The Relevance of a Gamified Football Development Platform!

Studies show significant growth potential in gamification applications for football, driven by the increased use of technology and data-driven training methods. Kenneth Cortsen, an expert in the use of new technology and data in sports (including sport tracking solutions), has investigated this through a qualitative study with players and coaches at various levels of football in Denmark. This study examined Goal Station's gamified, motivating, and interactive training methodology using lights (Ignite Trainers), gathering insights from both players and coaches.

Fun, Competitive, and Match-Related Training System

Goal Station's mission is to provide clubs, organizations, and players at all levels with modern training equipment and technology designed to improve player development. At Goal Station, we understand the importance of a motivating training environment. Therefore, our goal is not just to offer a standard training platform, but to create an inspiring environment that supports player development and fosters passion for the game through gamification and data application.

Using data in training creates a fun, competitive, and match-like environment where players can track their progress in the Goal Station app. This allows players to constantly compete against themselves or their teammates as they strive for the best score. Kenneth Cortsen quickly observed this in his study when he overheard a player say: "I got 23, what did you get?". As Kenneth Cortsen noted, there is a constant interaction between technology, data, sporting performance (including competencies), and the organizational learning context.

According to a player in his study, this competitive element makes training a fun and motivating supplement to regular team sessions. ”It is different and fun, and it is a great supplement to the ordinary team training. It gives you some technical skills where you intensively get the opportunity to work with first touches and passes, and there are many opportunities to work with both legs”.

The player's assistant coach agrees, adding that we live in a time where kids and young people are bombarded with impressions. Without the lights and data, making 16 passes to two Rebounders would become boring after five minutes. The lights and data make a huge impression on both kids and adults, which is decisive.

Effective Training Setup

In addition to providing a fun and competitive training environment, Goal Station aims to create the most effective and match-related training sessions. Modern football demands higher technical skills from players in all positions. It is crucial to stay calm and have a clear view in high-pressure situations because players need to quickly understand, process, and react to outside information. A study for the UEFA Pro License exam found that 76% of the actions in a football match relate to three key actions: first touch, first pass, and short passes.

However, it is often difficult to train these technical skills in match-related situations on your own because you don't experience the same pressure as in matches. In a match, there is much more to focus on, such as pressure from all angles and teammates calling for the ball. Everything happens faster and with more impressions. Here, the lights (Ignite Trainers) on the Rebounders are the perfect tool for training this. The lights indicate where the player should pass next, making the player constantly engage with something while practicing technical skills, just like in match situations.

This training system contrasts sharply with just passing a ball against a wall in the schoolyard or garden. One player in Kenneth Cortsen's study pointed out that Goal Station helps build a bridge between technical and tactical elements, enhancing players' match intelligence when they perform exercises in pairs. “[…] If they work together two and two. If one of them is on the right side and must kick the ball to the rebounder, then the other player may be able to predict the pattern of the game and move in the direction where the ball will go. So, there is something verbal but also something about relating to the ball and the game and where the ball may go”.

Goal Station's training system also provides many more ball touches and repetitions than players typically experience in regular team-based training exercises such as 4v4, 7v7, or 11v11, which often focus more on tactics. Results from a UEFA Pro-license study show that a player experiences 150-250 football actions in a regular training session, while a player using Goal Station equipment and data gets 800-1100 actions per session.

A current professional U19 coach and former professional football player in England added to Kenneth Cortsen's study that players and coaches using Goal Station equipment can create more situation-specific training: ”If I have a right back who continues to do self-guided training and kick balls to the goal, how much does he/she gain compared to going to the pitch and finding him-/herself in situations where he/she practices what he/she needs as a right back such as touches, passes, positioning etc.”

Concluding Discussion

In conclusion, Kenneth Cortsen finishes by saying that there is growth potential in both gamification capabilities and applications in football, as the use of technology and data-driven training approaches have increased. The gamification element in football training is relevant because it includes aspects of deliberate play and intrinsic motivation. He adds that gamification can be defined as “the practice of making activities more like games in order to make them more interesting and enjoyable.”

It is also concluded that the lights on the Rebounders (Ignite Trainers) make the training more stressful and match-related. The lights force the player to stay aware and orient themselves, which greatly improves their split-vision.

Overall, the study shows that Goal Station is an effective tool for football players to practice the most basic (and frequently used) skills in a fun and competitive learning environment. They are constantly challenged and engaged, similar to a football match.

Huge credit and thanks to Kenneth Cortsen for conducting the study and allowing us to use his insights and quotes in this blog post. If you wish to read the entire chapter on his research, you can find it in Chapter 9 of the book "Interactive Sports Technologies: Performance, Participation, Safety (Routledge Research in Sports Technology and Engineering)."