Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 1/4/13

NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 20: Coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats talks to his team during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 20, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
John Calipari is always looking for a way to get the upper hand on his opponent and that begins with practice and preparation. That’s why it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Coach Cal is using an innovative tactic to make sure that his players are giving maximum effort in practice. Calipari revealed on his blog that he’s making his Kentucky players wear monitors in practice. According to the head coach, the monitors give Calipari and the Wildcats coaching staff ”the ability to monitor and check how much effort players are giving in real time.” According to Calipari, the monitors are able to measure a player’s exertion rate, sport zones, caloric expenditure and heart rate. “The device gives us the ability to monitor and check how much effort players are giving in real time,” he writers. “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.” Calipari explains that he does this in order to make sure his players are giving the same sort of effort in practice that they give in games, operating under the assumption that practicing as hard as you play will yield maximum benefits during games. An assistant monitors the numbers during practice and provides up-to-the-second reports to Calipari during practice. “He can tell me if they’re going at 80 percent or 90 percent or whatever it is,” Calipari continued. “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 also gives an example of how it all works, using a specific example from one of his players’ rates and numbers (with graphs!). It’s actually kind of interesting, and you can check it out here. But why does Calipari feel then need to do all of this? “All of this may sound extreme, “he writes, “but we’re at an extreme program.” That’s not all, either. “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 explains. Of course, that dilemma stems from Kentucky’s willingness to recruit players that are likely to be one-and-done players. So maybe you have to give credit to Calipari for finding innovative ways to live with that, no matter how extreme they may sound.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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