Football clubs around the world have been getting that data hit from heart rate monitors and player tracking compression vests for some time now. Playermaker thinks it can add a whole new dimension to the kinds of insights footballers and coaches can get access to get prepped for the next big game.
The startup claims to have the biggest library of player movement data going, and is helping to track data on over $1 billion worth of players each and every day. Football’s big money nowadays, in case you hadn’t heard.
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The jewel in Playermaker’s crown is its wearable - a device that fits easily around a player’s boot. With a silicon band to house it, this device might be able to take football tracking to the next level. It's already being embraced by a number of Premier League clubs including Norwich City who make their return to England's top flight this season.
Tracking from the feet
Most player trackers are based on collecting GPS data and motion tracking, giving details of sprints and high-intensity turns. When Adidas launched its adizero f50 smart football boot back in 2011, its focus was on speed, sprints and anything to do with 360-degree movement. What those solutions couldn't or don't offer is precise information about the type of motion, load-spreading or stride length. That’s where Playermaker’s wearable potentially leaps ahead.
Playermaker’s system can identify every point in a training session where a player took a touch of the ball, or played a pass, or took a shot
“We're adding a layer of actual load monitoring, load on the lower limb," says Yuval Odem, chief operating officer at Playermaker. "Together with data profile analysis, we can detect symmetry - if your right limb is longer than your left, or you're not lifting your left leg high enough when you're running.”
In short, placing the wearable on the boot opens up a new world of analytics. Odem is keen to stress that its device is useful for, “any sport where you wear footwear”, but football is where Playermaker has started, and its focus on the feet does make it the obvious place to begin.
Playermaker’s system can identify every point in a training session where a player took a touch of the ball, or played a pass, or took a shot. Pairing this with video footage of the session means that “you can automatically create highlights very easily”, according to Odem, a promise that’s sure to tantalise video analysts everywhere.
Digging into the data
The boot-worn tracker enables coaching teams to get detailed information about their entire squad, collectively and individually, very quickly after a training session. If someone’s favouring their right foot too much, or if someone else is taking fewer touches than anyone else, they can know. This has led to a lot of interest in semi-professional setups, according to Odem, where smaller coaching setups need the help and boost in efficiency that the data can offer, in lieu of analytical teams they can’t afford.
At the opposite end of the scale, Playermaker as already mentioned is being used by a number of Premier League clubs. Millwall F.C. in the Championship has also been vocal about their use of the system. Odem says that elite clubs have been using the system in intelligent ways too. For example, the wearable can be really helpful in rehabilitating injured players.
As a footballer returns to playing with the ball, it has previously been hard to gauge exactly how close to their old condition they’re at. Now, though, the exact strength with which they can kick the ball can be measured, as can the way they’re running, to check it against their ideal condition. This can also lead into improvements in injury prevention and prediction.
Getting Playermaker on more boots
Eventually, Playermaker sees its tools being used outside of the limits professional game. “Consumer availability is on our road map – our aim is to bring the best tools in the world to any player, anywhere”, Playermaker's CEO Guy Aharon told us. Give it a couple of years and you could be analysing your kicking power as accurately and comprehensively as the players you support.
Down the line, Yuval Odem also confirms that the wearable could become smaller than its current iteration. Could the tracker eventually be completely integrated into boots? Odem is confident that can happen. More than that, he’s absolutely certain that, “two or three years from now” smart footwear will be completely “standard”. Playermaker aims to be seen as a market leader in that department.
The likes of Statsports and Playertek’s monitoring vests (a Wareable award winner in 2017) have become a normal sight at football grounds everywhere. With the potential advantages Playermaker’s system offers over those solutions, maybe we'll start to see those insights coming from the part of the body that matters most over 90 minutes.
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