ANNAPOLIS – Professional and NCAA athletic programs long shouldered the costly resources to hire video coordinators, provide professional statistics and create segmented game films, but not until recently have youth, high school and smaller-college coaches found a viable time-saver.
Advancements in cloud technology and data analytics allow coaches to manage game footage taken on any video recording device and break it up by event for easy viewing.
Some Web-based services also provide statistical feedback and points of emphasis for coaches to consider, readily accessible on most devices with Internet access.
These services provide coaches more information in less time than ever. Some require coaches to still do most of the work, and some rely on a network of cataloguers as far away as the Philippines, but video Web services allow more meaningful practices for teams and more family time for coaches.
Loyola University-Maryland Women’s Basketball point guard Lisa Mirarchi held Bucknell University’s starting point guard scoreless the entire game on Jan. 22, attributing her success to watching specific film on her opponent’s tendencies, said Ryan Gensler, assistant coach for Loyola’s Women’s Basketball.
“She really bought into watching film with Synergy,” Gensler said. “We had a constant dialogue about how to defend the week prior.”
As a freshman last season, Mirarchi averaged a team high 36 out of 40 playing minutes per game and was the third-best scorer for the Greyhounds, relying on hard work and high-tech resources. Visual evidence helped Mirarchi quickly fix mistakes, she said.
“I hadn’t been playing long with a lot of the girls on the team, so watching film on myself really helped me learn from previous games and get comfortable on the court with my teammates,” Mirarchi said.
Phoenix-based Synergy Sports Technology began in 2004 as CEO Garrick Barr’s solution to professional basketball’s problems with video logistics, evolving into the service used by all of the NBA and more than 300 NCAA Division I basketball programs.
Barr’s idea for Synergy originated while he worked as the video coordinator for the Phoenix Suns in the 1992-93 season, searching for a way to efficiently distribute and catalogue NBA game film.
“Prior to Synergy, the only way for players to watch film was through the video room,” said Mark Silver, Synergy Sports Technology’s executive vice president of products and services. “Back then it was much more labor-intensive for coaching staffs to put together a series of plays to look at.”
Before Synergy, Loyola University-Maryland Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Josh Loeffler watched whole games and segmented DVD footage play-by-play with a computer program, requiring many hours in front of a monitor to create a short series of plays.
Synergy takes uploaded game film, either sent by coaches or from a TV broadcast, and within a day, Synergy’s team of “loggers,” people around the world responsible for cutting up and taking down stats of the game footage, send back the footage, ready to be assessed and digested by players and coaches.
“The beauty of Synergy is the ability to watch a full game or watch a series of plays all cut up and tagged,” Loeffler said. “The quick turnaround makes it so valuable while scouting because of our time constraints.”
“There’s definitely a difference using Synergy,” Mirarchi said. “It used to be just a coach telling you what to fix, and here you’re able to see it for yourself and work on it more. There’s just so many more opportunities for players to use Synergy to improve.”
Loyola’s women’s basketball team utilizes Box, a cloud service similar to Dropbox, to distribute videos of their own game film for analysis, other team films to watch and scouting reports. The team also uses Synergy during practices, Gensler said.
“For our games against Army, we would pull up their defensive and offensive sets on a projector right next to the court while we practiced using Synergy,” Gensler said. “We took them to overtime both times this season, and they won the Patriot League.”
“We focused a lot of our scouting on Kelsey Minato, the returning conference player of the year,” Mirarchi said. “We were able to hold many players to their season lows in scoring just because we got so familiar with Army’s tendencies through using Synergy.”
Synergy’s expansive interface, including a video player and charts of every statistic, allows coaches to bring in-depth data and video instruction to the basketball court, presenting clear evidence to improve on a certain aspect of a player’s performance.
“If a kid wants to shoot, I’ll bring my laptop to the gym and review a few clips with a player so they can focus on what they need to improve,” Gensler said.
Krossover, a company with a similar service to Synergy, began in 2008, and offers an affordable option for smaller college, high school and youth coaches who want their teams to benefit from analyzed game film and expansive statistical data, utilizing employees in the Philippines and India to quickly return games back to coaches.
The New York City-based company offers three prices for teams at $799, $1,399 and $2,499 per season, regardless of sport or length. Prices determine how many games a coach can upload weekly, how fast video is returned to the team and the option for analyzed game footage of other teams for scouting.
Synergy does not disclose pricing for their video service, Silver said.
Players of every age without analytic data lacked perspective to tailor aspects of their game toward playing collegiate or professional sports. Krossover is a service that can bridge the gap.
DeMatha Catholic High School boys varsity basketball coach Mike Jones subscribed to Krossover before the 2011 season. The team has better preparation and more efficiency in games and practices using the video and statistical resource.
