On the surface, soccer may not seem like a very high-tech sport. After all, all you need is a ball, a pair of cleats and shin guards. It seems like it should be pretty simple. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that technology (especially on the professional side of the game) is rapidly advancing and changing the face of the sport, as we know it. Scientists, mathematicians, statisticians and technologists are working together with officials and athletes like me not only to make improvements to our personal on-field performance, but also to enhance the game itself. So even if you have a pair of two left feet, there may be many ways to pursue a career on the pitch – and some may not even exist yet.
These days, a crucial part of any game I play is the post-game analysis. The idea of using technology to analyze performance isn’t anything new, but the effectiveness of that analysis is constantly advancing as new forms of technology emerge almost on a yearly basis. Cameras covering the whole pitch to track the movements of players and match-analysis software that helps players and coaches select, extract and visualize information such as headers, shorts or passes are just some of the more recent technologies in play. Coaches can literally make or break their reputations based on how well they use this technology to help individual players work together to create the right rhythm and make the most of their strengths. In preparation for the World Cup in London, our coach John Herdman, used technology to monitor our workload to ensure we were working at our ideal capacity. For every practice and every game, we wore GPS and heart rate monitors to measure our individual workloads.
Some of the soccer balls available today are equipped with an integrated system of sensors inside of them that can detect how hard the ball is kicked, its trajectory and how fast it’s spinning. This Bluetooth-enabled ball then sends the data to a mobile app to give players real-time feedback on whether their kicks are on target or off line.
There is also a chain of much-needed educated professionals who continue to leverage technology in new ways and to also create entirely new concepts.
One other piece of ground-breaking technology that my team in particular will be seeing and experiencing at the FIFA Women’s World Cup is the debut of goal-line technology (GLT). GLT uses technology to see whether a ball has completely crossed the goal line in between the goal-posts or underneath the crossbar with the assistance of electronic devices. Hopefully this will put an end to those dreaded goal-line debates for players, officials and fans alike.
Today, tens of thousands of people are employed as a result of professional sports in North America and that number is likely to grow in the future as more companies invest in various technologies to help enhance the experience for both players and fans. Going back to the example of the monitors my team uses to measure and analyse performance, there is also a chain of much-needed educated professionals who continue to leverage technology in new ways and to also create entirely new concepts. From the entrepreneurs who have the courage to invent these new ideas, to the engineer who designs them and the programmers who develop algorithms to make sense of the data to the manufacturers who produce them and the people who train our coaches and training staff to use these devices – they are all part of a growing new job revolution happening in the sports industry.
As an Ambassador for CST Inspired Minds, which encompasses both the Learning Project and Careers2030, I’m excited about all of the learning opportunities that are available. By helping to fund cutting-edge learning experiences for children from JK through 17 years of age. Through the Learning Project, we’re able to help kids develop the skills they need to prepare for their future careers. Through the competition, we’re able to expose kids to the great outdoors to increase their fitness levels, enhance their nutritional knowledge and expose them to prototype versions of technologies they might use in their own future professions.
There’s every reason to believe sports and technology will continue to intersect in an effort to advance the performance of athletes and the game itself. Areas of study that are likely to lead students into these fields including engineering, textile design, software and app design, sports medicine, aerodynamics, technology services delivery, sports marketing and merchandising and personal brand management. There are so many possibilities and the options are truly endless.
As a player myself, I encourage you to explore the sport of soccer and share my enthusiasm about the opportunities that lie ahead. Whether you end up working for a big brand or a start up, you may just find your passion. It’s only going to get more and more exciting.