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Five Reasons To Use Mocap In Sports Coaching

Updated: Feb 16

Stay On Target: Technology in Sports Leaders in Sport feature, brought to you by Target3D, the Home of Motion Capture


In this fourth feature on technology for Leaders in Sport, Target3D explains the key reasons for incorporating motion capture (mocap) into your coaching strategy.

Once the preserve of sci-fi animators or sports researchers, mocap technology is now firmly in the mainstream with premier clubs and performance managers increasingly utilising it to eliminate some of guesswork involved in traditional coaching.

A professional coach needs a mocap in their tools to evaluate traits of fitness and skill such as power, balance, coordination, flexibility, speed of their athletes. Here are five reasons why. 1. Training of individual athlete/player

Being motivational, nurturing and empowering are all traits of top coaches, but of course remaining focused and goal-orientated has to be top of the list.

Using mocap technology has had a transformational effect on identifying a players’ strengths and weaknesses, allowing performance managers to explicitly customise training for progression to increased performance.

When an athlete is identified with an issue causing them not to perform optimally, the coach is observing what they are doing during play, or simulated play. A movement happens so quickly, that the merest millimetre of misalignment is not easy to identify to the naked eye, with 2D analysis. Using mocap technology coaches can quickly diagnose any issues - in real-time or via playback - with far higher accuracy. The 3D perspective allows you access the players’ motion from all angles and the data is collated into graphs that are easy to digest and explain, even to those with limited technical grasp.

Recently we worked on an interesting project with Wheelchair Basketball Coach Keith Pamment. Understanding that each of his players was entirely unique, Keith wanted to track the movement of individual players using different wheelchairs to see how their specific performance was impacted. Keith later explained, "Capturing the movement of the individual players and being able to analyse them from every angle - recreating them in a virtual world - transformed how I coach and deliver sessions.”

2. Avoiding injuries

Range of motions (ROM) is a useful indicator for assessing strength, elasticity and function during a movement, which team doctors, physiotherapists, and sports coaches carefully practice as a fundamental evaluation.

Athletes deal with issues relating to pain and function on a weekly basis. Using mocap data allows professionals to pick out details within the kinematic sequence of a movement and any ROM limitations related to pain and injury.

To give you an example; a kickboxing coach may observe a roundhouse move and notice the player is not kicking correctly and the muscles are attempting to compensate in order to

generate great force - exerting extra energy and increasing risk of injury. One aspect would be to look at the hips, seeing if they are turning their hips as their leg is in the air; using a mocap the coach can specifically look at the ROM in the hips to identify, with greater accuracy, if they are rotating enough to produce that force. Alternatively, inspecting the ankle ROM to identify any excess eversion/inversion while the lower extremity is trying to support the body.

Studying elite athletes teaches physicians from the Rush University Medical Centre how to better treat them. Commenting on their work with the Joffrey Ballet - the world class dance company based in Chicago - they explain;

“Using infrared cameras and wearable sensors, we can measure movement in incredible detail.This work informs doctors and helps people live longer with less pain.”

We love the visuals in their video that combines motion capture with ballet:

3. Improving team strategy

We’ve discussed the benefits for individual performance, but can mocap technology do anything for team cohesion and strategy? Absolutely. The analysis now available through 3D software goes way beyond a single player or athlete. By tracking a duo, trio or complete team, coaches are able to analyse both post-match or training sessions in realtime, to create better plays, offences or defences. Using positional data via GPS, the coach can track the direction and intensity, jumps, accelerations and decelerations, direction changes in each athlete - enabling the coach to see how the team is running their tactical formations, or when an athlete is fatigued by tracking their running intensities in intervals. Data is available to the coach, medical, and team analysts to transfer and communicate during the match in real-time to make critical decisions.

The latest piece of kit is a GPS vest from Catapult Sports. Worn over the usual strip by footballers, it allows coaches to monitor the formation of the whole team during offence/defence and analyse post-match. The analytics, which include football specific algorithms, can be visually shared with the team during coaching sessions and used to work on team strategy as well as individual progress.

4. Strength, conditioning and synergy

At elite level we know that tiny tweaks can make a huge difference, and mocap is helping in this arena. Using ROM data to find asymmetries or poor alignment during athletes movement allows coaches and physios optimum insight; from pinpointing a weak muscle that requires a strengthening program to confirming the slightest displacement which can’t be seen with the naked eye.

ROM data also helps in the understanding of kinematic sequencing, carefully breaking down each phase of a movement. We see this used commonly now in the golfing world, with performance coaches using mocap to track a players pelvic rotation during a swing and how this impacts on the power of that swing which fundamentally impacts the whole game.

Many prominent players have their own signature swing, and not all players have the same style. However, it is undeniable that lower body and core coordination is key to generate an effective force. There is a lot going on during a golf swing and it happens very quickly. You can use ROM data to slow down the movement and break it down into parts that make sense for the coach to understand the underlining biomechanics of the individual’s swing.

The coach is able to look at the swing in greater detail in any style and provide a proper bespoke training to the player. Capturing ROM data at pre- and post-training intervention is the best way to know if your training program means incorporating plyometric or stabilization exercises to enhance your golfers’ performance.

Lewis Clarke, Sports Performance Specialist with Peter Field Golf, is analysing an optical mocap system for his Masters with the University of Portsmouth, and invested in coaching tech a year ago. He tells us he uses mocap tech to help diagnose problems colleagues are having with their students, and sees the benefit not purely for golf but for a variety of disciplines;

"Optical systems can track any human motion, in a capture area defined by multiple cameras. For it to track human motion, we have to place reflective markers on the person or area we would like to measure. So if you can perform your activity or sport movement in a defined space, then optical 3D tracking is possible. For coaches, it takes that element of eye-balling, of guess work, out of the picture."

5. Sharing and organising data

Getting the data, the facts, is just the start of the process. Multi-disciplinary teams of scientists, doctors, coaches and players from different locations can easily and quickly share mocap data, video reference, force data and so on. Technologies such Moveshelf now means coaching can take place remotely with more efficiency than ever before; coaches can upload their ROM data, reference videos, and graphs into the Moveshelf platform. The coach or sports scientist - and the rest of the team - have secure collaboration of analysis from anywhere at any time with the simplicity of a link share. Results are presented in an intuitive web interface and allow coaches to slow the capture, navigate anywhere in the 3D perspective and for the team to add comments throughout the video.

From performance and training, strategy to strength and for injury avoidance, we’re sure that mocap technology will continue to revolutionise the way coaches work with their athletes - and wider teams - providing unprecedented insight into the variances of the human body. As the technology continues to evolve and refine, players’ performance will continue to soar.

Motion capture technologies require a controlled environment to ensure the best accuracy. Target3D’s central London studio provides this and is often taken over by people in the sports or entertainment fields to do just that. Or, we can bring it on the road to your club or facility. Get in touch to start the conversation today.


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