You do not have to play the sport to know the sport. Today there are many tools touse to learn the sport. Virtually every sport has instructional booksand videos available that explain the sport from a technical andtactical perspective. Also remember the rules of the sport also dictateconditioning. That is why High School, Collegiate and NFL football havesubtle differences. To continue the American football example somethinglike a no huddle offense will impact how you condition your offensiveplayers. As far as having played the sport especially at a high level Ido not feel it is important at all, in fact it can he a hindrance. Notplaying the game allows a completely unbiased perspective. I have foundthat many people who were stars think they did things one way when inactual practice they did it better. This reminds of a conversation withBuddy Bell, current manager of the Kansas City Royals, when he tookover as our field coordinator with the White Sox. He took me aside andtold me that because I had never played the game and he had played inthe big leagues for 19 years that I what I was doing was virtuallyworthless, at least he was honest. This is a very typical attitude, asfar I am concerned not a healthy attitude in terms of progressing.Classic example of one experience 19 times!
When looking at game demands I would use GPS and accelerometer data ifavailable. This data enables the conditioning and strength training tobe more exact and also to be adapted for the individual athlete. Manypeople have used heart rate data extensively; personally I have not putas much stock in this. I feel it is pretty predictable and there aretoo many artifacts in the data to base training sole on heart rate.(Obviously not on Polar?s payroll)
I think it is also important that the game itself and practice for thegame plays a huge roll in actually conditioning the player. The gamerepresents the highest form of stress. I know the good soccer coaches Ihave worked have made practices very game like so my emphasis was onspeed, quickness and power development. Actual fitness was not as muchof a consideration because of the types of practices they ran. JohnWooden and Dean Smith are good example of this in basketball.
As you work through all the steps of the paradigm you will see a truesystem begin to evolve. It is a process both scientific andexperiential.