ANNAPOLIS – The quality gap between professional and amateur coaching tools is rapidly shrinking.
Parents who miss their child’s games can follow along on their phone. Coaches and players now stay on the same page when learning and practicing thanks to organized, computer-created playbooks and game notes.
Athletes, coaches and fans were disconnected until technology gave sport enthusiasts the affordable avenues to customize team statistics, create reports and provide live game tracking.
“Kids question coaching, and so do parents, whether it’s about starting a certain player or playing a certain way,” DeMatha Catholic High School baseball head coach Sean O’Connor said. “Technology allows us to say why we do something more effectively, and show a player the reasons why rather than just tell them, ‘Do something because I said so.’”
Ted Sullivan loved coaching youth baseball, but dreaded the tedious processes of keeping stats with paper and pen and calling the press with game results, so he created GameChanger, a digital scorebook and game tracker free for coaches.
“Parents, grandparents and local fans have very strong connections to the young athletes in their communities,” said Sullivan, who played baseball for an Annapolis American Legion team growing up in the Washington, D.C., area. “GameChanger makes it super easy for anyone to access the latest statistics and game events.”
Embracing technology like GameChanger in DeMatha Catholic High School’s baseball program erased communication barriers among coaches, players and their parents, O’Connor said.
GameChanger is an online-based application that allows coaches to plug in game events in real time, using it as a scorebook on their phone or tablet.
The app takes the game data and allows parents and fans to follow the contest from their mobile device or computer, watching a virtual playing field update with symbols and a running box score, Sullivan said.
O’Connor used GameChanger since he began coaching in 2008 as one of its earliest adopters. Although hard work has no substitute, the ability to see which players are performing well or need coaching instantly improved DeMatha’s preparation and practice, O’Connor said.
Elementary school to collegiate coaches have access to tools that digest statistics and game data, provide game recaps without writing a word, and organize team activities through GameChanger.
Coaches enjoy all that the application offers, but can choose to put certain features behind a pay wall for parents and fans to access many of GameChanger’s services.
GameChanger costs $7.99 per month for premium access or $39.99 yearly.
GameChanger tracks statistics common in baseball, softball and basketball, but also includes advanced metrics and special statistics for youth players and teams that make up the majority of the service’s customer base, called “developmental metrics,” Sullivan said.
“We calculate things like ‘first pitch strike percentage’ and ‘hard hit ball percentage,’ which are easy to calculate, but are essential things to teach young athletes about how to play baseball well early on,” Sullivan said.
“I’m not a huge stats guy, because they can be manipulated in any way, but GameChanger allows me to see how everyone is progressing in all levels of our program,” O’Connor said. “GameChanger helps us find our weaknesses fast, improves our coaching in the process and makes practice much more efficient.”
For years, basketball coaches used blackboards, whiteboards and clipboards to track games, draw up plays, document scouting reports and provide game notes, ultimately producing a jumble of discombobulated information in someone’s flurried handwriting that teams could never fully analyze.
With new technologies, piecemeal statistics and insights can be compiled and streamlined with a set of tools from FastModel – called FastScout and FastDraw – reaching all NBA and WNBA teams, and over 600 Division I NCAA basketball programs.
“As a graduate assistant at Providence College about six years ago, I created the scouting reports for the teams we’d play, updating the template with their photos, stats and info,” Loyola University-Maryland women’s basketball assistant coach Ryan Gensler said. “FastScout eliminates that busywork, giving me the ability to download nationwide stats that update themselves.”
FastModel began over a decade ago, providing coaches from the youth to professional levels with tools to create clean and concise playbooks with customizable colors and layouts, charts and scouting reports that all players can learn from, said Andy Graham, vice president of FastModel Technologies.
“You can look at our software as kind of the ‘Microsoft Office’ for basketball coaches,” Graham said. “FastDraw allows coaches to easily create super customizable playbooks, and FastNote is our report builder, used for either scouting, fan or team reports.”
“Before every game our coaches give us a scouting report a couple days before,” said Lisa Mirarchi, starting point guard for Loyola University-Maryland’s women’s basketball team. “It’ll show us the starting lineups for our team and theirs, their strengths and weaknesses, and offensive and defensive tendencies for every player.”
Loyola University-Maryland men’s basketball assistant coach Josh Loeffler found FastModel services improved efficiency and communication through team scouting reports and game notes.
“FastModel really allows us to present information the way we want,” Loeffler said. “We don’t use it much for analysis, but for building reports and playbooks, it has been a great time saver for our staff, allowing us to spend more time after hours with our families.”
FastModel programs have options to customize layout and colors, but professional and collegiate teams that want their reports and playbooks to include player photos, automatic updates and more custom options can purchase FastModel’s professional suite at a higher, undisclosed price. FastScout software is $75 for the year, and $149 annually if bundled with FastDraw.
FastModel also developed a database of basketball plays and practice drills, curated by a network of former and current coaches, called Gooroo.
“Anyone can utilize it, so a high school coach can take some plays and drills right out of a contributor’s repertoire, many of whom are professional and collegiate coaches,” Graham said.