Catapult Sports will actively exhibit its newest technology at the 2013 NAB Cup – an integrated ball tracking system that will have huge ramifications for the analysis of physical performance and tactical development.

Currently available for Australian Rules football, rugby league and rugby union, the innovative SmartBall technology has been developed to work alongside Catapult’s trademark OptimEye system to provide valuable information for dissection and review of training and game performance.

Since the introduction of fast GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers with GPS integration and wireless real-time data by Catapult, there has quickly become no way for a modern athlete to hide on the field. And while the physiological movements measured by OptimEye have been extensively used around the world, the general purpose of the athletes on the field is to gain possession of the ball.

SmartBall quantifies the performance of athletes based on this requirement, and is able to accurately measure: who is in possession, number of possessions, time in possession, distance to get the ball, distance of last possession, distance of all possessions, velocity at possession, velocity at disposal, and pass chains between teammates.

With its ability to trace the movement of the ball relevant to the surrounding players, SmartBall will have positive ramifications by bringing a coach’s playbook to life and breaking down the tactical analysis side of team sport.

The technology works by using a patented module inside the ball that is detected by nearby OptimEye devices. Since OptimEye tracks players with precision, and the ball is near the players nearly all the time, Catapult’s revolutionary system can compute the position of the ball – and differentiate between who has possession and who is near the ball or contesting possession.

Only compatible with OptimEye V4 or higher, SmartBall utilises a 15 gram module that updates five times a second, can register being within 85cm of a moving player, and strictly complies with the AFL training and match day ball specification range of 480-520 grams. The technology has been thoroughly studied by the University of South Australia and Victoria University, who have tested weight distribution and flight of the ball in their state-of-the-art sport science studios.

While ball tracking has never been used in a game situation prior to the NAB Cup, several AFL teams already have heavy experience with ball tracking, including the Gold Coast Suns, North Melbourne Kangaroos, Melbourne Demons, Richmond Tigers, Adelaide Crows, West Coast Eagles, and the AFL Academy.

Providing a further tactical insight into the game, SmartBall offers the ability to combine the movement of the ball with the physiological parameters currently monitored both real-time and post-data to provide in-depth team and individual analysis.

Ball tracking helps improve tactical analysis by: counting possessions and disposals, quantifying how often you are contesting possession, monitoring where you are getting possessions, measuring what players are winning the ball in congested play, visualising possession strings, where players led from to receive the ball and how far they travelled once they had it.

Ball tracking also allows you to improve fitness analysis by linking physical efforts with possessions, quantifying long kicking/passing loads in training, and measuring high intensity efforts needed for typical possessions.


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