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How Advanced Performance-Tracking Technology Transfers From Football to Hockey

Performance-tracking technology has been used across nearly every sport, at practically every level, for some time now. Devices can be as basic as a stopwatch in swimming or track, a radar gun in baseball or a smartwatch that tracks the heart rate of athletes in any sport. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the tech may be as advanced as a LiDAR-based tracking system such as Sportlight’s.

Sports-science technology has developed to the point that athletes can track and gain access to reasonably useful performance and kinetic data using only a smartphone. But for some sports, the highest reaches of modern performance tracking remain – for now – beyond the grasp of even the most progressive, leading-edge technology. An example (and one that might surprise you) is hockey.

Football to Hockey: A Flawed Parallel

Football, or soccer, has been an early adopter and an innovation leader in its embrace of performance-tracking technology. For instance, Sportlight is an insights provider and player tracking solution for nearly every Premier League club, providing dynamic movement data for every athlete on the pitch and processing that data in a manner that empowers practitioners and coaches to make more informed decisions and build more effective training and rehabilitation programs. Perhaps you’ve seen another sport featuring a long, flat playing surface with opposing teams attempting to score on each other’s netted goals.

You can probably imagine where we’re headed with this: If football is at the top of the performance-tracking food chain, so to speak, why can’t the same (or similar) technology be easily transferred to hockey? The simplest answer is, it’s complicated. But that doesn’t explain much, and doesn’t help solve hockey’s current performance-tracking challenge.

Technology, Data and Demand: The Next Step for Hockey

At Sportlight, we’re working on solutions that can be easily integrated into the sport, and we’re optimistic that we are closing in on a breakthrough in that regard. There is something of a chicken-or-egg element to the issue, in that the lack of access to advanced tracking technology in hockey has stunted the growth of and demand for performance data in the sport. In turn, that can create difficulties or delays in the innovation of useful sport-specific tech. For example, we know – after years of observation, research, trial and error, and technological development – what “good” running looks like. We understand optimal gait, the general limits of torque on the joints and the inconsistencies and imbalances that represent risk factors to athletes on the pitch.

But what does optimal stride length look like? What is the best approach to load management in hockey? Presumably, there are optimal angles, force ratios and training limits, just as there are in football and other sports – but we don’t yet have the same amount of data in hockey to make more than reasonable assumptions and educated guesses about appropriate thresholds and best practices right now.

The good news: With the benefit of artificial intelligence and the collective knowledge earned over years of tracking-tech development, the iterative process continues to get faster. As practitioners, coaches and executives in hockey become more familiar with performance data and tracking technology, and as demand for those tools and the information they gather peaks, the more targeted hockey-specific innovation can become – and the sooner that dynamic, high-quality insights can be accessed by hockey clubs to inform their training programs and tactical decision-making.

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