Technology has only recently begun to be a large factor in sporting. For many years, advancements in sports have come from a variety of other channels. But, in the last several decades, as money has flowed into the game, technology has begun to be utilized to both improve fan experience, while simultaneously improving player performance.
We look at three sports that are doing a great job of embracing technology, and some the ways they are putting it to use.
One of the simplest games in the world, soccer has been a leader in embracing technology in many areas. The sport isn’t overly complicated, which has allowed it to make use of technology quickly, instead of needing to debate over the best applications for it.
For starters, advances in the best soccer ball designs has led to only using six panels for construction, as opposed to the classic 32 panel design that has been used for decades. These improvements have brought on a new era of production stability and continuity.
Adidas designed a soccer ball for the 2018 World Cup that contained an embedded near field communication chip that allows for interaction with the ball from a smartphone. Future designs look to make use of understanding the ball’s speed and height.
Referees have benefited from goal line technology for almost a decade now, where technology is used to instantly determine if the ball has crossed the goal line and should be awarded as a goal.
Now, Video Assisted Referee allows for play to be stopped and analyzed to ensure the correct call is made. Similar to Instant Replay in American Football, this allows for refs to ensure the game is being called accurately.
The sport of basketball has made liberal use of the advanced analytics available to sporting teams. Similar to baseball, basketball is a sport of statistics, and teams that make use of the advancements in technology stand to gain a leg up.
The Golden State Warriors, the most recent dynasty team in the NBA, have leaned into the data provided by statistical analysis, and have used it to continue their dominating run of championships.
Long thought to be a low percentage shot, Golden State how shown how much better your odds of winning are when you take a high number of 3 point shots during a game.
In order to capture data like this across a large collection of games, technology like SportVU has been developed, which can capture 25 frames per second and instantly spit that data into an analytics engine.
Beyond that, NBA teams have started to make use of Virtual Reality to improve player performance in key areas like free throw shooting.
As an incredibly fast moving sport that is routinely decided by inches, tennis has put technology to use in a variety of key areas.
One of the most difficult decisions for a tennis referee was determining whether a volley was to be ruled in or out. Complex computers and cameras now come together in a technology called Hawk Eye, used to help refs determine if a ball was in or out. Players can call line challenges and refer to the technology for a definitive ruling.
Tennis rackets have benefited from technological improvements in equipment, ranging from the material rackets and strings are made from. Lightweight metal like graphite is now used in rackets, resulting in greater control along with a faster swing.
Speaking of rackets, players are now using smart rackets during practice to gain access to data for improvement. These smart components track a player’s movement and speed, feeding the info into a machine that provides insights for improvement. While not allowed in matches, players can drastically improve in practice with this data.
While soccer, basketball, and tennis are making great use of technology, many other sports are making full use of improvements each and every year. Beyond that, fans are benefitting from a better and more thorough experience in watching their favorite sport.