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In today’s ever-changing world of technological advancement, it’s become easier than ever for consumers to get access to sophisticated sporting equipment.
In the past, these gadgets were usually confined to the gyms and locker rooms of professional sporting establishments.
As of today, however, there is a growing trend amongst people not professionally involved in sport nor affiliated with professional sports teams, to monitor and evaluate their own casual sporting performance.
In some instances, the tracking may not even necessarily be sporting related, as people today use smart watches to simply monitor their heart rate or to note how many steps they took in a day!
In today’s article however, we look to specifically dig deeper into the best GPS sports vests that have made monitoring football performance such a breeze.
In summary, the best option is the CATAPULT PLAYR Football GPS tracker as it provides the right balance of price, performance and overall features.
The article will look show you why that is the case further down.
If you have a spare couple of minutes you can also check out our product roundup of the best goal posts that you can buy for your garden.
For now though, let’s take a look at the inner workings of these sports vests, as it’s always better to make buying decisions founded on accurate and verifiable information.
How do GPS Sports Vests Work?
When you watch a lot of football like I do, you grow accustomed to seeing short clips of the very best professionals performing exercises and fitness drills within training sessions.
For those with a keen eye you will notice that most footballers wear a black mini vest either on top of their training shirt or underneath it. What you see, or only see an outline of, is a GPS vest that the footballer is wearing to monitor various aspects of their training performance.
The vest will either have a built in or detachable GPS component which consists of numerous sensors that monitor several different data points and parameters in real time.
These sensors are paired and synchronised with a manufacturer-provided mobile application which the athlete then uses to monitor and evaluate his or her own sporting performance.
Now before going on to dissect the best solutions in granular detail, it’s important to know what features and qualities to look out for when it comes to buying a football GPS tracker.
What to Consider When Choosing a GPS Sports Vest
When it comes to weight, you will probably have a rough idea which side of the spectrum you should be shooting for.
But if it isn’t obvious enough, I’ll spell it out for you.
A vest that doesn’t take up too much room and one that is lightweight in nature is much less likely to hinder your performance through discomfort on the football pitch. Find a tracker that is able to fit snugly inside either of your sleeves or under your vest.
When it comes to the features of the vest and the functionality that it provides, you will want a solutions that range from having the bare minimum to those with a multitude of different applications such as tagging and multiplayer modes.
It’s up to you to decide what you want besides the core tracking functionality that the vest provides.
Ideally, you’ll want something that comes with the following:
- GPS Module
This fantastic buyer’s guide to athlete tracking systems goes into great detail to explain the aforementioned terms.
This one is pretty obvious.
Shoot for a tracker that is within what you had initially budgeted to spend. I’d only recommend breaking the bank if you feel that the benefits that the GPS vest provide are well worth the increased cost.
You will no doubt want to buy a sports vest with a good battery life of more than a couple of hours.
There’s no point in purchasing a vest that fails to track your footballing performance for more than a couple of games because the battery drained all the way to empty.
It may also perhaps be useful to consider any trackers that provide a battery saving functionality of some sorts, which could prolong its usage even further.
This one is also quite self-explanatory.
The best GPS sports vests should have ample room for storing huge amounts of data.
Now that you have a deeper understanding of what makes a great GPS sports vest, here is our list of the top picks on the market, in no particular order.
Best All Rounder: CATAPULT PLAYR Football GPS Tracker
This football tracking technology is equipped with all the necessary tools to take your performance to the next level, which is why it’s classed as the best all round GPS vest within this review.
Let’s start off with what this product is really good at.
The PLAYR System consists of three core components:
SmartPod GPS Tracker
This tracker, authorised by the top football governing body – FIFA – is small and lightweight in appearance and feel.
It combines advanced accelerometer sensors with advanced GPS tracking technology to smoothly deliver player performance statistics such as total distance, power plays as well as things like in-game positional heatmaps.
The vest which the tracker is embedded into is made from an ultra-compressive fabric that’s intended to provide a tight fit for the athlete without compromising on overall comfort. With ergonomically designed pockets, the SmartPod is held secure between the athlete’s shoulder blades whilst competing.
