The 40 yard Dash revival ⚡️

Ask a soccer player to name a common exercise which increases speed or agility and names like Shuttle Run, Zig Zag, 40 Yard Dash or Agility Cone Drill will pop up. Better known as standard or baseline drills, such exercises are used every day by soccer players worldwide to improve overall playing ability. The big question here is how these exercises result into better players?

Measuring and understanding personal performance in team sports is a challenging endeavor. When observing a game the basic performance is usually noticeable: the player’s speed, time-to-react or shot accuracy. Meanwhile, effects of each player on team performance as a whole cannot be so easily seen by the naked eye. Soccer coaches are still trying to figure it out on a daily basis.

SPARQ

A game-changing program that kickstarted a universal standard for individual soccer performance was Nike’s SPARQ Campaign with the bully haiku: “My better is better than your better.” Launched over 10 years ago, the program gave athletes a framework to track their progress, measure improvement and compare to others worldwide. To inspire competition, the campaign was branded with the typical brag talk used in locker rooms and on the field amongst players.

SPARQ — acronym for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction, and Quickness — created a set of baseline drills of athlethicism that’s directly relevant to game performance. Paired with a rating system, the results were made easily understandable to both players and coaches. Although the campaign ended in 2010, SPARQ had a huge effect on standardizing performance criteria across many team sports. Heck, the performance rating is still used as of today.

U.S. Soccer was an early adopter of SPARQ. The organization partnered with Nike in 2008 as an effort to improve fundamental player skills on national youth teams and the Development Academy. Quite naturally, the benchmark exercises ended up as the primary measure to understand functional and athletic capability of soccer players elsewhere too.

Like other standardized exercises, SPARQ is a universal way to identify an athlete‘s strengths and weaknesses that are relevant in match performance, both for professional and amateur level players. Typically, how coaches and sports scientists use these scores for the pro’s nowadays is building comprehensive tailored training programs on specific areas, tracking improvement over time.

But what do the outcomes of the standard drills actually mean? Can you compare players based on standard exercises without valid measuring tools Say, a 16-year-old talented forward from Michigan and an ambitious Californian midfielder perform the drills with the same results — does this demonstrate that both have the same level of performance? Is this drill not just a snapshot; and what if a player just had an off-day?

Learning from baseline performance

The fundamental issue with this approach for aspiring players is that there is little they can do with the score alone. Sure, it is a good tool for players to understand their general ability, but at the same time it’s not particularly easy to use that score to improve in a meaningful way. For youngsters who have the passion and ambition to become successful at the sport they love, this could be a crucial phase of improvement needed to stand out from their peers. As I’ve written in my previous article, personal performance matters a lot in the United States and without doubt it fuels the whole sports culture in the country.

What these young players really need is something to capture their performance and show it off.

Each individual soccer player strives to compete and become successful, even though not every family can afford coaches and training programs, or attend expensive tournaments and ID Camps. The dominant pay-to-play system across many team sports requires a significant financial contribution if a talented player wants to pursue his ambitions. Luckily for the new generation, technology is tearing down the barriers to accessible and affordable improvement.

Personal coach for every player

The future of soccer in the U.S. is in the hands (and legs) of the young generation of aspiring athletes. They’re tech-savvy, love sport and want to become great athletes. What these young players really need is something to capture their performance and show it off.

Baseline performance scores are great for understanding your strengths and identifying weaknesses, but they do not provide solutions to ambitious soccer players — and certainly cannot replace a good coach. At DashTag, we focus exactly on bridging this gap between measuring performance and translating it into real value for the player.

DashTag is making standardized exercises truly meaningful by generating personal real-time stats, giving insights to every player after each new session. Just like a coach. Our wearable sensor — the Dash — captures data of a player‘s performance during training sessions and matches. Stats like Pace, Agility and Stamina are delivered straight to the player‘s phone — the generation’s preferred way to consume information.

Our goal is to bring up a new generation of soccer athletes and we’re already working with ambitious young players across the United States. The DashTag experience is tailored for the modern age with personal FIFA game-like stats and challenges creating incentives for every player to try harder. With our data-driven insights and performance measures that are understandable, motivating and fully personalized, we’re creating this fresh new layer in soccer.


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