Putting Muscle Into Sports Analytics: Strength, Conditioning, and Ice Hockey Performance

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Kniffin, KM, Howley, T, and Bardreau, C. Putting muscle into sports analytics: strength, conditioning, and ice hockey performance. J Strength Cond Res 31(12): 3253–3259, 2017—Sports analytics is best known as the field of research that focuses on discovering slight but significant improvements within competitions; however, broader sets of athlete- and team-level data from outside competitions (e.g., strength and conditioning metrics) have been typically left out from such analyses. Given that strength and conditioning programs are perhaps the most common avenue through which people expect extra-competition progress to translate into within-competition performance, it is clear that strength and conditioning metrics warrant closer analytic attention. To illustrate this approach, we present a study of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 Men's Ice Hockey players that integrates both (a) strength and conditioning metrics and (b) in-game performance measurements. Bivariate analyses show a significant positive correlation between bench press performance and points scored (r = 0.15), although multivariate analyses point to positive relationships between strength and conditioning measures and playing time as the more important finding. Although within-competition data are increasingly accessible for analytics research, the basic approach that we develop highlights the importance of considering extra-competition variables such as strength and conditioning metrics for understanding both coaching decisions regarding playing time and within-competition performance. We also discuss ways in which the integrated approach that we present offers potential applications for strength and conditioning professionals as well as players, coaches, and team managers.

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