An outstanding article (well laid out, too) by Jenny Vrentas on SI’s new Monday Morning Quarterback gives us a peak inside Chip Kelly’s human experimentation lab that is the NovaCare Complex. One Kelly hire that has flown under the radar (perhaps because he may be wearing a secrecy cloak that he fashioned in “his spare time”) is that of Shaun Huls, the Eagles’ “sports-science coordinator.”* Huls was previously a performance coach for the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Group 2. And, like his last employer, it seems the Eagles would prefer to have his duties remain as much of a mystery as possible. They didn’t cooperate with Vrentas for her article** – much of which touched on things we’ve already covered, such as music, smoothies, Catapult sensors and sleep monitors – but she was able to unearth some details about Huls’ role in decrypting heart monitor and central nervous system readings:
Monitoring heart rate is another way to gauge training load, as well as how close a player is at any given point of his workout to maximum exertion. The Polar system generates post-workout recovery reports, with a timestamp for when an athlete can next handle more training. Mike Valentino, Polar’s national sales manager for team sports, says a Big East women’s soccer team saw a 75% decrease in soft-tissue injuries during its first season using the technology. And the Omegawave system uses an electrocardiogram transmitter and a pair of electrodes that tap into the central nervous system to measure stress, fatigue and capacity for aerobic or anaerobic exercise. Players can log into their personal computers to check their own fitness profiles.
But data means the most when there’s an expert there to understand and apply it, and that’s where Huls comes in. Says Barwin, “If you’re suddenly more sore than usual, or you start to feel an injury pop up, you can go check with him and see what your numbers look like for that practice, and see why.”
And then there’s this about Huls:
Then came the really intriguing stuff: the nearly five years he spent training Navy SEALs at a military base in Virginia Beach. In August 2007 Huls, a civilian, became the first strength coach hired to work in the human performance program at Special Warfare Group 2. A practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he’s the type of trainer who wants to experience the demands on his athletes, so he would do seven-mile ocean swims or carry around the SEALs’ 70-pound backpacks to feel the strain on his body. His hiring was part of a push by the Navy to train SEALs smarter, so his most important challenge was to reduce the non-combat-related injuries that were taking highly trained operatives away from their units during wartime.
Man, how times have changed. Andy Reid hired his steroid-using son to assist with players’ weight training. The new guy knows Brazilian jiu-jitsu, studies Omegawaves, and would consider a swim along the Avalon-Stone Harbor coast just part of the job. Huls– an evil plot, to destroy the world:
*You’d think they give him better title than “coordinator.” How about, “analyst?” “Director?” “Spook?” Yeah, “spook.” Eagles “sports-science spook.”
**I reached out to Catapult for an interview about how the Eagles will implement their Tecmo Bowl machine. They have agreed to speak about their product, but were quite clear that they can’t talk specifically about the Eagles because “they have requested privacy in the use of the technology, as it is used to gain a competitive advantage and they are still learning about its capabilities.” Spooky indeed.