“It’s a great coaching tool, providing things like a shot chart that you can click on to watch videos of each shot made or missed,” Jones said. “We get together after a game to discuss what happened, and usually by next morning, Krossover has the video available to the entire coaching staff.”
Krossover reaches more sports than Synergy, including football, volleyball and lacrosse, supporting over 2,000 customers globally including the NBA team Cleveland Cavaliers, Krossover Sales Marketing Manager Joshua Waller said.
“When we began with basketball, we looked at some of the most important metrics that Synergy calculates and built our product entirely from scratch,” Waller said. “We don’t provide nearly as much statistical data as Synergy; what they provide is extremely comprehensive.”
“Every statistic we calculate is linked to cloud-based video, allowing users to access data in any way they want, wherever they want with an Internet connection,” Silver said.
“We use Synergy as a verification device to easily pinpoint things much faster, allowing our team to spend more time watching useful game footage,” Gensler said. “It gives players and coaches a better awareness of all aspects of the game.”
Players benefit greatly from the easy access to game footage and the comprehensive statistical data, allowing them to self-evaluate their performances and bring suggestions to coaches, Loeffler said.
“Guys tend to like watching themselves and Synergy has been a great tool in allowing players to analyze themselves,” Loeffler said. “Having different avenues to communicate back and forth is really good for our players because everyone learns differently.”
Loyola’s Women’s Basketball had only five wins overall last year out of 30 games, but using Synergy’s data and video greatly improved preparation, Gensler said.
Synergy has been extremely beneficial to men’s basketball teams, and the validation of seeing something a coach is instructing is also invaluable to the women’s game.
“A big difference between coaching men and women is that girls usually benefit from a rationale,” Gensler said. “Once they understand why they’re doing something, they embrace whatever you’re trying to get across, and Synergy helps provide that rationale.”
Just a few years ago, student-athletes spent practice time in classrooms and locker rooms going over game films in tedious order, often sacrificing time better spent on skill development. Now, coaches and players can watch film anywhere.
Severna Park High School football head coach Mike Price experienced the spectrum of game film study, from watching reel-to-reel film projector footage as a player to his earliest coaching days, laboriously splicing critical plays on VHS game tapes for his teams to watch.
“As the technology has gotten better, the ease of use has improved tremendously,” Price said. “You can watch on any device with Internet connectivity anywhere, (as) opposed to only in the locker room. Some of the work must be done no matter what the technology is, but it de-clutters your life as a football coach to give you more time with your family.”
Football has 22 players, 11 on each side, on a large field that does not cater easily to determining advanced player statistics like basketball does on a confined court. However, game film analysis is essential and common practice for coaches and players, Price said.
Hudl is a platform for coaches to upload game or contest footage, providing tools for coaches to segment video in any way, and for players to create highlight films for themselves.
The service costs between $2,400 and $9,000 for a school to adopt Hudl across its athletic programs, depending on the level of service they choose, said Alli Pane, Hudl communications coordinator.
As a recruitment tool, Hudl facilitated 174,353 connections in 2013 between college coaches and high school players through student-athletes sending recruitment packages, which consist of a highlight reel and one full game film, during the peak period, lasting from September 2013 to February 2014, Pane said.
The platform also gives the coaching staff or players the ability to take stats and link them with their footage via Hudl’s “Tag A Game” feature, Pane said.
“I can’t quantify the success, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the players are getting a better value from their film watching because I don’t have to start the film from kickoff; I usually have a handful of plays selected for us to go through in about 30 minutes,” Price said. “It’s a huge time-saver for coaches and players.”
Price learned about Hudl at a coaching clinic and subscribed in the summer of 2009, urging the booster club to pay for the service for all Severna Park High School outdoor athletic teams. Coaches and parents did not understand Hudl but once they did, the service was adopted unanimously at the school minutes from Annapolis.
“I have found Hudl to be a great tool for players to use to review things done right and see what needs to be improved on,” said Leslie Brown, president of the Severna Park High School Booster Club. “Hudl helps both our coaches and athletes.”
“I couldn’t even describe how awesome it was going to be,” Price said. “Once they understood what it was, there were no sales required, it was pretty much common sense that it was a huge savings and a great thing.”
Price sends his players clips to watch and study through Hudl’s service for “homework” when they are not at practice for game preparation.
The time saved meant Severna Park Football could spend Saturday practices after Friday games weight training instead of watching film. Players can watch footage on their own now, and the team watches game clips on Mondays and Tuesdays, after coaches and players have had time to look at it, Price said.
There are still things Price has to do, like have a player or coach record the game, usually from up in the bleacher seats; plug in team rosters and stats; watch film and analyze it himself – but the effort required has drastically decreased.
“It didn’t make me a better coach by definition, but it allows me to do more things efficiently for our program, which makes me a better coach,” Price said. “With more time you can do more things, whether it’s devote more time to your family or spend more time thinking of new plays or looking at your personnel.”