Monitoring Rugby Players for Fitness and Fatigue: What Do Coaches Want?

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: The advantages of monitoring players in a team are well documented. However, barriers associated with lack of resources and time prevent teams from implementing systematic monitoring programs. This study aimed to identify (1) the methods rugby teams use to monitor the training load and associated response to the training load and (2) prerequisites of a monitoring protocol that are scientifically suitable and practically applicable for monitoring fitness and fatigue of rugby players. Methods: Coaches and support staff working with varying levels of rugby union were invited to complete an online questionnaire. Results: Of the 55 respondents, 96% indicated that although they regarded monitoring the training load and training-load response as important, there is no monitoring protocol that is cost-effective, time efficient, and nonaversive to the players. Respondents measured several variables when monitoring and incorporated more subjective than objective measures. Respondents (41%) indicated that they would like a protocol that is time efficient (5–10 min) and provides immediate feedback on players who identify as fatigued (50%). For coaches to have confidence in the information provided by the protocol, it needs to meet basic clinimetric principles of reliability and validity. The technical and biological error in the measurement needs to be known so that meaningful changes in fatigue and fitness can be distinguished from natural variations in the measurements. Conclusions: Prerequisites of an ideal monitoring protocol for rugby players were identified. It follows that a monitoring protocol that fulfills these prerequisites should satisfy both scientific principles and the coach’s demands.

The authors are with the Div of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Dept of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

Starling ( is corresponding author.

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