In addition to the respect and pride of accomplishment that winning in any sport provides, if it’s done at the professional level, the monetary rewards of winning can be great as well. In fact, exceptional performance can create a lasting legacy for a player, a team, and a coach. This gives coaches, trainers, and the players themselves the incentives to achieve their highest performance levels. To do this, sensing has been an integral part of analyzing and improving the player’s performance for many years. For example, the high-speed cameras used to confirm the referee’s calls during a game have also been used in training and practice sessions for analysis. However, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology has brought a higher level of performance analysis into the picture.
Follow the money
With the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) awarding $440 million in prize money for the World Cup 2022 and the winning team receiving prize money of $42 million, it is no wonder that professional teams are increasingly using technology to advance their performance. In addition to national pride, each nation participating in the World Cup also earns prize money based on their performance.
While the World Cup is one of the world’s most-watched sporting events, there are others that garner a lot of attention as well including the Super Bowl. In the 2023 post-season activity, Eagles and Chiefs players received $45,500 for earning a bye in the wild-card round, $50,500 for playing in the divisional round, and another $73,000 for playing in the conference championship. In addition to the $169,000 in playoff bonuses, players had a chance to increase that amount to $326,000 — if they won the Super Bowl. With this amount of money at stake, it is easy to see how the cost of technology can be justified to improve a player’s and the team’s performance and make sure the right call is made.
Get the ball rolling
Initially used in a college football game in 1963, instant replay (based on video camera technology) has been a mainstay of many sports for many years. FIFA introduced the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the 2018 World Cup. In 2022, FIFA took technology to the next level in Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup with Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT). SAOT integrates MEMS gyroscopes/ accelerometers and other electronics into the game balls.
There are several sports balls that use gyroscopes/accelerometer sensors from TDK InvenSense, including soccer, basketball, baseball, and rugby, as well as rackets for tennis and clubs for golf. A discussion with Song Li, Product Marketing Director at InvenSense, a TDK Group company, provided insight into the current trends they’ve observed in sports technology based on the application of their sensors.
Working with sport equipment suppliers, TDK InvenSense has had its MEMS technology integrated into practice as well as game balls. One of the more visible successes was working with AIRTLS, a partner that developed the Smart Connected Ball. This ball is used in professional soccer clubs for training, but it can also be used in an official match. Part 2 of this three-part blog will discuss how technology is incorporated into the ball without impacting players’ perceptions.