It seems like every time you see a pro player training these days, they are wearing a performance tracking vest. It has become a staple in the game, as teams look to perfect training regimes and find the best way to get the most out of players. This has now taken its way down to the amateur level, with college players and clubs also looking at the data to see if they can find ways for players to improve.
Now, the technology is readily available for individual players to order, with the PLAYR GPS Player Tracking System becoming a firm favorite on the market. Priced at $200, it is not actually at an unattainable level, but it is an investment that some of you might need more reassurance about. That is where our review comes in, as we take a look at the positives and negatives of what the tech has to offer.
If you order the system, it arrives in a pretty neat little black box that slides open. Inside, you get the vest along with the all important GPS SmartPod and a charging pod. In addition, you get the all important quick start guide booklet that you will definitely want to flip through as you familiarize yourself with the technology. So to recap you get:
- A really cool box
- SmartPod + Charger
- Quick start guide booklet
How It Works
To get started, you need to make sure the GPS SmartPod is charged. Once you have that done, put on the SmartVest and then slip in the SmartPod. Download the app and once you are finished playing, upload the data. That is about it! once completely setup, it works to track a number of performance stats during use. To stop the tracking, you just take the SmartPod out of the vest. There are other steps you need to take in order to ensure everything is being tracked, but the quick start guide booklet walks you through it all.
Does The System Work?
There is definitely a lot of useful information you can take from wearing it, with the in-game heat-map being my personal favorite part. Everything is detailed beautifully with a complete breakdown from the minute you start playing until you stop. Things to consider while wearing are the times you start and stop (to be as accurate as possible) plus you will need internet to tell the system exactly where the field you were playing on was located. This helps place all the information within the true dimensions of the field you were playing on. Below are some snapshots of data taken from a recent game I played in, which should give you an idea of some information you can take from your performance.
Sadly, I’ve suffered the ill fate of having several training sessions not track. This is one of the negatives to the system, as you can’t tell for sure if everything has tracked until you are ready to upload the data. So, you might have an excellent game and be totally pumped to see the stats, only to discover it didn’t actually track or get the message “no new sessions found.” This happened to me several times and was always very frustrating.
How Does It Fit?
The actual SmartVest is designed to be very snug across your body. It fits like compression wear around the chest and upper body. It can be worn against the skin, or you can wear it over a t-shirt. I found that I needed to wear a t-shirt underneath as the actual area where the SmartPod sits arced across the top of my back. So, it kind of bobbed up and down. On bare skin, you can definitely feel it move about. But over a shirt it is pretty unnoticeable and doesn’t add any weight, which is key to wearing it. That means that during a game, you will have a t-shirt, the vest and your jersey. In colder conditions, that works just fine, but here in California it proved slightly uncomfortable in-game, (ie. I felt pretty hot!) If you already prefer to wear something under your jersey, it shouldn’t be an issue.
If you are trying to decide on a size, go with what you would wear in a t-shirt size. You will need it to fit pretty snug so it stays in place. And also very important, you can wash the vest after every wear, so you will only ever need one per SmartPod.
Can It Make You A Better Player?
Absolutely, yes. The system offers plenty of feedback after both training sessions and games, giving you some detailed information that you can use to calibrate your play. It will take several sessions to compile enough data and give you more comprehensive detailing on what you are doing right and wrong. You also get stats on what the average pro player does during similar game or practice sessions, so you can compare how you are doing in that regard. For the average amateur player, that can prove invaluable, so you know just where you need to improve.
Coaches – How Many Should I Purchase?
Since receiving the system, I’ve talked to several coaching friends about their opinions on tracking player data. There is no doubt that it would provide value and additional insight that would help a coach put a plan in place for player development. One of the key questions that came up was how many units would be needed to cover a team? Obviously, it is unrealistic to think many non-pro teams could buy enough systems for an entire team. Plus the amount of data that would give you would be extremely difficult to digest and breakdown.
In my opinion, it would be more beneficial to have 2 or 3 units, and use them over time in specific situations where you are trying to find a trend with a specific player. For example, if there is a striker that tends to drift too deep looking for the ball, or an outside midfielder who ends up in the middle of the pitch too frequently during a game. By assessing the data across a few practices or games, a coach can more confidently guide a player in areas they can improve.
- Fits snug around the chest.
- Tracks key performance data.
- Allows you go compare your data versus pro players.
- Provides feedback on ways you can improve.
- Feels more comfortable with a t-shirt underneath.
- Need to have access to a smartphone to upload to the app.
- Some of the sessions didn’t track. (*this could just be an issue with my SmartPod, but wither way you don’t want to get a Pod that has issues!)
Value for money?
The retail price on the system is $200, so its value depends on how you intend to use it. For the average amateur player who won’t have a personal coach, it is a whole lot of fun to use and can prove valuable to help you spot weaknesses in your game. That becomes even more true for players who are looking to try make it to the next level, and this is the type of player I would recommend this system to most. In reality, a $200 investment that can give you a wealth of information on what you are doing performance wise and how you can improve can be an extremely useful tool. I personally see that as value for money!
You can find the PLAYR system available at soccer.com.