr is confident that Charlotte FC is going to benefit greatly in the long term. With the continued movement within the sport towards more weight based training Perch looks to be a major player in the game for some time.