How wearable tech is shaping basketball brackets

  • Wearables give coaches deeper insights into player strengths and weaknesses, as well as fatigue and injury risk.

  • Data-driven insights from wearable tech are reshaping practice and play.

Wearable tech and athletic telemetry is changing the hardcourt game. Data on match-ups, strengths, and player durability is churned and processed long before tip-off. Equipment managers are gathering wearable sensors and coordinating targeted workout plans for each athlete.

You won’t see fitness bands or augmented-reality goggles on players any time soon, but NCAA regulations do allow players to wear sophisticated activity trackers during regulation games. These sensor systems combine positioning sensors with accelerometers and gyroscopes to track minute details of a player’s workload. They help coaches understand when a player is just a quarter-step out of position for a crucial play or chose to pass when a shot would have been a higher-percentage choice. But they can go much deeper than that.

By monitoring player effort — including energy expended, impacts with other players, and high wear-and-tear events like explosive movement and sharp deceleration — coaches know better how to set their rotations and rest players. Instead of trusting instincts, coaches now have data-driven insights telling them when players are at their most fatigued and error- or injury-prone.

Of course, you still have to execute on the court and win games. No amount of advanced telemetry guarantees a spot in the tournament. Early adopter Marquette University, for example, has an impressive tech-driven sports story to tell, but you will need to catch the collegiate tournaments this spring to see how things really play out.

For the fans

Telemetric data is already being used to enhance the fan experience, with new statistics like player speed and total distance traveled either directly reported by wearable devices or inferred by camera tracking. The next frontier is a more immersive experience. Indiana University’s basketball program became the first collegiate team to broadcast a virtual reality event when last October’s Hoosier Hysteria — a combination talent show, public practice, and intra-squad scrimmage — was live-streamed for virtual-reality headsets.

More wearable tech at play

Charting shots to better understand where players are hot and cold is a time-honored tradition, but it traditionally required a lot of manual effort for coaching assistants. Instead of eyeballing player locations or laboriously reviewing video, ShotTracker wearable tech promises squads the ability to automatically collect the position of all 10 players on the court at every moment of a play as it unfolds. The system uses a combination of location beacons at the four corners of the court, small wearable tags on each player’s shoe, and a sensor-enabled ball. Coaches can monitor player performance in real time and go into planning sessions with a wealth of data to break down and analyze from a mobile or desktop device.

For improving individual shot mechanics, the new acronym is BEEFS: Balance, Eyes, Elbow, Followthrough, Sleeve. For Sleeve, products like the SOLIDshot basketball shooting system device are worn on the shooting arm to track arm mechanics and form through the entire process.

At the lower end of the market, any number of jump-height meters and shot accuracy trackers are either available today or coming soon for weekend warriors looking to improve their game. Whatever you do, be sure to remove your wearables before you hit the showers.

Jason Compton is an internationally published writer and reporter with extensive experience in enterprise technologies, including marketing, sales, service, and collaboration. All opinions are his own. AT&T has sponsored this blog post. 

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