Driving the lane on basketball training technology

Mankirat Singh, student research assistant, left, and Al Spence, research scientist, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, are pictured with components for the Sweat Academy project assembly.

Basketball coaches Serge Langis and Michael MacDougall noticed something about the players they worked with in their home province of New Brunswick; there were major gaps in the development of those playing at the university level.

That is, when athletes went home for the summer between their school seasons, they were on their own with training, and experienced the athletic equivalent of the summer slide in their skills.

That led to Langis and MacDougall founding Sweat Academy, an off-season, elite basketball player development program with locations throughout New Brunswick.

There, players could work closely with coaches. In some cases, they could also use assistive technology to become better players.

But that technology had its limitations, compelling Langis, MacDougall and another business partner, Leon Martin, to start an off-shoot business called Sweat Tech. Together, the three are working to develop and improve upon existing training devices intended to help players practise independently and hone specific skills for the court.

They started with the kick-out, a machine that helps players work on their shots, feeding the ball back to them after they shoot. Problem is, without a coach or helper on hand for assistance, players need to stop the machine to retrieve the balls every time the machine fails to capture them.  Kick-out devices currently on the market also have one-size-fits-all programming, which doesn’t really fit every player’s needs or abilities.

“It’s all about making training more efficient,” Langis said about Sweat Tech’s efforts. “We want to help our clients get better faster. There’s nothing more frustrating for a player to pause the machine and go around to collect the balls.”

Enter the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC).

“The college has been awesome. We haven’t had to jump through hoops. We’re blessed to have the people we do pushing us and helping us.”
– Serge Langis, Sweat Academy

Through the IRAP Interactive Visit program, Sweat Tech and the WAMIC team of Al Spence, Research Scientist, and Liliana McIntosh, research assistant, are refining an existing kick-out prototype to capture more missed shots, allowing players to practise uninterrupted.

More than that, Langis envisions Sweat Tech’s kick-out having customizable training programs that could be used by sidelined players, for example, during games or while their coaches and teammates are involved in a scrimmage.

Sweat Tech’s innovation is also about capturing the Canadian market with technology designed and built on this side of the border. Canadian teams currently rely on machines from the United States, which come with hefty duties when purchased.

“WAMIC and Allan Spence have been really amazing and aggressive with ideas,” Langis said. “The college has been awesome. We haven’t had to jump through hoops. We’re blessed to have the people we do pushing us and helping us.”

Once the Sweat Tech kick-out is perfected, with manufacturing ideally starting later this year, Langis hopes to continue work with Spence and team on other much-needed basketball training technology.

“We’re really happy with this relationship and hope this can be a long-term thing for multiple projects,” he said.