Throughout “Camp Cal,” the period between semesters when there is no 20-hour limitation on practice, Kentucky coach John Calipari hinted about a tool they’ve been using to improve performance. He would never say what it was, only that it was outside-the-box thinking.
Calipari has gone high-tech to improve his team's effort and performance.
On Friday, he released details through his CoachCal.com website about a monitoring device strapped to the chest of each player.
“Because we have very few returning veterans that our new guys can imitate or mimic, we haven’t gotten the level of work – conditioning, toughness, effort and exertion – that we need and we expect,” Calipari wrote. “I have had to convince our guys that they aren’t working hard enough because they’ve been under the impression that they are. Each individual thinks they are working hard.
“To help me do this, each player is now practicing and playing in games with a device that measures their exertion rate, sport zones, caloric expenditure and heart rate,” he said. “The device gives us the ability to monitor and check how much effort players are giving in real time. Because we are able to read their heart rates, now we know who is maxing out in practice and who is hiding, who thinks they’re going hard and who isn’t, who is able to push themselves through pain, and who has mental toughness to be special.
“Everybody perceives his exertion level differently,” Calipari said. “Some feel they are working extremely hard and they’re not, and others perceive that they’re not working very hard when they really are. My hope is to get everybody in that second category. I want them to realize what their exertion level is in games compared to what it is in practice, and this device helps us do that.
“I always say the film doesn’t lie, that you can have every excuse you want but the truth will show up on film. Guess what? The monitoring system doesn’t lie either.”
Calipari said Rock Oliver has been monitoring computer readouts during practice.
“At any point in practice I can look over to him and ask him what the rates are and he can give me the percentages,” he said. “If I think the rates are too low – if we are in the 70s or 80s – we get on the baseline and we run to get them back in the 90s.”
Calipari said Kyle Wiltjer stayed in the max zone for 13 minutes of a 25-minute individual workout.
“Just so you know, that’s ridiculously good,” Calipari said. “But what that showed us is Kyle has the mental ability to be tough; he just chooses not to mix it up sometimes. We have some others that did the same workout as Kyle and got into the max zone for a minute and 35 seconds. That showed us they don’t have any mental toughness. This isn’t to embarrass them; it just shows us how far they have to go and forces us to figure out how we get them in that max zone longer for game conditions.”
The device also measure calories burned.
“Through this device, we now know our guys burn between 5,500 and 6,000 calories a day that they must replenish,” Calipari said. “I’m seeing numbers that are proving that you have to feed these kids more. If we’re the ones burning up these calories, then we should be responsible for feeding them and replacing those calories.
“That’s why I’ve been so upset over some of the meal stuff,” he added. “If they miss a meal, they can’t replenish it. These kids aren’t machines. They’re not robots. This is someone’s child we’re talking about. As a mentor, I couldn’t feel good about myself if they are using 5,000 calories a day and we’re not replenishing it.”