There is no secret method when it comes to improving fundamental soccer skills. Like most sports, the golden formula involves targeted practice, countless repetition, and constructive feedback. The team at DribbleUp have sought out to revolutionise improving ball control in soccer through a virtual trainer that predominantly focuses on dribbling drills. The best way to describe their approach is a series of interactive video tutorials that analyse the effectiveness of your drill execution then provides a performance report.
At the core of their approach is a proprietary soccer ball featuring a QR code that is paired with an android or iphone app. The balls trajectory in each of the drills is tracked on the mobile screen using computer vision algorithms. For those who ever played eyetoy on Playstation or kinect on Xbox the nature of the drills feel eerily similar both in aesthetic and functionality. The app also provides limited real-time feedback in where the projected cones on the screen go red when the ball goes out of the designated region.
The proprietary soccer ball required for the app to work cost a staggering $89.99 USD and can be purchased from their website. A tripod is also provided. The balls appearance is strikingly similar to the much loved Nike t90 soccer balls from the mid 2000’s with the main difference being the large QR code used for ball recognition. The DribbleUp team try to justify the price by stating the ball is the same match grade quality that the professionals use. Despite the ball being constructed robustly, we feel it to be a comparable quality to an entry level $30 ball by Nike or Adidas and believe the app would appeal to a wider audience if any regular soccer ball could reliably be used.
Collectively the setup up process is quick to undertake and versatile enough to be used across a wide range of locations.
Besides the proprietary soccer ball the rest of the equipment is easily obtainable
- DribbleUP soccer ball
- Tripod (provided with purchase of the ball)
- Android or Apple phone with app
*Optional a TV or monitor
Besides the shooting drill, majority of the apps activities can be completed indoors, a park or in a backyard. The versatility makes it easy to also practice the dribbling skills in a garage or lounge room.
Majority of the drills have a similar setup process. The suggested conditions for this to work require a tripod rested on the ground and the ball to be placed approximately 1m away. The initial step is the registration of the ball making use of the phones front facing camera. The process is assisted by a template of the ball on the screen as a guide. To ensure the user is familiar with the drill prior to starting a video demonstration is shown. Then the user is instructed to begin themselves. They have 30 seconds to complete as many successful movements in the time.
The apps 3 main modes focuses on shooting, dribbling and juggling. The +75 drills can be selected individually on the user’s discretion or part of daily improvement program.
Dribbling is the area that the developers have placed the most emphasis on with the objective to improve player ball control. The novice drills involve basic side touches and single leg ball rolls. The higher tiered moves involve cutbacks and change in direction. These are far more complex to contain the ball within the field of view of the phones camera and thus harder to get higher scores on. With all drills the players effectiveness is graded on 4 aspects which are speed, consistency, pattern and cone control(accuracy). Collectively they provide a comprehensive analysis of drill execution.
Due to the limited field of view of the front facing camera and tracking only done in two-dimensions drills can feel extremely constrained. Though close ball control will assist in dribbling in tight areas drills the transfer to match performance is questionable. This is due to dribbling in soccer being a reaction based skill in where the player who has the ball has to respond to the opposing defender trying to dispossess them. Regardless of how many top scores we received on the apps drills by no means did we feel more competent in dribbling past real-world players during training sessions and matches. This brings question to how effective is DribbleUps gamification approach in fulfilling its purpose of trying to improve soccer performance.
The shooting activity is cumbersome to undertake and requires two devices (eg. ipad and iphone). One behind the goal to measure the kick and the other to view results. The current setup seems to have been created with a training partner in mind and is difficult to complete individually. This process could of been streamlined by eliminating the use of 2 devices through a better 3d ball tracking algorithm which measures placement and ball speed. A great example of an app that achieved 3d tracking with a single smartphone camera is the myKicks app (which we have previously reviewed)
The juggling mode is essentially a juggling counter which records how many times you keep the ball up before dropping. There is a significant delay with the live counting which renders it useless. We also experienced the app didn’t count all juggles especially smaller ones. Though it is a cool feature, we perceive it to be trivial.
The longevity of the app is heavily dependent on the demographic using it. We believe the app provides most value for children between the ages of 8 -14 and can be a fun tool to improve some aspects of ball control and lower limb coordination. Coaches can easily setup homework for players which they may find enjoyable due to the apps inherent gamification approach. This is a different case for more experienced players. Though the higher tiered drills are more complexed to complete more experienced players are likely to be skeptical of the apps effectiveness to improve performance and are less inclined to continuously use it.
Despite the novel use of technology the app feels more like an eyetoy or kinect video game than a robust method to improve soccer performance. There are a wide range of drills, however there is limited skill transfer into actual dribbling performance due to restricted movement patterns and no facilitation to the improve player reaction a key skill involved in dribbling. The juggling app was trivial at best and the shooting drill was cumbersome as it required two mobile devices. The price of the ball is steep and the app would of attracted more users if any regular soccer ball could be used. We believe the demographic who would benefit most from the app would be 8-14 year olds and can be a good supplementary tool for coaches to improving lower limb coordination. Overall we don’t believe the content of the app justifies the price of the ball.
That’s the end of this blog, comment below and tell us about your experiences with the DribbleUp app.