HomeAFLExclusive: Google Invests In Grassroots AFL

Exclusive: Google Invests In Grassroots AFL


Exclusive: Google Invests In Grassroots AFL

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oogle, in partnership with the AFL, recently announced the launch of the Footy Skills Lab, a platform designed to provide access to high-quality coaching of essential skills to all Australians.

The platform was developed with support of the AFL and leading AFLW athletes including Tayla Harris and Madison Prespakis and is free for all Australians with access to a smartphone, internet connection, and a football.

Speaking to Ministry of Sport, Google partner innovation team’s APAC creative chief, Dave Bowman, explained how the platform was created in partnership with the AFL.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been working to help Aussies connect with all things footy, whether we’re delving into our rich sport heritage, following live footy scores and fixtures or voting for the Mark of the Year directly in Search,” Bowman told Ministry of Sport.

“In parallel, teams at Google have been exploring the intersection of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and physical movement.

“A few years ago, we developed an app to allow people to create choreography with AI.

“We also integrated an experience into the live broadcast during the Indian Premier League so commentators could see how accurately they could mimic the best shots.

“As part of our ongoing partnership with the AFL, we put our heads together to explore ways we could help more people access professional coaching and participation, regardless of ability, gender, location, culture or socio-economic background.

“This collaboration brought Footy Skills Lab to life, which turned out to be more timely and relevant than ever given the impact of lockdown restrictions on community sport…

“Through our partnership with the AFL, we’ve been dedicated to making footy information more accessible, and finding ways to bring Aussies closer to the games they love…

“As people in Australia and around the world continue to face barriers, from cost, location, mobility, and lockdown restrictions, our shared goal is to make AFL coaching and education more accessible, for everyone,” he said.

When asked how the platform will improve outcomes for female athletes, Bowman said: “The core goal for this project is to offer access to pro AFL coaching for everyone, but it also offers inspiration and role modelling, particularly for aspiring female athletes who may not have access to AFL coaching.”

“I’m a father of two girls, aged six and eight, who haven’t been exposed to AFL at school, and can’t join in any sport at the moment due to lockdown.

“I’ve loved seeing them play with the app, learn and look up to Tayla Harris, Akec Makur Chuot, and Madison Prespakis.

“At the minimum, Footy Skills Lab might spark some curiosity and fun, but it might also allow aspiring athletes to imagine and explore bigger, professional possibilities,” he said.

On the technology involved in the Footy Skills Lab and how it promotes accessibility, Bowman said the design promotes inclusion for all abilities.

“Accessibility has been a guiding principle for the development of Footy Skills Lab from the very beginning,” Bowman told Ministry of Sport.

“We developed the AI models to track the ball, not the person’s physical form or movement.

“So, it doesn’t matter whether you are standing up or sitting in a wheelchair, by tracking the ball, it’s a level playing field.

“And when you’re in the app, there are options for audio prompts and closed captioning to make it more accessible for people with visual and hearing needs,” he said.

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