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Using Video Technology to Enhance PerformanceRod Smith
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It’s the middle of the off-season. And like normal you find yourself searching for techniques and tools that can help your athletes become better, more fundamentally sound football players. As a coach, you know there are certain attributes that make athletes successful on the field of competition. Diehard performance in the weightroom, for example. Crafting bigger and stronger athletes enhances performance, not to mention bolsters individual and team success rates.
After racking your brain all day at the office, you settle in front of the television for a few sports highlights. Flipping between networks you come across Olympic Games coverage. On the screen it looks like downhill skiing, but not like you’ve ever seen before. Intrigued, you lean forward and distinguish the images of two skiers – perfectly overlaid. The simultaneous comparison of performance that follows illustrates without doubt why one athlete succeeds. If only you could use this technology to compare your quarterbacks’ throwing motions? Or in the weightroom to compare technique? What if, there were no more “what ifs”?
The concept is simple. For years, video analysis has been used to critique and improve game execution and performance. Not only have we highlighted the benefits of digital video editing systems, but if you’ve read those past articles, you know that technology evolves rapidly. Today’s digital video editing systems are a far cry from the original sixteen-millimeter film days. In fact, improvements in technology have revolutionized the concept of game analysis - what used to take days, now takes minutes.
Thanks to similar software advances, technology like you saw during the Olympics can be applied to training. For instance, use video analysis software to overlay footage of an athlete with good power clean form and that of a beginner. With the right video analysis tools, your athletes will have immediate visual feedback. The same software that allowed Olympic coverage to super-impose those images of competitors in the alpine sky races can be at your disposal everyday on the practice field or in the weightroom. With it you can ensure gold medal type improvements.
By applying video analysis technology to sports performance, via educational software, coaches can communicate both visually and instantaneously with athletes.
Using a digital video camera and a laptop computer, a coach can record an athlete performing any drill. When the repetition is complete, the athlete views the performance and receives immediate feedback. The goal? Use cutting-edge video applications to provide virtually instantaneous visual communication between the athlete and coach. The result? More efficient teaching, quicker learning and real time technique application.
What are athletes doing right? Wrong? How can their technique be improved? With educational training, you can easily store and sort video clips as well as benchmark your athletes’ progress over time. In fact with the proper educational training software, the coach has several tools at his fingertips.
For example, one component allows the coach and athlete to immediately review the videotaped performance either continuously, in slow motion, or frame-by-frame. While this allows athletes to make precise and immediate adjustments in technique, it also eliminates the guess work in analyzing and correcting mechanics.
Another segment uses split-screen technology, which allows up to four images to be displayed and compared, giving the athlete and coach a more in-depth analysis of technique. For instance, compare different angles of the same skill; previous performances by the same athlete; or, the execution of another, perhaps more experienced athlete.
A third feature allows video footage to be overlaid transparently. Doing so allows for easy comparison of two performances by the same athlete or the direct comparison of two different athletes. Directly aligning video footage allows for precise analysis of technique and reveals even the most subtle differences.
Another tool transforms video footage snapshots of a particular skill into a single image. The user can choose as many (up to 60 frames per second) or as few snapshots of the performance as necessary. The goal? To illustrate and then analyze in one picture an athlete’s technique from beginning to end.
Some software applications allow video footage to be “cut-out” and then placed within or over another performance. For example, combine video from different athletes or other performances. This feature allows past performances to be compared directly with present performances, perhaps isolating differences or discrepancies in technique.
Another helpful component included are drawing tools. These allow for instant illustration of proper technique. For example, if an athlete isn’t reaching parallel depth in the squat, simply draw over a snapshot of the athlete’s best repetition and show the proper depth. Or simply write in any additional coaching comments. All video footage or snapshots can then be emailed to the athlete for later review.
The software also allows you to save and catalog clips by name, date, event, or just about any criteria you desire. This makes for easy and efficient recall at the click of a mouse.
IN THE WEIGHTROOM
While all lifts require technique, the squat and Olympic-style lifts such as the power clean or snatch leave a wider margin for error. For example, when squatting how deep is parallel? Or, what path should the bar take during an efficient snatch?
