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Heidelberg United: Modernising youth development with SoccerPLAY

At all levels of the game technology is having a profound impact on football. While spectators focus largely on tools like VAR and goal-line technology, coaches and administrators are increasingly turning to sports science and innovation to seek a competitive advantage.

It was searching for this competitive edge that led Chris Theodorou, Football Programs Manager at Heidelberg FC to SoccerPLAY, an online management system which is revolutionising the club’s youth development.

“SoccerPLAY does more than just support coaches, it allows clubs to create a structure and a style. It’s a methodology,” Theodorou says.

SoccerPLAY is currently being used by more than 100 clubs and football federations around the world, including AC Milan and the Dutch Football Association.

The system gives users access to more than 800 exercises and training drills which can use to create training programs, improve specific skills, and track player development.

“The structure is phenomenal. It allows a football department to put together a program that can be accessed on a phone, tablet or computer,” he adds.

“It helps to keep training fresh and there are different formats for each exercise, so it provides coaches with all the tools they need to feel supported,” he adds.

Coaches can also create their own exercises which they can upload onto the system and form training schedules in weekly, fortnightly, or monthly blocks.

“If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Sporting organisations love to see their coaches turning up well prepared and with this system they will never run out of ideas,” Theodorou says.

“There are different objectives listed, so a coach or technical director can search specifically to find relevant exercises. From basics like first touch, passing, and movement to more advanced things such as building from the back and possession play, there are different formats of drills for everything.”

Each of SoccerPLAY’s  training exercises comes with a detailed guide on how to execute the drill correctly. This includes information on what equipment is needed, an animation providing an overview of the movements, and a real-life instructional video designed to demonstrate correct technique.

Theodorou highlights the video depicting technique as a particularly valuable tool for Australian coaches.

“The instructional videos are technique-focused because in Europe if you can’t pass, you can’t play. Whereas here in Australia we emphasise going hard and fast,” he says.

As SoccerPLAY is designed to incorporate youth development for all ages, there are exercises that are suitable for players in the under-6 age bracket through to under-19’s.

Many of the drills have variations which provide coaches the option to simplify them or make them more challenging, depending on the age group and skill level of the players.

“You don’t want to give five or six-year-old players too much information, so the drills are simple in order not to overcomplicate things. It’s also recommended that you don’t change what they are doing too often, whereas with older groups you can be more creative,” Theodorou says.

In addition to assisting coaches with an overarching training program, SoccerPLAY allows football departments an unprecedented ability to track individual player development.

“The player tracking is awesome. You can record a player’s results in agility tests, beep tests, sprint tests and so forth then track how they improve over the course of the year. At Heidelberg we aim to do these three or four times over the year to measure their developments,” Theodorou says.

“You can also track how players are performing in matches by uploading statistics and video snippets to their profile. For example, you can upload clips of a player doing something really well or if they’ve made a mistake, then you can show them the footage in order to identify learning opportunities.”

The key to SoccerPLAY’s effectiveness is the calibre of its designers, Dutch football experts Patrick Ladru, Bram Meurs and David Zonneveld. All three have all had distinguished careers within football, specifically youth development and education.

Among their many achievements, Ladru was a youth manager and then scout at AFC Ajax, Meurs played at PSV Eindhoven and now operates as a sports psychologist, and Zonneveld served as a youth coach at FC Volendam and now specialises in motorised learning for children.

“Ladru has worked with Johan Cruyff and the likes, he creates many of the exercises himself. Bram focuses more on the mental components of the system and what sort of actions players need to do off the ball and then there’s David, who specialises in teaching players behaviours and habits,” Theodorou says.

In Australia, SoccerPLAY is just beginning to gain traction with Heidelberg United being one of the first clubs to adopt the system.

As an active user of the program, Theodorou believes Australian football should be more open to stepping away from traditional practices and embracing new ideas.

“This is where FFA and FFV are missing the mark. Our national youth teams are not making World Cups so how are our seniors going to make World Cups in the future?” he says.

“The coaches that have embraced SoccerPLAY here think it’s unbelievable, its designed to be simple and effective.”

