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October 12, 2015 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

Nine up-and-coming products every coach must see

Smartphones and tablets have revolutionized the way we collect and disseminate information, a fact that’s abundantly clear on the sidelines at football games or in gymnasiums. But with so many products on the market, it can be difficult to tell which ones will actually make a difference in your program.

Throughout the year, Coach and Athletic Director reviewed a number of products, determining which up-and-coming innovations are gaining momentum in the sports industry. This year’s class of products range from injury prevention to athlete education, but each are guaranteed to help improve your sports program.

Here are the nine products every coach and athletic administrator must know about.

ShotTracker

ShotTracker is trying to revolutionize the way basketball players practice and refine their shot. The technology, which has the backing of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, automatically tracks shooting percentages, giving players the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses in their game.

Co-founder Davyeon Ross believes this is just the beginning. ShotTracker can track makes and misses and provide shot charts with some workouts, but by next year he hopes to add new features that allow coaches and players to do more.

“At the college level, they have graduate assistants or assistant coaches tracking shots on a spreadsheet, but what we’re going to be providing is something that will revolutionize the game and allow them to just focus on practice,” he said. “The data will be captured automatically.”

In 2013, when Ross and his business partner Bruce Ianni started the company and released their first batch of ShotTrackers into the market, they sold out in a couple weeks. That illustrated the type of demand that existed for wearable tracking devices.

The device comes with an app that allows coaches to send workouts to players. Coaches can then analyze the results from each player and track his or her progress. Ross hopes to eventually make upgrades that allow ShotTracker to be implemented into a practice environment, collecting shot charts for each player in addition to providing biometric data like running intensity and distances for players.

ShotTracker recently partnered with the National Association of Basketball Coaches, becoming the organization’s “official wearable technology.” Learn more at www.ShotTracker.com.

Volt

Not every high school has a certified strength coach, and for those that do overseeing hundreds of student-athletes is a tall task for one person. That’s where Volt can help.

Volt creates year-round strength training programs for athletes at any level, customized depending on their abilities, goals and sport. Volt’s daily workouts are designed by a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), and a library of videos provides athletes with instructions on proper technique to prevent injury.

Volt now delivers strength and conditioning guidance to more than 800 high school and college teams, and in July it announced a partnership with USA Football, acting as the organization’s official strength and conditioning provider.

“Partnering with USA Football underscores our commitment to building stronger, healthier athletes nationwide,” said Dan Giuliani, co-founder and CEO of Volt Athletics. “We’re excited to work with these rising football stars to help them reach their full potential and ultimately have a positive impact on the U.S. National Team’s on-field success.”

Volt is backed by some of the brightest strength training minds in the industry, including University of Nebraska strength and conditioning coach Boyd Epley, who heads the Board of Advisors.

Volt plans to launch its next generation platform this fall to a limited number of programs.

More information can be found at www.VoltAthletics.com.

FITGuard

Concussion detection devices are all the rage in contact sports, and FITGuard might be the next big thing.

Anthony Gonzales, executive director of Force Impact Technologies, suffered concussions himself as a rugby player at Arizona State University. His passion was to develop a product that would help improve safety in sports, and that’s what led him create FITGuard with co-founder Bob Merriman.

This state-of-the-art mouth guard lights up when any impact may have been severe enough to result in a head injury. Lights alert coaches and players to the collision, and they are then able to download data from the mouth guard to analyze the severity of the hit.

There are helmet sensors and other gadgets that work in a similar fashion, but Gonzales believes FITGuard will produce better results. By taking measurements inside the skull, the data more accurately reflects what type of trauma the brain has gone through. A “learning algorithm” helps the mouth guard adapt to the athlete over time, producing stronger results.

This year, Gonzales and Merriman will appear on an episode of CNBC’s “Make Me A Millionaire Inventor,” and their product will also appear in a fall edition of Smithsonian magazine. USA Rugby has expressed interest in the mouth guard, and Gonzales hopes to have athletes use it during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Gonzales expected to beta test a few hundred mouth guards this fall and begin shipping them to customers by February or March. More information can be found at www.figuard.me.

HamStrong

Athletes who suffer hamstring injuries can spend months on the sidelines, but that’s something HamStrong wants to change.

Created by Rusty Whitt, head strength and conditioning coach at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, HamStrong assists athletes in recovery while allowing them to get back on the field only days after suffering a hamstring injury. Whitt created the product when one of his linebackers suffered a grade two hamstring pull that could have taken months to heal. The device allowed him to immediately get back on the field and play another eight games during the season, and over the last six years Whitt hasn’t had one player miss a game due to a hamstring injury.

HamStrong reduces workload on the hamstrings by up to 20 percent, according to one study. The device allows athletes to move with full range of motion, enhancing blood flow and allowing the hamstring to heal naturally.

Mark Becker, founding partner and CEO of HamStrong, said athletes are mostly using the device for recovery but it can also be effective as a preventative instrument. Athletes who pull a hamstring reinjure it more than 30 percent of the time, according to a 20-study, but HamStrong may have the ability to reduce that number.

This innovative product can be used by athletes in any sport, and it’s also a benefit to athletic trainers who spend exorbitant amounts of money each year on athletic tape. Learn more at www.HamStrong.net. 

SIDEKIQ

Mental preparation is crucial for all athletes, especially quarterbacks who must be proficient in every facet of their team’s offense. For them, SIDEKIQ is the ultimate “textbook.”

Developed by EON Sports VR, SIDEKIQ is a football virtual reality simulator that helps quarterbacks to learn their offenses and playbooks without stepping on the field. That keeps them fresh and diminishes the number of hits they take while still allowing them to learn player movements.

