A new ShotTracker fan app — expected to launch today — will combine real-time analytics with augmented reality for a first-of-its-kind fan engagement opportunity at next week’s Division 1 NAIA basketball tournament, said co-founder Davyeon Ross.
“We want to make the experience as great as possible for the end user,” Ross said, noting his company’s recent tech upgrades to the app, an earlier iteration of which had a soft debut during the 2017 tournament. “It will really change the game.”
Merriam-based ShotTracker’s TEAM system tracks multiple players with an array of sensors — secured to each player, within each Spalding basketball, and in the rafters — plotting the games’ shots in real time. The analytics will display on fans’ smartphones through the ShotTracker fan app, Ross said.
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“We asked: ‘How do we continue to get our fans more engaged during the course of a game?’” said Marc Boerigter, manager of sponsorships for NAIA. “It’s great to look at statistics up on a scoreboard, but when you can pop open the app and actually look at the shot chart, or at halftime check out the stats immediately, those are pushing the envelope with technology.”
NAIA’s willingness to interact with fans using the tech-enabled system continues its tradition of setting precedents, he said. The athletic program played host to the first collegiate basketball tournament in 1937, Boerigter noted.
“When you’re doing something that’s innovative, it’s important to be first,” added Ross, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies, who received a basketball scholarship from Benedictine College, himself playing in the NAIA as a four-year letterman, leading the nation in field-goal shooting percentage.
This year’s Division 1 championship tournament runs March 14-20 at Municipal Auditorium. Check out the bracket here.
“Our tournament is difficult,” said Boerigter. “We have 32 teams. There’s only 10 minutes at halftime and 10 minutes between games. Eight games a day for the first three days. We’re rolling nonstop. Logistically it can be a nightmare for an organization to come in. ShotTracker came in last year and really knocked it out of the park.”
Fan reaction in 2017 was surprising, he said. Word of the app’s lowkey rollout “spread like wildfire through the arena.”
“The demographic of individuals who flipped over the app were the folks who were in the 50 to 70 range, age-wise. These are folks who have been coming to our tournament, some of them, for 20 or 30 years,” Boerigter said. “And we rolled out something new for them last year, and they absolutely loved that they were able to see things they weren’t able to see before.”
NAIA officials hope this year’s version of the app will appeal to tech-savvy fans of all ages, as well as families, he said. The tournament sees an average of 40,000 fans each year, according to the NAIA.
ShotTracker’s technology also offers something for the basketball teams’ coaching staffs, Ross said, noting a new fatigue index will help them understand the performance load of players.
Such tools will come in useful during halftime, Boerigter said, when ShotTracker will deliver analytics without the typical wait for paper copies of reports.
“Our coaches still can’t use the technology on the bench, from the standpoint of NAIA rules, but as things continue to develop in sports technology, it’s going to happen,” he said. “The stats that they are getting in paper form at halftime are getting to them five minutes after they can look at them on ShotTracker. They can make adjustments faster.”
With the NAIA headquartered in Kansas City, a partnership with ShotTracker seemed like a great fit for a variety of reasons, said Boerigter, a former NAIA football player and Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver.
“NAIA already is partnered with Spalding. Davyeon and I both played in the NAIA,” he said. “Everything kind of aligned for us.”