Published on January 22nd, 2015 | by Greg0
Smarter Soccer With The Nifty adidas miCoach Ball
Sensors! Really, it’s not about plastics so much anymore, but instead the triumph of little circuits that we can use to analyze data points on movement and motion, temperature and humidity, pressure and position. Fitness wearables put them on your wrist, but your phone is probably packed with them, modern automobiles rely on them, and even laptop computers are including them to help prevent damage during a fall. We’re building our houses with them installed, and now they’re even invading our sporting equipment.
That’s a good thing. The adidas miCoach Smart Ball is fully FIFA-approved, and looks and feels like a normal soccer ball (or football for those who aren’t American). Hidden inside is a tri-axial accelerometer, a Bluetooth transceiver, and a lithium ion battery to help keep it all powered. You charge the ball via a cute stand that hides an induction charger, which is simple to both setup and use. And, of course, you connect the ball wirelessly to your smart device (tablet or phone) and load the free app. At the moment, it’s compatible with iOS only (sorry Android users), and there isn’t a whole lot of cloud-based functionality or social media integration. That’s fine, really, as long as your expectations are calibrated appropriately, since it does a couple of things well.
First, the smart ball does have quite a few limitations. They call it a device for ‘dead-ball kick training’, which basically means that you aren’t meant to use this ball during a game. It won’t track your play, or tell you your passing information, but offer specific feedback on your individual shots. Kicks must be a couple of feet off the ground and travel at least 10 yards to count, plus bounces and rolls on the ground will only mess things up and the ball must be stopped at the time of a kick (no drop kicks). Plus, you can only get data for a single kick at a time, and have to alert your device that a kick is coming. This isn’t as big a deal as it sounds, as the aim is a practice tool with feedback helping you perfect foot positioning, spin, and speed. You can compete against friends in challenge mode, to be sure, but it’s also fun to try and replicate professional kicks. The app offers plenty of detail and advice, and breaks down the details of your kicks nicely and even offers a virtual flight trajectory.
With 2000 kicks worth of battery life, we never really had to worry about juice. And the adidas Smart Soccer Ball is a totally standard size-5 ball and meets regulation weight and bounce criteria- which didn’t matter much to us since we aren’t exactly World Cup pros, but is important nonetheless. It held up well to some serious abuse without showing any wear. Like the Babolat Connected Tennis Racquet, 94Fifty Basketball or the ShotTracker, the miCoach Soccer Ball isn’t aimed at your average enthusiast player, but someone serious about the game and curious about a new tool that can help illuminate parts of practice in a new way. It’s great at what it does, and we did improve at things like bending a ball and other basic techniques. The adidas miCoach Smart Soccer Ball is available online and in stores now for around $200.