Taking Sports Analytics to the Next Level

The new adidas “micoach” technology is designed to provide athletes, coaches and training staff with a wide array of real-time data during competition.

The Toronto Star’s Raju Mudhar wrote about a new system developed by Adidas called micoach Elite System. It is yet another example of how Big Data is enabling deeper insights into sports performance. It is not hard, however, to see how this kind of technology could find its way into medical and other applications. Here’s a good video overview: http://youtu.be/uzX8MKy0IRg

Mudhar wrote:

Major League Soccer literally made a heart-pounding announcement last Thursday when it unveiled plans to use the new adidas micoach Elite System on Wednesday when the MLS All-Stars take on Chelsea.

Billed as the world’s first “smart game,” the micoach system will be placed in players’ uniforms, tracking movement, force, heart rates and more in real-time. Data will be sent to an iPad or other device that will help coaches and training staff monitor athletes, providing the first real internal view of what an athlete’s body goes through during actual high level competition. All MLS teams will be using it for training during the 2013 season.

“It will be interesting, I think as time goes by we’ll see more and more applications,” says MLS executive Nelson Rodriguez. “I think the analysis will get sharper and deeper, but it’s certainly a very exciting opportunity. It’s been fascinating. The data will gain in importance once a dataset is established, so the longer you use the system and the more data you acquire, the deeper your analysis can be.”

In development for over two years by adidas, with some of the top teams in the world on board, including Real Madrid, AC Milan and Bayern Munich, micoach actually uses a lot of commercially available technology, like a gyroscope, accelerometer and GPS tracking (which anyone with an iPhone also has in their pocket) in a round tic tac box sized cell that is worn in a compression shirt in a pocket between their shoulder blades. There’s also a small tracker placed in their shoe to measure force of a kick and distance travelled. The tech reportedly sends 200 data records per player per second to a central computer, which are then simplified and synthesized and sent to coaches.

The potential ramifications and uses are far-reaching. For soccer alone, it could measure the force of a kick scoring, or even potentially, if a player is forced down or is flopping.

“The primary thing for this is finding ways to improve the athlete’s peak performance, whether that’s taking them to a level they haven’t been able to reach, or sustaining to a high level for a longer period of time. But the look inside the window of an athlete’s body in real time could be very exciting for fans.”

…time will tell if this is a worthy and meaningful addition to all the other stats out there. There is no doubt that it could have revolutionary ramifications with regard to training and evaluating athletes, but right now, I’m excited to see if it does in fact add something during game viewing.

While we like to talk about the hearts of champions, who knows how different they are from the average person’s, and whether seeing it during game play will actually add something, other than more clutter on the screen.

Games will always come down to what happens on the field, but every fan wants more views into the game. This type of biometric analysis may sound like science fiction, but this week, MLS kicks all sports into the future.

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