The Need and Feasibility of Using Data and Video Analysis Tools in Grassroot Level Sports

The mindboggling growth of the Indian sports industry has been significant over the last few years. The objective of widening the country’s broad base of sports has been a targeted approach led by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) in collaboration with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), as they look to move India towards becoming a sporting nation, rather than just a cricketing nation. This development of the industry has led to a targeted focus at the grassroots level. Grassroots sport is a physical leisure activity, organised and non-organised, practiced regularly at non-professional and professional levels for health, educational or social purposes. In the case of organised sport, it is practiced at the local level by amateur sportspeople, and is essentially “sport for all”. Several coaching academies are now prioritising player improvement and development using specialist equipment, increased focus on new technology, and many other aspects arising out of greater knowledge and awareness of professional and expert techniques.

Multimedia tools such as video analysis are becoming increasingly popular in professional sports as a means to analyse performance. These tools combine well with the statistics and analytics approach that is also becoming increasingly popular across global sports. The NBA prioritises data and video analytics to the point where almost every decision now must be backed by data. A similar approach is becoming increasingly predominant across European football where data and analytics are used to design winning strategies, predict and avoid injuries, and scouting and identifying players for recruitment.

As India prioritises the development of grassroots sports, it must be understood what all this consists of: Increasing the number of children participating in different sports; improving the level of competition across sports by prioritising effective training and frequent participation in tournaments; creating a systematic “ladder” and ecosystem for athletes to follow into professional sports. What’s also important is for the country to adopt a sporting culture. This means creating an environment where sports are considered to be more than just a physical activity or hobby, but a serious professional career option that is encouraged to be taken up rather than looked upon with speculation and doubt. To create this culture, treating grassroots sports with equal importance as professional sports is essential. It ensures that right from the initial stages of an athlete’s journey into playing sports competitively, they treat the entire process as a professional would. 

This includes following a strict diet and focusing on nutrition, working on fitness, strength and conditioning, having expert coaching and guidance, competing in local, state, and national level competitions across age groups, and finally, using the latest equipment and technology that can work as a catalyst to effective training practices. One such simple, yet effective development has been the use of video analysis, specifically when it comes to coaching and reviewing performance. Research has shown that coaches and players, like most humans, recall fewer than half of all the important actions and events that happen during the game. Emotions may run high and the extremely positive or negative events may significantly overshadow other tactically relevant insights that can be drawn from the game. Collecting match information through video recording helps remove these biases and provides a more objective view of what happened in the entirety of a particular match or training session. Coaches and players, hence, must review the data collected from all the events happening on the field of play to review what went right, what went wrong and form an understanding of their overall performance.

The basis of coaching consists of assessing athlete performance, identifying areas of improvement, feeding back information to athletes, managing practices to convert the weaknesses into strengths, and reassessing performance after a certain period of time or number of practices. It is a time consuming, long term process that is often misguided and not effectively managed in the country. It can be said that most coaches always have the right intentions with respect to their players but fail to make the difference when it comes to taking them to the next level. In all probabilities, this could be the reason why a lot of children play sports at a young age, but end up dropping them after a particular point as they don’t achieve anything of significance. One of the reasons for this may be the lack of a structured approach towards highlighting the required standards and fundamentals, and the work and planning needed accordingly in order to improve them. Video analysis can go a long way in addressing this issue. Academies and coaching institutions could adopt video analysis as a means of performance tracking and document the changes in the levels over time. It becomes easier to pinpoint each and every aspect of the athlete’s performance and hence work towards improving and strengthening these attributes, which in turn will lead to a greater sense of achievement and success. 

As the dependence on technology increases in general around the world, its adoption in sports at any level is not too farfetched to think of. While there are obvious doubts over the ease of use, affordability and creating a system around video analysis, it may not be too long before this tool becomes commonplace across sports. Several companies have already ventured into this space in India. Pitchvison is one of them. This is a sports technology company that has been dealing with motion tracking and video analysis systems since 2007. Kapil Bhatia (Commercial Director at Pitchvision), says “Grassroot academies have been extremely responsive to video and data analysis. Coaches, players, and parents acknowledge the benefits of reviewing training and match videos.” Based on their experience in this field over the years, he adds that “every academy and club team aspire to have a library of their videos for academic and promotional use. With the younger coaches and players being more tech-savvy than those from previous generations, the question is no longer whether video analysis is beneficial, rather about how to capture maximum content economically and systematically.”

As the landscape of the sports industry in India continues to grow, the establishment of various academies and coaching centres at the local and youth levels across sports has also grown. Several state and district sports federations have started procuring top of the line equipment to help train participants across age groups and gender in order to develop them into professional athletes. Thus, this obviously highlights the need for multimedia tools that can further the process of analysing performance in order to develop athletes and coaches to prepare for professional sports.

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