Over the past few decades, the use of technology in sports has advanced rapidly.
So much so, that whether you're an athlete training to be at your peak, a coach looking to squeeze that extra few percentages of advantage over the opposition, or simply a punter trying to make the best NFL bets, then there's no doubt that some form of technology is being used to assist in this process.
For all the advances over recent years, many believe this is just the tip of the iceberg for the use of technology in sports. Fast forward 20 years and advances in technology will have enhanced sports even further, so much so that today's athletes would struggle to compete.
Here's a look at how we believe technology will impact sports competition in the years to come.
Technology Has Already Had Such an Impact on Sports
To understand what might be coming up in the area of sports and technology, we can first look back and see the impact that technology has already had on sports.
One area where technology has had a significant impact is around officiation. Technology has enabled better officiation of sports around the world over the last decade or so. Remember when video reviews weren't a thing? The use of technology, particularly some form of video referee or review system has had a massive impact on sports.
In the past, if an umpire made a bad call, or if a player subtly engaged in foul play, that was tough luck for the team who it went against. Now, regardless of the sport, chances are there will be some form of video review system that catches the behavior and corrects it.
Twenty years ago in rugby, every team would have an 'enforcer' --- a player whose job it was to intentionally rough up other players when the referee wasn't looking. Today, this role doesn't exist, simply because any foul play will be caught by the video referee and punished. More often than not this happens in live time, impacting a team's ability to compete, but if not, the player will still be cited and disciplined after the game, facing a ban.
This is just one example of the dozens of different ways technology has already had an impact on sports competitions around the world.
Technology and Big Data Will Change the Way Sports Are Played
Back in the day, coaches would have to travel to other team's sports matches ahead of time, to scout out information in order to create a game plan against them.
Today, the availability of video footage has made that unnecessary, and every team is able to analyze the other like an open book.
However, this still requires a reasonable degree of preparation and insight to process. In the future, big data and more intelligent sports algorithms will undoubtedly be designed, which enable the automatic generation of game plans and strategies against a particular opposition.
Imagine in tennis, instead of a player needing to review hours of footage alongside their coach to get an understanding of how to combat a particular opponent's strengths, this was automatically generated by an algorithm. All the player would need to do is memorize a set of responses, and whenever they saw their opponent act in a certain way, they would have the perfect response to address it with.
If this is all sounding a bit far-fetched and robotic, just think for a second how far things have come in the last few decades.
Wearable Tracking Technology Will Perfect Real-Time Decision Making
Athletes in many sports are already wearing technology which feeds back real-time data about their vitals.
The ability of this technology to accurately measure an athlete's performance in real-time will undoubtedly increase over the coming years. With it, we'll see better decision-making as well, from both athletes and coaches.
Take football for example, where the ability of an athlete to perform at their absolute peak is critical. Soon, coaches will be able to decide when to substitute players not just based on how they appear from the sidelines, but these decisions will be able to be informed by detailed, real-time data. Whether a player can run off an injury or needs to be withdrawn from the game in order to preserve their fitness for the next match, will no longer be a matter of guesswork, but something which coaches can accurately know, and make decisions with full information.
There's no doubt that in 10--20 years' time, technology will have had an incredible impact on sports. In the same way that today's athletes would put the last generation's athletes to the sword, the athletes of the future will be far superior to those we see today.