The german national league soccer club TSG Hoffenheim is a pioneer when it comes to the use of digital technologies in order to constantly improve the team's performance and cooperation – and to develop young talents. But how exactly does it work? A conversation with Timo Gross, co-trainer analysis, about the interaction between technological innovations and the "human factor".
Mr. Gross, Hoffenheim uses digital technologies in order to constantly improve the team's play and cooperation. However, these innovations alone do not guarantee success – what role do humans, do you as a co-trainer, take on with regard to game analysis?
Data volumes are becoming increasingly large – it takes know-how to filter, read and interpret them. Well-trained specialists are in a position to make intensive use of the interaction of a wide variety of technologies as a tool for efficient decision-making. This is precisely where I see my task and, at the same time, my strength: in evaluating the wealth of information for us, identifying possible actions and making them available to the coaching team and the players at exactly the right time. It's important to stay ahead of the game, because technology is developing at a rapid pace.
How will soccer and game analysis develop in the future?
In soccer, as in sports in general, the potential to improve physically and become faster is already very much exhausted. However, there are still many opportunities in the mental realm. Those who can make the right decisions faster in the course of a match have an advantage eventhough their physical and technical level might equal that of their competitors. To achieve this, the brain needs to be trained regularly. In our academy, this training starts with 12-year-olds. And that requires innovative training approaches and tools. The use of science and technology is becoming more comprehensive, more sophisticated and more deliberate. At the same time, assessment standards are becoming more transparent and objective. This is because standardized technologies serve to facilitate more targeted comparisons and decision-making. Many things that were initially developed for soccer training at TSG Hoffenheim, for example, with technology partner SAP, have found their way into everyday life. As a result, experts from other industries, such as the corporate world, are also taking an interest in our work.
Please give us an example for the use of technology in day-to-day training at TSG Hoffenheim.
Everyday apps and applications facilitate our data collection and its processing, and furthermore enhance communication within the club, between coaches and players. For example, game scenes can be edited by my team in no time at all and sent directly to players' smartphones. Not so long ago, something like this involved hours of sitting in front of the video recorder. On the one hand, with increasingly tight schedules, this leads to an enormous time saving. On the other hand, this closer look at the individual player naturally also results in a growing need for personnel. The staff around a Bundesliga team has grown significantly in recent years.
What do these developments entail for match analysis?
At professional clubs, a highly technologized field of experts has emerged that is becoming more and more specialized and significant. True to the principle that technology is not a sprint, but a marathon. The thematic scope ranges from autonomous camera systems to machine learning, for example, for the pre-selection of relevant scenes, to video tracking, i.e. the automatic tracking of player and ball with a camera. The goal is to minimize the time required for gaining this information, in addition to providing greater detail. Time is an increasingly rare commodity, not only in the area of match and video analysis, but in professional soccer in general.
Mr. Gross, thank you very much for the interesting insights.
Timo Gross, co-trainer of the Bundesliga club TSG Hoffenheim