Friday, December 25, 2009

Where can Technology take Football?

Scientific evidence for physical training and conditioning suggest that it is best to simulate the performance environment with gamelike conditions for best results. It seems that this is what we are to do as coaches to give our kids the best chance to succeed. Are we doing this now as a profession? What can we do as a profession to improve in this regard? Can technology help us to do this in a better way? I propose a great big YES to that last question.
We have all seen the professional and the college football players look up at the Jumbotron video replays to gain feedback to improve performance. More recently high school football venues allow for this same feedback opportunity. This got me to thinking a year or so back about something to possibly improve current football workout methods. My idea involves utilizing, combining and improving the use of the ever popular indoor workout facilities (controlled environmnt for great video sesions) and improved video technology specifically designed for coaching (now available to get fast and efficient feedback and play results for analysis ie. live capture). I truly believe we can combine or mesh the two together more seamlessly for a better workout. What? Change what we are doing now? Yes, I realize that many old habits die vey slowly and this holds true even in the world of coaching. In this regard I would like to quote Coach Chad Morriss of Lake Travis, Texas fame (he had just won his 2nd straight state championship there-Update alert- Coach Morriss is the newly hired offensive coordinator of the Clemson Tigers). In 2008 I heard coach Morris at the DFW coaches clinic (the prior year I heard his offensive wisdom at the Dallas Glazier Football Clinic) and he referenced the fact that the world is changing at a much faaster pace than it used to and how this impacts us all even coaches. He referred to people in the business world who must adapt rapidly oftentimes re-inventing themselves and their whole careers due to "revolutions " in the business world. He boldly stated that unless we are going to be left behind "we must change too." This is so true especially when it comes to teaching our student-athletes on the field. They process information much differently than they did even 4 or 5 years ago. With gaming technology improving it is more challenging to keep them engaged as learners in the classroom and on the practice field.Just check the following link about an action research project proposal I wrote about this to improve student learning utilizing gaming technology. We must change to teach them more effectively as they are conditioned and designed for more immediate feedback (video games again). This begs the question. How are we currently getting feedback to players using video?
Here I think it is best to take a look at how video technology has been been used in the past. I will just refer back to my own high school playing days in the early 80's. Typical of most schools we watched game film on Saturday mornings after the Friday night game. Our coaches pointed out the good and bad and we moved on with a better idea of what we needed to correct to improve our team for the next week game. We also analyzed our opponent on game films that were exchanged so we did not have to rely solely on scouting reports for information. Our head coach (Ronny Ray) was cutting edge purchasing a computer breakdown of oppenents tendencies from a service located in Plano, Texas.
The next breakthrough came with "video" technology allowing for more affordable and faster but oftentimes poor product. Some schools now attempted to utilize video better by using different angles (wide, tight, end zone). There has been differing degrees of success but there is no doubt that todays cameras and digital technology video systems (DSV,Hudl,etc.) with the ability to "live capture" for quicker feedback far exceed any prior methods. It is safe to say that very few staffs fully utilize the editing sytems available to them. It has become so specialized now that every staff has a "video guy". You know the guy on the coaching staff that is the "techie" who supervises the video crew. I will suggest here that all coaching staff members need to have some basic familiarities with your video editing system. The real point here is that we now have the technology to get immediate feedback to our players. So now we have all the pieces in place:
1. Indoor facility with adequate room providing for a consistent and great environment to video practice.
2. Video editing system with ability to gain instant feedback via live capture and a place to immediately show the video(Wall in the inddor).
3. Capable and trusted video crew.
How do I put these ingredients together to give our players the "immediate" feedback they so desire thusly improving learning and motivation during our workouts?
1. Design your practices(we could utilize this best during our "good vs. good" hull sessions. THis would be Tuesdays and Wednesdays and would include live pass hull and run hull sessions and at least one team session. The trick is organizing your workout (including transitions) to be more gamelike concerning reps and conditioning ( This actually allows for time between "drives"-5-7 plays mini-hulls to review the video just shot quickly projected on the wall of the practice facility. This also allows a brief teaching moment to reinforce good and bad and using the game-like tempo then go to next series or special teams-remember it is as gamelike as possible. This will also increase intensity and competition. THe trick will come in to customizing the modifications for the transitions which will have to be a very well thought out process due to various personnel who will move to perform their job during each phase whether offense/defense/kicking.
2. To increase the intensity have at least 1 coach be the official spotting the ball and whistling in time, etc. Defensive scouts can "tee up" and simulate movements and or blitzes (realistic look).
3. Fewer reps but greater intensity during these "mini-series hulls" will also allow for "scripting" plays into looks. Here is where the video feedback for great teaching is awesome. Take the time after each "series is over with to coach them up on technique, alignment and assignemnt.
4. Transitions- Transitions can be videoed just to grade body posture or reactions to something negative occuring on the field. Special teams transitions are huge too so remember to keep it gamelike go from a "hull series" to special teams segments and vice versa for best results.

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