Athletes, Teams Play To Win With New Digital Tools

Sebastian Brunnert

Imagine your favorite sports team has just made it to the championship. In just a week, the squad will be facing off in the biggest contest of the year.

Today, player performance is certainly crucial. But to come away with the title may take much more. Technology is transforming the way today’s teams and players compete. This transformation comes by using powerful tools that were not available just a few years ago.

The digital athlete can leverage data to improve performance. Teams can gain insights on opponents that provide a competitive edge. Real-time information gives competitors in sports ranging from soccer to sailing to tennis a decided advantage.

Technology and competitive edge

There are five digital trends affecting today’s athletes. Hyperconnectivity means we are all connected anywhere at all times. Mobile devices provide access to data nearly instantaneously. Supercomputing and cloud computing allow for the storage and easy retrieval of vast data sets. Analytics programs provide players and coaches with real-time insights derived from collected data.

That data comes largely from the Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to the millions of items connected today. The IoT creates a smarter world through products equipped with sensors, software, and wireless tools. These objects can sense, record, and transmit data gathered in everything from socks to soccer balls.

Finally, advances in cybersecurity keep that data on athletes and teams protected from hackers and possibly opponents.

How do these trends affect athletes?

For one, athletes can be better engaged with coaches, trainers and teammates. Coaches and athletes have grown up digital and connected, making it natural to collect, share, and use data on training and performance.

Scouting and player evaluation is heightened with advanced analytics programs. Today subjective scouting reports are matched with analyzed video footage and data related to speed and accuracy. Converted game film reveals opponent tendencies. These insights help drive game preparation and in-game adjustments.

Technology improves all areas of player development and training. Injury prevention, diagnostics, and recovery keep healthy athletes playing. Injured players return faster.

The technology has other impacts throughout the world of sports. Fans can now access in-game apps and statistics, see video highlights they may have missed while waiting in line for a beer, and get real-time information on traffic coming and going to the game.

Playing to win

How do these trends play out with our championship team? Let’s imagine.

First, scouts and assistant coaches will review data and video about the opponent. Working from a shared platform, staff members don’t need to waste time attempting to collect and consolidate data. Staffers can review the information from remote locations, share comments, and flag issues in a shared workspace.

An assistant coach notices a crucial weakness in their opponent. A video assistant and intern search and find historical data about this weakness and point out that it’s used regularly.

The assistant coach, working late, develops a counterattack and other plays designed to exploit the weakness. He shares the information with other coaches, who access it on their smartphones and tablets.

The head coach develops a game plan that focuses on exploiting this weakness. Other coaches create practices focusing on maximizing the players’ personal performance and training plans, sending them to team members in advance of the next practice. These plans not only leverage the insights to maximize points scored, but reduce the risk of injury by ensuring that players are not exposed to undue risks and are not putting undue strain on themselves.

Within a day, the entire organization has a cohesive game plan. For five days, the team practices and trains from that plan. Cameras and sensors capture video and data from the practices.

Reviewing that data, a trainer is concerned that a key starter is showing high loads and stress on a knee that was injured earlier in the season. Predictive models show that continuing the practice increases the risk of reinjury by 80 percent. Coaches agree with the training staff recommendation to hold the player out of the last two practices and align with the medical staff to do treatments with the physiotherapist. By the time the championship game arrives, the player is good to go.

During the week, gamification and virtual reality programs simulate the opponent and game-day situations. The simulations help to improve practices, giving players more repetitions with the game plan in less time. At the end of a long season, these steps help prevent injury and fatigue.

During the game, several players notice that a defender on the opposing team is tiring or hurt. The assistant coach relays the information to a video assistant, who compares game footage with earlier contests and confirms the suspicions: Data shows the player is running two miles per hour slower as the game reaches the last few minutes.

The head coach takes this information, remembers data shared from a scouting report earlier in the week, and decides to exploit the newly found weakness. A play is called right in the defender’s area. As expected, the defender cannot react in time. The team scores, capping a dramatic finish. The championship is won!

To learn more about digital transformation in the sports industry, click here.

Sebastian Brunnert

About Sebastian Brunnert

Sebastian Brunnert is a solution manager for the Sports & Entertainment Industry Business Unit at SAP.