Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Sports Science Angle

When Chip Kelly first announced his staff back in February, he drew attention for appointing the league’s first sports science coordinator, Shaun Huls.

While Huls has not yet been made available to the media, there have been noticeable changes at the NovaCare Complex, from nutrition to sleep to training.

Kelly brought many of the ideas with him from Oregon, and a recent Grantland article sheds more light on the sports science angle.

Over the last 37 years, Australia has become the leader in the field, writes Noah Davis. After a poor showing in the 1976 Olympics, the government created the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to advance the country athletically. The initiative worked, as the country improved greatly by the 1984 Olympics, and now 190 employees work for the organization, including 50 focused specifically on sports science.

The Australian Football League picked up on the sports science angle, and a man by the name of James Hanisch spent time as the head of sports science with the Brisbane Lions.

Writes Davis:

Hanisch knows a thing or two about excellent facilities. He left the AFL team after Chip Kelly recruited him to help with the football program at the University of Oregon. Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles, but Hanisch stayed and now runs the school’s sports science program. He is one of the first wave of Aussies to move to the U.S. to work in the discipline, and he believes more will follow as their services are increasingly in demand.

In other words, Kelly wooed the sports science expert from Australia to Oregon. Now, Hanisch is looking to help the Ducks maintain their competitive edge, asking players to not reveal the school’s secrets when they leave Eugene.

Meanwhile, according to a Forbes article last month, the Eagles recently became one of six NFL teams to sign on with Catapult Sports, a leader in athlete tracking technology.

How does it work?

During the NBA preseason, Jason Kidd wore a GPS sensor from Catapult that measured acceleration, agility and force, providing baseline numbers. During the season, when Kidd was recovering from injury, the trainers had him again wear the device to measure how close he was to 100 percent.

So far this spring, Eagles players seem to be on board with the changes – healthier food options in the cafeteria, sleep monitors, a new training regimen, etc. Kelly seemed to be at the forefront of the sports science movement in college, and that appears likely to continue now that he’s in the NFL.


Here’s my running diary of practice observations from Wednesday’s session.

The Eagles made some changes to their scouting staff.

Encouraging signs for the offensive line this week.

T-Mac has a great look at where things stand with Kenny Phillips.


Jeffrey Lurie is happy with the way things are going with Kelly so far. From Zach Berman of The Inquirer:

“I guess one of the things that we focused on in the search, but has been so ratified by what I’ve seen so far, is his sense as a program builder,” Lurie said. “We knew [he had a] dynamic offensive mind. We knew he thought about a lot of big-picture aspects. But his managing of the details of building a program and bringing people together in that building – the program building, not the physical building – I can see that’s why he’s been so successful.”

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers his take on Tim’s DeSean Jackson story:

I do think it is a good sign that Jackson went and met with Kelly. He could have sulked. He could have complained to the media. Instead he took the right approach and dealt with the issue. Kelly isn’t going to coddle players, but I don’t get the feeling he’s going to be a Parcells type that plays mind games either. Chip says here is what is expected of you. Do this and you’ll be fine. DJax now knows what is expected of him and seems to be meeting the expectations.


One more practice between now and training camp. We’ll have it covered.

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  • Brent E. Sulecki

    has to be better than Reids plan. fast food Fridays and all. elite athletes need proper nutrition.

  • cliff henny

    if eating right and getting plenty of sleep makes you cutting edge, than my mother was ahead of her times. jeeze, sounds so simple. my mind is my livelihood, that’s why i stopped drinking (after 9pm) on weekdays. these guys are the elite of the elite, you’d think they’d be searching high and low for any little bit of advantage they can have. if i was Maclin and kelly told me carrying a bowling ball around would get me 25% more in my next contract, i’d invite him out for lunch and go backpack shopping with him

    • borntosuffer

      Funny, but true about your mom. It is interesting that more athletes haven’t spent more time figuring out what will give them an edge in terms of eating and rest when they will spend hours a day working out. There is plenty of information available. But, the sports science guys attempt to take it a step further by backing up there regimen with research. Of course, it doesn’t take research to think that eliminating “Fast Food Friday’s” might be better for your health

      • There are definitely athletes that do this, but there are also a lot of young guys that have so much athletic ability that they don’t need to put in a great amount of effort into training. It’s frustrating to watch, to try and consider how much better someone could be if they put in the work.

        • Dutch

          True, I don’t know that people were paying attention to Terrell Owens and appreciated his methods to stay in shape and apply science his his workouts.

          There are a number of athletes in the NFL and elsewheres who have long ago adopted a similar format down to having personal nutritionist, physical therapist and personal trainers at their disposal.

          At Oregon, Pat Knight definitely had an impact on Chip Kelly and his ability to make contact with some of the people closely associated with the innovations and developing trends in sports science.

          • JofreyRice

            Phil Knight?

          • Richard Colton

            he’s related to Mark Barkley

  • JofreyRice

    Yeah, Ok. Like everything so far, it certainly sounds like a good idea, in theory. I’m really anxious to see how this all comes together on the field. However this Kelly thing turns out, I’m much more excited than I was this time last year.

    • cliff henny

      besides eating better, getting regular sleep and more scientific workouts, anything else he introduces i classify as ‘cant hurt’. sure it’s more than theory, kelly/eagles arent arent using multi-million dollar athletes as lab rats, just some will end up not being worth time and effort.

      There w/ u on being excited…not since the TO days. still remember 1st preseason game when reid went up top 1st play..was out in LA at a bar and walked around with arms straight up yelling ‘WHY ARE WE EVEN PLAYING THE SEASON?!’ be nice to get that feeling back

      • JofreyRice

        That was awesome. That whole year was pretty amazing.

    • G_WallyHunter

      I’m kind of on the same page… I’d like it to be a good year but I’m excited no matter what even if it is another 4-12 campaign… very exciting program building going on as mentioned, may take a few years

    • theycallmerob

      It does have some history, with a decent track record of success. I mean, I remember my college having a degree program akin to this field of study (my friend who majored in it is having a heckuva career so far).

      Also, in case anyone missed this, a good article was written up by an Aussie over at BGN about some more of the methods behind the madness:


  • BrickSquadMonopoly

    Its because the majority of athletes coming into the NFL have what I call “ripped black genes” which basically means they can eat and drink however they want and their body fat % wont increase, so they think they are in shape. What they dont realize is the advantage gained in eating healthy is below the surface

    • I’m wearing my ripped black jeans right now.

    • JamesDDl

      Jimmy the Greek – RIP

  • Jery

    Long time reader of this site…Sheil, u r the man!!!…absolutely love reading the comments as well…Jofrey, as well as many of u r very insightful…anyway, jus wanted to introduce myself n thank Sheil, T Mac and all of the bloggers for all the entertainment you all provide me on a daily basis…looking forward to sharing thoughts/comments with all of you guys

    • G_WallyHunter

      Welcome to the community Jery! Great to have u

      • Jery

        Thnx G Wally