Undoubtedly, proper technique can help athletes improve strength. One coach who thinks so is C.J. Stockel, strength and conditioning coordinator at Woodward Academy in College Park, Georgia. Moreover, if you believe as Stockel does that technique moves the bar, then video analysis becomes the difference between a good lift and a great one.
As both strength and conditioning coordinator and a regional coach with USA Weightlifting, Stockel uses DartTrainer, a software application created by a company called Dartfish, to help teach and shorten the learning curve for his athletes. Despite incorporating the analysis technology within three weeks of our interview, Stockel touted the application’s immediate, visual feedback as making a “significant difference” in the performance of several of his football athletes. However, Stockel works with a complete cross-section of high school athletes, and feels video analysis can benefit them all.
“Whether it be a beginner or an elite athlete, it really doesn’t matter how or when you choose to use it, ... (this software is) a great teaching modality because an athlete can walk over to the computer right now (following a lift) and see what they did. Then walk right back over and do it right.”
This ability to immediately adjust incorrect form maximizes short-term muscle memory, triggers vital motor skills, and results in real-time results. By including video analysis in the training routine, athletes become co-responsible for monitoring their own progress. They are able to view their performance and then literally see their improvement.
So far Stockel has used the analysis software mostly for the squat, power clean and snatch. In addition to simply recording and reviewing his lifters’ mechanics, Stockel uses the software’s drawing tools to sketch the path of the bar and illustrate proper depth. The program’s multiple view feature allows him to coach several athletes simultaneously. After recording four athletes performing the same lift, Stockel is able to analyze and instruct all four athletes simultaneously. This technique allows each athlete to learn from his lifting partners. Such an efficient use of time – in both teaching and learning – allows the athlete to become stronger in a shorter period of time. Translation? Better athletes – quicker.
In addition to the immediate reinforcement, Stockel uses the software’s export capabilities – email attachments – to keep fundamental adjustments at the forefront of his athletes’ busy agendas.
“If I tell a kid something at 4:30, (and) then we go through an entire practice – by 6:15 that (instruction) is in the back of his mind somewhere,” Stockel says. “But if I email (video clips) to the house, he pulls it up that night and looks at them ... (and) says to himself, ‘Okay this is what coach was talking about.’ We get back to teaching and learning efficiency ... (this technology) cuts that time down.”
And while the “technical movements” such as the Olympic lifts and squat, as Stockel refers to them, may benefit the most from the software application, almost any weightroom training drill can be analyzed. For example, starts, footwork or agility drills, and vertical jump can all be monitored for improvement. After all, in the 40-yard dash, proper start technique can mean the difference between an average time and an eye-catching one. With video analysis, athletes can improve their start along with sprint form and finish techniques. The same goes for shuttle runs or other agility drills. Athletes’ performances can be recorded, analyzed and then repeated immediately or reviewed later for further technique adjustments.
Another benefit of logging your athletes’ performances comes during recruiting season. If you’ve recorded your athletes’ best performances, then a recruiter can see their skills at work. This not only shows what your athletes are capable of but eliminates the need for them to attend special scouting combines or camps.
After already realizing the benefits in the weightroom, Stockel - a special teams coach during the football season - believes the software will be a useful on-field training aid for his kickers and punters. It should also help his fellow coaches monitor and analyze blocking, tackling, footwork and agility drills. If need be, you can even make training tapes for younger athletes.
“With this product, your imagination is your limitation,” Stockel says. “Almost everyday I think of something else I can use it for. The more I use it, the more I realize the capabilities it has.”
BEFORE YOU ANALYZE
As with any technology product, be sure to do your homework. For example, make sure you have the hardware necessary to run the video analysis software you purchase. Double check your video camera and computer configurations for compatibility before purchase, not after. And finally, be prepared to invest in the necessary equipment – whether it be a tripod or additional hard-drive storage – that will be necessary to get the most out of your investment.
If you desire increased productivity and want a more efficient means of monitoring, analyzing and correcting player mechanics in the weightroom, then investing in video analysis software could be for you. If selling it to your administrators is a hard-sell, you may wish to point out the versatility of the product. Adapting it to other sports, as well as using it on the football practice field make it a highly versatile investment. One that should boost performance – something any administrator would applaud.
To learn more about video analysis technology contact Dartfish at 888-655-3850 or Dartfish.com
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