Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on April 7th, 2015

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7 ways technology has changed sports for coaches, fans and athletes.

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Sports fans and athletes come in many forms. You could be a baseball fanatic, football junkie, hockey enthusiast or star athlete. Sports appeals to fans of all ages. Baseball has been called "America's pastime" due to its popularity in the 19th and 20th century.  Some things about sports haven't changed in years. But then again some have changed immensely. Many of the changes that we see in sports today is a direct result of you guessed it, technology.

To continue with our new segment on how technology has changed the world around us industry by industry today we will cover sports technology. As we go along with this series, one thing I am noticing is how some aspects of technology overlap from one industry to another.  For instance, in all the segments thus far, and including today's wearable technology in some form is at the forefront of the technological advancements.

1. Wearable technology/Microchips. Australian based Catapult Sports has created wearable sensors or microchips to help monitor athletes to varying degrees.  Professional teams like the NBA's Mavericks utilize the technology to track player workloads, rehab progress, acceleration, jumping and more. The team wears a one-ounce device that is inserted into a pocket on the back of their jersey. Catapult says that one-third of NBA teams and half of NFL teams utilize their technology to monitor their athletes. And, the NHL is using Catapult to reduce injuries.  In the NHL Catapult is using its sensor to track the speed of the player and impact of hits. Trainers can even see how much stress is being put on specific areas of the body.

2. Smart Helmets. Smart helmets are also a form of wearable technology. These helmets are geared specifically to monitor and reduce head injuries and concussions. Riddell has a line of smart helmets that have sensors in the helmet that communicate to handheld devices and utilize software to manage rosters.  The ShockBox is also a form of smart-helmet. The ShockBox has helmets for many types of sports, hockey, football, lacrosse, biking and more.

3. Coaches Eye. This software and corresponding app are available on Apple, Android and Windows devices that allow coaches, trainers, and parents to video athletes during games, at practice or during training sessions. The software then provides instant replay, slow motion, and side-by-side comparison. Coaches Eye can be utilized in football, baseball, hockey, golf, fitness, and even dance instructors use the software.

4. Streaming.  We discussed MLB At Bat on the blog a few weeks ago. Professional sports leagues are making sure their fans never miss a game. With streaming services such as MLB At Bat fans can watch their favorite team from anywhere. They can keep up with statistics, replays, and standings as well.

5. Go Pro. Go Pro has teamed with the NHL and NHL Players Association to bring fans closer to the action. They have created some pretty spectacular videos featuring today's hottest NHL stars (even several from my favorite Chicago Blackhawks!).  Check out the videos Go Pro has up on YouTube featuring the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby and more.  A warning though if you have motion sickness issues, these may pose a problem. But, boy, are they fun to watch.

6. Instant replays and wireless technology. Instant replays are used in most sports and they are only becoming more prevalent. In the MLB, they can be used for "Coaches Challenges" thru the 6th inning.  Umpires today can use forms of wireless Bluetooth communication to communicate different views of specific plays.  There are also several forms of review systems in place for other sports. Basketball, for instance, uses replays to review "last touch" during the final two minutes of a game. Tennis also uses ball tracking technology to track the ball.

7. Social Media. Today many fans take to social media to interact with fellow fans, favorite teams, and rivals. In my opinion, the NHL uses social media to its advantage. And, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman agrees.  The NHL brand accounts have 3 million Twitter followers, 3.7 million Facebook and 753,000 followers on Instagram accounts.  And then, there are team-specific accounts. You can follow local sports reports on Twitter for up to the minute plays if you can't stream the game for some reason. You can interact with your favorite team via social media as well.  Many teams have contests to engage not only the fans who are in the stadium but also the fans watching from home.

By using one or a combination of the above listed available forms of technology trainers, coaches and players can improve their statistics, adjust for the problem, errors, monitor health and reduce injuries. Fans can track their favorite teams and players via streaming and fun videos like Go Pro. Teams can use digital statistics software to get a better understanding of their opponents to better prepare for a game. Coaches can use software to track tendencies in their players to create the best lineup depending on their opponent. Are you an athlete that uses technology advancements to better your game or are you a fan that uses apps, mobile and/or streaming services to keep up with your favorite team. Tell me about how technology has changed how you play or experience your favorite sport.