Science & Technology
VU Amsterdam Research Study of AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven Verifies IntelliGym Training Results
Elite Dutch Soccer Academies Improve Skill Development with the Soccer IntelliGym
The Soccer IntelliGym® training program was awarded research funding from the European Union’s Disruptive Innovation Fund (part of the Horizon 2020 program). Following the award, a thorough study was conducted by VU Amsterdam, reviewing the training efficacy of the IntelliGym® on actual soccer performance. The study included players from two elite soccer academies, PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar, both playing in the top league in the Netherlands and well-known for being “feeder clubs” because of their incredible youth academies.
The research was led by Prof. Geert Savelsbergh, the head of the Motor Control group at MOVE and the Desmond Tutu chair for Youth, Sport and Reconciliation. The study was the first of its kind, measuring transfer of skills from a training environment to on-field soccer performance. The on-field soccer performance of the participants was measured before and after the intervention. In particular, the researchers measured actual decision making quality during soccer activity.
After analysis of the footage, the results were clear: the study showed that the IntelliGym-trained group showed significant performance improvement over the control group. Individually, the IntelliGym-trained players improved their ranking significantly in all score categories compared to control group players. the overall on-field performance of the IntelliGym group was 27 percent higher than the improvement of the group who only watched video clips.
The IntelliGym trains cognitive skills including anticipation, divided attention, peripheral awareness, working memory, and task switching. Improving these skills translates to improvements in movements with the ball, off-ball movements, transitions, defense, and positioning, as verified by the VU Amsterdam study.
Transferring Skills from Screen to Sky
A Story of the Origins of IntelliGym
The IntelliGym® technology is based on a concept originally developed for Air Force pilots by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) which has been studied by the Israeli Air Force and NASA. The initial research was conducted by Prof. Daniel Gopher of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. Prof. Gopher and his colleagues hypothesized they could train pilots’ brain performance on land using a cognitive training tool. The results were mind-blowing. The researchers identified a record improvement in flight performance – more than 30% – for cadets who had undergone cognitive training using the computer program.
IntelliGym was inspired by this fighter pilot technology which proved that trainees could significantly improve their flight skills by using computer-based training tools outside of physical practice. In order to develop a cognitive training tool for sports, we had to map the cognitive skills that are required for elite performance in soccer. With this map in hand, and with the help of some Elite European Soccer Academies, IntelliGym’s team of researchers, engineers, and scientists – including Prof. Gopher, of course – designed a system that challenges those exact same skills.
Prof. Daniel Gopher
“We have seen that teams and individuals using IntelliGym improve their performance significantly. From the skill development point of view, we have seen players improve their positional awareness, ability to predict what is going on in the game, and ability to make fast and good decisions. Players quickly develop attention-allocation strategies that enable them to better participate in the game.”