Digital demand: Coaches adopting tech toys -- Gazette.Net


Frederick Douglass High School football coach J.C. Pinkney’s team reached the state championship game last season thanks to a bevy of talent, experienced coaching and solid days of work at practice.

In doing so, Pinkney and his staff combed through hours upon hours of video footage from games and charted every play by hand. It was a laborious task, but one that proved effective.

This year, Pinkney has made the switch to an advanced online video-editing and dispersal software that, among other things, is helping the Eagles and other teams around Prince George’s County advance technologically.

More and more teams in Prince George’s County have parents and student volunteers with tablet devices who watch the games, tracking every play, every statistic that results from the action. Teams use stat-keeping programs such as MaxPreps and Statbook Pro to receive instant analysis during games and at halftime. It becomes more prevalent with the passing of every season.

In an online, on-demand world, high school coaches and athletes are increasingly making use of technology to help them gain a competitive advantage. At the forefront of that innovation is a program called Hudl, an online video editing system.

It’s what enticed Pinkney, among others, to make the switch in software, and what is revolutionizing the way coaches and players view film. Before software such as Hudl, teams and coaches exchanged DVDs or large files via email or flash drives. Before that, they used VCR tapes.

“We can save ourselves some time and still get the same amount of work done. We can scrutinize the tape a little more,” Pinkney said.

Hudl has made an immediate impact on the way coaches prepare for games, said Matt Mueller, the company’s vice president of business development.

“Technology is one of the best parts about our lives,” Mueller said. “It helps us to be more efficient. To be able to take your playbook with you on your tablet or phone and have access to video while sitting in a chair, that’s a big wave of change.”

Among the more useful features of Hudl, the system allows coaches to group certain types of plays from the same game or various games throughout the season. So if Henry A. Wise football coach DaLawn Parrish wanted to view all of the third-and-short situations his team faced in 2011, he could. Or if he wanted to see what formation Charles H. Flowers uses most frequently on second and long, it would be ready for him. The program also allows coaches to filter and aggregate stats from the game, all while being able to view content on computers, tablets and smart phones. Coaches can easily send video to opponents and even voice over certain video clips and email them to their players to view at home.

It also allows every player to create a profile page with their statistics, contact information and academic scores.

The most expensive version of the software costs $3,000 a year for one team, but $6,000 a year for three or more teams. For video exchange purposes and no other special features, Hudl costs $200 per year.

“Gone are the days when college recruiters want to see DVDs and tapes,” Parrish said. “They get a DVD, they might not even watch it. I’ve had more kids be recruited since I got Hudl because you can send it out faster.”

Hudl, which was founded in 2008, started with eight clients and now serves more than 10,000 teams across the nation, including the University of Maryland. And Hudl, which partners with the popular stat-aggregating website MaxPreps, is just one of many new technologies that are helping coaches change the way they approach game preparation, in-game strategies and recruiting.

At Potomac High School, basketball coach Renard Johnson recently began using MaxPreps as a stat aggregating system. It allows users to input key statistics — rebounds, assists, shooting percentages, etc. — into a computer, tablet or phone and then creates a stat sheet coaches can analyze after each quarter. To this point Johnson has only used the system to prepare for games, not during them, but still sees extreme value in the product.

“It gave me tendencies, scorers, past results. It was very helpful. It was spot-on and very valuable,” Johnson said.

And these apps aren’t limited to football and basketball. Available in the Mac App Store and Google Play market are thousands of stat-keeping applications — such as GameChanger or Tennis Trakker Pro or X-Static — that allow coaches or parents to digitally document any scholastic sport with ease.

The National Federation of State High School Associations currently prohibits football teams from watching game video or looking at photographs (as is frequently done in the NFL) during games. But Pinkney said new rules might be on the verge of poking through with the advent of tablets and smart phones.

“You can go pretty bonkers with it,” Pinkney said. “I’m sure at some point there’s going to have to be some regulations involved regarding the possibilities of a person recording with the iPad, and using that film during the game. I’m sure they’re going to have to do something to level the field, too, because there will be programs that may have access to all of these things and some programs that can’t.”

Not all coaches are all-in on the tech takeover. Eleanor Roosevelt basketball coach Brendan O’Connell, who uses HoopStats to log statistics after games, doesn’t have any advanced video editing software. He simply uploads the games in iMovie.

“I don’t know that [having these technologies] will be a necessity,” he said. “There are some advantages to it, but when it comes down to it, you’ve got to teach the players how to play and you’ve got to have players that can play. The team with the most iPads and computers isn’t going to win.”

And while the days where coaches use tablets or computers on the sideline — as shown in Apple’s iPad 2 “Love” commercial — may not ever materialize, it’s clear that technology will play an increasing role in many coaches’ jobs, regardless of how they use it.

Plus, chances are an iPad wouldn’t last too long on a football sideline anyway.

“A good old-fashioned grease board, I don’t think that will ever be erased,” Pinkney said. “That seems to be enough for football coaches, man. They aren’t real complicated.

“Plus, when you get upset, you want something you can throw that won’t cost you $700.”