June 24, 2006 The collection of key data with which sportspersons can improve their skills is still in its very infancy. Heart rates, recovery times and sprint times are measurements of fitness but are only one layer of the data and don’t reflect the magical skills which define champions. The time is fast approaching when we will be able to measure exactly how much David Beckham can bend the flight of a soccer ball, how much Roger Federer can make a tennis ball drop with spin or how Shane Warne varies the flight and turn of a cricket ball. Champions have the ability to flight a ball, to make it spin, curve and dip at will, and these things are hard to see, much harder to measure and infinitely harder to teach. The advent of Hawkeye is beginning to shed light on the mysteries of tennis and cricket upon which the former player experts were once the only available diviners of wisdom, but until Quinspin, there has been no equivalent for the World Game – soccer! After years researching the dynamic testing of footballs including first-hand experience working with adidas to test +Teamgeist the official 2006 FIFA World Cup match ball, Loughborough University expert Paul Neilson is part of the team of inventors at Sports Dynamics that has developed the world’s first coaching tool to objectively measure the killer skill of the perfect strike.
As is the case in many ball sports, spin is an important factor affecting dynamic ball performance. “If a player can impart a sufficiently high spin rate, whilst controlling the axis of spin, this will result in a ‘curved’ trajectory enabling the player to ‘bend’ the ball in flight. But a ball that is struck cleanly with minimal spin can travel at much faster speeds and sometimes be subject to more complex aerodynamic forces” says Dr Neilson. He continues, “At the 2002 World Cup, 38% of goals were scored from set pieces, further illustrating the importance of good ball striking technique for tactical situations.”
Developed by Loughborough University spin-out Sports Dynamics Ltd, QuinSpin provides football coaches, managers and players with objective, real-time measurements of ball speed, elevation, spin rate and spin axis. Neilson believes QuinSpin will provide a dramatic breakthrough in coaching as technique analysis in football and many other ball sports can be very subjective. “Now coaches will be able to quantify a fundamental football skill in a way that previously could only be described qualitatively”. He continues, “This data can also be archived to build up individual player profiles, helping players develop their weaker foot and of course monitoring the return to form after injury”, which is another topical issue, given Wayne Rooney’s current foot injury.
The system, which will be on the market in July, uses distinctive balls featuring a unique arrangement of reflective dots to measure 3-dimensional ball spin. Suitable for indoor and outdoor use, sensors are triggered the moment the ball is kicked; instantaneously capturing the ball flight characteristics as well as providing slow motion action replay. All information is immediately displayed on a PC for instant analysis and, over time, an invaluable library of comparative data can be built up.
QuinSpin has already been demonstrated to a number of English Premier League clubs, Championship clubs and official bodies. The system was launched internationally at the NSCAA soccer coach convention in Philadelphia and has sparked significant interest in US coaches in colleges and academies. The first systems are expected to be in commercial use very shortly and a number of new product developments are in the pipeline.
Founded in 2003, Sports Dynamics Ltd (SDL) is a spin-out company from Loughborough’s Sports Technology Research Group concerned with the commercial application of technology to sport, specifically focusing on the measurement of ball flight characteristics. The primary aim of the Company is to develop products that will enhance coaching and analysis within the sports community through the use of innovative concepts and new technologies. In October 2004 SDL obtained an investment of £250,000 from the Lachesis fund to enable SDL to bring the QuinSpin system to market.
The Lachesis fund is the University Challenge Seed Fund that accelerates the most promising research from five of the East Midlands universities. The Lachesis fund is managed by Quester Capital Management.
Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Research Group is the largest group of its kind in the world, with a multi-million pound research income. The Group has been working at the forefront of new technologies for leading names in the sports and fitness industry for almost 20 years and currently has over 25 projects ongoing. The Group receives substantial income from key industrial collaborators including adidas, Callaway Golf, Canterbury, Dunlop-Slazenger, Head, Nike, and Reebok.
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