Published on July 28, 2021 at 6 p.m. by Holly Gainer  
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Groundbreaking technology combined with a multidisciplined team of leaders will take Samford University’s athletes to the next level while also giving students from across campus real-world experience for a career in sports analytics and science. Project SAMson, an initiative launched by the university in partnership with Samford Athletics, Andrews Sports Medicine and the American Sports Medicine Institute, will create a new approach to sports performance with a focus on performance, prevention and well-being for the student-athletes.

The initiative brings the latest technology, data analysis and sports medicine together to enhance the training regimen of all Samford student-athletes, while also preparing students for careers in sports analytics, medicine, training, physical therapy and more. Samford is the only university in the Southern Conference with a program of this caliber.

“Project SAMson not only impacts roughly 400 student-athletes and their coaches and trainers, but it also reaches hundreds of students on campus who are studying sports analytics and our students in the College of Health Sciences who are studying sports medicine,” said Gary Cooney ’74, former Samford football player and supporter of Project SAMson.

“The collaboration we've created with Project SAMson is a game-changer for our campus community,” said Martin Newton, director of athletics at Samford. “Project SAMson offers hands-on learning opportunities for our students interested in a career in athletics or data analytics as we develop a world class training environment for our student-athletes."     

There are three goals of Project SAMson:

  1. To create a one-of-a-kind training environment by combining the latest technology and data analytics so that all Samford student-athletes will benefit from enhanced strength and conditioning training, reduced injury risk, advanced injury prediction and treatment, and data-driven return to play protocols.

“Our number one goal in these areas is bigger, faster, stronger, while also keeping our athletes healthy and safe so they can play to the best of their ability. With the new technology and analytics, we will be able to see how the exercises our athletes do during training translates to their performance on the field,” said Zach Mathers, director of football strength and conditioning at Samford.

By analyzing the data from the athletes, trainers and coaches will also be able to see when an athlete is on the verge of an injury or when an injured athlete is ready to return to play without risking future injuries.

“With the longitudinal data we will collect over time, we will be able to determine when an athlete is optimally ready to return to play after being injured by examining historical data,” said Darin White, executive director of the Center for Sports Analytics and professor in Brock School of Business. “We will know when the athlete is back to where he or she was before the injury and ensure we aren’t rushing the athlete to compete before he or she has reached peak performance.”

  1. Allow Samford Sports Medicine to capture real-time data on all student-athletes to create player profiles used in the evaluation and treatment of injuries.

Individual player profiles will be created for each student-athlete, tracking heartrates, speed, strength and more. Eventually, it will also track nutrition and sleep.

“I see this as a great opportunity for helping our student-athletes mature. This will help them become more responsible for their own personal health and performance because they will have a report card that tracks their statistics,” Cooney said. “It will hold them accountable while they train and compete.”

This will also help coaches and trainers see which exercises and drills benefit the players and improve their performance.

  1. Opportunities for student learning across both athletic and academic programs, internships with renowned sports medicine clinics and preparation for a career in sports analytics.

Project SAMson will provide opportunities for students to learn about all aspects of sports performance and the latest developments in sports technology, from training and competition to business management and sports medicine. This initiative aims to foster collaboration between Samford’s Center for Sports Analytics, Brock School of Business and College of Health Sciences with world-renowned partners Andrews Sports Medicine and the American Sports Medicine Institute.

We're excited to be a part of Project SAMson at Samford. This initiative will bring the latest technology, data analysis and sports medicine practices together in one place to enhance the training regimen of all of Samford’s student-athletes with the goal of increasing injury prevention and expedited treatment,” said James Andrews, M.D., the founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute. “We're ready to get Project SAMson underway and are honored to play a role in this groundbreaking initiative.”

Students from the College of Health Sciences, the Center for Sports Analytics and Brock School of Business will be able to work with the project’s partners and Samford Athletics to receive real-life experience.

“This opens doors for students who are interested in sports science, physical therapy, or basically the medical side of sports. By using data to gain insights around those areas, we are educating students for the growing sports analytic field,” said Mike Hardin, provost, vice president and professor of quantitative analytics. “Students will be able to gain real world experience without ever leaving our campus, which will make them more marketable when they graduate.”

Through the Center for Sports Analytics, students who are seeking a career in sports analytics will be paired with an analytics internship in the sports industry. They will also examine and study how data analytics impacts sports, particularly in the areas of player tracking and sports medicine.

Polar wearable GPS monitors will be provided for each of Samford’s 17 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s programs. There have also been new weight racks installed with the Elite Form Program, a velocity and biochemical screening tool to ensure proper form, count reps and provide real-time tracking data. The wearable technology includes: Vert wearable GPS monitors for volleyball; Catapult wearable GPS monitors for football; Fusion Timing Gates for speed drills; and Hand Dynamometers for Samford Sports Medicine to measure force for specific muscles and have pre-and-post injury data points to help return athletes to play following surgery or treatment. Once the data is collected, it will be aggregated and analyzed through the Center for Sports Analytics.

For more information, visit Project SAMson.
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.