If you’re looking to improve your game, no matter the sport, you’re probably living by the tried but true saying, practice makes perfect. And when it comes to basketball, it’s one of the easier sports to practice on your own — you can dribble, shoot and rebound all sans opponent. But how do you know if you’re getting any better? Besides making or missing a shot, it can be hard to calculate your progress alone. That’s when you turn to coaches and teammates. Or, the 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball.
Inside this rubber ball live sensors that use point-of-force technology in order to analyze and provide feedback on an athlete’s performance. The goal: to develop a better player. “The way people learn and want to learn has changed; they expect information to be fast, digital, engaging and objective,” says Michael Crowley, founder and CEO of Infomotion Sports Technologies, the company that brought this ball to life. “If you can’t deliver it in that format, they don’t listen.”
While it may look, feel and even weigh the same as an ordinary, regulation basketball, the 94Fifty is equipped with motion sensors and a unique algorithm to track how consistently you perform a move, learn the strengths and weaknesses of multiple players at any level, and track progress over time. It also provides basic, intermediate and advanced level training in order for a player to build better shooting and ball-handling skills with the help of the accompanying 94Fifty app.
When the app is launched it asks for basic info of the player including name and height, picture optional, for up to five players. (Note that there’s always a “guest” option if a friend comes by and wants to challenge your skills.) Next, choose what you’d like to focus on: a workout, head-to-head challenge, skill training or social challenge. A list of drills will then pop up that you will either perform alone or against an opponent. These range from dominant and non-dominant hand dribbling speed to crossover speed or shooter’s touch (accuracy and arc wins) for competitions. And for individual training, athletes can get feedback on everything from consecutive dribbles in a certain time frame, to shot arc and shot backspin.
“We are huge believers that even a series of tiny successes, strung together in sequence, will dramatically increase the probability that a player will continue to repeat something.”
“Everything in the app has the underlying goal of improving skill, whether its…the workout section, a head-to-head competition, social challenge, and so on,” says Crowley, who played Division II ball in college. Plus, the app rewards users with bonus points when drills are mastered, which adds extra motivation.
And just how accurate is the information? According to the manufacturer, combining a specific suite of inertial motion sensors (nine to be exact), which by nature are very accurate and precise, special algorithms and firmware that seek patterns of motion, the answer is very. The ball and app also provide voice and audio feedback to correct flaws in milliseconds on every shot and dribble. This real-time scoring is recorded under the player’s individual profile and presented in the app on leaderboards. These charts show a player’s daily and all-time personal bests. Plus, the ball can train anyone whose skills range from playground to pro level (100 NBA and NBA draft picks were used to test the pro level data).
Elite teams and coaches are getting involved, too. “Our ultimate goal and vision is to allow any player, anywhere in the world, to compete, learn from, and interact with other players and coaches in real time, with information about their skills that is unique to them,” says Crowley. Coaches such as Bill Self, Mike Brey, Bo Ryan and Jamie Dixon support the ball. “We are huge believers that even a series of tiny successes, strung together in sequence, will dramatically increase the probability that a player will continue to repeat something,” says Crowley. “When that happens in a game like basketball, it’s just amazing how fast improvement occurs.”
Crowley and his team of engineers have already seen much success with the 94Fifty and developments of another basketball product are already underway — one that will focus more on live, game-time statistics.
“In the end,” Crowley says, “there is no more satisfying response from customers than when we hear that scoring has gone up, championships are won, or even just making a team that wasn’t thought possible, and our products had a hand in helping to achieve that goal.”
While the $299 ball costs just a fraction of what continued elite-level coaching might cost, keep in mind that it won’t be able to help you develop all aspects of your game, including court vision and defensive skills. You’re on your own for those. To learn more about the 94Fifty or to purchase one, head to shop.94fifty.com.