Sports recording and analysis at Ulster University’s ‘Centre of Excellence’

Basketball, News

A career in basketball is far from conventional for “country boys” like Patrick O’Neill, with sport in Ireland dominated by the big three: Gaelic games, rugby, and football/soccer. From 100-mile round trips during his teenage years just to get out on the court, to a playing career in the National League Division 1, Irish basketball’s second tier, and coaching roles at international level, O’Neill has made an unlikely career out of the sport he loves. But with paid roles in the sport few and far between, the experienced coach has been one of the lucky few.

Today, O’Neill splits his time between Ulster University, where he serves as Head Coach of the Women’s National League and Varsity sides, and his role as a Development Officer for national governing body Basketball Ireland. Through these roles, O’Neill continues to work towards a goal he set himself over a decade ago: moving basketball forward in Ireland.

Developing a Centre of Excellence

At Ulster University, O’Neill and his coaching team help the next generation of players to flourish in the sport by providing access to world-class facilities and top-level coaching. 

This commitment recently saw it named as one of the first facilities designated as a ‘Centre for Excellence’ by Basketball Ireland. The title, bestowed only on Ireland’s best basketball facilities, signals access to top-level training, sports science, and sports management. Spiideo, Ulster University’s sports recording, analysis, and live-streaming provider, is among a number of tools and technologies helping to maintain this next-level set-up by providing an abundance of footage for tactical analysis, opposition scouting, and player development.

“We got appointed as one of the first Centres of Excellences with Basketball Ireland, and [Spiideo] was one of the high points,” O’Neill says. “I’m a very big believer in Spiideo.”

How Ulster basketball uses Spiideo

Two Spiideo cameras mounted at half-court on Ulster’s basketball courts capture the full view of play, with footage automatically recorded and uploaded to Ulster’s Spiideo Perform account. With no need for a human camera operator, coaches can focus on the training session while Spiideo handles video capture, processing, and upload.

Coaches can then watch footage back within Spiideo Perform, Spiideo’s complete analysis solution, and pan and zoom within a recording to focus in on particular areas of the court. O’Neill and his team use Spiideo Perform to enhance the learning process, turning footage into clips to share with players as they deliver feedback.

“Last year we filmed a lot of the plays that I was getting them to learn, so we would do the run throughs and I would record that and clip it. That would form part of the package that I would then share with the girls so they know when we’re talking about this play, this is what it looks like,” O’Neill explains.

While coaches often waste hours transferring and processing video, footage captured through Spiideo is sent to Spiideo Perform instantly via the cloud. With teams competing in the National Leagues required to upload games within 48 hours of its conclusion, Spiideo will make it easier for Ulster to meet this obligation, freeing up time to focus on coaching. With O’Neill happy to share Spiideo footage with opposition teams, the entire league will benefit from the convenience of a Spiideo setup.

Continuing player development during a pandemic

While the National League was unable to go ahead last season due to a Covid-enforced hiatus, Ulster’s players were able to continue their development thanks to a combination of tools and technologies. 

With individual indoor training permitted, players used a Dr. Dish rebounding machine to practice shooting exercises. Unable to sit in, O’Neill would coach remotely by watching in real-time using Spiideo Perform, delivering advice to the player through Bluetooth headphones.

“I could remote coach them by watching it live through the Spiideo, and I would be able to talk to them and say you need to focus on this, or you need to focus on that,” O’Neill explains.

With Ireland’s domestic basketball season set to resume in September, Ulster will begin to explore further ways to use its Spiideo setup, such as by live-streaming fixtures using Spiideo Play, Spiideo’s automated broadcasting and production platform. While O’Neill foresees some initial challenges, given games were previously streamed for free via Ulster University’s social media channels, Spiideo Play will provide fans with a far greater viewing experience. Using Cloud Studio, Ulster can enhance its productions with graphical overlays, audio commentary and more.

Spiideo at Ulster University

As Basketball Ireland expands its Centre for Excellence initiative, three other facilities have reached out to O’Neill to discuss his experiences with Spiideo. Full of praise for the setup, the coach was happy to give Spiideo his seal of approval. 

“I think the system itself is very intuitive, it’s user friendly, and I really like the fact there’s multiple levels to how you can engage with the system,” O’Neill says. “As a system, it really does tick all the boxes in order to help you move forward.”

Spiideo and Ulster University are forming a formidable partnership — The basketball program is just the latest to make use of its video recording solutions. Ulster’s football coaches already make use of Spiideo, while it has also been implemented on its outdoor hockey pitch. Soon, other indoor sports such as futsal, netball, and badminton will join the growing list.