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Computer Engineering

The game plan

Electronic clipboard brings innovation for soccer coaches

TacticalPad in its different formats

CLANSOFTTacticalPad in its different formats CLANSOFT

Soccer coach Joel Santana has led a variety of Brazilian teams, in addition to South Africa’s national team. He is also notorious for two other things: his “unconventional” English and his inseparable wooden clipboard. Pen and paper were Santana’s tools of choice for explaining the tactics and positions of players and opponents. A widespread habit among coaches, the clipboard is getting an upgrade across the fields of Brazil with the dissemination of electronic clipboards, used mainly during training sessions and pre-game talks. Between 2009 and 2014, ClanSoft sold more than 3,000 licenses for its electronic clipboard app, in which two teams are represented by numbered shields on a soccer field. In a 3D version of the same software, players are shown on screen like video game characters that users can control, either using buttons or by dragging and dropping (on touchscreen devices).

TacticalPad, as the app is called, was designed by three alumni of the University of Campinas (Unicamp): Pedro Almeida, Danilo Lacerda, and Fernando Closs, who entered the university’s computer engineering program in 2001. The trio founded ClanSoft in 2009 through business incubator Campinas High Technology Development Company (Ciatec), aiming to develop their idea of an electronic clipboard app for tablets. Right from its outset, ClanSoft’s project was admitted into the Innovative Research in Small Businesses Program (Pipe), funded by FAPESP. “During my master’s, I studied the use of pen-based tablets in education, and Danilo and Fernando were working at the Venturus Institute [a technological innovation center in Campinas]. It was Fernando who came up with the idea of making an app with clipboard features. Based on those experiences and that proposal, we got together and set up the company.”

The TacticalPad is available for Windows, Android, and Apple’s iOS devices. In addition to tablets, it can be used with smartphones and projected onto a TV or computer screen. And now, users can also play videos of previous games in order to assist with pre-game strategy explanations and to check up on the rival team’s tactics. It is possible to mark the screen with circles and arrows, showing the players’ positions and their movements on the field. In addition to soccer, the app also offers the same features for indoor soccer, handball, and basketball. “We started by surveying everything that was already available in terms of electronic clipboards, and we realized that the existing programs were too complicated to use and too hard for players to understand,” says Almeida. “To map the needs of coaches and players, we established partnerships with the Palmeiras junior team and the Ponte Preta professional team.” The first version of the app was sold in late 2009 to Toninho Cecílio, formerly the soccer manager at Palmeiras and coach for several teams in the state of São Paulo. According to Almeida, other coaches including Gilson Kleina from Palmeiras, Abel Braga from Internacional de Porto Alegre, Nei Franco – current coach of Vitória –, and the Brazilian, Santos, and Fluminense junior teams all use the app.

The app offers player positioning and tactical planning features for soccer, indoor soccer, handball, and basketball.

ClansoftThe app offers player positioning and tactical planning features for soccer, indoor soccer, handball, and basketball.Clansoft

“The person who handles the electronic clipboard is often the technical assistant or the physical trainer,” says Almeida. He doesn’t know whether any of the teams playing in Brazil’s World Cup will be using TacticalPad. The app’s consumer public has recently expanded. Soccer bloggers and sports journalists, including Paulo Vinícius Coelho from ESPN, André Rocha from SportTV, and Mauro Beting from FOX are also using the software. “In 2011, we established a partnership with the Lance newspaper from the city of São Paulo, which showed us the players designated to play for each team. They also provided some examples – taken from the newspaper’s website – of tactics used in Brazilian championship games,” says Almeida.

Coaches overseas
The first tablet models available on the market were made by Microsoft and needed adaptations to facilitate the use of a mouse and keyboard. The electronic clipboards of today are compatible with touchscreen devices, on which the players can be dragged and dropped with the fingers or using an appropriate stylus. ClanSoft sells its app using its own automatic licensing system. Each license is valid for one year, with the higher-end Pro version costing an initial R$249, plus R$95 per subsequent year. The mobile version costs US$19.90. A Lite version is available free of charge online from the Apple Store and Google Play, respectively for iOS and Android devices. The professional version has sold 1,000 copies, the Lite version has sold 2,000, and the simplest version has been downloaded 150,000 times. Through app sales and consulting services, ClanSoft earned R$480,000 in revenues in 2013, with plans to sell R$700,000 in 2014 by expanding its sales overseas. Brazilian soccer coaches have already taken their apps along to Japan, Qatar, Jamaica, and South Korea.

Another ClanSoft app, based on GPS technology, allows users to collect and treat data about the distances run by players. “As part of our partnership with Palmeiras’ professional team, we are producing reports that show how far a player has run or walked on the field, using a sensor fitted into a small vest worn beneath his shirt. To transpose the collected data, we created this app that can be coupled with TacticalPad to reproduce the players’ movements,” says Almeida. The group is also collecting data and providing content for a website, which compiles soccer tactics and is designed to help coaches and sports researchers.

1. Research and development of a team sports supportive application using TABLET PC (nº 2008/58404-1); Grant mechanism Innovative Research in Small Businesses Program (Pipe); Principal investigator Pedro Henrique de Almeida (ClanSoft); Investment R$12,058.39 (FAPESP).
2. Research and development of a team sports supportive application using pen-based interfaces (nº 2011/50064-0); Grant mechanism Innovative Research in Small Businesses Program (Pipe); Principal investigator Pedro Henrique de Almeida (ClanSoft); Investment R$31,390.00 (FAPESP).