Ronaldo’s Manchester United return breaks social media records

With the summer transfer window complete for clubs across Europe, Cristiano Ronaldo re-joins Manchester United following 12 years away in a true homecoming moment for the Premier League side.

A household name, Ronaldo’s exceptional career has seen him return to a club that played a major part in his development towards becoming one of the greatest players we’ve seen.

Arriving from Sporting Lisbon in 2003, Ronaldo was a club-record signing for Manchester United at the time for a teenager in English football, and he certainly disappoint, netting 84 goals from 196 appearances.

His time in the game is most famously for La Liga’s Real Madrid, where in the 2009-2018 period he dominated with 311 goals from 292 games, and most recently spent the previous few seasons with Serie A’s Juventus showing no signs of slowing down in his veteran years by scoring 81 times from 98 appearances. Ronaldo’s lengthy international career dates back to his Manchester United debut year of 2003, with 179 caps and 109 goals to his name.

When you add his long list of trophies and accomplishments notably as a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, five-time Champions League winner, four-time FIFA Club World Cup winner, three-time Premier League champion, two-time Best FIFA Men’s Player and 2018 European Championship WInner it’s easy to see why he’s held in such high esteem and widely regarded as one of the greats of the sport.

It should come as no surprise to see the level of engagement on social media when the transfer was confirmed by Manchester United. There was a staggering number of people liking and sharing the huge summer transfer window move, as discovered by Global Head of Social Media at Manchester United, Nick Speakman.

He confirmed that Manchester United’s ‘Welcome home Cristiano Ronaldo’ posts for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all reached uncharted territory, setting new records across each of the three prominent platforms. The upcoming figures have already grown from when Speakman updated, with Ronaldo having a significant impact even off the pitch.

Instagram’s 12.3m likes & 537k comments makes it the most liked Instagram post from a sports team, Twitter’s 1.9m likes & 850k retweets makes it the most liked Twitter post from a sports team, while Facebook’s 1.3m likes & 161k comments makes it the club’s most liked Facebook post.

“It’s often said that “nothing can surprise you” when working within sports. However, unexpectedly being presented with the opportunity, and arguably privilege, of announcing Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester United after 12 years away from the club is a rare exception to the rule,” Speakman said.

“24 hours later, the announcement post has surpassed even our own predictions for social numbers cross-platform.”

It marked Manchester United’s biggest ever day for social interactions, which can extend further to other Ronaldo-related posts as the hype continues for a potential return in Manchester United colours at Old Trafford against Newcastle United in Round 4 of the Premier League, following the upcoming international break.

Deltatre: The all-rounder for leading innovations

Boasting a wide range of technologies, Deltatre has proven itself to be a reliable technology provider to football federations, leagues and clubs around the world.

Boasting a wide range of technologies, Deltatre has proven itself to be a reliable technology provider to football federations, leagues and clubs around the world.

Deltatre is changing the way fans consume and engage with their favourite sports, with specialist innovations ranging across over-the-top (OTT) streaming, websites and apps, graphics, data, officiating systems, user experience, and product design.

Speaking to Soccerscene, Craig Harvey, Deltatre’s Vice President of Asia-Pacific explains: “We guide sports organisations through change. Using data and insights, combined with over 30 years of experience in sport, we analyse, design and deliver the next level of growth through technology and services.”

With an extensive client list in football – featuring FIFA, AFC, J League and all MLS clubs, to name a few – Deltatre brings an unrivalled experience to any football organisation that is seeking to build its brand by engaging, understanding, growing and monetising its fans.

Deltatre growth in Asia-Pacific

Deltatre has experienced significant growth in recent years, and has expanded its presence around the world, with over 1000 staff across 11 countries. In 2015, Deltatre made a strategic decision to build a presence in Asia-Pacific and localise its service to adapt to the needs of the clients in the region.

Now with nearly 100 staff distributed across Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and India, Deltatre is better placed than ever to deliver; and clients such as Asian Football Confederation (AFC), J League and India Super League (ISL) are already benefitting from this strategic initiative.

