Tools in Sports – The Role of Technology: Mondays with Matt

This week, I would like to expand upon the discussion that we started a few weeks ago on tools. Just as there are tools that you use in day to day use and are what allow you to complete a task or an activity on the field of play, there are many other big picture tools that one has at their disposal. In athletics, these include tools such as weight rooms, strength & conditioning rooms, team nutritionists and many other service-based tools that serve to enhance your well being as a student athlete. Usually, at the youth level, these amenities are not needed. The argument can be made that nor should they. While it is valuable to understand how to best condition and treat your body through these service tools, they are not exactly relevant at the youth stage beyond nutrition (which usually comes from school and home life). However, as you grow older and your recreational and/or athletic path becomes more defined, you start to look at these service tools a bit more. What tools you and services you utilize or don’t utilize is part of your internal strategy. However, there is one tool that I would like to discuss that has become more prevalent over the years. It is not new by any means, as parts of it have been used for decades, but its realization as a tool has really taken off in our data driven society. The tool that I am talking about is technology.

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with technology. It is woven into our every day lives and it either makes tasks easier or maddeningly harder. But it is here. Now, in youth sports, technology as a player/coach tool is not used a ton. Or it historically had not been. The focus has been more on development and exposure rather than fine tuning a student-athletes’ skills down to the most minute detail. Though this still holds true, there is a role for technology in youth development in sports, just as there is an even larger role once one begins advancing through the ranks of athletics.

While there are many different types of technology that we could discuss in terms of usage in sports – playing to coaching to management – the one that I am going to introduce today is one of the oldest forms of technology in sports: video development. Video in sports has been around for a long time. Most are familiar with the concept of “watching tape” or “watching film” from football. I know that that was my introduction to video development in sports. If you watch enough sports documentaries and study enough about coaching, you are apt to come across plenty of examples of a coach sitting in a darkened room with an old film projector and track running. Think of Tom Landry, Paul Bryant or Vince Lombardi. Watching film, play by play to grade players for evaluation or to identify trends in your opponents’ strategy.

Over the years, other sports have followed suit. You can learn a lot by studying yourself on film. In basketball, hockey or soccer, you can evaluate player performance and development. You can watch player movements and identify strategies so that you can adjust the variable portions of your external game strategy to counter your opponents. That might give you the advantage to win and defeat your opponent.

In baseball, softball and some of your more individual sports, you can see the player development angle more. To be clear, you can conduct self/player evaluation scouting and player development scouting in any sport with film review. It’s just more noticeable in these sports. I know in my experiences as a Student Manager for UMass Baseball, I was asked to film players in practice so that they could breakdown their swing or fielding technique. I have watched and analyzed my own swing. This is a common practice in Major League Baseball after games.

Beyond the field of play, you will also be introduced to film review sessions. In high school, at Hopkins Academy, we filmed ourselves giving speeches for a public speaking class. We developed our skills from that film review. Teachers sometimes record their lectures for self-development purposes as well. Students do this with interview practice as well.

The point of all of this being that technology has proven to be one of our most powerful service tools that we have access to. Of course, using it in excess can have negative consequences. But there are positive impacts to be had as well, whether on a playing field or in a classroom. Video development and review/scouting is one of the most basic forms of technology (though the differing types of video software can be quite complex) that can be utilized, but also one of the most powerful.

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