Blog Post 5: A New Perspective on Soccer

GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAALLL! Wait, was that a goal? I’m not sure…

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Smart Balls

Technology has weaved its way into the soccer world by becoming integrated into soccer balls. The “world’s first intelligent and app-enabled soccer ball,” the Adidas miCoach Smart Ball uses a “six-axis MEMS accelerometer sensor package” to measure many characteristics of the ball from speed and spin to flight trajectory. The sensors are suspended in the center of the ball with the axes extending to the outer edges. The information is sent through Bluetooth technology to a smartphone and can be accessed through the miCoach Smart Ball iOS and Android applications developed by Adidas.

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Training/Coaching

There are so many perks to having technology integrated into every facet of a sport. It provides for a unique experience that can really change how a game is played. In addition to this, it can make learning the game much easier. With this smart ball technology, it is essentially like buying a coach for yourself, as seen by the name. The technology implanted into the ball is so elite that it is able to detect the spin, power, flight path, and much more through the application. This is so useful as it helps the athlete learn about his technique and where to really focus on improvements. It gives you instant feedback to really make improvements when necessary.

Technology within the coaching realm of sports has definitely shifted how the game is taught and learned in this generation. As I grew up, I played golf, which is an extremely technical sport. Given this, it was so important to know exactly how your swing looks and how it really impacts the ball. Ball striking is so crucial to a golf shot and with improved technology, athletes are now able to watch their swing and ball impact with slow motion cameras. This has transformed with indoor driving ranges and improved coaching technology.

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Accuracy / Precision of Information

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa featured an embarrassing mistake on behalf of the referees of the match between Germany and England in the Round of 16. With the German squad leading 2-1, the match officials missed a shot by England’s Frank Lampard that had clearly landed a yard beyond the German goal line. Thanks to Adidas’s Micoach Smart Ball and its built in sensor package, matches are much less prone to such crucial errors. The Smart Ball analyzes data such as ball spin, impact, and visual flight trajectories, among other pieces of information. This information is easily accessible to the user through the miCoach Smart Ball iOS app, as the ball’s sensor package connects to the phone by way of Bluetooth technology. Convenient access to such technology not only makes for more accurate refereeing, but also puts an innovative spin on the individual training process, allowing coaches to point at specific sets of data rather than requiring them to judge players’ performances solely by eyes and intuition. The real-time nature of the Smart Ball’s technology ensures that it always operates at its ceiling of accuracy, allowing players, coaches and match officials to review their decisions constantly.

Flaws

The Micoach Smart Ball is not without its fair share of technology-related glitches, not to mention a growing concern over the lessening authenticity of the athletic experience by introducing technology into sports. Unfavorable reviews of the product tend to focus on the incompatibility of the ball’s sensor package with their respective mobile devices. Furthermore, the higher-than-average cost of $200 for a soccer ball makes it more difficult to replace in the instances of puncturing or technological malfunctioning resulting from constant impact over long periods of time. On the cultural side, products like the Micoach Smart Ball raises questions over the authenticity of the sporting experience. No other event can capture the attention and dictate the emotions of millions of viewers like a sports game. In these high stake situations, allowing technology and robots to dictate the course of the game could potentially take away from the game’s more human aspect.

Conclusion

Despite the Micoach Smart Ball’s technological shortcomings and its potentially negative impact on the emotional aspect of the game, there is no question that the increasing presence of technology in sports yields exciting possibilities for the in-game experience and individual training process. In the following years, it will be exciting to see how this technology further develops.

7 comments

  1. holdthemayo4653 · ·

    Such an interesting post! I’m always captivated when technology and active lifestyles mix. Great comparison to this tool and the goal electronic indoor swing clinics. For me, I think that putting too much perfection takes the “art” out of sport and turns it into a science. I love the idea of using this for training but don’t like the idea of using it for games. It reminds me of the different instant replay rules across sports. Football allows for challenges but in baseball the umpire is king. Are there some “trade secret” ethics with using this technology in games? For example, could a competitor download the ball data from another team and steal their style? Something to think about!!!

  2. alinacasari · ·

    That’s so cool!!! I think something like this is definitely a game changer to sports. You mentioned England’s loss to Germany in 2010 (low key still upset about that one) and it’s a really valid point. That particular goal was 100% unquestionably in the goal but wasn’t counted because of human error. That was a horrible mistake that was in such a high profile game too…

    I think the ball is expensive for common use, but I feel like over time they will get cheaper as more companies begin manufacturing the balls and it catches on for other sports. In the meantime, it isn’t that expensive if you consider professional teams using them rather than just someone like me. It’s also really nice to have the chance to receive all of the statistics and it really is like having another coach. I think having the ability to see directly where each shot is lacking will be super helpful to improving someone’s technique and overall skill. Awesome post!!

  3. ikechukwu_28 · ·

    Great post. Technology is becoming more utilized across all sports. I remember that 2010 world cup game vary well, and the mistake that was made should’ve never happened. I’m curious to see how else technology revolutionizes sports; maybe in baseball, the need for an ump behind home plate won’t be necessary anymore because we have the technology to track the ball and see if its in the strike zone or not? The possibilities are endless.

  4. fernaneq4 · ·

    Interesting that soccer would even invest in this! I remember when soccer was one of the few sports that (still) does not take into account play backs in the judgements of their games. For example, in last nights world series game there was a foul of some sort and so the referees were able to pull out mini iPads or phones or whatever the device is to replay and make a judgement based on the replay. Soccer has stuck to its roots by not utilizing replays or playbacks and simply calling it how they see it at that time. I assume eventually they will have to conform to utilizing technology as every other sport has had. Thats why it surprised me that the sport would embrace such a technological advance like this! Then again, the younger generations and companies like Nike are really pushing for this technology revolution. Also this idea of perfection just reminds me of Coach Knight need for the perfect basketball game and I’m not sure that there ever will be the perfect soccer or basketball game. Great read!

  5. I love this because I can’t stand how people can’t challenge a call by the referee in soccer like they can in a lot of other sports. Are there other sensors on the goal posts that go along with it to help referees make the calls? It’s definitely innovative. My only doubt about this product is, how much force can the ball handle without the technology inside the ball becoming damaged? Soccer is obviously the most widespread sport in the world. Will they be able to make cheaper versions of this product for the countries in poverty whose citizens can’t afford to pay $200 for a soccer ball?

  6. dabettervetter · ·

    Wow what a cool concept! Did you ever hear about when they were talking about making soccer balls that collected energy for third world countries? The children could play with it all day and use it to charge something at night – I think the idea was better in theory but what cool concepts they are coming out with. Interesting to see what Adidas does with this Smart Ball because they have a contract with FIFA for quite a few more years!

  7. Super interesting topic – I wish I had written about this. I know they are doing this with basketballs as well. If this technology improves and is able to change the way people train like you said, I wonder what will happen to traditional coaching jobs. Will coaches have to adapt to this as well? I am skeptical that this technology will take off, however. There is something about coaching kids at a young age that technology will not be able to solve, especially when it comes to improving things like form that cannot be seen by technology inside the ball. Great post – thanks for sharing.

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