Today’s guest post is by Alexander Johansson and was originally published on Pulse Play’s website. It is reprinted here with permission. Be sure to listen to our latest podcast with Harsh Mankad as well for more information on how technology can aid in junior development.
Just a decade ago, the Hawk-Eye calling system was made for the pros and video analysis software was complicated and cost over $3000. Tennis tech was simply not for the common coach or player. But in the last few years that’s been rapidly changing. Here I’ll preview 5 different ways tennis tech is finally starting to hit the courts.
1. Smart courts
Smart Court systems include a kiosk and 1-6 cameras installed on a court. Once installed, the system will automate scoring, line calling, video analysis and real-time target hitting accuracy. The limitations of the systems are affordability and accessibility but the products and potential uses remain nonetheless extremely exciting. Today, Smart Court systems like Playsight and Mojjo are getting installed at a fairly high rate where funds exist.
2. Player management apps
Companies like Lifetime Fitness, Sportlyzer, and Coachanize are creating comprehensive client management, coaching, and communications platforms for their members and innovation in the field will probably speed up as corporations recognize the opportunity and start building their own tools. It’s very likely these systems will be large and include many features for the end user. One just hopes that these companies will truly develop with the end user’s perspective in mind and deliver products with great user experiences.
3. Data collecting hardware
Sensors like Shot Stats, Qlipp, Sony Sensor, Zepp, and the Babolat Pure Drive are the very first step in collecting data on court: all focus on gathering information on technique and are attached to or built into the racket itself. Today, their accuracy is questionable but they’ll likely improve quickly. These products are already inspiring more companies to get into this space in new ways as well. A list of ITF approved on court data collection hardware was compiled by the International Tennis Federation.
4. Remote Match Video Analysis
Match video analysis is no longer restricted to tournaments and can be done by anybody online from services like Tennis Analytics or Game Smart Tennis. All will take your 1.5 hour match, distill it down to 20-30 minutes, and add stats, visuals, and a highlight reel of key moments to send to the player and coach.
The future of these services is very interesting because they save coaches and players time and bring tremendous value. I can see specialized services like remote analysis from top coaches emerging in the future. The key will be how to present the data to athletes to maximize the value of the analysis.
What held tennis tech back for so long?
The answer is simple: coaches had no incentive. Learning to use new technologies would take away from paid hours on the court and the return on investment was still uncertain. 20 years ago, the first video analysis software was cumbersome and very expensive at around $3,000. For those reasons, many coaches shied away from tennis tech innovation and its potential in coaching tennis.
Players, parents, and, enthusiasts had a different reason for not adopting early tennis tech – they didn’t know about it. Few knew about the available technologies for the simple reason that they only made for coaches.
It wasn’t until 2012 with the release of smartphone apps like Ubersense (now Hudl Technique) and Coach’s Eye that the tennis industry suddenly woke up. The apps offered FREE video analysis tools for EVERYBODY and it was simple to use and readily available.
As the tennis community gained access to real tennis tech and started using it in high numbers, the race to get all video analysis users on one platform was on. This is still playing out between Hudl Technique, Dartfish, Coach’s Eyeand the likes.
Video analysis apps were the case of the explosion, but players, coaches, club managers and more are starting to look beyond. The industry is finally dreaming of new innovations across the spectrum to aid in the quest to improve tennis skills and have more fun.
The future is now
Today the tennis tech landscape is exploding with new, exciting tech for players and coaches. Coaches engaging with technology are still at the forefront of what’s inevitably to come. I believe that a big factor in technology adoption moving forward is generational. While the older generation of coaches might think players need to choose between technology or hard work, the younger generation sees tech as an amplifier of hard work and just another tool in the coaching arsenal.
Alexander Johansson is a long-time coach and founder of Hoplu, a sport management app for coaches and players focused on skill building. Hoplu is an extension of coaching and combines communication, logging, progress indicators, and feedback.