Smart Sports Equipment for Innovative Coaches

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Female coach with young girls basketball team

Coaches spend countless hours perfecting the techniques of their athletes so they can perform well during game time. It takes patience and dedication from both the player and the coach to see the desired results, whether it involves a tennis swing, a sprint, or a free throw. A coach is responsible for training athletes in their charge, and for motivating them to continue through pain and exhaustion. Coaching takes leadership, experience, athletic knowledge, and equipment to drive progress.

Thanks to advances in technology, the performance, and safety of sports equipment are continually being improved. New materials and better designs often shape the way sports are played, which in turn can change the strategy of the game. Coaches at the professional, collegiate, and interscholastic levels who are progressive and innovative take advantage of new technologies and equipment to keep their athletes ahead of the curve. These advances can be especially helpful to interscholastic athletic departments who want to rapidly improve their programs and their student-athletes. One of the latest technological improvements is the creation of smart sports equipment.

Smart sports equipment can track, collect, and analyze data about an athlete’s techniques or performance. Features such as motion sensors, accelerometers, and Bluetooth connectivity are integrated into the equipment with minimal impact on its usability. These enhancements have been made practical due to the reduced size and weight of their technological components to the point where they go virtually unnoticed by the user.

Smart Sensor Basketball

There may be no replacement for practice and repetition, but smart technology can certainly enhance the results. Smart sports equipment such as the 94Fifty basketball, created by InfoMotion Sports, proves that point perfectly. This new basketball can provide valuable feedback involving the user’s ball-handling skills.

Fitted with nine accelerometers (sensors that detect movement) the smart sensor basketball can measure speed, rotation, and analyze shots. The data is sent in real-time to a smartphone via Bluetooth, so users can track their performance. With this valuable information, ballplayers can quickly adapt their techniques to elicit the best results and improve their game.

The smart basketball may feel slightly different, but it’s meant for honing specific skills; not for actual gameplay. However, this may change in the near future as technology becomes even lighter, smaller, and better.

Smart Tennis Racquet

The Play Pure Drive tennis racquet, created by Babolat, not only showcases smart technology, but it also lets users compete in the virtual realm. Similar to the smart basketball, the racquet is built to identify and analyze most tennis movements such as serves, backhands, and forehands. The racquet’s additional benefits come from its ability to compare individual performances with those of friends, other players, and even professionals.

Using integrated sensors, the racquet can measure where the ball meets the strings, swing speed, and the type of swing being used. That data can then be transferred to a smartphone app where the stroke is analyzed, providing the user with an easy means to observe any playing faults. If that isn’t helpful enough, the app can also connect with other users to compare practice and competition data. This sharing of data works on two levels, both motivating users and educating them. Seeing the accomplishment of small goals through data may push players to work harder, while still enabling them to enjoy the sport.

Smart Bats

Sports sensor experts at Zepp have created a smart bat capable of producing a 3-D image for the benefit of coaches and athletes. By using gyroscopes and accelerometers, the bat can measure metrics such as swing speed, hand speed, angles, and impact. Coaches can use the smart bat to compare the swings of athletes and find the optimum technique.

All the technology in this smart bat is located in a small disk affixed to the bat’s barrel. It collects data, sending it to a smartphone app where it is organized and visualized. Athletes are then able to watch 3-D illustrations of their swing from multiple angles, enhancing the understanding of their swing mechanics. Being able to practice a few swings, and then immediately replay them for comparison, opens the gateway to rapid learning and improvement.

Smart Running Shoes

Most experienced runners want to know everything they can to stay healthy and improve their performance. Running is an athletic exercise that can benefit from the tracking of variables such as splits, pace, mileage, heart rate, and calories burned. The smart running shoe, by Under Armour, may be the most advanced answer to optimizing these variables. It combines various in-shoe sensors with a smartphone app.

Capable of real-time updates and future analysis, these smart running shoes can identify long-term patterns and provide feedback that can help runners push through to the finish. Unlike other smart sensors that must be connected or disconnected, these shoes have built-in sensors that automatically activate when a certain pace is hit. This improves battery life and means a runner can start and stop at their whim. Due to the advanced sensors in these shoes, coaches can use them to show progress on multiple levels, instead of just tracking and comparing an athlete’s time.

Future Sports Equipment and Young Minds

Advancements in technology are inevitable, which means sports equipment will continuously be enhanced as well. Coaches who see the benefits of collecting and visualizing data can use these tools during training to better their athletes. Athletes who participate in interscholastic sports already train hard and make improvements quickly. Athletic programs that add smart sports equipment to the mix are likely to see even more outstanding improvements to athletic training and performance. To keep pace with their athletes’ willingness and ability to learn, it’s important for coaches to update and educate themselves on new strategies, tools, and certainly on new technologies. Athletes everywhere want to measure and see their improvement on a tangible level, and using smart sports equipment can achieve that.

Learn More

Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is a pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.

Recommended Readings

The Importance of a Strong Coach-Athlete Relationship
7 Positive Uses of Social Media for Student-Athletes and Coaches
Urban Wearables, The Best Smart Running Shoes – Wearable Technology
Business Insider, Australians could be given free movement to the UK after Brexit
Tech Radar, This Smart Bat wants to teach you how to swing for the fences
Engadget, IRL: A few rounds with Babolat’s Play Pure Drive smart tennis racquet
Live Science, 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball Review
Forbes, Smart Sports Equipment To Help You Play Your Best Game