The Super Bowl is here. In the most watched sporting event in America all eyes will be on not only the players and coaches but also the officials. For the people wearing the striped shirts they want to emerge from this game relatively anonymous because if they make a blunder they will be remembered for that for the rest of their lives. Right Saints fans? Technology has become more prevalent in sports to help not only the officials but also teams and players to get smarter and more efficient.

Video Replay

The most obvious technological advance with sports is video replay. Numerous cameras give officials multiple angles with which to work and make hopefully better calls. It has also led to long-winded explanations from NFL referees like Ed Hochuli, but that is on him. Replay is used in the NBA, MLB, NHL and television match referees have been added in other sports like soccer (or as the rest of the world calls it football), cricket and rugby among others. Tennis players are able to utilize the Hawk-Eye ball tracking system when they want a review, which will make a John McEnroe-esque situation a thing of the past.

Microchips in balls?

With any football fan the proper placement of the ball when a play is over is a big deal. An inch or two this way or the other could be the difference in the game and sometimes the ball gets lost in the mass of humanity. Many fans have long clamored for some kind of technology to be placed in footballs to help with proper ball placement and the NFL did add microchips to the balls in 2017. So far they have been used to gather data to help track player performance. Chips were already added to player’s shoulder pads in 2013 to give data like how fast a quarterback throws a ball or how much force a player hits with. Adding chips to help determine location is not yet on the table but the technology is there already.

Could something like this be added in other sports? If baseball were to ever go to an automated strike zone something like this would probably be necessary. It could also be useful in other circumstances like determining whether a hockey puck or ball went into the goal. The NHL and FIFA currently use goal line video replay to review potential scoring plays which can take time. A microchip and sensor would eliminate that making play much more continuous.

Analytics

Technology is being used to gather information of anything. In today’s more analytical world any piece of information could be the difference between hoisting a championship trophy and sitting on your couch. In no sport is this more prevalent than baseball where the StatCast system, or a series of instruments and cameras, has been installed in every major league park to gather data and video of every potential aspect of the game. This allows coaches to make adjustments to players deliveries or batting stances, adjust lineups and develop spray charts to better attack hitters or pitchers.

Analytics are not just found in baseball. Analytics have helped to make the Golden State Warriors an NBA dynasty. They employ a series of cameras that were developed to track missiles by the military to track every player and every shot and then translate it into statistical models. This tells them where players score most of their points so plays can be created to take advantage of that. Smart teams are taking advantage of this and it has allowed smaller budgeted teams to compete with the big boys.

Player Safety

Tech is also helping to keep players safer. High contact sports like football and hockey have incorporated technology to develop and incorporate into the helmets used to prevent head and brain injuries like concussions. Hits can be tracked on the sidelines via a wireless sensor with real-time data so the coaching and medical staffs can be watching for signs of a concussion via Microsoft Surface tablets. These helmets are also available to not just college athletes but also high school as well.

In-game adjustments

Coaches have been using tech to make in game analysis or adjustments, particularly in the NFL. Microsoft took advantage of that and partnered with the NFL to make their Surface tablets the go-to device but also to have it displayed prominently. They replaced old black and white printers that were used to break down opponents defenses or offenses that were used through the 2013 season when they were replaced by the Surface tablets.

These tablets have been configured by the NFL and can display high-resolution images almost instantaneously. No more waiting for the picture to print and having an intern assemble it in a binder and get it to a coach, saving as much as 30 seconds. While it took more old-school coaches like Bill Belichick time to accept it (the jury is still out on Belichick) the Surface has been a boon to NFL coaching.

There is of course no guarantee that Belichick and the Patriots will not find a way to reconfigure them but it seems that they have not been able to yet. Just kidding of course..

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