Technology has revolutionized every sector and soccer is no exception. In the beginning, the main goal was to improve the equipment the players used. However, as the concepts of operation and performance evolved, the best way to help athletes was still not available.
The first follow-up prototypes were implemented in 1997, ready to collect the basic data like distance covered. Since then, they have evolved significantly.
Today, they can be found in soccer and many other sports where there is a huge interest in the performance of athletes. Soccer tracking technology is currently being used by almost all the best clubs in the world, such as Real Madrid and Juventus F.C.
The only exception to this rule in recent years was Manchester United, under the rule of Jose Mourinho.
However, as soon as the new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joined the club, he restored GPS tracking. He agreed that this technology is crucial for today’s soccer – ”I think it is a great tool for fitness coaches and for me as a manager to set parameters on the physical work we do during the week”.
One of the first decisions of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a Manchester United coach was to restore GPS tracking
Trackers and Soccer – An Unbreakable Bond
Soccer trackers have indeed become a standard in almost every team which has the ability to use them.
Being able to analyze your athletes’ performance not only allows you to take their training to a higher level but also to identify their individual mistakes and the way in which their bodies react during difficult situations that might occur in a match. By identifying and working on individual strengths and weaknesses, coaches can enhance their players’ development.
There are several types of soccer trackers. One of the first to be introduced were cameras with an optical sensor. They were responsible for following a player throughout the game to record his basic statistics. Not only did they mark his route and the “heat zone”, but they were also able to recognize tackles, shots at goal, passes, etc.
These type of devices lacked some important data were extremely costly, and lacked the mobility, that current systems have. Later, local positioning devices appeared, but GPS soccer trackers quickly replaced them.
Unlike the tracking system with cameras, they allowed coaches to gather more sophisticated data such as Player Load, or High-Intensity Distance, Accelerations & Decelerations etc. What’s more, they can be easily transported with teams for away matches or pre-season camps.
The consistency of being able to measure players’ performance almost everywhere, paired with a reduced cost has led to the immense popularity of this technology.
As the technology continuously developed, companies such as Sonda Sports entered the market a few years ago and have made trackers available for almost everybody, while expanding the range of statistics measured.
Now we are able to measure the internal functioning of the body, not just the heartbeat and breathing. We can analyze processes which help us calculate other important values such as Metabolic Power or Internal and External Efficiency, constantly expanding the data sets, provided to its’ users.
GPS trackers are now used in all elite soccer teams
Today, most GPS soccer tracking systems include a GPS tracker, Heart Rate Monitor, and an application gathering and combining the measured data.
The information we gather using such systems can be divided into three important sections. The first includes biological data, consisting of internal factors such as the heart rate, oxygen and fatigue, as well as measurements of values such as lactic acid and others. These measurements can be performed for example, by tracking the High Metabolic Distance using GPS soccer trackers.
The second is kinematics – all the data of the players’ performance in the field, such as the distance covered, accelerations & decelerations, and maximum speed.
Finally, using GPS systems we also collect tactical statistics. For example – Heat maps are used to measure effectiveness on the field in a specific position.
This data is fundamental in order to evaluate and improve the performance of athletes. Training should be focused on creating custom routines, prepared individually for players or at least groups of players, based on their characteristics and current stamina level.
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Before the era of GPS tracking, it was almost impossible to adjust workloads to individual players’ capabilities. The coaches had to rely on their gut feeling when deciding about training individualization and periodization. The lack of a data-driven approach for many years stopped the game from increasing its intensity.
This data-based approach had also proven to be effective in helping reduce the risk of injury. By measuring workloads and making decisions based on reliable signals from players’ bodies, fitness coaches obtained a powerful tool for preserving athletes’ health, while improving their performance.
Using tracking systems, we can even measure the level of fatigue and loss of energy. Not only can we understand how the player’s metabolism works, but also what type of food we should incorporate into their diet to stabilize their nutritional requirements and ensure better performance.
A player can lie to the coach, but never to technology
Looking into the future
Great interest in this technology appeared in 2015 when it was approved for use in professional soccer matches, and it will continue to push the game to a higher level in the future.
It is a tremendous advantage due to the countless benefits it provides.
In the future, we predict that fans will also be interested in knowing the performance data of their idols. This will allow them to see how their favorite athletes stand out from other players. They will be a point of reference and goal for beginners.
In the era of engaging fans using various technologies, this can be the next step in building loyalty and monetizing the fanbase.
Today, GPS is the undisputed leader when it comes to trackers and tracking. However, with the advent of important technologies such as 5G, this is going to evolve even further – and with it, the way we understand the most beautiful sport in the world.