IN THE RECENT “RABO TROPHY” THE SPANISH TEAM USED A SYSTEM THAT PROVIDES THE COACH WITH REAL-TIME INFORMATION.
MAURITS HENDRIKS CAN SEE THE MATCH THAT IS BEING PLAYED, 12 SECONDS LATER ON A HAND-HELD COMPUTER.
The importance of technology applied to sport is growing enormously. Field hockey is one of the sports most interested in the subject
Blackboards and walkie-talkies now form part of the past.
Since Maurits Hendriks started to work with the Spanish team, he has been supporting technological innovation. After buying a video analysis computer program, he went one step further and invited programmer Alberto Rodríguez to join his staff as IT Expert.
Spain is a leader in the use of computer technology in this field. In the Alcalá la Real Challenge, and more recently in the Rabo Trophy, Hendriks’s team tested a version which enables the coach to receive information in real-time.
Through a wireless network, the Dutch coach can see any aspect of the game being played as many times has he wishes on a computer. The "traditional" analytical system remains in place, although with a new format with which its conclusions are used to study matches afterwards.
In the Wagener Stadium, Maurits Hendriks surprised everyone with a laptop on which he could not only see images, but his assistants’ tactical sketches. "The idea is simply to provide as much high quality information as possible in real time so that the coach can make the best possible decisions", summarises Alberto Rodríguez.
The system is a complex one and has been developed by a Canary Island company, Nacsport, of which Rodríguez is a partner. The national team films all its matches with a video camera. The images are processed by a computer, which then sends the coach the information he needs.
At the same time, Maurits Hendriks sees the match around twelve seconds later than real time. If something unexpected occurs, a quick look at the computer enables him to watch it over and over again.
The technological infrastructure accompanying the Spanish team has grown and become increasingly complex. Work starts a hour and a half before each match. "I always say that we start to play a hour and a half beforehand", says Rodríguez. "We need a safety margin to make sure that everything is working properly, because there is no room for mistakes", adds the programmer.
After installing the video camera that records the images on a tower, the wireless network is installed through two directional antenna that cover the pitch. Two computers are used. One of them records the match for subsequent analysis and the other is connected to the coach.
Maurits Hendriks’s assistant, Toom Slepman, is responsible for selecting specific aspects of the match, especially penalty corners. From this computer he sends the signal to the laptop, where Hendriks can see them as often as he wishes. He can also add sketches, showing tactical variants against the background picture. As well as this computer, the coach also has a smaller "Tablet PC" for viewing purposes.
In the upcoming European Cup at Leipzig, another touch screen computer will be used by Dani Martin, another of Hendriks’s assistants. The Atlétic coach will be able to transmit information based on static sequences, and add sketches. All this has to be repeated on a daily basis, because the structure is not fixed throughout the tournament. And then there is the work for the national team’s matches.
Hendriks wants as much information as possible about the team’s rivals, so all the matches in this competition are recorded; this is also the system used by other national teams.
As well as this revolutionary analytical system, all the Spanish team’s staff members are connected via radio. The aim is to miss nothing and be aware of the smallest details in every match.
When in international competitions, the Spanish team travels with all the images of all the games played in the last few tournaments, which are currently stored on five high-capacity hard disks. So baggage check-in is complicated when the Spanish team is travelling.
Not only do they take the players’ luggage and the physiotherapists’ medical material, but also their computer equipment. Two special units weighing over 80 kilos were checked in the last time the team travelled to Holland. More sensitive material travelled in the cabin.
Maurits Hendriks believes that Spain is the most advanced country in this subject and has the added advantage of having Alberto Rodríguez on its side. When they arrive at the hotel, the programmer is readily available if an adjustment is required for the program. Rodríguez admits that it is not "false modesty, but no one is on our level when it comes to information”.
However, the Canary Island computer expert agrees that "however many computers we may have, if we don’t score goals they are not much use".
• A video camera
• Two computers on recording tower
• A wireless computer network through two directional antennae
• A laptop computer for the coach
• A Tablet PC for the coach
• Another touch screen computer for his assistants
• The total weight of all the computing material is in excess of 80 kilos
Nacsport, from hockey to other team sports
Alberto Rodríguez is one of the founding partners of Nacsport, together with Guillermo Gil, currently responsible for technology for the Spanish Hockey Federation and Argentinean coach Jorge Dabanch. This adventure began five years ago. It was subsequently joined by the Taburiente Club. A project was created in Las Palmas to analyse video images through a computer program.
Hockey was the guinea pig. Other sports followed. Nacsport is undergoing a heavy growth process with the end not yet in sight.
Previously coaches could spend hours editing images of a match. They needed considerable time to prepare a summary for the players. With the program designed by Nacsport, there are a series of pre-established premises, which are always requested by coaches, but the aspects to be analysed can also be changed for each recording.
The analysis takes just a few seconds with this program. It represents a revolutionary change. This computer program has already been acquired by several Spanish hockey teams and all the national teams have Nacsport. The Dutch market has been approached in the last few months. According to Alberto Rodríguez, "They have bought more programs in two months than we have sold hear in a year".
This Canary Island company has been growing and specialising. Nacsport has created a special program for referees. The National Referees’ Committee uses it to analyse matches. Antonio Morales, the president of the Spanish referees, has been appointed Referee Manager of the upcoming European Cup in Leipzig and he will be using the program to watch how the referees perform at this event.
At the same time, Nacsport has a program for football which is used by the younger Spanish national teams and it is also used in water polo by Rafa Aguilar, five-a-side football, and volley ball. The company is also working in handball with Spanish national coach Juan Carlos Pastor.
Source: Diari de Terrassa