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How Personalized Movement Data Can Be Used to Develop Game Tactics

Coaches and performance practitioners are always in search of small or hidden insights to help squeeze every bit of potential from the individual athletes and teams they lead. While that had often come in the form of broad training practices and outcome-based analytics in the past, technology today is empowering organizations to collect increasingly granular data and apply it in new and productive ways.

Whereas an NBA coach might have once glanced at a stat sheet to determine his “best” 3-point shooter for deploying in specific game situations, modern shot-tracking technology can instantly identify the player who is statistically most likely to hit a shot from the left corner in the fourth quarter of a game in a given arena. Other tech can offer an even more nuanced picture by analyzing, for example, a player’s balance, lift, release point and follow-through on a specific shot, in both games and practices, over the previous 48 hours, week, month or any other select period.

Now consider a sport such as football (or soccer), in which fewer shots – or individual statistics of any kind – are recorded. Rather than relying on tech with limited capabilities and the eyeball test, a coach could greatly benefit from motion-tracking technology that can accurately describe players’ kinetic capabilities, and thus offer more insight into their potential in particular roles or pairings. Yet we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of how movement data can be used to develop in-game tactics in sports.

Breaking Up the Game

One of the goals of the LiDAR- and AI-based Sportlight athlete tracking and management system is to measure the differences in athlete outputs over the course of matches and games. By identifying small discrepancies in, say, a winger’s top speed or change-of-direction quickness from the first third of a match to the final third, a coach might be better informed when developing personalized training programs to optimize performance based on the in-game demands of an athlete. It’s not unreasonable to assert that this data could be a difference-maker in a sport whose outcomes are often settled by a single goal.

In the same way that pitch velocities are closely scrutinized and compared over the course of a starting pitcher’s outing, Premier League managers, NHL coaches and – again – NBA coaches would find important differences in individual player performances over the course of a single competition. In athletics, the micro-outcomes that lead to larger results are too randomized to be accurately assessed via antiquated, player-centric data (statistics) – even in the aggregate of total performance. Instead, modern movement data offers coaches a stronger understanding of player fatigue and performance degradation, providing them with information that can bolster their ability to assess talent and enhance performance.

More Components of Movement

Player fatigue is just one factor that can influence in-game tactics. Coaches routinely fill out lineups, build set pieces and make decisions about roles and responsibilities based on individual athlete strengths and weaknesses. Situational speed, quickness and vertical leap, for instance, are basic athletic markers that can help a coach determine which players are better equipped for a run on goal or a tough defensive assignment.

Sportlight has the ability to track, categorize and aggregate as needed those straightforward measurements – as well as plenty more. Quantitative information that describes a player’s transition from a defensive to an attacking play has obvious in-game applications. Granular data that measures the reaction time, quickness and angles of an NBA center’s movement in defensive screen-and-roll situations is another example of potential technology-fueled tracking results that can help a coach game-plan for an opponent, make a lineup decision or choose strategic substitution patterns that match teammates to accentuate their abilities (or help cover up a weakness).

Modern movement data isn’t meant to replace a coach’s experience and intuition. It should be offered as yet another tool in a coach’s belt – empirical measurements that can buttress instincts and allow for the hundreds of tiny decisions necessary over the course of a contest to be made with confidence.

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