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Sports Equipment Technology

The Boys of Summer are About to Go High-Tech

August 11, 2014


For many kids, the playing of some kind of sport is a welcome practice. But what some might not have considered is that there's a growing market of fitness-related technology out there, and that these two particular points—youth baseball and high technology—may have more in common than some might have expected. New reports suggest that, by just 2020, there will be more technology in the youth sports sector than previously anticipated.

Indeed, the youth sports market is a hotbed of possibility for technology to enter the market. Not only are there about 35 million kids involved in sports, but there's also an estimated $7 billion annually going into the youth sports market thanks to things like equipment and instruction purchases. Additionally, given that a typical high school baseball player has about a one in 6,000 chance of turning professional someday, there's a serious potential upside to working hard at a young age to become better than the other 5,999 players involved and being one of the greats, and that's what's driving a new look at technology as a means to get players better into the game.

The Oculus Rift, for example, is showing its colors as an incredible tool for not just video games, but also for other things like travel and education. But some are looking to the Oculus Rift as a baseball training tool, allowing young batters to better understand what's being seen on the pitcher's mound. As the pitchers learn new pitching techniques, so too do the young batters need to learn what to look for and how to adjust accordingly.

Meanwhile, soccer—or “football”, or even “futbol” to most of the rest of the world—is likewise getting a technological boost. The Adidas miCoach X_Cell is a wearable device that can monitor things like acceleration, response times, and even heart rate, providing not only a generalized look at the player's performance but also applying it to the specifics of soccer. Even big data, a field commonly recognized for its value in business, can also find a use in predicting how a player—or a team—will perform in certain environments. It can be used to track player performance and development, and reveal where extra training may be required to get the most out of a player overall.

Add to this the growing number of general fitness devices—after all, it's a lot tougher to play sports when the player is out of shape in general—and a clear picture becomes readily apparent. The technological edge will likely be increasingly important the farther along we get, and with the kids—and parents alike—interested in landing a shot at professional play, the idea that the one in 6,000 will go not only to the best athlete but also to the one who's had the most tools to work with isn't really out of line at all. Distressing? Yes: it helps ensure that only those with the most available resources will win in the end, with few exceptions. But it also opens up a new opportunity for those who can bring proper training tools to potential users.

This concept presupposes several basic elements, like the complete release of the Oculus Rift in the near-term future. But with such elements in place, technology could ultimately prove to be the key to unlocking future success, a development that's both inspiring and disturbing at the same time.

Edited by Adam Brandt