Technology disrupts. Technology is making computers increasingly more intelligent. Which, in turn, are augmenting human intelligence and capability like never before.
In India, Swiggy and Zomato disrupted the food business. Ola brought a revolution in Taxi services and Byju's heralded a new era in edtech.
In a similar way, what can technology do to football training?
Football is a game played by 22 individuals on a 100-yard field. It is a contact sport that demands physical presence. But, when you see Cristiano Ronaldo playing at his prime at 36 or Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring stunners at age 39, is it just hard work, passion, and resilience?
We are already seeing technology become ubiquitous in elite football—large chunks of data being used to track and improve athletes’ performance. Companies like Catapult, StatSports, and other Athlete Management Systems collect on-field performance data which goes through multiple processing and refinement to output actionable metrics. Sports scientists, performance analysts, physiotherapists of football organizations use such metrics to map out personalized plans and optimize the performance of professional players.
But what about sports enthusiasts at the bottom of the pyramid? Those who are not into elite sports but form the bulk of the industry volume? Are there any use-cases for technology to cater to their needs of learning and enjoying football and other sports, by making them more efficient and knowledgeable?
Physical workouts and skills training
Physical fitness is a core part of one’s athletic abilities. And fitness training is a hard science that is domain-specific. The trainer at your gym can't put you through the same regime which a bodybuilder undergoes, if your end goal is to become a footballer.
The average Body Mass Index (BMI) for a footballer is between 20-24, as per European standards. Achieving that is a task in itself, it becomes even more challenging if you don't have a strategy and the correct process. Through a football app, domain-specific strength and conditioning specialists can create personalized plans for users.
For example, it can create training plans based on different segments of the target group:
- toddlers, who cannot, and need not go to gymnasiums.
- beginners who don't have access to experienced trainers and mentors.
- professionals who want to hone their craft further.
It can help children to start early at home, without any peer pressure. We are overawed to see Messi dribbling past defenders with ease. There are specific skills that he performs to do so. Such as the Shoulder Drop. With the help of an app, one could master the Shoulder Drop through practice, provided one starts early.
A football app can have industry veterans teaching live about the technicalities of feinting, the psychology of anticipating a defender's movements, and the timing of your move. Such expert guidance can expedite the growth of a budding footballer by a few notches.
Curated content to improve knowledge
In addition to the technical and physical parts, a footballer also needs training on the tactical, mental, and social aspects. An app can curate high-quality content specific to these elements and educate the users. Off-field routine is as crucial as on-field routine. If a player is exceptional on the pitch but fails to have a balanced regime off it, sooner or later, the talent fails to materialize into success. Athletes find it challenging to take time off their regular routines to upgrade themselves in other aspects of life. Here's where curated content can guide the players on subjects such as nutrition, psychology, communication, tactics and decision making.
Take the example of Brazilian superstar Robinho. He had the ingredients to become one of the greatest on the field, but where is he? Does anyone talk about him? Football was never about talent alone.
Maintaining a schedule
It isn't easy to maintain a schedule in today's world without the help of technology. If your Google Calendar does not remind you of an upcoming event, or the Alarm snoozes by itself, you know how the day pans out. Similarly, the peak of discipline in football is hard to achieve manually. If an app guides you through the best practices and nudges you to perform the requisites, life can become more accessible. A football app can help maintain and monitor goal-based schedules for an athlete. Slowly, as the app learns about the athlete, it could suggest customized alterations for enhanced outcomes.
Benchmarking with peers
Competition is the primary source of engagement for any sport. While younger children should not be exposed to competitive challenges too soon, they have to be groomed and trained to handle competition in all walks of life as they grow up. In fact, learning can be fun with healthy competition. Through a football app, you could benchmark your skills and progress with your peers as well as the best in business. An app can help you share knowledge, learn from mistakes, and acquire the golden badge of social equity. Such benchmarking and interactions can create a healthy feedback loop to consistently enhance the user's motivation.
Access to the best coaches
One of technology's contributions has been that it has made the world a local place. Today's technology has made it possible for you to track what hairstyle Neymar has put up an hour before. If you're lucky, you can also get a reply to the appreciation you wrote to him on Instagram. And that is intriguing.
Similarly, through a football app, now a child living in Kashmir can have access to an AFC 'A' licensed coach from Kerala. The coach can impart knowledge and track the athlete's progress. If the athlete's progress is found suitable, it opens opportunities for getting scouted.
In conclusion, it would be silly not to expect technology to disrupt sports in the near future like other industries. However, sports-tech professionals would do well to focus their efforts around augmenting the football experience, rather than automating it. A sports tech product could unlock tremendous value for football enthusiasts. It could democratize the sport and provide equilibrium to the entire football pyramid with access to equal opportunities. But can it revolutionize the current scenario to finally make India a sporting nation?
Only time will tell.