Blackburn Rovers FC are using revolutionary new technology as part of their tactical planning for Premier League games this season by incorporating the UEFA Training Ground's exclusive coaching application, TactX. The club are just one of a growing number in England and Scotland to sign up for the tool that is revolutionising training sessions.
TactX allows users to create and store training drills as well as conduct tactical planning and match analysis, using state-of-the-art 3D graphics. Since launching on the UEFA Training Ground this year, Blackburn have been one of its leading advocates, with four TactX Animator licences and a TactX Video Exporter being used in their coaching, analysis and fitness departments.
Speaking to the UEFA Training Ground, head of the club's performance analysis department Paul Brand said: "We use it in different ways but the main way has been that we have designed all of our attacking set-plays on TactX and created a couple of scenarios for each routine - for example, for free-kicks that are wide left, corners from the right, central free-kicks, throw-ins and so on.
"We have created these as videos in TactX, then we have exported them into our own moving editing software and overlayed the images with the initials of the players who will be playing that day. So if we have got eight attacking players at a set-play we freeze the image for about four seconds, label it with the players' initials and then play the sequence. We play it at two-thirds full speed, just so that the players can take it in and identify which player they are so that they can follow their run."
Brand, whose job at Blackburn involves pre-match preparation and post-match analysis using tracking statistics, revealed that the team can see the routines laid out in TactX in the dressing room before every match.
"We used to just put a diagram on the wall with initials and circles. Now we can have a television with these animations on for about 20 minutes before each Premier League game so that the players can be 100 percent sure what their runs and starting positions are for every set-play that we do.
"It has been good for the players because it has been something different for them to look at rather than a piece of paper on the wall. It helps them to visualise it a bit more, while it is also something they can relate to as they are used to hi-tech graphics on television or in computer games."
TactX is also being used at the Lancashire club to store whole coaching sessions into a database while Brand believes the tool could be particularly beneficial for youngsters. "It complements what a coach is trying to tell them really well," he said. "Especially as when you are really young you might not understand everything that a coach is telling you from a technical and tactical point of view, so this is just a different way of looking at things that makes it easier for them to follow."
The youngsters at Blackburn's youth academy have already experienced the benefits of TactX. The academy’s advanced technical skills coach Charlie Jackson has been using the application and he has been impressed with what he has seen so far.
"I think it is a breath of fresh air to the software that is already out there. I have designed quite a few drills on it. Usually if we are using generic software it would take me 20 minutes to do one session, with TactX it takes me four minutes. Plus, you can actually put you sessions on an iphone and show them to the kids, so it is much better," he said.
Creator of the Matrix coaching system, Jackson, who trains players as young as six, added: "My drills are very complicated so it has major benefits for me. It just brings that extra dimension which no other software can, you really can play around with it a lot. The different camera angles are fantastic, the overhead view in particular, it is almost like a DVD when you plan a session!"
A growing number of other Premier League clubs in England, as well as some in the Scottish Premier League, are also either actively using TactX or planning to sign-up for the tool in the near future and Jackson believes that it could signal a wide-ranging new approach to coaching.
"I think that coaches should be open-minded and open to the idea of trying new things. This software will definitely create a better coach if the coach wants it. If you want to be a new and innovative coach then without a doubt this is the software for you."
TactX Animator is available for a monthly subscription fee of €10. To sign up today and for more information on this, and additional TactX products, click here.
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