Brendan Reilly, CEO of EON Sports VR, said coaches can upload their playbooks and personalize the system to develop what best benefits their quarterbacks. Ole Miss, UCLA, Syracuse and Kansas are all using SIDEKIQ, and this summer the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced they would use it to help rookie quarterback Jameis Winston acclimate to the team’s offense.

When Reilly tested his product with about 30 quarterbacks, he found it improved their abilities to read the field by anywhere from 30 to 60 percent.

“We can take a coach’s playbook and breathe life into it and provide a virtual simulation, so coaches don’t have to do anything,” Reilly said. “What’s more exciting is we have the ability to take those Xs and Os and push it to the kids’ smartphones and turn their phones into virtual simulators.”

By the end of the year, Reilly expects to add baseball to the mix, assisting players in recognizing pitches and improving their hitting abilities. More information can be found at www.eonsportsvr.com.

Schutt Vision

Football coaches can now see through the eyes of their running backs with the help of Schutt Vision.

Introduced at the 2014 American Football Coaches Convention, Schutt Vision uses an in-helmet camera to help coaches see pre-snap reads and assist players in hitting the right holes. Streaming capabilities allow coaches to see the action from their phones or tablets, and they can control anywhere from 20 to 24 helmets at a time.

The helmets are compliant through the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, so coaches are permitted to use them in practices and games.

Sports Video Innovations worked with Schutt to create the unique helmets, which provides fans and coaches a different perspective on the sport.

“From where we started with a piece of paper to where we are now, being utilized in the NCAA and NFL, it’s fun to be a part of,” said Jeremey Jeansonne, co-founder and CEO of Sports Video Innovations. “It’s a huge win for everyone.”

Jeansonne said the technology will be most useful to networks that want to provide fans a different view of in-game action, but coaches also use the helmets to catch of glimpse of what players see on the field. The helmets can be pricy, so he’s currently working on a leasing program that would make it more accessible to high school programs.

Down the road, Jeansonne hopes to offer something similar for baseball coaches by placing cameras inside the masks of catchers. To learn more, visit www.sportsvideoinnovations.com.

Shadowman

With all the technology on the market, it’s hard to believe a tackling dummy could become one of the hottest products in the sports industry, but Shadowman made it happen.

JP Hartigan, founder of Shadowman, conceived the idea as a student and rugby player at the University of Limerick in Ireland. Forces and injuries in collision sports were on the rise, yet equipment wasn’t evolving at an equal pace.

Hartigan believes his tackling system solves a number of issues, especially for rugby and football players. First, it’s mobile, creating a realistic environment where players must take angles and adjust speeds to make a tackle. Second, it’s detachable, allowing players to make a complete game-like tackle without going player-to-player. That’s especially useful with mandates in many states that limit teams in the amount of contact they can have during practices.

The complete system weighs about 32 pounds, which Hartigan said most coaches see as a benefit to preventing injuries. Nearly 50 of the nation’s top NCAA Division I football programs are using Shadowman, and just this year the company partnered with USA Football to bring its product to the U.S. national teams. It will be used during regional development camps, national development games and the International Bowl.

“Their mission is to make the game better and safer, and our product is a really good fit for them,” Hartigan said. “It allows coaches to train players and educate them in a better environment. You get a lot more use out of practice and get more reps.”

Learn more at www.shadowmansports.com.

CoachTube

For coaches who want wide receiver tips from Urban Meyer or batting fundamentals from Hall-of Famer Tony Gwynn, CoachTube has them covered.

Founded by Wade Floyd, CoachTube’s growing library of coaching videos is quickly becoming the go-to resource for anyone seeking advice on team and athlete improvement. Floyd does not create content but rather works with coaches to aggregate their videos on CoachTube, providing a one-stop resource for anyone looking to improve their game.

Athletes and coaches are likely to find tremendous use of the instructional videos, but Floyd said volunteer parent coaches and recreational athletes are also regular customers.

“They’re really loving our site,” Floyd said. “We make it simpler for them to do things like create practice plans. There’s so many things they can pick up.”

Floyd’s own experiences in self learning is what led to the creation of CoachTube. When he was younger, his parents couldn’t afford to send him to elite camps, but videotapes were more attainable. He learned to snowboard watching online videos, so he thought coaches and young athletes should be able to do the same.

Videos range from free to nearly $100 for a series, and most coaches who host their content on CoachTube receive at least an 80 percent kickback. The site was just launched in February, and Floyd expects it will continue to grow in content and variety as more coaches begin to contribute.

For more information, visit www.coachtube.com.

VERT

Basketball and volleyball coaches interested in tracking their players’ vertical leaps will find VERT a useful addition to their programs.

VERT is part of the wearable revolution, where tracking player movements and gathering real-time analytics is becoming more of a priority for programs. VERT measures vertical jumps of athletes while also monitoring their workload, helping coaches to determine when it’s appropriate to cutback on the intensity of their workouts.

Athletes wear a jump monitor that sends data to a coach’s smartphone or tablet. The information is archived over time, allowing coaches to track progress and even maintain a leaderboard that charts the team’s best jumpers.

“We have a lot of colleges that like to put that on a screen in their gym and show the players where they stand,” said VERT founder Martin Matak. “You can imagine how great this information is, and in making sure you don’t overload the player by jumping too much.”

Matak said the product has been tested and proven to be remarkably accurate. The U.S. Women’s Volleyball National Team uses it to monitor players, but Matak expects that over time basketball players will represent the majority of users. Parents have even been drawn to the device as an injury prevention tool.

VERT’s analytics could become a key asset for recruiters, especially as future developments allow the product to track effort and other valuable data. To learn more, visit www.myvert.com.


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