New technology helps coaches and players prepare for football games
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
by Matt Porter
Dwyer defensive coordinator Bobby Sifrit reviews game video with team members after their season opener against Glades Central with Hudl video software, which has helped make breaking down and sharing game video easier. (Photo by Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
At a Saturday morning film session following a rousing win over Glades Central, Dwyer defensive coordinator Bobby Sifrit pointed out to his players where they screwed up.
"How many times do you have to see it on film before you take away the inside? A thousand?" Sifrit asked two dozen members of his defense. "That's horrible."
The film session, a vital part of any football team's week, hasn't changed much in Sifrit's 16 years at Dwyer. Neither has constant examination of game film, searching for tendencies, flaws and potential advantages.
Thanks now to a powerful piece of video technology, his players can be just as studious, and his job gets done much faster.
At least 29 of the 46 football teams in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast use Hudl, a football social network that has forever altered game preparation and recruiting. Eight of the 10 area Class 8A schools, the top two teams in District 13-7A (Dwyer and Royal Palm Beach), plus small-school powers American Heritage, Cardinal Newman and King's Academy credit Hudl with part of their success.
"It's made our lives a lot easier," Sifrit said.
Hudl, created in 2008 by three University of Nebraska alums and used by numerous college and NFL teams, allows coaches to upload complete game footage to a website, then mark every play with up to a dozen characteristics: down and distance, formation, play call, play result and the players involved.
The result is sortable, searchable, shareable video clips, ready to be used in myriad ways. Coaches can send customized playlists to players' smartphones, with detailed notes, and work on their game plan from anywhere in the world.
"With the click of an email, you can have your guys prepared," Seminole Ridge assistant coach Justin Hilliker said. "It's pretty awesome. It's so easy."
In preparation for a game, coaches can call up every play the opponent ran from the I-formation, in second-and-long, or while trailing in the fourth quarter. Coaches also can study their own team, watching every jet sweep they ran, all the plays a certain receiver was targeted, every tackle for loss a defensive end made.
Instead of investing their own time or program's money to produce highlight films, they mark a player's top plays with a star, creating a playlist that is easily emailed to college recruiters. Head coaches don't have to make trips across county lines to trade game film.
"It's really cool. I wish we had the money for it," Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said, echoing the words of Forest Hill, Atlantic, Santaluces and other programs.
A basic yearly subscription is $800; Dwyer pays $1,400 for extra options, like the ability to send text messages. Forest Hill coach Chris Kokell said his fundraising must go to cover basic expenses, like replacing old equipment.
"It's $800, but we're four grand in the hole on helmets," Forest Hill coach Chris Kokell said. "This just isn't the year."
Hudl-like technology has been around several years, but Forest Hill's Kokell and other coaches like him still use the old-school method of keeping thick binders of hand-written play charts.
While Dwyer and many others use assistant coaches or tech-savvy students to film games, Forest Hill and 11 other Palm Beach County teams use Delray Beach-based Immaginé Productions to handle their video work.
For $100-150, Immaginé owner John Bennardo and his team of videographers film and produce a DVD of that night's game. Extra services include highlight films and end-of-year banquet videos, which Hudl can produce instantly.
Bennardo recognizes the value of Hudl, but believes convenience doesn't always win. "There's always a need for quality video," Bennardo said. "That's never going away."
Hudl helped immensely two weeks ago, when Tropical Storm Isaac forced school cancellations and prevented teams from practicing. Hilliker said his players were studying video, something they wouldn't have done when he played at Jupiter High in the 1990s.
"To be honest, we'd be in a hot tub with three or four girls, or something like that," Hilliker joked. "These days, they're watching film."
Hudl tells them how much, too. During the storm, Hilliker reprimanded one of his players via Twitter: "You've been on your account for 13 minutes in the past 3 days ... that won't work in college."
"I know who's been online and not online," Hilliker later said. "I'm like Santa Claus. I'm checking that list."
Dwyer junior outside linebacker Shawn Boone is his team's most dedicated viewer, logging 3 hours and 14 minutes in a recent week. Boone, who is being recruited by several schools, including Florida, Florida State and Georgia, credits Hudl with making him a better player.
"I go through all the games, just in case I might miss something," Boone said.
Dwyer's Hudl guru, offensive line coach Steve Quisenberry, estimates he spends 20 hours a week tagging, watching and working with film. He said the instant, personalized feedback Hudl provides helps a generation of players hard-pressed to pay attention for a 45-minute film session.
"I know who to block," Quisenberry said. "It's not always easy to get the kids to do it."
As he spoke, a message popped up on his laptop screen. Jupiter, Dwyer's next opponent, shared Friday night's game film. It was 12:11 p.m. Saturday. Time to Hudl again.