CFL

LaPolice: Technology and football today

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Paul LaPolice
8/4/2014 9:08:36 PM
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As I travel back from the studio, I usually watch at least one to two of the previous week's games on my iPad to prepare for the following week. Let's talk about how technology has changed for coaches and players the past few years. 

When I first came into the CFL in 2000, our video department was using SVHS tapes to record games and to watch game and practice film. The process of creating 'cut-ups' or segments of the game film such as all first downs and blitzes and all red zone plays was a slow process. You had to start the tape from the beginning and the computer attached to a bunch of VCRs would fast-forward and when the database, which the coaches inputted into the computer, found a play that was attached to the time code on the counter, it would record it to one of the other VCR decks and it would do that for as many games as you had in your breakdown. It is a linear process meaning you always have to start at the beginning and fast-forward. The term 'cut-up' is derived from the days before I was coaching and film projectors were used. Coaches actually cut up the film and organized the clips on the walls and then spliced them back together. 

Back in the days of using tapes after a game, you were given copies of the tapes to take back with you to your facility but did not have the technology to watch it on the plane. Imagine coaching for the B.C. Lions and you had the 5-hour flight home from Montreal and you would lose all that time because you couldn't watch the film. You had to wait to get home and then the video department would have to make copies of the three tapes (offence, defence and special teams) and it happened in real time so if each tape was an hour long, it took three hours to finish. The coaches were always trying to get their side of the ball recorded first so they wouldnt have to wait for two extra hours to watch tape and grade the game.

Players had to come to the facility to study opponent film as well as practice and game film. The tapes would not work in regular VCRs so all film had to be seen at the offices. 

The advent of the non-linear editing system has been great for football. In basic terms, that means you are now capturing the images digitally and inporting them into the computer. The cameras used today actually have hard drives attached to them and, as you record the game, it actually time codes it as you film. Time code means you are marking the plays so the computer can know which film to splice together. Coaches watch what is called an intercut copy which has a sideline and end zone angle.  The sideline angle is high above and has all 24 players on the field and the end zone angle is from behind and has the offensive line and backs. Nowadays, the computer can organize these angles for the offence/defence/special teams in minutes and allow those digital files to be copied in minutes.

Now the coaches and players have the luxury of using iPads and computers to watch the film. Most teams use Ipads as a way to watch the film when not at their office. The video department will get the game that was played into their system and then upload it to a server that the coaches can then download to their iPad. There is an application that they use that can play the film and allow the film to be played back and forth at different speeds. You can also use the application to take pictures of a play and then draw on it or write a note to a player. This is why the iPad is a great tool.

In 2012, our coaches and myself used iPads in Winnipeg. I could be watching some practice film at home or in the office and see something that I wanted to communicate to the QBs. For example, if Buck Pierce was overstriding as he threw the ball forcing the ball to go too high, I took a picture of it, wrote on the picture and e-mailed it to him and he got it immediately. Often times, there would be a concept that I thought of to attack a certain coverage and I could draw it on the screen showing the coverage and then take a picture and send it to the QBs while they were at home. 

The video coordinators now can get the video to the coaches by the time they get to the airport and allow the coaches to watch and grade the game on the way home. Imagine how much better it is for the BC/MTL teams being able to finish their work on the plane ride home. 

The players can certainly benefit from the technology of today. In Winnipeg, we gave scouting reports out digitally to anyone who had an iPad and they took notes on it that way. Players are now able to watch practice on their own that night and watch opponent film. We would send them cut-ups daily with what we would be game-planning the following day. Players with a day off after the game can watch the game and already have seen it before they see it with the coaches. 

Another advantage of the technology for the coaches that the players better learn about is that the coaches can get reports of how much or how little the players are logging on to the application to watch film. I would post a list and put it into the locker room of who had watched the most to the least film. 

The video departments do a tremendous job of preparing film for coaches and players. Every team has at least one full-time employee and many seasonal people that get everything filmed and ready to be watched every day. We have come a long way from the days of VCRs.

Technology and football (Photo: TSN)

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(Photo: TSN)
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