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John Calipari using technology to make sure young Kentucky team plays with heart

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Kentucky coach John Calipari began using heart rate monitors to measure his players' effort during practices last month and says it is helping him coax better and more consistent performance from his young team.

Calipari said the heart rate monitors tell him and his staff which players are giving full effort during practices and which are not. And when too many players fall below a certain level of effort as measured by the monitors, Calipari makes them run sprints to get their heart rates back to where he wants them.

Calipari said he targets approximately 90 percent maximum exertion rate because that is the level at which players play in games. He wants them practicing the way they play. With such a young Kentucky team this season, Calipari said the tool is proving invaluable for helping him set standards for practice whereas in the past he would rely on veteran players to do so. But there aren't many veterans for Calipari to turn to this season. He writes:

“The device gives us the ability to monitor and check how much effort players are giving in real time. 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.”

Kentucky isn't breaking new ground here. Other teams have used the technology as a motivator and teaching tool, but it was interesting to read how Calipari sees it helping him as a coach and how he sees it helping his players when he wrote about it today on

The monitors don't just track heart rates and exertion rates, they also tell coaches and team athletic trainers how many calories players are expending, which gives them a better idea of how much food players should he eating each day to maintain fitness and strength levels during the season.

Calipari reports that players have responded positively to the monitoring and some head straight to the machine that tracks them when practices are over to find out how they did. Calipari described his program as “extreme” and one trying “nontraditional things that have never been done before in the college game.”

“This is not guaranteed to turn our season around,” he wrote. “We have seen a difference so far, but all of our worries aren’t suddenly over because each individual player is different, each player looks at their exertion level differently, and lastly, they have to understand that they need each other. That’s the part where you can’t hook a guy up to a monitor and measure. That’s an area that we have to continue to work on daily.”

Kentucky is 9-4 with losses to Duke, Notre Dame, Baylor and Louisville. The Wildcats don't play again for a week when they open up Southeastern Conference play at Vanderbilt.

Kyle covers Colorado and the Pac-12 for the Daily Camera in Boulder. Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleRingo

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