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Gamification of Barça’s female team training sessions during confinement

8 Apr 2020   ·   

The exceptional state in Spain meant by the home confinement of all citizens due to the coronavirus has dealt a serious blow to professional sports. Competitions have been suspended and training centres have been closed and remain idle. Under these circumstances, many clubs have implemented remote training plans.

FC Barcelona’s female team is also in the same situation, but its remote work has a particularity: it is gamified. The coach Lluis Cortés and his physical trainers, Berta Carles and Jacob González have organised training sessions as if it were a competition for as long as this break lasts. It is called #YoEntrenoEnCasa (I train at home).

The aim is for the team to stay united and connected, to be able to return to normality easily once this situation is finalised. When the day comes, the strongest groups will have the least problems to go back to their previous routine. It is a break similar to holidays, although it is an unforeseen event in the history of competition.

Synergies that are created in the team’s playing and socialisation is most affected by this halt, which in this case has been minimised using social networks, WhatsApp, Skype and the HUDL tool, in a completely new manner.

When establishing the training system at home, high metabolic intensity exercises were considered as the closest thing, considering the extraordinary situation, to what could be when exercising on the pitch. These exercises are similar to the ones performed in the preseason workout. The strength part of the training does not fit within the competition. There is a continuity in this section with the personal training sessions that they have already been assigned since the beginning of the season according to their injury record and their improvement needs.

These exercises are hard work for those particular players that are alone at home, and for this reason, introducing a “competition factor” was considered necessary to encourage motivation. If any of the players reduce their effort and performance, she will see herself at the bottom of the classification in comparison with the other members and that will be an extra motivation next time to try harder. Also, competing with each other helps to maintain social bonds within the team and maintain the community vibe. Gamification is a unifying element, even if it is done remotely through the mobile phone.

Each exercise planned for the competition is prepared to be performed in a room because it is considered the minimum space all of them have access to. For those players who are abroad and can go outside, there are also complementary exercises.

A special group has been created for this exceptional period besides the team’s WhatsApp group. The group is active from 9 A.M. to 2 P.M., exactly as the usual training sessions at Ciutat Esportiva. It is the only way to maintain group dynamics.

The gamified sessions are articulated in challenges:

  • Conditionals
  • Technical
  • Tactical
  • Medical
  • Nutritional
  • Psychological

Some challenges are more playful than others and some are more useful for the coaching staff. Different areas are considered so that everyone can take advantage of their strengths. Each one has the opportunity to add more points when the challenge requires their best personal talent.

The technical challenges consist of skill exercises with the ball, and then they will upload the videos. Tactical exercises are done using questionnaires, in which together with a coach they analyse rivals and a proposal is designed, for example, an attacking corner based on a determined rival. In the physical arena, it was intended that everyone had rubber bands, a fitball and TRX from the first day on, and different circuits are proposed to score for those that finish in less time, always relying on their honesty. These are sessions with lots of repetitions, trying to reach muscle failure.

Aitana Bonmatí during her training sessions at home.Aitana Bonmatí during her training sessions at home.

In the medical sessions, they have taken selfies when stretching. After giving them a theoretical basis, they were proposed a self-massage or a recovery therapy with ice which they later had to videotape and send to the group. The highest score takes into account the most original and funniest contribution, besides which exercise was better performed.

In nutrition, recipes are proposed, later they take pictures of the cooked dishes and they rate and comment between them. In psychology, on one occasion the psychologist asked them to take photos of the views each of them had from their home in order to make a relationship game later. Relaxation or meditation techniques are also provided in case any of them have problems to sleep.

Leila Ouahabi during her training sessions at home.Leila Ouahabi during her training sessions at home.

This system is accompanied with the coach having a closer relation to the players. At the beginning of the crisis, the psychology department warned that the plan had to combat the possible isolation that many of the players might suffer, especially those who lived in flats. It is necessary to consider the possible changes in mood, anxiety or sadness that this situation may produce. For this reason, Cortés speaks with them in a planned way so that no one stays more than fifteen days without a chat with him.

During the first seven training sessions, the players’ feedback regarding the gamification was very good. Since the leader board starts from zero every Monday, this reset allows those who ended at the bottom or were left behind, now have extra motivation for next week. However, the final classification will have a series of prizes or rewards. This ensures that the team continues to function, supported by all the working staff, and despite the adverse circumstances.

The Barça Innovation Hub team


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