Soccer ball

Smart soccer ball keeps Feildians in touch with play as return to play is on the cards

Around 300 smart soccer balls were handed out to Feildian players on Saturday. The team hopes to keep players in touch with the game and with each other. (Heather Gillis / CBC)

With team sports and group activities on hold again due to the latest COVID-19 outbreak, the Feildians Athletic Association of St. John’s has found a new way to keep young players engaged at home – with a smart soccer ball.

Dribbleup smart soccer balls have sensors inside, which connect to a smartphone or tablet app, which players use for interactive skill-building lessons by tracking their speed, skill and repetitions at the same time. using augmented reality while they are practicing exercises.

The organization distributed more than 300 balls to players 17 and under on Saturday, via a contactless drive-through pickup service.

“The last thing we want to see them do is not touch the ball,” said head coach Cameron Carpenter.

“This will now allow them to go home, train in a safe space and keep contact with the ball, which will facilitate the development of their player.”

A young Feildians player tests a smart soccer ball. (Heather Gillis / CBC)

Carpenter said the team practiced using Zoom and Google until team sports were allowed to resume last year, but that type of practice hasn’t really taken off this year.

“It will be a much better product and hopefully engage all players with more fun and exciting challenges to overcome,” he said.

14-year-old Andy Knight, who was trying out the new smart ball on Saturday, called it “pretty cool”. He looks forward to some friendly competition with his teammates through the app, as he has spent much of the last year training at home and in his backyard.

“Obviously it’s hard to go out and train as a team, so it’s good to touch the ball at home and have some competition,” said Knight, who is part of the team. less than 15 years of the Feildians.

Progressive and safe return to play

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Janice Fitzgerald said on Friday that public health had yet to decide when team sports would resume.

Fitzgerald said, however, that return-to-play plans must focus on reducing contact, as faster-spreading viral variants, like B117, become the dominant strain of COVID-19.

“The most critical thing for us right now is to keep our contacts low, and I can’t stress enough how important that is,” she said.

“We cannot ignore the reality that group activities, including team sports, result in multiple contacts for each individual. This is made worse by the interaction of different teams and individuals involved in several types of sports and activities. “

Feildians head coach Cameron Carpenter has said the new smart soccer balls will keep children in touch with the game and with each other, as plans to return to the game are still pending. (Heather Gillis / CBC)

Fitzgerald acknowledged that many people are disappointed that team sports have been slow to resume, and she said she recognizes the positive impact of sport on mental and physical health.

She said public health has asked sports organizations to submit plans for a gradual and safe return to play.

“These plans will need to be somewhat different from last year’s return-to-play plans and examine how team sports can resume with reduced contact in light of the worrying and epidemiological variations, not only here, but across the board. country, ”said Fitzgerald, who noted that team sports were linked to the outbreak of the variant virus in the province in February.

A number of people in Prince Edward Island are also in isolation after a boy under 19 who plays underage sports was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday.

Smart ball keeps players in touch

Meanwhile, Carpenter is crossing his fingers that Feildians players can return to the football field in one form or another this summer.

“The comeback will probably start around the end of April. And then obviously, based on the guidelines, SportNL and the [Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association] will dictate how far we can go and what we need to do, ”Carpenter said.

As people try to keep their contacts low as the pandemic continues, Carpenter said, the smart soccer ball program will keep young players in contact with the ball, and with each other, safely.

14-year-old Andy Knight can’t wait to play football again. He wants his team to compete at the national championships next year in Ottawa. (Heather Gillis / CBC)

“It’s a way to bring all the players together,” Carpenter said.

Knight said he looks forward to playing with his team again.

“That would be really good. We’re obviously not going to have a good summer and I’m going to be entering grade 10 next year and just want to have a good time with my friends before I start, like, really hard schoolwork and some stuff, ”he said.

In the meantime, the club are challenging their players to collectively hit a million hits on the new smart balls before the end of March.

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