Athletics research breaks ground for women’s basketball load monitoring


Faith Brown, the primary strength and conditioning coach for George Mason University women's basketball, is paving the way for women's basketball load monitoring research.

Faith Brown looking at data on a laptop in EagleBank Arena
Faith Brown refers to data on her laptop while in EagleBank Arena. Photo by Rafael Suanes/Athletics

The newly promoted associate director of strength and conditioning for Mason Athletics has been using Catapult, a combination GPS- and heart rate-based wearable tracker, with the Patriots women's basketball team since 2018, before any other women's basketball team in the Atlantic 10. This technology helps inform the players and coaches of the workload each athlete endures during workouts, practices, and games so the athletes can perform at their best.

Brown's research paper "Analysis of In-Season External Load and Sport Performance in Women's Collegiate Basketball" was recently published in the February 2024 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In her paper, she lays out her findings of using Catapult with the team. These finding include:

  • A significant difference in high- and low-minute athletes' workloads in practices and games, which allows Brown to assign additional workouts to low-minute athletes to keep their fitness at a game-ready level.
  • The mapping of player-load per minutes (PL/min) showed the intensity of the game was highest in the first quarter and gradually decreased as the game progressed, reaching its lowest point in the fourth quarter.
  • And relationships found between the intensity metric PL/min and points scored, PL/min and field goal percentage, and explosive efforts and free throws.

"The reason why I really wanted to get into the research was because I had no clue what the numbers meant and how to interpret them when I started using it," said Brown, who is working on a PhD in Education with an interdisciplinary specialization. "So, when I talked to Dr. [Margaret] Jones and saw the research that they put out and how I couldn't find anything with women's basketball, I was like 'wow, I have a unique opportunity here to publish this research and kind of give back to the community and help others understand what this data means and have something to compare their values to.'"

Jones, director of the Patriot Performance Lab, is also a co-author of the paper, and Brown's PhD advisor. "We started with Catapult [when] I got a grant to do the research about six years ago," said Jones. "At that time, nobody at the mid-major level was wearing Catapult, and very few teams in basketball were wearing Catapult, especially in women's basketball at the collegiate level. And it's just grown since."

For women's basketball, Brown works with the players from preseason to postseason, helping them with lifting, conditioning, and general physical upkeep so they can be at their best. She also communicates with the coaches on how the players are doing, and Head Coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis said she can see the impact.

"Faith has been able to utilize the Catapult data—pulled from practices—and give input to our staff about load management and how it relates to wins and losses," said Blair-Lewis. "This technology is crucial in understanding that there are correlations that are consistent enough that you can't ignore them. Faith's work has been instrumental in our evolution as coaches; she has our full attention throughout the year because of her work and analysis."

Brown doesn't intend to stop after this season of data. "My goal now with the research [moving forward] is just keep working with Dr. Jones and putting research out there and hoping to kind of inform other strength coaches, practitioners, and researchers on what can be done with the data and what's seen in women's basketball, because even outside of just basketball, women in research and sports performance research, they're not utilized as much. They're underrepresented."

Brown is not the only strength and conditioning coach at Mason working with the Performance Lab's technology. Last year, Corey Dulak-Sigler, the primary strength and conditioning coach for women's lacrosse, published a paper on the use of similar technology in women's lacrosse. Keon Marsh, the primary strength and conditioning coach for men's basketball, is also used Catapult technology to help his athletes with their load monitoring.

"What we have at Mason with being able to partner with our sports performance lab and other technology that Dr. Jones has in lab and the collaboration we have with the staff and students is not seen very often at the Division 1 level," said Brown. "And a lot of that is credited to Dr. Jones."

"I'm just really proud of Faith," said Jones. "She's been a groundbreaker in the field of load monitoring for women's collegiate basketball. I have no doubt we're going to hear from her well into the future."

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