Digital transformation in all areas of human life: in the household, the shopping plan is compiled by computer, efficiency is optimized at work – and in professional football, every centimeter traveled is evaluated. New: Digitized training methods for amateurs. With a fictional goal: data-driven team building using artificial intelligence. This was discussed at a symposium of the Bavarian State Center for Political Education in the halls of the University of Würzburg.
Tenor: Many club representatives wouldn’t even know what digital options they have – both in terms of marketing and optimizing the training and promotion of young talent. The collection of biometric data should not be restricted to the Bundesliga. Development is just beginning, some is vision.
1. What systems and projects already exist
The most spectacular digital training situation is in some professional clubs, in Germany including TSG Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund: the “Footbonaut”. The cage made up of LED panels and ball machines costs 1.5 million euros. Players act on passed balls and lighted panels. “It’s a question of speed of action”, explains Jonas Schulz, whose idea is to put “the part on the market in an affordable version” – the “passer on the ground” for amateur clubs. The 24-year-old student of business informatics at the University of Cologne developed a prototype together with friends from his sports club TSV Ettleben/Werneck (district of Schweinfurt) and applied for a grant for it.
2. Which entry-level models do without additional devices
Programs that can be used via mobile phone, such as the “B42” training app, do not require any additional device. In addition to training and exercise instructions as well as nutrition plans, their spectrum mainly includes the measurability of physical fitness. “B42” managing director Andreas Gschaider: “For us, it’s all about motivation through individual goals.” As an addition to traditional training: “No footballer is interested in staying in shape for twelve months without the ball and without time on the pitch with a fitness app.”
3. Why these apps are also suitable for amateur football
The big advantage of apps in the daily training of small clubs: they cost little or nothing – and if a whole team is not interested, they can be used individually by individuals, even in the youth sector, as points out Gschaider of Central Franconia: “Performance data can be compared.” For coaches, especially in amateur clubs, these values can ultimately serve as a guide for composition. The subjective impression gives way to GPS data that documents who is the fastest, strongest, toughest, most accurate and hardworking player. For injured people, there are individual rehabilitation programs alongside conventional physiotherapy.
4. What basic equipment is required
In order to be able to process the data within the framework of an app-supported training, these must be saved. The market offers, among other things, tight-fitting tracking vests that are worn under the jersey. All forms of movement activity (speed, change of direction, efficiency) are transmitted through the integrated mini-transmitter – with up to five position determinations per second. Ettleben’s “Groundpasser” prototype requires up to six boards, which are equipped with LEDs and vibration sensors and communicate with an app. According to Schulz, these panels can be angled to make the ball bounce high. “You can organize the games in a circle. Or for tactical position games according to the spheres of action of the individual games of the team.” The panels are hung in the goal for shooting practice. The next stage of development should be treadmills to measure positional play.
5. How much do the products cost and how durable are they
A tracking vest including a transmitter costs around 150 euros. A six-panel “Groundpasser” set would cost the club around 1,000 euros at the current stage of development. “It is certain that there are still clubs which prefer to bring two players into the district league for 2000 euros”, specifies Schulz, but the trend is for the development of young people to position themselves more locally. “Our goal is to get these products into the training of coaches.” The new prototype should be ready in July, used by clubs in the preparations for the 2023 season, then optimized in terms of quality and costing up to 2000 euros for the complete set. Controversial: Electricity, batteries and plastic do not fit into the sustainability debate, which will become binding in professional football from 2023. Schulz admits: “The panels are made of Green PE, which is made from sugarcane. We can’t avoid batteries, but we pay attention to those that last a long time.”
6. What potential developers and vendors see for daily training
Schulz names three common practice problems: 1. A team performs a drill together because only one coach is present; 2. the trainer decides everything instinctively; 3. Passing drills aren’t fun. “Training with the app and the panels allows division, ensures a competitive character. A network effect can be achieved via the mobile phone. You can compare yourself, even with people from other teams.”
7. How fun computer-based training could be
First and foremost, the health and performance-enhancing aspects are the fun factor, as Gschaider points out. His vision: a connection between the application and the e-sport offers. Its own performance data could be related to the game strength of an avatar, a custom fictional character, for example in FIFA video games. If the footballer improves on the pitch, the level of the avatar also increases.