Soccer team in a huddle

Youth Sports 2020 and The Future of Private Instruction

August 11, 2014 by Ryan O'Neil

My interest in technology and how it impacts business has been strong since I started considering my career options in high school, though the impact technology would have on our daily lives “in the future” is turning out to be much more significant than I ever imagined.

In my current role at SAP, I am more than waist deep in a lot of great initiatives that bridge our professional and personal experiences through technology, as our team defines the future of business.

I follow many blogs, monitor social media, develop content and, ultimately, identify trends that will fundamentally change the way we think about how we interact with the world around us. For example, technologies like virtual reality, popularized by the Oculus Rift device that was recently purchased by Facebook, wearables like FitBit, and function-specific networked devices like Tile are all forcing unique shifts in our business and personal experiences. Mashable lists others that are making a splash as well.

I am interested in technology as part of my job but also as a parent to two active boys with a love of sports. For that reason, I would like to focus on one area of application that is relevant to most of us. Let’s start with some fascinating facts:

  • Youth sports is a market of 35 million youth – that’s a lot of kids.
  • There is huge market opportunity related to the purchase of equipment, instruction, coaching, field rentals, and travel (which is estimated at $7 billion of economic impact per year alone)
  • There’s plenty of desire for parents to give their kids the edge, especially with dreams of making to the “bigs” one day (for a high school baseball player, that’s a 1 in 6,000 chance).

This is where technology comes in and could play a large role in separating the future elite athletes from the ‘rest of the pack’.

Oculus Rift and Zepp in Baseball

Photo: Zepp.com

While some brands, like Coca-Cola and HBO have started applying virtual reality (VR) to the experiences they offer to consumers, I see the biggest opportunity for growth in VR to become an augmentation of our daily activities, not just some entertainment experience.

I have a 12-year-old son that plays competitive baseball and the pitchers in their league are learning to throw a variety of pitches. And, as a dad, I don’t possess the skill to throw those pitches to my son at the park across the street. VR, via a device like Oculus Rift, could be programmed to display a real-world baseball environment where the pitcher is throwing all kinds of pitches to your son (the batter), which will help your son recognize the spin and movement of the ball when they see it in real life.

Better yet, add in a swing sensor device attached to a bat and connect these two experiences (virtual and real-life) into the VR program and your son can gain instant feedback on their swing and ability to hit each type of pitch – all of this in the comfort of your home, rain or shine.

Adidas miCoach X_Cell for Soccer

Photo: adidas.com

Photo: adidas.com

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t have an example of how this applies to the most popular sport in the world – Soccer (for my international friends, “futbol”). With the miCoach X_Cell device, your soccer player can monitor and evaluate their on-field performance in areas like quickness, hustle, acceleration, ability to change direction, and heart rate. Paired with the Adidas miCoach Soccer ball, your soccer athlete can pair their physical performance with ball dynamics, like power, spin, strike and trajectory, to optimize their total performance on the field. Gone are the days of kicking balls against walls or juggling for days on end – now it’s about real-world simulation through connected devices that set the framework for improvement on the pitch.

Big Data for Coaches & Managers

Now, let’s say that you are fortunate to be coaching some of these young athletes and your single most important job is to improve each player’s individual performance and the performance of the team (and to win games). What do you do to ensure kids are developing and parents are happy? You become familiar with these devices and use the information they generate to your advantage! We call this “big data” and it’s already been referred to as “Germany’s 12th Man at the World Cup”!

The secret is in the collection and organization of the data that these devices generate, and the intelligent analysis by coaches and managers like you, that makes the difference in these young athletes’ ability to play the sport and the confidence they gain from their personal successes. The future of youth sports is about unlocking each player’s potential and networked devices, and the related data they generate, are the key to the next generation of athletes.

We can start with our kids – today.

SAP, particularly SAP HANA, has already proven to be a critical success factor for professional sports around the globe, driving the Networked Economy. Let’s explore what else is possible.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.
Top image: Shutterstock

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