In Your Pocket: The Rise of Coaching Apps
Adi Raghavan & Parv Maheshwari
As Silicon Valley continues to churn out innovation after innovation, striving to extract efficiency and purpose from people’s everyday activities, software and artificial intelligence companies have entered the field of sports. From the prevalence of Instant replay software for referees to player-scouting databases to even coach analyzing tools, technology has permeated through all of the sports we know and love.
Of these varied applications, the rise of AI training in Basketball is incredibly fascinating. The game’s coaches have moved beyond repetitive layup drills and surface-level analytics. Thousands of programs are being manufactured to suit the team training staff’s specific interests, with the intent of leveraging technology resources to pull ahead of the pack.
A Screenshot From The Homecourt App
One such company, Homecourt launched in June 2018. This California-based startup has tracked over 60 million shots and 300 million dribbles in over 200 countries worldwide. In collaboration with the NBA, the NEX Team, aspire to be on the smartphones of aspiring hoopers worldwide, providing guided feedback, performance capture, and skills training.
Joe Harris, a rising shooting guard for Brooklyn Nets who is considered one of the best shooters in the league, didn’t shoot a basketball at a physical hoop for over a month during the lockdown. Joe Harris used the Homecourt app to practice and endorses the app, likening it to “an interactive video game.” “Feels like you are in your own arcade game.” Says Steve Nash, Head Coach at Brooklyn Nets.
Homecourt is effective because players value constant feedback and performance reviews that cannot necessarily be provided by a coach that has an obligation to many other players. Homecourt offers daily drills and exercises to improve and a myriad of advanced analytics such as release angle and ball speed to allow players to adjust particular facets of their game. This level of detailed analysis had previously been restricted to elite team management and prevented amateur players from fine-tuning their skills independently. In the interest of accessible information, and for the future of the sport, innovations like Homecourt are incredibly inspiring.
Stephen Curry's Masterclass
To further enable the accessibility of quality coaching, some NBA players and coaches have turned to online platforms. Stephen Curry, two-time MVP and Shooting Guard for Golden State Warriors, has launched a shooting and ball- handling course on masterclass.com. Steph Curry teaches shooting, ball-handling,
and scoring techniques in meticulous detail, giving ordinary individuals the chance to “learn from the best”.
Additionally, last year, the NBA established a “Global Scout” feature inside the app that tracks user data from across the world as a recruiting tool. This gives all the users a platform to showcase their talent and with further updates in the app could turn into a legitimate scouting system. This further grows the game throughout the world.
On the surface, this level of unprecedented information access seems like a dream for the growth of Basketball. However, these AI Online coaching tools are not necessarily a replacement for the real deal. Stephen Curry’s world-class court is not comparable to one of our backyard basketball rims. The level of commitment and spirit required to be even moderately good at Basketball in the NBA, let alone a superstar on the level of Curry, is often undersold. Naive children who buy Air Jordans to ball like Mike are blinded by the perceived ease of success that superstars sell. In the modern age of advertising, NBA players thrive on portraying a level of skill that is accessible to the average consumer, only in the interest of selling more of their products. This effect is amplified in Basketball coaching apps and technology solutions. Seeing your favourite NBA player train in a certain way, and hearing them tell you to use a specific app is an especially good sell.
Masterclasses ignore any element of personalization to a player’s routine. Every player has their unique playing style, and unlike traditional coaching techniques, these apps can’t acknowledge and appreciate each player’s uniqueness. Stars have coaches that can get to know them personally and offer tailor-made solutions, but an
app cannot learn anything beyond what you put into it.
There may be no substitute for the scrutiny of an NBA coach like Greg Popovich
A coach does more than just teach the fundamentals of the ball game. Coaches help develop synergy between the players. When there are 10 seconds on the clock, a coach can draw up a play for his star to knock down that buzzer-beater three. These coaching applications can only be useful if you acknowledge the inherent limitation of the technology. They can never fully substitute a dedicated coach’s versatility, and a star cannot be reduced to the sum of their parts. These apps may help you grow individually, but team building and developing synergy between team members can only be done by the coach. That being said, Artificial intelligence and coaching applications have nowhere to go but up. Maybe in the future, a virtual coach can enable a random individual to compete with the pros. Until that day, I’d stick to using Homecourt to nail the three-pointer in a pickup game.