Mobile applications continue to have an ever-increasing presence in our day to day lives.
This is no different with the CATAPULT PLAYR app, which provides the interface for the athlete to analyse their performance data, synchronise their workout sessions and learn how to improve certain aspects of their game.
Take a look below at how it works in practice.
The app was certainly built with feedback for the athlete in mind. For instance, the athlete can use target zones designed by Premier League coaches to provide the athlete with a better understanding of what they’re aiming for when it comes to performance.
Positional heatmaps are also available to help the athlete pinpoint the positions where they spent the most time on the pitch or the positions where they attained their highest running speeds.
What I also found quite innovative is the “match to a pro” feature which compares the athlete’s own match day heatmaps with those of professional players in the English Premier League. This gives the athlete an idea of which Premier League player persona they stack up against.
Furthermore, the app provides actionable advice for users on the aspects of their game that are in need of improvement, as well as allowing the athlete to share their own statistics with friends, family or team mates to see how they compare.
All in all, this vest is well built with a plethora of options for performance tracking, making it a fantastic purchase overall.
It’s also worth noting that CATAPULT also have a PlayerTek Football GPS tracker which is similar to the one we’ve reviewed. However, this model doesn’t come with smart target setting designed by Premier League coaches, sports science advice nor team tracking.
Best Premium Option: STATSports APEX Athlete Series – FIFA and World Rugby Approved GPS Tracker
This product is widely regarded as the crème de la crème when it comes to monitoring performance data in football and rugby.
Some of the most famous names in world football today make use of the STATSports APEX GPS tracker.
The list includes but is not limited to the likes of five-time Balon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, Premier League winners Mohammed Salah, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling, not to mention media darling and 2018 FIFA World Cup winner Paul Pogba.
In fact here’s a brief video which shows the Premier League football club Aston Villa making use of STATSports in their training sessions.
The football fitness tracker consists of the following components:
GPS performance pod
The 10Hz Apex Athlete pod comes with a visually appealing OLED screen, Bluetooth capability and a whopping 8GB of storage space.
In addition to this, its powerful internal processors generate information and parameters very quickly using data recorded from nearly 5 million points within an hour-long training session.
Some of the parameters that the pod is able to track include:
- Total distance covered
- Maximum speed
- Sprint count
- Dynamic stress load
- Maximum heart rate
- Heat maps
The pod’s sensors perform at the following frequencies:
- Accelerometer – 100Hz
- Gyroscope – 100Hz
- Magnetometer – 10Hz
And just like mobile phones and computers, the pod comes with a lithium ion battery that usually takes up to 6 hours to drain completely. The battery is very quickly replenished, with a single charge from empty to full usually taking approximately 1 hour.
Furthermore, the performance pod is resistant to all sorts of adverse weather conditions, meaning it can be used come rain or shine.
This lightweight vest (worth £24.99) is for the athlete to wear and is designed for maximum comfort for both men and women.
Different size vests are also available for adults and children.
Athlete Series App
This is for monitoring your performance data through mobile phone. It’s compatible with Android and Ios devices and has different sport modes – football, rugby, running and field hockey.
More so, the app is also capable of monitoring different variables, which provides users with the flexibility to track sessions where a user is recovering from injury alas well as live training sessions.
Statistical comparisons are also easy to make as the social functionality embedded within the app that allows athletes to compare performance with each other as well as professionals within the football industry, and comes complete with gamification (i.e. athlete performance leader boards).
Ultimately, this tracker is a top of the line option that is well worth the money.
Best Option for Amateur Players: Zepp Play Soccer Tracker
Zepp is a company renowned for their prowess in manufacturing wearable technology products for sports athletes.
They’ve done themselves proud here with their fantastic football tracking technology.
This sort of football tracking technology purely catered strictly towards professional athletes in the years gone by, which is why it’s very encouraging that solutions such as these – intended for the amateur players – are becoming more widely available on the consumer market.
This GPS tracker is designed to be worn on either one of the player’s calves, although it is highly recommended to wear it on the dominant calf.
And it is as close to weightless as can be! The tracker was designed to fit seamlessly and comfortably into the calf sleeve provided and it remains firmly in place while the user is playing despite its small size, meaning that user should not be fearful of the device falling out whilst it’s in use.
