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The Internet Video Exchange: A Major Assist for Coaches

by: Pat Finley
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Sharing game tapes through the internet has streamlined the process while saving both time and money

Coaches, say goodbye to your UPS bills. It used to be that the exchanging of game film was just that, literally. A staff member – be it a coach or video coordinator – would make a copy of a particular game film and overnight it to an opposing team. Reel-to-reel turned into VHS tapes, which morphed into DVDs and hard drives. But the concept was always the same – you send a tape and wait for your opponent’s tape to arrive.

A new wave of technology has made, and continues to make, that concept obsolete. Internet video exchange has replaced the UPS man or direct hand-offs of tapes.

At its most basic level, internet video exchange is a way for coaches to upload their game films and download opponent’s tapes on their computer. From that point, coaches can either put the film into their own editing system or one designed by the video exchange company. Once popular with only major college football or basketball programs, internet video exchange has now become affordable enough for many high school teams to use.

It’s become easier to use, as many companies have developed convenient interfaces and offer technical support. And with the meteoric rise of coaches who embrace technology, operating an internet video exchange system is now as complicated as checking your e-mail. The quality of the film itself has improved dramatically, as has the speed it takes to download a film. The secure connection on the Internet – always a concern for spy-conscious coaches – has made internet video exchange a practical, safe option for coaches. The bottom line – without sacrificing quality or security – coaches can save valuable time by using internet video exchange. And when game week comes, time might be the most valuable commodity of all.

Who Uses It?
The rise of technology over the past five years have made it so almost anyone who needs to look at game film can use internet video exchange. “High schools through Division I football and basketball through pro teams use our system,” said Ron Wojcicki, marketing supervisor at LRS Sports.

Tim Prukop, Vice President of Sales fo XOS, said that everyone from major-college football teams to officials to low-budget sports use the system. Football teams, for example, demand high-quality video so they can see which players are making which plays. Officials necessitate a lower-quality video so they can review the calls made in a particular game. And as for smaller sports and smaller schools, the affordable price offers them access to technology that would have been almost impossible five years ago.

Other companies, such as EZXchanges, focuses on schools from smaller conferences. Shannon Cotton, the CEO of EZXchanges, was an assistant women’s basketball coach at the University of Albany before entering the internet video exchange business. Between Albany and coaching at a Div. III school, Cotton found that the internet would be an easy way for smaller schools to act like a major program, regardless of the budget. “I definitely saw a market for that,” she said. “It’s affordable and compatible and, being web-based, is very flexible.”

“The market has grown at the major and small-college market,” said Chris Griffin, president and CEO of Digital Sports Video. “This is due to those conferences wanting to save time and money on travel costs. The small college market benefits the most from internet exchange since there is no longer a need for coaches to drive many hours one way to exchange film, reducing insurance and travel costs for the conference and the school.”

Why Use it?
The reason for switching from standard video exchange to internet video exchange is as simple as any other coaching move – it makes sense, both practically and financially. Quicker download times and fewer trips to the post office leaves more time for coaches to do what they do best – coach. The financial cost of internet video exchange is getting less expensive, and the safety of the video transmission saves coaches the worry that the tape might fall into the wrong hands.

The convenience of the system not only saves time, but makes it so a coach need not be a computer scientist to operate it. “Younger coaches don’t have the fear factor of computers, and older coaches see the huge advantage of it, too,” Wojcicki said. “Everyone sees the advantage of digitizing it. It’s gotten a lot less expensive, and it’s gotten a lot easier.”

Saving time
Frank Girardi is the CEO of Apex Football, but he’s also the defensive coordinator at St. Petersburg Catholic High School in Florida. He knows first-hand how important it is for coaches to conserve time. “We play some schools that are pretty far away,” he said. “But even if you meet halfway, it’s two or three hours. If you’re mailing it, now we’re talking Saturday and it’s hard to find overnight mail. We used to put it on a Greyhound bus and it would get there the next day.”

With internet video exchange, trading tapes often takes less than an hour. The speed, at least compared to what it was five or 10 years ago, is due to the improvements made in technology. But on the college level, the discovery of some already-present infrastructure has made video exchange even faster. Most universities have a “second” internet, called internet 2, that accomplishes what the original purpose of the internet was 20 years ago – the sharing of information between institutions. Coaching offices can be routed to log on to internet 2, which is faster than the its worldwide counterpart.

“The original reason the internet happened was so research universities can share; now it’s so commercial we can’t use it for what we set it up to do,” Prukop said. “All of a sudden, you have fast intranet connectivity from school-to-school. Before, it would take eight or nine hours; now we can go about 15 minutes. “The schools already have access to internet 2. All they needed was a way to package the information they wanted to send to each other.” To see if your college or university has internet 2, log onto

When internet video exchange was in its infancy, perhaps the greatest question to come from coaches was about the security of the internet. Coaches are naturally guarded about such issues.

“We wanted to make it super-secure,” Cotton said, “so coaches using this are ensured that only certain teams are able to access games.”

In layman’s terms, internet video exchange companies use log-in names and passwords ensure that only the people who are supposed to receive the film actually do. The companies also either monitor their own security or use firms whose sole job is to do so.

“We could have been doing this stuff five years ago, but we couldn’t because coaches were so paranoid because they were concerned about the internet being a safe means of transport,” Prukop said. “There was a real fear that if they put something on the internet, someone would gain a competitive advantage.”

These days, people often purchase airline tickets or check their bank statements online. Video exchange is no different. “When a coach hears ‘internet’ and his video traveling over it, he can be a little leery about it,” said Jason Lamb, the editing product manager at Coachcomm. “They hear about people hacking into things. But it’s not like that. Security all depends on what they’re sending out. And people will see only what you want them to see.”

The price of internet video exchange programs ranges; some are sold ala carte, while others are tied into editing systems or other coaching products.
“With high schools, budget is important,” Lamb said. “If a coach calls us up and he’s trying to get some VCRs and remotes and headsets and ontop of that, he’s trying to get some kind of exchange network. Certainly the more things he’s looking at, the better overall price we can get him.”

But the question of affordability can be traced to a common business question of opportunity cost – is it worth it to your program for coaches to devote their time
to things other than video exchange?

In some cases, coaches can begin watching film before the entire download is completed. “This makes for a more streamlined process,” Griffin said. In some cases, using internet video exchange might save a junior high coach from charging overtime and paying for gas prices just to go take video of the opponent.

With the rise of technology, quality has improved over the past few years. “The pipe is big, the video quality is good, and it doesn’t take that long,” Wojcicki said.
There are, of course, some basic rules that apply to all forms of video and shouldn’t be forgotten just because the exchange system is different. Internet exchange companies know they have to keep their end of the deal, too. Affordability and convenience is nothing without quality.

“You can’t make it look better than the way it was shot,” Lamb said. “If you want to be able to read numbers or if you want to be able to keep all 22 players in there, that’s all on the front end. Invest the money to get good cameras. That’s what we tell coaches on the front end. If there’s a big difference between that and a video tape, they’ll go back to driving those three or four hours.”

What to do now
In the state playoffs last year, Girardi’s team ensured their tape arrived at to their opponent the Monday before the game. The opponent’s tape didn’t arrive until Wednesday. That’s a coach’s worst nightmare. “Let me start coaching at the first possible moment Monday,” he said, “and we’re a stronger football team for it.”

Coaches who don’t want to be put in that situation should consider internet video exchange. Security, quality of video and speed of transfer is as high as it’s ever been. The price is good, but the question looms – how much are you spending by not using internet video exchange?

“We’re at an unbelievable peak right now,” Girardi said.


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