The adidas miCoach Elite System will be used by MLS in 2013. Image Credit: adidas
Soccer News: adidas and Major League Soccer Boldly Go into the Future
With the announcement this week that every Major League Soccer (MLS) team will integrate the new adidas miCoach Elite System for the 2013 season, one of the world’s oldest games has taken another giant leap into the future. This comes on the heels of the decision by FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to allow goal-line technology to be used. In a matter of days, soccer technology has become a hot topic. As adidas puts it, we’re talking “smart soccer” now.
While use of technology to identify goals has been discussed for some time, perhaps the most unique use of high-tech is the new miCoach system. With this technology coaches can keep track of each player’s vital statistics and determine the physical and physiological impact not just on the individual but on the entire team. Of course, there will be many who downplay this type of technology on the field, while some may even go so far as to refer to “Big Brother” on the pitch. But it is here.
Just how does miCoach work and how will it help teams improve their performance? The technology involves a small data cell fitted into the player’s base layer (think high-tech undergarment) in a protective pocket between the shoulder blades. This base layer has a series of sensors and electrodes woven throughout, all connected to the data cell. The cell wirelessly transmits over 200 data records per second to a central computer, which then displays the data for the coach on an iPad. Yes, adidas and Apple are linked.
That’s how the system works. But how does it help a player or a team? According to adidas, the system tracks a player’s heart rate, speed, acceleration, distance, field position and power. With the data, coaches can analyze player and team trends, reduce overtraining and possible injury and, in game situations, decide how to conserve energy for a final push.
Ultimately, it’s all about fitness and capability. As Matthew Doyle points out in his Armchair Analyst blog for MLS, fitness has become a more important element of the game in recent years. He points out how the Dutch were so successful in the 1970s because they took training and fitness more seriously than most of their opponents did. If your team has that little extra left as the game runs down, it can be a huge difference.
One use of the system will no doubt be during training, when coaches will be able to analyze peak performance and recovery by each member of the team. Doyle relates the experience of ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman when he was playing with 1860 Munich in Germany and the team was using heart monitors to record both upper heart rate and recovery. That system allowed the coaches to see who was in better shape based on the time it took to recover from top heart rate.
With the miCoach system, trainers and coaches will have even more data to work with during practice, as well as during games. Having real-time data will help coaches decide how much to work players in practice (and who is “dogging it”) in order to get the greatest development and preparation. It could also be used during a game to determine when the majority of the team needs recovery time, indicating it could be time to drop back into a defensive shell for a short period. In short, it will be about trying to gain that little edge at the end.
While the adidas miCoach Elite System will debut at the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 25, the real test will come next year when the entire league rolls out the technology. No doubt some teams will whole-heartedly adopt the system and try to use every possible element, while others will make a gradual move into the technology. It will be interesting to see which teams fall into which category, and how (and even if) it makes a difference over the course of a season.
Good morning, soccer – your future is here.
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