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AFM Magazine

The Computer is Up

New technology takes the drudgery out of coaching, giving coaches more time to focus on key work
by: Rod Smith
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I don't necessarily like all the things that go along with (coaching) ... all I want to do is coach the team and that's it."

Perhaps you would agree with Tampa Bay's Tony Dungy who spoke these words back in 1998 when he was named this magazine's NFL Coach of the Year.

No matter what level you coach, you undoubtedly have tasks, obligations or perhaps people whom you'd rather not have to deal with. But whether it's recruiting new players, scouting next week's opponent, or teaching your team or yourself new schemes, it's all part of the job. The trick is to find the appropriate method or tools to help you do the job efficiently and effectively.

And that's where technology comes in.

For a computer-savvy coach, technology, in its many forms, can help make life easier. An electronic playbook. A manufacturer's Internet Web site. Scouting or recruit management software. Coaching tips via electronic mail. Multi-media training or help software. On line training videos. On line recruiting aids.

But whatever form it takes, technology can take some of the time-consuming drudgery out of coaching. Want to know how? Read on.


Finding the best players for your program can be a time-consuming, difficult and frustrating process. Tracking recruits can be stressful, too. For high school coaches, helping your athletes get the exposure or recognition they deserve can be equally overwhelming.

However, there are several technical solutions that make this often convoluted process easier. Coaches can seek help from software applications, Web-based software applications or Internet services.

Traditional software can be accessed via the Internet or installed on an office computer. It allows you to store all pertinent information about a recruit - biographical data, contact numbers, correspondence - in one, easy-to-access file. Some programs will even allow you to store video clips with a recruit's file, giving coaches the ability to analyze a player on tape as well as paper.

Software applications such as The Recruiter from Cybersports have progressed from personal computer to laptop to hand-held computers, an evolution that allows coaches to take their files with them when they travel. Coaches don't need to carry bulky notebooks on the road with them anymore.

Cybersports' Marketing Director Candice Hobin says Cybersports customers will eventually be able to post questionnaires on their school's Web site for potential recruits to complete on line. Coaches will be able to review the questionnaires before deciding to add potential recruits to their files.

Other forms of recruit management software are Web-based. This means that instead of installing the software on a computer in the office, a coach goes to an Internet site, logs in, and gets access to all the school's recruiting files. Because the information is stored on the Internet, the coach can access it from any computer that is linked to the Web. Software sold by DragonFly Athletics allows coaches to download recruit files onto handheld computers so coaches can have the information with them on the road.

Coaches can also use several relatively new Internet services to help them in the recruiting process.

One such Web service - - lets student-athletes contact recruiters via e-mail and submit video, sound or picture files highlighting their talents.

At the same time, recruiters can use the Web site to search for the right player and contact the player by e-mail. Access to video, sound and picture files provides additional information to complement the student's academic and athletic accomplishments.

Parents can also use the site to ask questions to recruiters, learn about financial aid and scholarships, and even contact loan and scholarship officials directly. High school coaches can contact recruiters via e-mail or use the system to keep in touch with their student-athletes.

"It's taking (the recruiting) process and making it a lot easier for all the parties involved and bringing them together in one community where they can communicate," says Wendi Swanson, founder and chief operating officer of the company that is behind the Web site. "We've got the technology so now let's take an old process and make it more efficient and effective for this particular group of Internet users."

Swanson says coaches will always find the blue chip athlete. Her Web site is designed to help coaches expand their recruiting territory and discover good athletes that they might never know about.

"(Successful recruitment is) a once in a lifetime opportunity and if you don't understand the (recruiting) process when you're going through it you can really set yourself up for some disappointments," she says. She should know. While she spent her entire college career as a starter for Bucknell University's Division I-A varsity softball team, she was a walk-on athlete who started school as a full tuition-paying student.

Another Web site that helps high school coaches promote their athletes by allowing them to talk directly to college coaches is Paul Quintero's Quintero, who is co-founder and president of the Web-based company, says the site eliminates geographical limitations and gives recruiters access to video footage, stats and "offers unique exposure to athletes who might otherwise be overlooked."

"This is a networking opportunity for high school athletes and coaches to be noticed in a database and have their ability verified by film," Quintero says. "Instead of repeating the (application) process 100 times, athletes can do it once and they are in a virtual athlete library on the Internet."

Aside from the networking opportunities for both high school athletes and coaches, Quintero believes his company's service will help college coaches "whittle down a list of recruits to a prospect list" - a sizable task for any coach who receives hundreds of unsolicited VHS tapes from recruits each year.

With approximately 28,000 high schools in the United States, Quintero hopes his Web site will serve as a conduit between high school and college coaches, and increase exposure for athletes throughout the country.


