KV Mechelen has been promoted and wins the Belgian Cup! How did player data contribute to this?


After the relegation of last season, KV Mechelen have found their way up to the top again. Glenn Vanryckeghem has been the 1st team physical coach from the start of this season and has therefore, together with the other members of the medical staff, been largely responsible for the physical performance of the players. After a very successful season, in which KV Mechelen became champions of the Proximus League (1B) and won the Belgian Cup, we spoke with Glenn Vanryckeghem to discuss his experience working with JOHAN’s GPS system.

Because of the championship title (1B), KV Mechelen will be promoted to the highest league in Belgium (1A). What do you expect of the physical differences between these leagues?

This season, KV Mechelen has played against several teams from 1A throughout the cup competition. We noted that the differences in GPS-data were not that significant compared to the matches played in the regular competition. The same applied to the games in the competition that are seen as high-stake games such as playing against their rivals: the players did not cover more distance than they did when playing against lower ranking teams.

It is thought that game strategy and tactics play a larger role in these games: in the high-stake matches the team positioning on the field was more compact, whereas against the lower ranking teams, the KV Mechelen played more offensive. The differences between playing in 1A and 1B will therefore mostly be determined by the tactical plan the trainer has in mind rather than playing level. In the preparation phase we will therefore adjust our training program according to this plan, to optimally prepare the team for the demands of next season.

“According to the tactical plan of the coach, we will physically prepare our players for the demands of playing in 1A next season”

How does KV Mechelen use player data to monitor their players?

Each training session the players wear the JOHAN Sports GPS trackers to measures all their activities. Immediately after the training, the data is processed and feedback (total distance covered, sprint distance, number of sprints, etc.) is provided to the coaches within a few minutes. This way the coaches get an overview of the load of the different exercises and receive insight into which players gave their all during the training session.
Furthermore, the data will also be shared with the players. By doing so, the players are able to see how they performed compared to the other players. However, not all the data is shared with the players: During some exercises it is expected that some players will perform more sprints than others. For example, in an exercise where the counterattack is the main focus, the fullback will, logically, sprint more than a central defender. If these exercises were to be included in the individual player feedback, an unfair comparison would be made. By providing feedback to the players in this way, KV Mechelen makes sure that the players remain involved with the data. Furthermore, there is a competitive element in it, which ensures that all players give their all each session.

What is your experience with JOHAN’s software?

After working with several other tracking systems in the past, the user-friendliness of the JOHAN’s software is striking; you follow 5 steps in the uploading process and then you are done. The basic information (distance covered, sprint distance, number of sprints, etc.) of every session and exercise are also easy to find in the different modules of the software. For example, it is easy to compare and benchmark players who participated in training session with the use of the compare module.

The different standardized reports in the software, make sure that feedback is provided to the coaches quickly. However, since most of the reports are standardized, it also makes it a puzzle to get very specific information out of the system. The new Business Intelligence Tool, which provides more analytical tools, will therefore be a good addition to the current system.

“The user-friendliness of JOHAN’s system is striking. You follow 5 steps in the uploading process and then your are done!”

What is your experience with JOHAN’s support?

When you first start to monitor the team, there is a lot of information coming your way. The implementation of JOHAN, where support was provided throughout from preparing the GPS trackers to analyzing the data, was therefore very important. The time and energy invested from JOHAN Sport’s side radiated confidence. Furthermore, the implementation process enabled us to make a good and quick start to monitoring the team. In addition, during the season there have been several contact moments for support. This process went very smoothly; problems that could be solved immediately were also solved immediately.

“During the implementation, JOHAN Sports took their time to explain everything; there was no time pressure”

Glenn also follows the weekly JOHAN blogs. As a physical coach, you have the knowledge of when and how to adjust training. However, sometimes it is hard to explain this to a coach in an easy manner. Scientific articles, unfortunately, are not suitable to transfer the knowledge to the coach. Therefore, these blogs are a great addition to the literature. They are written in the language of the coach; they are capable of explaining difficult theories in a simple and effective way.

“The blogs explain difficult theories in a simple and effective way; they are written in the language of the coach.”

How has JOHAN contributed to the team performance of KV Mechelen?

A few years ago, KV Mechelen followed a periodization schedule, and the corresponding steps, blindly. There was no feedback from data. Currently, we still follow the same periodization schedule,  but the data helps to plan a training session better and enables us to adjust the training sessions accordingly.

Furthermore, during the season there were barely any injuries; most of the games there were no injuries at all. Partly by the use of technological innovations, KV Mechelen was able to reduce the number of injuries. Glenn is therefore convinced that JOHAN’s GPS system played a role in this reduction.

“We had barely any injuries this season; GPS data has undoubtedly played a role in this!”

For which teams can JOHAN Sports be interesting as well?

Until a year ago, Glen was convinced that a GPS system was only useful for elite clubs. Now he knows that important information can be extracted from GPS data at all levels. Before the introduction of tracking systems, you couldn’t get feedback from a session. Now you get information about the training session, and how intensive it was.

He thinks that it can already be interesting for a club to buy 20 trackers, and divide them over 4 teams (5 trackers for each team). In that case, you don’t monitor the player itself, but you monitor how the trainer plans his training sessions. This way, you get a better picture of how the different teams train, and this makes it possible to educate the trainers in how they can optimize their periodization.

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