To convince Kentucky players they must give greater effort this season, Coach John Calipari has tried suggestion and instruction. He's ordered, cajoled, threatened and wheedled.
Lately, Calipari has talked about a more impersonal approach. Moving away from the art of persuasion, he's turned to the science of indisputable evidence.
Perhaps, heart rates and calorie counts can inspire exertion. If a regular check of cold, unfeeling numbers shows a lower heart rate or fewer calories expended, how can a player dispute that his effort has lessened?
As promised after UK beat Eastern Michigan, Calipari unveiled this training technique Thursday on his website. Missing from the new details was a basic fact.
The website post spoke of a "device" that gives UK "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."
But the device was not identified.
UK spokesman DeWayne Peevy said in a text message that the program (read: Calipari) did not want to identify the manufacturer, which could be interpreted as a commercial endorsement.
When asked if UK could simply identify the device (like citing a stethoscope or a tongue depressor), Peevy noted competitive concerns. UK did not want to "let anybody else know exactly what we're doing to duplicate it," he said.
As for why the use of such a device, Calipari noted UK's relative lack of veteran players to show this freshman-dependent group how much effort must be made.
UK Director of Strength and Conditioning Ray "Rock" Oliver uses a computer to monitor heart rates and exertion levels at practices and workouts, the posting said. If heart rates dip too low, Calipari orders sprints to raise them to acceptable levels, the posting said.
"Results don't happen overnight," Calipari said in the posting. "We've been doing this for three weeks now and have seen improvement, but it's going to take time."
As an example of progress by an individual player, Calipari mentioned how Kyle Wiltjer recently stayed in the maximum zone of effort for 13 minutes of a 25-minute individual workout. "Ridiculously good," the UK coach said. "That showed us ... Kyle has the mental ability to be tough; he just chooses not to mix it up sometimes."
Some other UK players stayed in the maximum zone for only a minute and 35 seconds, the posting said. "That showed us they don't have any mental toughness," Calipari said.
More than once, Calipari has touted the attention to heart rates and caloric intake as innovative "outside-the-box" thinking.
After the victory over Eastern Michigan, he spoke of UK's "unique" methods.
"We're a non-traditional program," he said. "We're doing things that we have to do that have never been done."
Professionals in the field of exercise downplayed the notion of UK breaking new ground.
Dr. Patty Freedson, chair of the department of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said there are numerous devices on the market that measure different forms of physical exertion. These devices, which have been available for maybe 20 years, typically are used by athletes in individual sports, like runners and cyclists, whose performance is largely dependent on fitness.
Peevy described the device UK uses as attached to a strap across a player's sternum.
Steve Farrell, the science officer of the Dallas-based Cooper Institute, which trains fitness instructors, said that suggested a heart rate monitor.
"Pretty low-tech," Farrell said.
Such a monitor could provide a "pretty good estimate" of the intensity of exercise, he said.
But as a means of learning the amount of calories burned, a heart rate monitor provided data that was "a little bit sketchy," he said.
An accelerometer, a device typically worn on the hip and used to detect the amount and intensity of movement, can also be used to estimate calories, he said.
"If I wanted to measure exactly how many calories a person is burning, we'd have to do that in a laboratory setting."
Think of a person running on a treadmill with a "funny looking face mask" that collects air exhaled, Farrell said. Scientists measure the amount and composition (how much oxygen and carbon dioxide is in the exhaled air) to determine calories burned, he said.
Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein recently told reporters that UK regularly monitors the calories players burn in a workout. He said a player had burned as much as 2,500 calories in a practice.
In a two-hour workout, that translated into about 20 calories burned per minute. Farrell found that number hard to believe.
"Not something we see in a human being unless you're (competing) in the Tour de France," he said. "That's assuming no breaks whatsoever."
Professionals in exercise science might dispute numbers. But it seems safe to assume college players do not challenge the message that more effort is needed.
"I always say the film doesn't lie," Calipari said in the posting. "That you can have every excuse you want, but the truth will show up on film. Guess what? The monitoring system doesn't lie either."
On that point, the exercise professionals agree.
"There's some value in what they're using," Farrell said of the program Calipari outlined on the website. "I don't necessarily think it's a be-all, end-all to training."
But, Farrell added, "I can see how it can be used to motivate. Numbers are objective."
UK-Vandy on ESPN
Thursday's Kentucky-Vanderbilt game will be broadcast on ESPN, the network announced Thursday.
Previously, the 9 p.m. Southeastern Conference opener for both teams had been listed as being on ESPN or ESPN2.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com