It was the 88th minute of the final at the World Cup in 2014 and Germany and Argentina were locked in a scoreless draw. With time running out, Joachim Low, Germany’s head coach, decided to insert midfielder Mario Gotze into the game. It was a brilliant decision as it was Gotze who became the only substitute in history to score a World Cup-winning goal. But what you may not know is why the German coach picked Gotze over his other options on the bench, and how wearable technology played an important role in his decision.
Leading up to competition, the German team wore small devices during practice to monitor everything from speed and distance, to the heart rate of each player. The coach and performance analysts crunched the data after training sessions to see how exactly each athlete performed. This information was then used to plan future workouts more effectively and make better personnel decisions. Ultimately, it turned out this technology played a crucial role in the World Cup outcome.
This is only the beginning. Sports wearables are a growing field and Fifa is, to this end, looking to establish a global wearables standard. The idea is to have all professional teams using the same data-tracking technologies for training purposes. Eventually, some of this technology could make its way into live matches to help doctors and coaches. It could also open a whole host of possibilities for broadcasting, allowing fans to view in-depth player statistics.
There are a number of products on the market that have already built a good customer base with some of the major clubs and amateurs. This is our overview of these devices.
Zepp Play Soccer is a small tracker which slips inside a calf sleeve (that is sold as part of the bundle). The device pairs via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, which uses a soccer-orientated algorithm to convert statistics into meaningful player insights. You also get game reports and optional video highlights.
Once you are ready to play, simply pair the sensor with the mobile app and click “Start Game” to begin tracking. After the match, head over to the app to sync the information. You will get detailed stats on distance travelled, number of kicks and kick speed, number of sprints and maximum speed, and total time of game play. Those that are inclined to stay closer to the opponents goal than their own, will be happy to know they will get stats on the percentage of goals made in relation to total number of shots taken.
The app automatically produces a post-game summary. There is also a Team Game mode, which lets multiple players connect to the same match by entering a code or by enabling their location to discover nearby games. You can then combine data with other teammates and see how you compare.
The Catapult OptimEye range are the state of the art in wearable athlete monitoring technology. They have been developed by Catapult Sports in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Sport and are now used in more than 20 sports at elite level for fitness, tactical, rehabilitation and technical analysis. Catapult was recently named the 12th most innovative company in the world.
The Catapult range includes four different models: the OptimEye X4, G5 and S5 models and the OptimEye T5 Indoor Local Positioning System. In addition to the Team Sports range there is the OptimEye B5 Rowing/Canoeing specific model.
The G5 is the world’s first Goalkeeper monitor. This chest-strap is is used by over 400 sports organisations around the world. It measures dives (direction and intensity), jumps, accelerations, decelerations, changes of direction, repeat high intensity efforts, and time to recovery – allowing for differentiation of physiological demands/loading that may not be determined using traditional velocity measures. Over time, it creates “fingerprints” for each individual, making it bespoke and unique to their needs.
OptimEye X4 is the entry system monitor that helps calculate: force, turn rate, orientation and backward/forward/sideways running. Reports include graphic tools such as plotting player position, velocity, heart rate, effort lengths and recovery time.
OptimEye S5 is the most advanced product that the company has on offer. Not only it is military tested, it is the world’s first GNSS monitor for team sports. Along with the features of OptimEye X4, this device is the only athlete tracking monitor that measures collisions. It also connects to Open Fields product, which is a highly customized solution for data analysis and performance measurement.
Finally, the OptimEye T5 device allows tracking both indoors and outdoors. Many teams are investing in more modern stadiums having either closed roofs or large overhanging stands which will compromise the GPS reception. The T5 system has been developed in collaboration with one of the World’s leading Scientific research organisations and has been proved to have 10-15cm absolute positioning accuracy.
The Viper pod is a performance monitoring tool that is used by some of the best teams in the world across multiple sports in the top competitions including the Premier League, NFL, NBA and La Liga. The metrics tracked by this device include distance, speed, acceleration, load distance and heart rate.
The Viper pod streams this data in real-time through the Viper Live Streaming software as well as logging all data for post-session download. It also has real-time analytic capability to see player position and motion from a bird eye view on a screen. Viper Live Streaming allows coaches to monitor athletes in real-time and adjust training as it happens to meet the objectives of each individual session.
From the outside the Adidas Smart Ball is just like a normal ball (size 5 and thermal bonded 32-panel), which is a good thing. The miCoach, however, has a built-in sensor that tells you everything you need to know about your kick so you can learn to control, strike and manipulate the ball like a pro.
Once you connect the smart ball to your Android or iOS device you will get instant feedback on power, spin, strike and trajectory, along with tips and guidance to help you develop on-pitch skills.
For example, when learning how to curve that ball, the app can instruct where and how your foot should strike in order to get the desired result. The trajectory can be mapped out so you can see exactly where the ball has travelled, and this can be zoomed in via a two-finger pinch on the smartphone’s screen and even rotated as a 3D model to get an in-depth look at what’s going on. Or, if its simple training you are after, then the measurements are relayed back to the app after each kick.
The great thing about it is that ball feel and reaction is just like a normal soccer ball – you won’t feel the difference.
Adidas also sells the miCoach Speed cell. Just strap it to your shoe and it will to the rest. The little device collects performance data and is used in conjunction with the miCoach multi-sport app to figure out where you are in your training and as a player, then help you get to where you want to be.
The tracker essentially turns your mobile devices into data-crunching performance analyzers. Regardless whether you use the miCoach training plan or simply track your matches or workouts, you will get detailed feedback after every session.
Speed cell measures, speed, distance, stride rate, and max speed. It stores up to 7-8 hours of workout data and clips on to any pair of shoes.
SockIt, a California-based soccer company, has recently come out with a new device which helps improve young players’ technique.
The light-up kicking device is designed for players ages 5-12. Kick the ball and it lights up, giving you instant feedback on whether you have kicked the ball with the correct area of your foot. The idea is to help correct a common problem of kids kicking the ball with their toes instead of the middle portion of their foot (the metatarsal bone region).
The one size fits all wearable is designed so that it can be securely fasted to your soccer cleats. The tracker accommodates various positions.
SockIt is made from industrial strength thermal plastic rubber and is able to withstand shock, impact, and other extreme conditions. It is also machine washable. The light-up function is made possible by six LEDs, powered with a replaceable lithium battery.
Like this article? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and never miss out.