The business of professional sports has developed into a multibillion-dollar industry, raising the stakes for all involved and creating pressure on franchises to invest in new strategies and technologies in order to compete with one another. As a result, scouting, player development and athlete training have become more scientific and evidence-based over time, and that drive to discover new and more telling player-performance insights has led to a demand for more precise and dynamic data collection.
Yet even as advances in performance-tracking devices and information technology further empower sports franchises to achieve those ends, clubs still typically find their available options troubled by a key limitation: portability. Given the data-collection needs of modern professional sports franchises – and specifically those in leagues with particular circumstances – this is a significant obstacle. In the National Basketball Association, for instance, teams’ travel demands, varying arena restrictions and need to record microscale biomechanical movements with pinpoint precision require performance-tracking technology with the flexibility to be moved easily – broken down and reinstalled quickly, within nearly any space. Here’s why the portability of player-tracking tech is so important in a league such as the NBA:
Schedule. With 82 games in a regular season – plus playoffs matchups, exhibitions and practice sessions – NBA teams require a high volume of data collection amid frequent venue changes. Because no sports organizations can be expected to share data from their own tracking tech or allow competitors to permanently install equipment in their arenas, teams need easily portable technology in order to ensure comprehensive performance data collection.
Arena restrictions. Every NBA court measures 92 feet long by 50 feet wide, but venue layouts and equipment-accommodation parameters across the league can vary greatly from arena to arena. Legacy performance-tracking systems can be restricted by reception issues due to venue characteristics, and wearables systems aren’t a reasonable solution in a basketball setting. Moreover, NBA teams often have data-collection needs that demand the use of performance-tracking tech outside the league’s traditional arenas and practice facilities. (Consider the need to evaluate G League talent, summer league play, private workouts and exhibitions played in unaffiliated arenas.) And because the agreement of data collection across disparate tracking systems is inconsistent at best, NBA franchises wouldn’t be able to count on the validity of performance data cobbled together by multiple systems even if those clubs were allowed access to tech from unincorporated venues.
Fine motor movements. NBA teams have had the ability to monitor basic geo-tracking and kinetic data – such as player location, direction and speed – for some time now. But team practitioners are interested in far more detailed player-performance information – from jump shot ball rotation to foot-plant angles – which can provide insights that help coaches develop customized training habits and flag trainers with potential injury risks. Straight-line running and maximum speed and power outputs are less important for NBA players than they are in other sports. But subtle differences in athlete knee bend, hand placement, foot angle and body tilt, to name a few, can provide visibility into player potential or performance changes that can make or break a team – especially in a five-on-five sport, where one player can make such an outsize difference. This makes accurate, dynamic performance-tracking tech that is easily transferable from venue to venue an invaluable tool for NBA organizations.