smartball2.jpgWhen I was a kid, the best soccer coach I ever had was my grandpa. He played for Fiji’s national team in the 1940s and even in his late 60s, could dribble circles around and outrun me. I remember lots of afternoons in the backyard and at the park learning how to aim and spin my kicks and pass accurately. I didn’t have a hard shot but I was usually the best passer on the field. I never worked much on my free kicks or shots (and neither did my grandpa) but I’m sure that if we had access to technology like the adidas miCoach Smart Ball, we would have spent a lot more hours honing our dead ball game.

From the time you take the adidas miCoach soccer ball out of its split middle box, you know it’s something special and definitely something different. It’s a standard size 5 ball and comes packaged sitting on its base and all you have to do is plug it all in and head out to the field shortly after that. The miCoach is a smartphone-synchronized modern marvel that isn’t your everyday soccer ball. While you could probably use it to kick around the park, it’s more of a dead ball trainer, self-training you about the ins and outs of how to improve pretty well anything you could do in soccer from a standstill. This could be free kicks, goal kicks, corners or even penalty shots.

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Everything about the miCoach soccer ball is very easy. It’s easy to set up. It’s easy to use and it gives you a very easy to read result set. Even charging the ball is easy. There’s a little power icon at the bottom of the ball and you just rest it on top of the base and let it go. You’ll hardly have it on the base though. A full charge only takes about an hour and you have upwards of 2000 kicks per full charge.

Jacob.JPGI’m a bit of a soccer fan I’d say, but not much of a player. Those days with grandpa in the backyard have been replaced by waking up at ungodly hours of the morning to watch World Cup matches or taking in the occasional Vancouver Whitecaps game with friends. In order to help me test the miCoach soccer ball, I recruited the services of 6 (almost 7!) year old Jacob. Jacob comes from a soccer family. He himself plays on an under 8 team and his family has Vancouver Whitecaps season tickets. In fact, his dad Joel gets to work around the sport full time as the FIFA Live Manager for Electronic Arts. Needless to say, I picked a pretty good play testing helper though I see now that I take terrible pictures. This was the best shot I got of my helper and his eyes are closed. Sorry buddy! 

Prior to heading out, I turned to Jacob and said “Uh, yeah we can’t leave yet. I need to run a software update on the ball” realizing how awkward that sounded. It’s definitely not a reason I would’ve had to delay kicking the ball around when I was a kid!

Syncing up the ball is pretty easy. All you seriously have to do is open the app and tap on the soccer ball icon to sync it. There’s no bluetooth access menus or localized wifi signals to double back on. The ball pretty well does everything itself.

In order to properly utilize miCoach, I’d recommend picking a large and wide open space without much of a crowd. I took Jacob out to his elementary school’s soccer field. From here, all you have to do is fire up the app and follow the instructions. There’s no on or off switch on the ball. It just remains dormant and waits for signal from the app.

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You need to set the ball a certain way for it to measure. The sensors are located on the side where the adidas logo faces you and that’s how you have to set it. From there, you select which foot you’re kicking with, tap the soccer ball on screen, listen for the app to “whistle” you to go and then you kick. The ball needs to get a certain amount of air to register (I believe the app says 3 feet off the ground but it will register with mere inches too.) I wasn’t able to pinpoint the range for the ball’s signal back to the phone but I’d imagine it’s probably about 10 meters total. All of Jacob’s kicks usually registered immediately while I’d have to run the ball down to capture my statistics.

Those stats register in 3 different categories

  • Ball Strike shows you where you registered your kick along with the speed of the shot (measured in miles per hour) and how fast it spins (in revolutions per minute.) 
  • Spin expands the latter category a bit and shows you the average speed of your spin in a crafty visual along with the direction and guidance on what your kick would be best for (ie. over/around a wall on a free kick.)
  • Flight path measures the distance of your shot which you can play back from 3 angles.

micoachapp1.jpgIf you’re curious how this looks outside of my description but don’t want to commit to buying the ball just yet, no problem. You can download the app free of charge and set it to “Demo Mode.” You can explore the app in full as well as have it register mock kicks and show you what it’s like to own the miCoach smart ball.

This is all great data to capture but I did find one issue. I found the Flight Path to be really helpful when measuring how my shots were arcing. However, the mapping out process leaves a bit to be desired. I was kicking purposefully into different directions and would find that the flight path wasn’t quite capturing just how badly right or left I was kicking the shots. This might be the software working as designed or perhaps they’re still ironing out a few kinks. Despite my little hangups, I did find the rest of it to be very accurate.

Regular dead ball kicks are just one small part of the entire experience, however. The real fun comes with on-board challenges. The “Get Better” option on the app which provides you coaching tips in different categories and gives you realtime feedback. You can work on your kick speeds, powers or technique. The actual “Challenges” tab gives you the opportunity to continue challenging yourself in striving to kick the ball farther and harder or you can try to take on professional challenges like free kicks around or over walls into the net.

micoachdirectional.JPGOf all of the different smart sports gear that is out there, I would definitely consider this one to be on, or around the top of its class. From the sheer ease of use to the useful realtime coaching this offers, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to any soccer player at any level. Jacob really loved being out in the field with this ball and would always run to see his results after every shot. I was able to provide him useful feedback in return and help him keep an eye out how to improve the angle and height of his shots which I saw improvements on almost immediately. We both definitely enjoyed our time with the miCoach soccer ball and I definitely enjoyed the other nights I spent kicking the ball around at my local park too.

The one hesitation that I believe most parents will have with the ball is the price, which is almost doubling your registration costs for a year of soccer. Look at this as a sound investment though, like a new pair of cleats. If you or your child are really serious about improving skill set, a ball like this could really go a long way. Consider the adidas miCoach smart soccer ball the next time you’re thinking about your next training aide, or cool gift for the soccer fan in your life. It’s definitely a blast for everybody involved.

The adidas miCoach Smart Ball is now available at Best Buy and online at BestBuy.ca

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