Indeed, the ISL appointment of Deltatre reflected the mission to redevelop its on-screen storytelling of the fastest growing sports property in India. Deltatre developed, designed, and deployed a best-in-class graphics solution for the full season, and implemented sophisticated remote production that ensured adaptability. Such implementation came to the fore this year, considering the significant restrictions imposed by COVID-19 in India, with operations limited to strict bio-secure bubbles in Goa and Mumbai, as outlined in this case study.

Harvey touches on the success on this project: “Delivering live sport can be challenging at the best of times. In today’s world, it takes a new level of commitment, adaptability and innovation to ensure a safe and successful delivery. Delivering this seasons ISL was arguably one of our hardest deliveries, ever, but the toughest times often lead to our greatest moments.”

Leading Innovation

Beyond the world of broadcast, Deltatre is renowned for its work across data, owned & operated digital platforms and OTT streaming services; be it collecting the official data for the Bundesliga, or powering MLSSoccer.com and NFL Game Pass, as a few examples from a distinguished list of projects around the world. In addition, Deltatre provides the technology backbone to managing competitions and events for several organisations, streamlining both internal and external processes and tasks.

Harvey adds, “At our core, we are a team of technology experts with a passion to bring sport to life. Over the past 30 years we have built and refined our products and services to connect the media value chain to maximise performance and operational effectiveness for all stakeholders.”

An area where Deltatre has seen great traction in the past few years is the centralisation of digital platforms for leagues to better support the future of their clubs and members. The multi-tenant approach – using FORGE Multiply – brings unity to every member, large or small, and offers an ecosystem designed to support them engage, understand and connect with their community and fans, and ultimately grow their sport.

“A powerful example of work is highlighted in our recent announcement on becoming the web technology partner for Major League Soccer (MLS), supporting the league and its clubs transform the fan experience.” Harvey said.

Beyond Football

Deltatre’s capabilities and experience extend far beyond football, and sport. In 2018, Deltatre acquired Massive Interactive – which was founded in Australia in 1996 and now uses its office in Redfern as its Australian HQ – bolstering Deltatre’s OTT capabilities with products capable of delivering entertainment platforms for media organisations around the world.

Harvey added: “We predicted that media organisations would consolidate OTT viewing experiences across sport and entertainment, and so the acquisition of Massive Interactive has uniquely positioned Deltatre as leaders in both live and VOD content management, paired with world-class products that deliver engaging experiences at scale.”

Soccerscene takes a closer look at the variety of products and services Deltatre brings to market – all of which could well be applicable to organisations throughout Australia that are looking to augment their capabilities.

DIVA – Bring fans closer to the action.

An advanced OTT player, DIVA offers fans more than simply watching the game. If you’re watching from home, you want to experience every moment in fine detail. You get all the data you could ever want, with the ability to view from multiple angles – available on mobile, web, and Android TV.

AXIS – Drive user engagement.

User experience (UX) is at the heart of AXIS, giving editorial teams the chance to tailor their content to suit each sports fan. AXIS uses an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface that can control all aspects of an organisation’s OTT service to deliver increased engagement, such as design, navigation, promotions, page layout, and content.

Mtribes – Give your users a more personalized experience.

This software as a service (SaaS) platform has been created for real-time insights on user experience. To be successful in digital, data is the key indicator. To understand users, there needs to be the right tools in place to see how the audience is interacting with a service. Mtribes plugs into an existing sports technology stack to be assessed by operators. With the power of data, they can make changes to a service’s features, design, and content depending on a user’s behaviour traits.

FORGE – Engage your fans through storytelling.

A sports-oriented audience is hungry for content and wants that content all in one place. FORGE is the world’s first sport-focused publishing platform that meets the needs of all audiences on a global scale. It offers flexibility for sports operators to tell their unforgettable stories through this modern-day solution. FORGE has been built from the ground up to create a content platform that’s simple to use and lets editorial teams produce content as they like. It also lets teams get a better idea on how much time they engage with their fans and to decide on the appropriate channels.

To see all that Deltatre has to offer, you can find it here.

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