Locals using computers to change world's favorite sport

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Soccer lags behind other games here in the United States, but worldwide it's the favorite sport by a long shot.

Computer science students in the graduate program at Rowan University selected soccer as a vehicle to develop an information visualization program they hope will be accepted worldwide, like the sport.

Dr. Adrian Rusu's class began by charting player skills as a coach might.

They assigned numeric values, and processed the data via Microsoft Excel, a spreadsheet program you might use at home or in work. Next, they created images of soccer players which would appear on the screen with color body parts, each representing a particular skill.

The end result is a simple image displaying a player's skill matrix. It's possible to display two images side-by-side, offering an instant comparison of two players, or of one player at two points in a career. It might illustrate the results of coaching, or training, or the impact f an injury.

The program was well-received at a programmers' conference in London earlier this year, and it's been shown to coaches in Brazil, one of the world's most soccer-obsessed countries.

Students plan to continue developing the software, and hope to have it available to coaches by the time of the next World Cup tournament opens in Brazil in 2014.

Rowan men's soccer coach Dan Gilmore, with more than 500 wins to his credit, says the benefits of a program like this are readily evident. Not only does it make a player's strengths and weaknesses obvious, but it also makes it possible to show one player why he's playing and why another is not.

For more information about the innovative computer program, visit Rowan University's website.

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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