World-class athletes come in all shapes and sizes, and different sports require disparate skill sets that often don’t fully transfer from one competency to the next. It’s the reason ATP Tour No. 1 Novak Djokovic isn’t a competitive powerlifter, and why three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald isn’t an Olympic gymnast. Even within a single sport – think football, hockey, and track and field – there can be wide variance between the “ideal” athletic profile of one player and that of a teammate at a different position, or who competes in a different event.
Yet no matter the sport, our understanding of the term athleticism often gets boiled down to one metric: power. In the simplest and perhaps most widely accepted definition, power is the product of force multiplied by velocity. And it’s precisely why force-velocity profiling – the quantitative description of an athlete’s power, and thus their raw athleticism – has become such a widespread practice among teams, trainers and performance practitioners.
The Significance of Force-Velocity Profiling
Over the years, we’ve seen athletes from Jim Thorpe to Jim Brown to Bo Jackson to Jackie Joyner-Kersee who embody, and often redefine, our best understanding of a peak athletic archetype. Many of these individuals played (and excelled at) multiple sports, demonstrating a combination of force and velocity – power, or explosiveness – that was unique among their contemporaries. And although no single quantitative measurement can reliably capture the exact parameters of an athlete’s movement capabilities (especially a metric that fits across all sports) force-velocity profiling helps give shape and definition to our concept of “athleticism” – both at the highest levels and on a wider, more useful scale.
As interesting as it may be to compare the force-velocity profile of, say, LeBron James or Kylian Mbappé to their contemporaries, the measurement of their power to establish individual player baselines has far more value to their respective clubs. If, for instance, the data suggests that Mbappé shows a deficiency in overall speed or in his horizontal force application, that may be an indication of fatigue, an injury (or the onset of one) or a need for targeted training to bring his athletic profile into proper alignment. Very little is as important to team success in sports as the health and availability of the game’s participants, and force-velocity profiling can play a pivotal role in optimizing those factors.
Force-Velocity Profiling in Practice
Determining athlete performance baselines requires not only the right technology, but also the deployment of that tech on a consistent, ongoing basis. Easier said than done. Many legacy performance-tracking systems either lacked the accuracy or flexibility (and often both) to ensure reliable readings and the rigorous collection of data that allowed practitioners to make trustworthy observations and follow up with appropriate decisions.
But in recent years, performance-tracking technology has leveled up, driven by methods such as LiDAR (light detection and ranging), free from wearables and flexible enough to seamlessly move from game venue to practice field. Today, coaches, trainers and practitioners can dependably collect accurate data to observe a player’s force and velocity outputs (as well as countless others) across a game, a week, a season and a career.
With the power to record accurate force-velocity readings on a consistent basis over time, teams across sports can proactively address athletic imbalances among their players that can inhibit performance, limit potential and lead to injury. For sports franchises around the globe, there may be no more valuable capability.