Australia's national netball squad is taking a scientific approach to training with a radio tracking system designed to measure the performance of each player on the court. Called RF tracking, the system provides coaches with real-time data on players' workloads.
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION) - The Australian Institute of Sport is hoping that its RF tracking technology will give the national netball team, the Diamonds, an edge when they compete internationally in 2014 at the Commonwealth Games and in the 2015 Netball World Cup in Sydney.
While Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has been effective in tracking athletic performance outdoors, its reliance on satellites has rendered it ineffective for indoor sport, so Victoria University PhD student Alice Sweeting developed a system using radio frequency (RF) tracking for use in closed venues. She says the Diamonds were happy to test the technology.
"Looking at what movements are happening on court there isn't a whole lot published research out there on netball so hopefully this data will help us to gain a better insight," she said.
The system is based on tracking technology developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), used to identify fire-fighters inside buildings. Netball is the first sport in Australia to use the groundbreaking technology.
RF tracking works in much the same way as GPS. Each player wears a transponder which emits signals picked up by anchor nodes attached to the walls of the gym. The system updates a player's location up to 25 times per second, producing an accurate picture over the course of a game, of where and how far each player has travelled.
The Diamonds' coach Lisa Alexander says the tracking system could revolutionise the team's training programme.
"We may be able to tailor our training programs much more specifically to the individual. Therefore taking into account their, you know, injury history and then insuring that they're getting just the right amount of training, which hopefully means more court time," she said.
And the players, like U-21 squad member Joanna Weston, say they are discovering aspects of their game that they'd never contemplated before.
"I thought I'd only maybe cover like two or three kilometres in a game of netball. It's not a very big court, but turns out I ran about 4.6 kilometres in the last full game I played," she said.
The player tracking technology will be used during the Australian Diamonds selection and team camps in July and August, and it's likely that coaches from other indoor sports will be watching the results with an eye to improving their own performances.