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Smart Ball Test: A New Way To Measure Ball Handling

Ball Chip - captures how the ball moves.
Source: 94Fifty
Ball Chip - captures how the ball moves.

Measured training programs have become a nice cottage industry for the youth sports business. We’ve been impressed with SPARQ, which Nike aligned with, and the skill tests that they’ve done across the country in a variety of sports. Under Armour has done similar combines, well aware of the great branding opportunity that comes with grassroots training complete with athlete scoring.

That’s why I was intrigued when I heard about a company called 94Fifty. The company has tested the basketball handling skills of thousands of players by using a special ball that has accelerometers and angular rate gyros sensors.

The sensors pick up the most important parts of ball handling, such as the amount of time the player has the ball in their control and the speed the ball is traveling. That information is put through an algorithm that spits out a meaningful score.

The idea is the brain child of Mike Crowley, a former Division II basketball player who was discouraged by the lack of ball handling skills from that he observed from the high school level all the way up to the Olympic teams.

Those who want to be tested, can’t buy the ball for themselves. It’s not for sale. Crowley’s team charges a $10 registration fee per player to bring his system to groups such as leagues, camps, towns and AAU programs, with a minimum of 50 players.

The players goe through a dribbling pattern and 30 seconds after he or she is done, their score shows up on a scoreboard. Parents are given a deep diagnostic breakdown so that they can monitor their child’s improvement.

“We’ve found that coaches really like it because it allows them to communicate to the players and the parents objectively,” Crowley said. “As we say, the ball doesn’t lie.”

Crowley says more types of tests are coming, including shooting, which will debut next year, a core strength test (which will be measured through a medicine ball) and a soccer test that will be developed for 2011.

Crowley also says he has numerous patents filed on the ball and the system so that he’s comfortable from an intellectual property standpoint.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com