With Virtual Sports Coaching, Lionel Messi Could Give a Soccer Lesson Via Video Call

Virtual sports coaching is giving students more opportunities for athletic participation.

When Lionel Messi dropped in on a Google Hangout between some celebrity YouTube video gamers he did the watching audience one disservice. He didn’t stick around long enough to test the real world skills of the online gamers.

What he could have done was taken the video conference outside and critiqued the kicking motion of everyone in the chat. Perhaps the Barcelona and Argentina legend is saving that pioneering role for the day he eventually retires (again).

But the technology is out there–available for experts, even those a little less gifted than Messi, to pass on their experience over remote connections in order to shape the skills of young players everywhere.

It’s something schools should consider adding to their curriculum; virtual coaching to add expertise and incentive to youth sports.

Why Bother With Remote Sports Coaching?

Video conferencing is already playing an educational role in both the classroom and on the sporting field. In school, VC has been deployed to improve the role of guest speakers, expand the potential destinations of field trips, and introduce students to their peers in different time zones, on different continents.

In the sporting world, remote video connections via technology as simple as Skype lets the coaches of elite athletes continue to guide and improve their pupil’s skills even as the student rises to become the master.

Combining those two video calling applications seems only logical.

It would offer remote schools the opportunity to add teaching in sports not currently on the curriculum, while also letting all schools expose the talents of gifted students to the wider sporting world.

These virtual coaching lessons wouldn’t be just static watch-and-comment events either. There are a number of exciting video capture devices already available that would give coaches a range of instructional options.

How Virtual Coaching Could Work

Golf may not be the most popular sporting choice for young students, but the buying power of its adult participants has led to the development of some advanced self-help tools they could aid remote teaching.

There are dozens of apps designed to help the amateur golfer improve their swing and lower their handicap. These include swing analysis functions that record and play back a golfer’s action in slow motion, with graphical overlays and comparisons to video of professionals. There are ball-tracking devices that offer instant feedback on exactly how the club contact translates to create the ball’s flight path. And there are even apps that allow for text and audio commentary to be inserted into clips of the swing in motion.

By adding a live video calling function to these sorts of technologies–and every smartphone and tablet is a video call waiting to happen–a remote coach could turn something as basic as watching a young student kick a ball into an instant multimedia commentary on what went right and wrong in the kicking action.

It would allow remote coaches who couldn’t otherwise share a field with students to offer feedback and technical cures as easily as if they were fetching the ball from the net themselves.

Breaking down the distance barrier also lets some crowd-drawing, inspirational figures get personal with young athletes, potentially boosting participation levels.

Boosting Youth Sport with Virtual Guest Stars

Youth participation in sports has dropped by almost 10% over recent years, a real world figure of more than 4.5 million fewer kids turning out to play.

While many professional leagues and star players make a habit of helping out schools in their local area in order to encourage youth activity, it’s hard to get a visit from a pro if your school is in a state like Nebraska or Wyoming, which lack professional sports teams.

However, with some affordable but powerful video conferencing equipment, or at least access to some iPads, any school could host a remote visit from some of the biggest names in sports.

Mr. Messi, for instance, could appear in the gym of any school that could court his attention. He’d be able to oversee any kind of soccer drill the local teachers could supervise, and offer individual tips and tricks to starstruck students. It’s the kind of see-it-and-be-it motivation that could inspire a new generation of healthy kids.

And who knows, maybe the next Leo Messi could be discovered on some remote Nebraskan school yard by the current Leo Messi.

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