Switches in Sports: High Tech Hoops

This is part of a series of stories investigating the use and potential use of switches in sports. 

With the NBA Playoffs inching closer to the Conference Finals and the WNBA season tipping off this past weekend, it’s an ideal time to investigate the many switches basketball players, coaches, and trainers are using to prepare for games.

Video

Players and coaches have been “watching tape” since videotape allowed for the affordable recording of games and practices. Now coaches don’t even necessarily need to analyze the video. A software program analyzes the video for them and provides coaches with actionable data, like determining where on the floor a certain player has the most success shooting the basketball.

The choices players make in games are also analyzed and converted into statistics. Say you want to know who to target on the pick-and-roll and how. Video analytics software can calculate how often a player goes above or below a screen, allowing you to game plan to take advantage of their tendencies. If an opposing player is especially unwilling to go above a screen, you can pick them apart with wide open shots on the perimeter. 

Cameras allowing teams to collect this data have been in the rafters of every NBA arena for over a decade now. They feature the typical buttons found on a consumer video camera, for which tactile switches are most often employed. The TL1100 Series tact switches from E-switch are often used in consumer electronics and audio/visual devices due to their ample customization options.

The TL1100 Series tactile switches feature nine actuator options, two operating force options, six actuator cap options, eight cap colors, and contacts in both silver and gold. These tact switches measure 12mm x 12mm and the actuator travels 0.3mm. For smaller applications, the TL1105 Series tactile switch offers similar customization options in a smaller package, measuring just 6mm x 6mm. 

Tracking technology in basketball has grown beyond the video camera, however – far beyond, in fact.

GPS and Biometric Tracking Technology

ShotTracker has installed electronic sensors in arenas to map a basketball court in 3D and provide real-time, advanced statistics to coaches and players. ShotTracker collects data by automatically following the movement of both the ball and players fitted with lightweight sensors. Not only does this provide players and coaches with real-time, in-game data they can use to adjust their strategy, but makes for a more in-depth and analytical viewing experience as well.


The Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana University basketball teams have been using Zephyr Performance Systems to do much more than track player movement in practices. The BioModules and GPS units also serve as electrocardiograms and monitor respiration, estimated core body temperature, and acceleration. This gives teams insight into players’ fatigue, readiness, caloric expenditure, agility, fitness improvement, and even stress.

The Zephyr tracking unit consists of one simple switch that turns on the device. Given the small size and weight of the device, that switch must also be small. The TL6120 Series tactile switch measures just 7.4mm x 7.4mm and comes with four operating force options. This tact switch also has a long life expectancy of up to a million cycles with the 130gf and 160 gf operating force options. The TL6120 Series sealed, surface-mountable (SMT) tactile switch also protects against dust and moisture at an IP67 rating, so sweat won’t affect functionality.

Tablets and Other Mobile Devices

The use of tablets by players and coaches to review game footage during games has become commonplace. Instead of drawing up what’s happening in the game on a whiteboard, coaches can show players exactly what needs adjusting based on game footage. 

These mobile devices also provide a means for coaches and trainers to present players with the advanced analytical data collected by the cameras and sensors. These statistics reinforce the validity of their coaching or training and put players in a position to succeed given the gameday circumstances.   

There aren’t many switches on tablets these days, but the power button on almost all of them require a right angle, surface mountable tactile switch like the TL3330 Series and TL3901 Series tact switches from E-switch.

The TL3330 Series tactile switch measures 6.9mm x 3.3mm, making it a perfect fit for thin tablets and mobile devices. The heat produced by the device’s computing power shouldn’t be a problem, either. The TL3330 right angle, SMT tactile switch operates in temperatures up to 70°C, and the TL3901 Series right angle, edge mounted tact switches operate at temperatures up to 85°C. The tactile feel of these switches assures that you’ll know when the actuator is engaged despite their small size.

So while you’re enjoying the NBA Playoffs and WNBA regular season, consider all the switches that make the players and the game great.

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