By Brandon Spratt
On a sun-soaked Friday afternoon the St. John’s soccer team is almost set to kick off against Hamline, but first the Johnnie starters strap on their final piece of equipment.
This final piece of equipment is a heart rate monitor that the Johnnies have been wearing since the 2016 season. The monitor clicks into place on a strap that the Johnnie players wear under their jerseys.
“I don’t think this is something a lot of DIII schools have,” senior team manager Tristen Zimmerman said.
In fact, the coaching staff had to check the NCAA rule book to make sure they were allowed to use them during games.
“You see the pros wearing them so you kinda wonder what that’s all about,” senior midfielder Tyler Street said.
Tyler Bosch, an SJU soccer alumnus who works in exercise science at the
University of Minnesota, loaned the heart rate monitor system to the Johnnies soccer program.
“[My initial reaction was] ‘What can we do with this?’” SJU head coach John Haws said. “What I’ve heard from different schools is they get all sorts of data and it just sits in spreadsheets.”
With limited resources and time to learn the system, Haws entrusted Zimmerman to run it.
“It was kinda just sprung on me,” Zimmerman said. “[Haws] just gave it to me to figure it out. So, I read the manual front to back like seven times trying to figure it out.”
The system has allowed Haws to make decisions based on quantitative data.
“I’ll look over because a guy didn’t make a run and [Zimmerman] can tell me how that player is doing,” Haws said. “In those moments, it definitely makes a difference to be able to make a change and have it based on something other than a hunch from 50 yards away.”
“I think two years of this game data has really helped the coaching staff personalize the timing of substitutions,” Zimmerman said.
When Zimmerman looks at her computer, she is looking for players who may be in danger of exceeding their typical heart rate for extended periods of time.
When the name is displayed in gray or green the player is doing well. She starts to pay closer attention if a player’s name is colored orange or red. That means the player is operating at 80 percent of their max heart rate or greater. A player’s max heart rate is determined by doing a preseason conditioning test.
“Usually the first home game every single player is in the red just because they’re really excited and jacked-up,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said she enjoys getting to know all the players personally because it allows her to interpret the data better.
“[Junior midfielder] Uriel Cordoba plays at his max heart rate all game every game, but I’ve learned not to be concerned,” Zimmerman said. “He’s just that type of player because he’s very cardiovascularly fit.”
By now, wearing the heart monitors is part of the game day routine, but it wasn’t always that way.
“They’re kinda awkward to wear at first,” Street said. “It becomes something you’re so comfortable with that when you don’t wear it to workout it feels like you’re missing something.”
“[The players have] been really great about it,” Zimmerman said. “Some of them get really into it and check the computer to see where their heart rate is at almost like a competition.”
The St. John’s hockey team also utilized the monitors last season and plans to do so again this season.
Zimmerman has been with the team for all four years as a manager.
“I’m there before everybody. I don’t leave until everybody leaves,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t think of it as a job at all. I think I have one of the coolest on-campus jobs.”
Now she is applying to medical school.
She is planning to do independent research with senior midfielder Nic Kramer and Bosch using the data she has collected. The group hopes to present at Scholarship and Creativity Day in the spring.