In modern sport, playing the game counts but winning is the be-all and end-all, and sports technology is becoming an increasingly important tool for professionals in many different sports. Players and Macs are team-mates these days. As well as the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish national rugby teams, London Wasps rugby club has been using an innovative Mac-only sports analysis system, called SportsCode, to help improve team and player performance.
SportsCode is a video analysis system that lets coaches and players review match events in real-time, delivering essential data to help them make the right decision during a game, or to develop accurate, fact-based training plans to improve future performance. The system also helps assess the performance of opponents, identifying strengths and weaknesses.
The solution was used across fifteen sports at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, including hockey and netball. SportsCode manufacturer Sportstecs managing director Philip Jackson claims: Were in every sport in the world at present.
London Wasps performance analyst Rhys Long uses the Mac and SportsCode to help the players get an edge over their opponents.
Why is this solution Mac only? Macs handle video better and faster than any other platform, says Jackson. Because its so video-based, this is a demanding application and needs a robust platform a referee wont stop the game because a computers crashed.
So how does technology help? We often say we are legal performance enhancement, Jackson laughs. SportsCode lets you play smarter, and smarter play can extend a professional career by two or three years.
London Wasps performance analyst Rhys Long is equally enthusiastic about the solution. Its not a platform-led decision he wrote a comparative study of available sports technology solutions for his Masters degree, and is in no doubt that this solution is the best one for his players.
The difference between SportsCode, which can yield exactly what you want to see from a game, and just watching a match on video, is incredible, he says.
Wasps previously used PowerPC-based Macs, but the team recently acquired Intel-powered MacBooks and MacBook Pros to run SportsCode. Rhys is pleased with what he sees: We use a certain video codec for recording games, so when it comes to burning a DVD of a match we have to change it to a different one. I have seen the time that takes reduced by 50 per cent using Intel Macs.
Once deployed, how does his team use the Macs? During a match, the system captures video from two cameras. Both sit on the same tripod, with one set to cover the whole pitch, and the other focusing in on the action. This is seen on a split screen, so the coach can see the action as well as the overall situation, explains Long.
While the action is taking place, the analysis team inputs data to describe the games events such as passes, tackles, scrums and point scores. Logging activity in this way is essential to the system because these notes are applied to the videos timeline. The data is searchable, so its possible to get the system to show particular activities, such as scrums or tries.
It means coaches can focus on the game, but can always call upon the searchable tagged video data when they need to understand something about the match to help their team win.
At the club level, Rhys believes Wasps are quite unique: Not many teams are doing this, but we try to affect change during the game itself, he explains. Coaches and analysts constantly monitor SportsCode data during a game, and are in direct radio contact with some players on the pitch, which means they can guide the teams strategy during a match.
You cant substitute technology for individual skill; what we try to do is make players efforts more efficient. We analyse opponents during games too, so we can improve our strategy, he adds. His motto is to innovate, not imitate.
SportsCode also delivers effective post-match analysis tools. The video is intact, tagged and searchable, delivering relevant replays on request, including footage of any earlier matches available on the system. Coaches and teams can examine each moment, pull it apart, discuss it, learn from it, implement change, and even burn a DVD using Apples iDVD or DVD Studio Pro software, so they can watch relevant moments later on. Matches are archived to an Xserve at headquarters. We play up to 70 matches a year, so we need a lot of space, says Rhys.
Wales, Ireland and Scotland implemented SportsCode in 2001.
Wasps turned to SportsCode in 2002.
The English RFU implemented its system in late 2005.
- 17 MacBook Pro with Windows XP Partition
- 15 MacBook Pro
- 4 x MacBook 2.0GHz
- 5 x 23 Apple Cinema Display
- Xserve G5 Dual 2.3GHz
- 3 x PowerBook G4 1.67GHz
- To raise the level of performance.
- To gain an advantage, however small, over an opponent.
- To create an open feedback loop for training.
- SportsCode + Mac makes for stable, reliable feedback to boost attainment and training.
- Searchable, tagged video assets make for better training and in-game strategies.
- Use of video archive helps coaches and players ensure open feedback on improving performance.
Where to Buy
- London Wasps purchased their complete solution from Computer Warehouse.