Research is being conducted over “smart” soccer balls that are fitted with a microchip, and alert the referee via headset when the ball crosses a line. Such application of computer technology has all but eliminated human error from the decision-making process.
Computers define modern lifestyle better than perhaps any other device. They are used as entertainment hubs, knowledge stores, relationship portals, and what not. They are irreplaceable components of the hectic daily grind.
Computers have brought about a revolutionary leap in various sectors; sports, and sports science is no exception. The entry of computers into the world of sports changed it radically and permanently. Ask a modern coach to train his team without showing them video demonstrations, or a fan to lay off his team’s website for a couple of days, and you would be deserving of the punch that you would undoubtedly receive.
Computers are used by coaches to compile databases, compare and analyze their own as well as their opponents’ performance, by fans to keep in touch with their beloved team, and by independent agencies to create virtual likenesses of real players, or for security.
Here are some ways in which computers are employed in sports.
The primary purpose of artificial memory is to store tons of information. These include meticulously arranged records of each and every season of the particular league, records of the best individual performers, team form, etc.
These databases are particularly useful to managers while scouting for new recruits. Statistics represent the effective output of an individual or a team, and, as the old adage goes, numbers never lie. These little nuggets of 1’s and 0’s tell how a player performs in particular conditions, how a team fares with or without a particular player, how it has improved or worsened over a season, etc. Without the advent of computers, goodbye ‘moneyball’, goodbye ‘replacing one player with three’, and maybe goodbye 20 wins in a row (sorry Oakland fans)!
Simulators are particularly useful in motorsports. The more a driver/rider gets acclimatized to a particular machine off the track, the more chances he has of making the most on it. Teams spend millions on the most realistic simulator, and not without due cause.
Bio-mechanics allow a player to closely scrutinize his workout regimen and his playing style, and make changes to increase performance. Golf swings, pitching, hitting, and sprinting are just a few of the many disciplines which can be massively improved through bio-mechanics.
Performance analysis through bio-mechanics not only fine-tunes an athlete’s performance, but also makes him/her fitter and more resistant to injuries. It can reveal minute abnormalities in the physique before they balloon into serious injuries, and experts can then recommend changes to minimize the risk.
Bio-mechanics also facilitate the life-like imitations of real players in video games. Every nook and cranny of the athlete’s face is scanned, the tiniest action recorded, and is then analyzed and imitated through their virtual selves.
Websites of sports teams and sports news networks are among the most visited sites on the Internet. Fans like to keep in touch with their teams even when not using their season tickets, or even if they live thousands of miles away from their favorite team. They need constant updates on the next game, reports about the last game, and every little snippet of the latest transfer rumors.
Sports websites are also home to fantasy leagues, which is a multi-billion-dollar industry. More than 30 million people play fantasy leagues in the US and Canada; the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimated that 32 million people played fantasy leagues in the US and Canada in 2010! Sports websites are also leading avenues of online sports merchandise sales.
Computer-aided manufacturing technology has massively improved the standard of equipment and protective gear, and has made contact and risky sports much safer. Crucial equipment such as helmets, balls, bats, skates, or hoops can be made safer, sturdier, and more comfortable through computer technology. Like in bio-mechanical studies regarding players, equipment is also tested extensively before being made available to sportspersons, and is being constantly bettered by sports goods manufacturers.
The word telemetry literally means ‘measurement from distance’. Computers can provide instant information on any piece of action in a game. It can tell us the speed of the latest pitch, the reaction times of sprinters or swimmers, or miscellaneous technical data, like distance covered by a hit or throw.
Telemetry is especially important in sophisticated motorsports, where the balance of the race may shift in favor of the team who is able to analyze the accurately delivered telemetry about their car’s engine performance, acceleration, braking, etc.
This important branch serves a dual purpose. On the playing field, advanced video technology and software can be used to identify weak links in the opponent’s game―individual or team. If a pitcher has a mystery ball up his sleeve, pattern recognition programs will catch up on that; if a soccer team employs a particular formation, pattern recognition can identify weak links in the seemingly impenetrable strategy. However, conveying the results to the players and milking the opponent’s weaknesses depends on the ingenuity and pedigree of the coach.
The other purpose served by pattern recognition technology is stadium security. Cameras at strategic vantage points scan the entire stadium, and if the behavior of any particular fan sets off the alarm bells in the software, major disasters can be averted.
Computer technology is widely used in sports such as tennis, cricket, and football to determine ‘line calls’. Hawk-Eye technology, which traces the path or trajectory of a moving object―a ball, in this case―and accurately determines whether the object has crossed a specific line or mark, is a staple in major tennis tournaments and most cricket tournaments. Such technologies eliminate human error in making vital decisions, and unerringly deliver the correct verdict.
Computers have become an irreplaceable component of sports, and have improved countless aspects of sports and athletes to no end.