Computer Science And Sports
Practically everybody has played sports video games on a computer. It is fun to pick a team and see how well you can play against a ‘virtual’ rival. However, the uses for computers in sports go far beyond playing “Madden ’08” on your Xbox 360 and any other video games that you might have played.
If you ask a softball pitcher how she throws a fastball, she may not be able to tell you.
She may say it is just instinct or it is something that comes naturally to her. The fact is that there are ways to help pitchers become better pitchers and batters become better hitters, and computers are important in making this happen. Baseball players from the major leagues down to city leagues and school teams can now have their batting and pitching analyzed.
First, the player’s movements are videotaped. Then, these videotaped images are transferred into a computer. Special application software analyzes the images, and it measures the exact angle at which the player is holding his or her arms and legs. The speed and efficiency of each body movement is measured. This process is called “motion analysis”. One pitch can be compared with another. This can be useful because the pitcher can see how changes in movement affect the result. For example: how a fast or curve ball travels. Some systems can even measure pitching and hitting motions during an actual game. This allows coaches to give immediate feedback to players.
These computer applications also can be used to compare the movements of two different players. These comparisons, for example, can help explain why different players tend to hit the ball in different directions. There are also computer applications that help coaches keep track of exactly where each pitch crosses the plate. A radar gun can be attached to the computer to measure a pitch’s speed. This information is stored in the computer so that the pitcher and coach can study it later.
While motion analysis applications are important tools, it still takes a good coach to know how to interpret the results. The coach must look at the information the application provides and then use it to help the player improve.
Everybody knows how important statistics, or stats, are in sports. How many games has your favorite fullback played this year? Which player on the New York Yankee has the best batting average? The quantity of statistics used in sports is enormous. Without computers, it would be very difficult to keep these statistics up to date.
Not only are there team statistics, but there are also statistics on each individual player. For example: statistics on an individual baseball player might include times at bat, batting average, strikeouts, walks, E.R.A. and number of runs batted in.
Spreadsheet applications are often used to keep track of statistics. Spreadsheet applications are computer programs that can store and manipulate numbers. For example: they can find the average of a list of twenty numbers. Even little league teams often use spreadsheet applications to keep track of player statistics.
Going to a baseball park is almost like going to the circus. There are hotdogs, popcorn, and a scoreboard complete with a gigantic TV screen. New ballparks have very complex scoreboards, such as the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field. The Mariners’ board is fifty-six feet tall and one-hundred and ninety feet wide. It includes a giant screen to add to the excitement. The best-known type of giant screen is the Sony Jumbotron. The pictures on these screens move from the players to the crowd. They show cartoons of the team’s mascot. They may display the words to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” so that everybody can join in the singing. It is a brilliant way to get the crowd involved in the game as well as show cool cartoons or graphics.
These scoreboards and giant screens are controlled by an entire group of computers. Each computer supplies the scoreboard with different information. One computer might keep track of statistics on particular players, while another might contain commercial advertisements. These giant screens can even be used for educational purposes. In 2000, the University of Tennessee’s athletics and physics departments joined together to create a group of sixty-second videos. These videos were shown on the school’s Jumbotron during home games. The purpose of the videos was to teach fans about the science of football. This was a fun way to join together sports and education.
Do you want to know if the New York Mets have a home game on July 14? Or who the Seattle Mariners are playing next Wednesday? Just go to their web site. Professional, college, and even some high school sports teams have their own web sites. The information available on sports teams’ web sites is amazing. Some of it includes: schedules-game dates and locations are available, statistics-up to the minute information on teams and individual players is ready whenever you want it, team news-web sites contain coach and player interviews, information on injuries, and so forth, ticket purchasing-rather than standing in line, you can purchase your tickets at home. You can even look at a diagram of the stadium to see exactly where you will be seated. Online shopping is where you can buy baseball cards, caps, jerseys, and many other sports fans items.
Athletes who depend on speed to win will stop at nothing to reduce their times. Some
Olympic swimmers wear full body “skin suits” so they can glide through the water more easily. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that they use computer applications to improve their speeds. At the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado, coaches use a computer application to develop perfect swimming strokes. This simulation software attempts to copy the way water flows around parts of the swimmer’s body, such as the arms and hands. The swimmer’s goal is to move through the water as smoothly as possible. Water turbulence can slow a swimmer down.
The application allows the user to change the positions of the swimmer’s hands and arms. The user can then see how these changes affect the amount of water turbulence. This information is used to design the best swimming stroke. Coaches can then teach swimmers to use this stroke to obtain their greatest speed.
Simulation software has also been used to design racing yachts. It can help in determining how to shape the yacht’s hull so that it moves through the water with the least amount of resistance. Computers have many other uses at the Olympics. At the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, tiny computer chips were used to track skiers. A chip was strapped to each skier’s ankle. Electronic devices were buried in the snow along the track. When a skier passed over one of the devices, his or his chip sent information to the device. This information included the skier’s location, speed, and number. This information was sent to a central computer. Judges and other Olympic officials could then look at it.
So as you can see computers are very widely used in the wide world of sports. When I first started researching about computers in sports I realized this was not an easy subject. So I dug a little deeper and found great information about how computers were used in sports. I had been around sports my whole life but did not realize how much computers were involved in sports. For example: We would not have instant replay or game highlights on ESPN. After researching computers in sports, I was amazed at how much computers are used in sports. I do not think there is an Olympic sport out there that does not use computers.
I had a great time researching information for this project. I got to learn about all kinds of ways computers are used in sports. Thank you for this opportunity.
Lomberk, Jay. “Sports Motion.” Sports Motion Inc.” 2000. 17 Mar. 2008
Larry Jaffe and Gray Cook. “One Frame at a Time.”
Willoughby K. A. (2004), “The Science of Sports: Combining Quantitative Analysis and Sports Applications in an Undergraduate Course,” INFORMS Transactions on Education, Vol. 5, No 1,