Forget sitting in a lockerroom trying to dissect your upcoming opponent’s screens, drives and take-downs.
High school athletes now can watch — and rewatch — clips on nearly any sport from their iPhones or tablets. Anytime and anywhere. Advances in technology have altered the playing field when it comes to how high school athletes and their coaches are able to scout an upcoming opponent. For starters, athletes are doing a lot more studying of their next opponent and coming to know them better than ever before.
And with the technology available to schools, for a cost, athletes are getting more videos of their own moves during practice to breakdown and improve.
“It’s becoming more exciting because there are more ways to do it. Rather than just sitting there with a clipboard at a game and that’s it, you can watch a game live, you can watch it via film, where it’s nice because you can see a play, you can rewind,” Sanders said.
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This includes athletes, who are able to view film from their iPhones anywhere or from an iPads anywhere that has Wi-Fi — a luxury previous eras of players never enjoyed.
Opposing coaches used to meet at some location halfway between the schools to exchange game film — first on VHS cassettes and later DVDs. But now, with nearly every opponent on Center Grove’s schedule now subscribed to Hudl, film exchange has become a relatively easy process requiring a few simple clicks.
Coaches click on an exchange tab and type in the school you wish to exchange film with. A coach can ask to submit film, get film of another team or swap with an upcoming opponent.
“A lot of times when we’re watching live we’re watching for size, quickness and those kind of things,” Sanders said. “Then we watch it on film and start looking for specifics like how a play runs or substitution patterns.”
Top subscription services
The advent of subscription Internet services such as Hudl.com and Krossover.com allow basketball coaches to break down game film in ways most of their predecessors could have only imagined.
Founded in 2006, Hudl is a commercial product which offers schools the opportunity to edit and share video online.
Center Grove and Whiteland both paid a fee of $2,399 to Hudl, which covers 13 of these school’s sports programs for the 2015-16 school year — football, boys/girls basketball, volleyball, wrestling, boys/girls track and field, softball, baseball, boys/girls soccer and boys/girls golf.
Johnson County’s smallest public high school, Edinburgh, purchased a Hudl subscription for its football and boys and girls basketball programs for $1,200.
How it is implemented depends on the coach.
Greenwood girls and boys track coach Blaine Williams has yet to utilize Hudl during the spring. However, as the statistics person for Woodmen football he uses it to exchange film digitally with future opponents, chart statistics and to make reports for coach Mike Campbell.
Wrestling coaches, too, are using it to streamline the process of watching film also easily accessed by the athletes themselves.
“We have shot video for years and struggled with an easy way to get it to our athletes. Hudl allows all team members the ability to watch video anytime they have Internet access. Our kids and coaches are watching much more video because of this,” Center Grove coach Cale Hoover said.
Whiteland football coaches use Hudl to edit, evaluate and comment on practice. Sharing with Warriors players has sped up the improvement process because each player is able to watch himself as many times as he would like, head coach Darrin Fisher said.
Another company, Krossover.com, takes a team’s game film and breaks it down statistically for the team as a whole, or focus on individual player categories such as shot attempts, offensive rebounds or steals.
This is the third consecutive season Center Grove’s girls basketball team has used Krossover at an annual cost of approximately $1,400. The athletics department helps, though most monies are raised by the girls basketball program through camps and fundraisers.
“For me as a math guy, I like the analytics and to see what (the opponent) does. It gives us an idea of what we need to stop and some strengths and weaknesses we might be able to exploit,” said Sanders, who teaches geometry and Algebra II at the high school.
Sanders is giving his varsity players a homework assignment for each opponent the Trojans play. Each player studies 10 to 15 minutes of film, then emails her scouting report to Sanders.
The goal is to get players to understand an opponent’s tendencies as well as the coaches do.
“I’m a believer that if you allow the kids to be a part of the game-planning, now all of a sudden they have a vested interest,” Sanders said. “I feel our players know their opponent better than they ever have. They already know the players, but now they’re seeing it with their own eyes.”
These are the only sites being used at this time by Johnson County athletic programs.
The old-fashioned way
Scouting always has been more than intense film study. No matter how advanced technology becomes, coaches agree there is no substitute for watching a game in person.
It’s scouting at its very core.
“On film you can’t really see a player’s size or athleticism, so I try to get to as many games as possible. I would definitely say 90 percent or more,” said Bruce Hensley, who’s in his 27th season as boys basketball coach at Greenwood Community High School. “I like using the technology where you can get basically what you want on an iPad, but I still go to games to scout, too.”
Hensley and Franklin boys basketball coach Brad Dickey agree there is a camaraderie element in scouting that both look forward to.
“Scouting has gotten easier, but that’s not automatically better. I still like going with my friends and assistant coaches to scout, and it’s been important over the years that I spend time with my own kids at games. We miss some of those opportunities, so we still try to make it a point to do that when we can,” Dickey said.
“I really enjoyed as a kid trying to go to all the games and seeing my opponents, and then experiencing the different schools and the different approaches to the programs.”
Attending games in person to witness how a future opponent performs in certain situations remains an integral part of what coaches do.
Whereas Sanders prefers to scout future opponents alone — and then compare notes with his assistants after they’ve watched the same team on a different night — Hensley, Dickey and others typically do so as a staff.
“Everybody looks about the same on my little computer screen,” Dickey said. “We even like just walking past the court, standing next to the kid to see what they’re really like.”
Coaches often notice things in person that they might not with film study — and vice versa.
“There is a huge difference on a couple of fronts. First, I don’t think there’s a substitute for going to a game. I generally try to see all of our opponents at least once during the season,” seventh-year Indian Creek girls basketball coach Dan Burkman said. “It does consume a lot of time, so you do your best to come up with a scouting schedule.”
Hudl.com: A software company founded in 2006 that offers sports programs with tools to edit and share game video and create highlight reels for team use or recruiting.
Krossover.com: An online service that takes submitted game film and sorts the footage however a coach wants, be it through specific players or statistical categories. Also possible are exact statistics from the footage and advanced analytics that measure offensive and defensive efficiencies.