The sensor is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery that can last up to 40 hours before needing to be electrically replenished.
In addition to this, it comes with a USB type charging cable that allows for flexibility when it comes to charging – which can be done either through a socket or another electronic device such as a laptop.
It makes use of a 3-axis accelerometer along with a 3-axis gyroscope to measure and record statistics.
Once you’ve purchased the product, you have a small booklet which guides you through the setup and installation procedure, which involves pairing the device with a smartphone application via Bluetooth technology.
The app is designed to be fairly intuitive, as it prompts the user for feedback on things like:
- Dominant leg
Once the user is ready to go, they simply select the “Start Game” option provided within the app and data collection commences immediately. The Zepp app is capable of tracking training sessions or full on football matches, which is a necessary flexibility that end users will love to have available to them.
Once in game, the sensor automatically picks up on the user’s range of movements and provides an analysis of metrics such as:
- Distance covered
- Total number of kicks taken using preferred foot
- Kick speed
- Number of sprints
- Maximum speed
- Total gameplay time
The aforementioned metrics are displayed in five-minute increments from within the app, all in the form of visually appealing bar charts that are colour coded.
One of the standout features of this product is its ability to record actual match footage. Through the use of the video recording feature, which is great if a particularly dedicated parent wanted to preserve the memories of their children playing football in crisp video quality.
The days of VHS are long gone I tell you!
The live game timeline feature enables Zepp user’s friends and family to follow the real time on-pitch action.
Any event that is tagged through the “Take Video” or “Tag event” options are viewable on a timeline that can be accessed from a dynamically generated URL that is viewable via an internet browser, or through access to the Zepp Play Soccer app.
Best Budget Option: NASHONE Football Activity Tracker
No doubt there will be some of you reading this article who are looking for a slightly cheaper and relatively more affordable football fitness tracker.
Well you’re in luck because this next option is just for you!
The NASHONE football fitness tracker is ideal for those lighter pockets as it offers the premium features that are associated with the top of the line brands like STATSports and CATAPULT.
However, unlike some of the other options outlined earlier in the article, the sensor is slotted into user’s sock and placed near the ankle.
What’s in the Box?
This product is well packaged and comes complete with:
- Trops-1 Football tracker with built-in 180mAh lithium battery
- Elastic Bandage
- Charging dock
- USB cable
- User manual (EN)
It’s also worth noting that this tracker is IP66 waterproof and dust-proof, allowing it to be used in the rain as well as the sun.
Motion Capture Technology
What makes this brand stand out from the rest is its incorporation of precise 3D motion capture technology, which is used to comprehensively track the leg movements of football players. The error control is said to stand at within a 2 degrees per hour drift angle and a 5% error range, making this method of data capture staggeringly accurate.
The artificial intelligence motion analytics system that comes with this tracker is able to detect and measure up to 15 different types of motion that take place within a game of football, including but not limited to dribbling, passing, shooting and turning.
Match analysis through the app is very detailed, as on pitch performances are summarised into 6 core dimensions and more than 20 specifications.
In addition to this, the football tracking technology comes with a team data report. To make use of this report, you would simply create a team from within the Trops football app, and then virtually invite your friends to join the team and create games online or offline at dates and times of your choosing.
Once a game is completed, you can view the report which will list certain metrics like the most valuable player (MVP) and tips on improving match tactics. These statistics can also be shared easily on social media via the app.
However, for team tracking to work, all the friends participating must wear a Trops-1 tracker of their own so that the individual data can be compiled at the end of games.
This feature is quite unique in the sense that the other football tracking technologies do not have this capability incorporated with their equipment.
Through the app, you can also find nearby friends who use the Trops app and may be up for a casual kickabout.
Quite handy, although I’m assuming that the results of a search would vary greatly depending on a user’s location and the popularity of Trops app users within their local area.
This has been quite a lengthy product roundup that I hope you thoroughly enjoyed!
The football tracking technologies that have been reviewed above do a fantastic job of providing accurate performance data that both professional and amateur athletes can use to improve the weaker aspects of their game as well as hone in on their strong points.