IT in sports – The laptop coach

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After former FC Bayern Munich player Mehmet Scholl coined the term “laptop coach”, the topic of digitization in sports is hotly debated in the world of German and European Soccer. The digital applications support Head Coaches, as well as the assistant coaches and staff members in their daily work in the business of professional soccer. Many clubs join the 'digital arms race'. Others do not.

Digital transformation is a key issue in football today. More and more coaches swear by the support of IT systems and software. Of course, there are still some that focus exclusively on pen and paper. But digital technologies, such as GPS trackers, heart rate measurement during training sessions or cameras on the training field for game analysis, are now main components of the daily work of many professional clubs. The measured numbers and data serve as a variable for performance comparison and are the foundation for many of the coaching team’s decisions.

Guaranteed success?

Above all, the new generation of coaches is said to make the game too scientific, due to the many data and statistics they seem to collect. 4-3-3, 5-3-2 or 4-1-4-1, the formations and game tactics are probably more flexible than ever and change several times in a match, depending on the situation and the game's own dynamics. Even during the games, analysts with mobile equipment are in the stands analyzing the game live. Thus, the coach has the opportunity during the half-time break, to refer to relevant data and to respond to the current events of a match. Still, digital support is not a guaranteed path to success. In sports, there are many game-deciding factors, such as motivation, pure luck or external circumstances that shape the course and the characteristics of a game.

Factors for training and exercise control

However, most coaches agree on one thing. The data collected can be optimally used to review and evaluate a player's performance over time, which allows them to counteract any decline in performance with appropriate measures. With recognizable symptoms of fatigue coaches can decide to rest a player or organize regenerative training units. If the players have not yet reached their full potential, the coach can increase the intensity. The digital support offers valuable assistance to the coaching staff, especially in areas that would mostly go unnoticed with the naked eye. Through the analysis work, coaches can intervene at the right time and thus protect their players, which in turn contributes to ideal stress & load control.

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The in-house database

An important factor in today's professional sport is the networking of all team members. The coaches and their team need to be able to share the collected information and have mobile access from anywhere. Whether from the office at the Soccer academy, in the team bus on the way to a road game or from the couch in the private living room. The club's private database serves as a central platform, bringing together all relevant data about the players, staff, training sessions and game days, as well as medical info and scouting. Care and continuous work are very important. If all staff members work meticulously with the platform, the internal database is the foundation of the long-term success of a club.

Back to pen and paper?

Still, many coaches are skeptical of digitization. Above all, the aspect of data clutter worries some of them, which is one reason why critics prefer to rely on the old-fashioned way of training documentation. However, the potential impact of IT in sports should not be underestimated. It facilitates the daily training and organization of a team, as well as support decision making, for example, when there is a head-to-head race between two players, and above all can contribute to more transparent and faster decision-making. More and more football clubs, including amateur and pros, equip themselves with databases and management software. Digital technologies developed into must-have in sports. Coaching and laptops now go hand in hand.

Your Team

Book recommendations on 'Digitization in football'

Matchplan: The new football matrix by Christoph Biermann (2018, Kiepenheuer & Witsch)

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