Visual Time-Motion Analysis for Basketball enabled by GPS

This work aims to facilitate the task of basketball coaches, by means of the visualization and analysis of the players’ movements in the court. This is possible thanks to the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices that generate data of the position of the player, almost in real time. The main objective of our proposal consists on the tracking, both statistics and kinematics, of a
basketball player due to the physical activity developed during a match. The comparison of the data from several players or between two teams also will improve the performance and tactical capacity of players and trainers.

On one hand, the study of time-motion in sports is largely covered in the literature. On the other hand, the use of personal GPS devices for training purposes is a common practice. However, the design of interactive visualization tools that exploit the data stored in GPS devices during a match, thus enabling to perform its visual analysis, is still an open area. The work presented in this paper identifies the relevant aspects of the basketball game that are valuable for a coach in terms of team and individual performance analysis, and discusses the design and implementation of a tool that exploits the methods and techniques of a visual analytics

The project has attracted modarate attention in the national media and blogs. Following, you can read the post in EveryDay Science covering the project:


All players have a GPS and, after completing the match or training, the device data are dumped into a computer program that performs graphical representations of the movements that have made, how they have occupied the space or the speed at which have moved. It seems the dream of every basketball coach, a very tactical sport where almost everything is discussed in detail, and is closer to being achieved. A research project of the University of Salamanca has created a software application that in the near future could become a tool for sports professionals.

The idea has materialized in the final thesis project by Laura Casares Gonzalez, a student of Computer Engineering, University of Salamanca. “We had planned to study the movements of people and wanted to steer the sport,” he says. The young researcher admits that at first he thought in football, but sport he likes best is basketball, so the project was decanted into the world of the basket, which offers many variants tactics that can be studied. Thus, the idea of analyzing movement, became more complex aspects: change of pace, trajectory and “anything flashy, like the time he is a player in area, speed or distance traveled, all the dynamic aspects physical, “he says.

The same system that guides the driver of a car to its destination through the satellite can be used to this new application. The player is placed a GPS wrist like a watch but a little larger, performs physical exercise and, when finished, the data are downloaded into a computer where the application is installed, which is responsible to represent graphically all data. The GPS provides information about the coordinates, longitude and latitude, and time data from which they extract all the information that the program becomes useful data.

The application can read the file and translates the basic coordinates to meters and meters to pixels for the graphic representation on a drawing of a basketball court. From there, to represent the speed and distance using the time variable, as is recorded every second player’s position. This allows the coach can see on the screen dotted lines correspond to the path of a player and appearing, for example in different colors depending on the speed at which the player moved.

Enhance and complement Videos

So far, the tactical work of a basketball coach has been based on the videos, but this system could be complementary and provide much more information. “Every second of game you have a vision of where were the players, you can study the distances and the positions they have occupied and this helps to see the mistakes, if you have played very very open or closed, or where they have moved the players. With the video side, it would be practical, “says Laura Casares.

Computing Professor Roberto Theron has been the director of this project and emphasized the research aspect of it. “We seek a useful tool for basketball coaches, but the idea is part of a research line called analysis of time – movement that usually develops with videotapes, “he says. However, extracting accurate information of the video “is complex and was not able to cover what a coach would need” he says.

Hence the benefits of GPS, the determination the position of each player throughout the match or training. Thus, the coach would know what area is covered at all times and could see the graphic representation of a dynamic and may go back and forth to see where the problems, “says Theron.

Issues to overcome

However, the system is putting into practice in real form, must overcome two problems: the lack of precision of GPS and the lack of coverage in enclosed spaces such as a flag of basketball. “Currently, the GPS system does not allow greater precision of one meter, so that a player could appear that distance moved to one side or the other about their real position,” admits the professor. However, this is going to be solved soon, because the system is improving and is expected within a few years offer retail positions for all types of applications.

More complex appears to resolve the second problem, the use of such devices in confined spaces. However, “what we propose is a line of research, we make this proposal in open spaces and, from there, much can be achieved,” said Roberto Theron. Furthermore, it should be noted that this same system could apply to many other sports.

This work was presented at Smart Graphics 2010 

If you want to cite this work:

Roberto Therón and Laura Casares. 2010.  Smart Graphics Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 2010, Volume 6133/2010, 196-207, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-13544-6_19
Here you can find a preprint of the paper.


Roberto Theron, Laura Casares