The Footbonaut: Top facilities at TSG training

Football training with robots? It sounds crazy but in professional football these things are increasingly becoming a reality – in Hoffenheim too. The Footbonaut, a piece of construction that looks like it's from a science fiction film, should help players develop the speed of their ball control, which is an extremely important trait in modern football.

Hoffenheim are about to get one of these football robots. At the training ground in Zuzenhausen, the construction of a new building will soon be underway. “If everything goes to plan, then our teams can start to use the Footbonaut at the beginning of next year,” said Bernhard Peters, sporting and youth director at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

The concept and development of the training cage was Berlin-born Christian Güttler's idea. “The training effect is verifiable,” said the 38-year-old music graduate. Güttler sees a comparison between learning how to play a musical instrument and improving coordination in football. “Repetition and intensity play an important role if you want to perfect a complex skill. It doesn't matter if it's football, tennis or the piano.”

Peters spoke of a “stable training device, the software of which has been improved since 2008.” The players should see improvement in their technical coordination, but also in their cognitive ability. “Sharp passes and pass accuracy are valued just as highly as awareness and decision making when it comes to ball control. The aim is to make the pass,” said Peters.

Eight ball-firing machines, 72 squares

14x14 meters is the size of the facility. On the walls there are 72 square fields that are constructed in two rows, one above the other, and are bordered by strip lighting. On each of the four sides, the “Footbonaut” controls two ball-firing machines. The spin and firmness of the pass can be adjusted. “The passes come out in a variety of different ways and from every direction possible,” said Peters.

The player positions themselves in the middle and is played the ball from one of the ball-firing machines. One of the squares lights up in the process. The goal is to control the ball and then play it into the lit up square as quickly as possible. “If a player does a 15 minute session in there, he will have nearly as many touches as in a normal training week,” said Güttler.

At TSG, the youth teams and the academies are also expected to be involved from the U12 team all the way up to the U23 and the first team. “The Footbonaut makes really individual training possible. The machine also allows us to control training more easily, to objectively review the results and to document the relevant software,“ said the director for sport and youth development. It should end up running all day in the future, according to Peters.

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