Technology can also be invaluable when it comes to preparing your team's playbook or finding and implementing new practice techniques. Recent advances in playbook diagramming software have made them far more user-friendly.

Bruce Williams, of BW Software, says updated versions of his diagramming software, PlayMaker Pro, includes an "align command" that enables coaches to line up the top, bottom, left or right sides of formations with the touch of a button. The program also now allows coaches to organize plays by category, such as offense, defense and special teams, which makes the information easier to retrieve once it's stored.

In addition to developing and storing your own plays, technology also makes it easier - and cheaper - to view schemes others have developed.

Dan Palazotto, of, has developed an on line library of instructional videos. With the help of the Football Coaches Professional Growth Association, Palazotto's Web site will ultimately have more than 500 hours of digitally-archived video cataloged on line for coaches to view. Each 15-minute video clip will include an indepth description of the play and coaches will be able to preview, or stream, these segments on their own computers. When coaches find a useful clip, they can "flag" it, Palazotto says, and then continue their search.

"A coach can look at a clip for two minutes and say 'Hey, I like that clip,' so he flags it," Palazotto says. "(Flagging the clips) compiles a list for us. The coach doesn't download anything. Instead, he's able to select whatever he wants, and we're going to create whatever he wants."

A tape with all the flagged items will be mailed to coaches within 48 hours after video selections have been made. Annual subscriptions will be required. Coaches will be able to post some of their own team's video on the site and be paid based on how many times it is requested by other coaches.


The more you are able to scout an upcoming opponent, the better prepared your team will be, right? But how are you going to scout them? Any number of scouting software applications are available. And while all have similar capabilities, there are subtle differences.

Basic software allows coaches to input game data (play, down, distance, etc.), and the program will then generate reports about an opponent's capabilities. Some applications, however, will store compressed video images of each game and some will even allow coaches to make custom tapes to show to individual players or to review with the whole team.

A basic scouting package involves little integration and is available at a low initial cost. Once game stats are inputted, computer generated reports can be produced at the touch of a button. Programs, like those from Bigg G Software, Holly Software, Inc., or Digital Scout, will "learn" your play terminology and let you adjust parameters, such as a hole numbering scheme. Generally, coaches must pay for software upgrades.

Adding video to your scouting reports adds another dimension. By attaching a VCR to a computer configured with an appropriate video card, coaches can create a video library in which stats and scouting information are welded together with video footage. A system like Sydex Software's Grideye Gold Video Add-on can compress and store approximately 10 games in only one gig of hard drive space. Because the compressed video is stored both economically and electronically there is no shuffling of tapes and only minimal equipment.

Sydex president Mike Miller says the system isn't meant to compete with a full-blown video editing system, but rather give coaches an affordable means of total scouting recall.

"What we're interested in is the ability to keep all those games available (in the computer) and be able to analyze them and play them back in groups with a whole lot of (statistical) data," Miller says.

If budget constraints aren't a concern or superior video reproduction is a must, coaches should investigate the capabilities of a video editing system. Whether analog or digital, a video editing system gives coaches the ability to view their games just as they want to and in a way that is useful to them.

Video editing integrated with scouting software allows coaches to dial in on as specific or as broadly as they wish. No more wasteful fast-fowarding or rewinding. If you want to find out what play your opponent likes to run on third down and long, then simply query the computer.

Of course, part of scouting your opponents effectively means having the right equipment and camera angles necessary to produce the video. Getting experienced and qualified help to shoot video of your games may be a challenge.

One tool that can eliminate the search for qualified help is a remote controlled, portable and elevated video acquisition device like U.S. Sports Video's SkyHawk. Built into a Riddell football helmet, this high quality camera can capture end zone angles of formations and plays without the need for a live camera operator. All camera functions such as pan, tilt, zoom and focus, are controlled from a robotics-controller command center which can be conveniently located in a press box or similar location.

Whether purchasing scouting software or hardware such as cameras, coaches should consider a company's level of support and make sure it offers a maintenance agreement.


According to Dean Hupp, of LRS Sports, as technology continues to advance, coaches who advance with it will become far more efficient than those who reject it. "Coaches will be able to do more while they are traveling to and from games ... they'll be able to do more while they are on the road," he says. That means a coach will have more free time away from the office or more time to work on things that are important instead of getting bogged down in tedious record-keeping.

Perhaps the worst thing about technology is that it's always changing. The fastest computer today will soon be out distanced by a new faster one. A better way of doing something is developed, making the old way obsolete. It's the nature of the technology "beast," so to speak. But it shouldn't be something that is intimidating or frustrating. Think of it this way, in the long run, it will only make a coach's job easier.

Technology can also be invaluable when it comes to preparing your team's playbook or finding and implementing new practice techniques. Recent advances in playbook diagramming software have made them far more user-friendly.


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