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From Pencil and Paper to iPod

High school football stat-keeping has come a long way over the last few years. Previously, a member of the coaching staff kept game stats in a notebook. That poor guy would be up in the box every Friday night, intensely focusing on jersey numbers as the players ran around executing the plays called out from the sidelines. Who did what? Where? And who helped?

May the football gods help him if his team’s opponent ran a no-huddle offense! A fast-tempo game meant a lot of erasing, inaccurate stats with misread jersey numbers, and a loss of stats because of missed plays. Retrieving stats during the game was next to impossible because there was no way to make sure the data was correct (or even legible). Of course, this doesn’t even take into account how play calls on the field were tracked during the game.

Generally, a lower-tenured coach or back-up player followed the play-caller along the sideline “charting” plays. This way, when film was transferred, you could track plays based on what was written on the paper. The major downfall to this system was the difficulty of sharing it with everyone. Let’s imagine how arduous distribution was: burning DVDs/taping on VHS, making copies of the call sheets, and transporting a set to each coach’s house. This system worked because coaches made it work, but let’s be real: filming, distribution and stat-keeping was a chore that no one really wanted because of how time-consuming it was. Then Hudl happened.

The first year my team had Hudl, we used it mainly for storing our video. We never went into stats or data breakdown. In fact, that poor stat sap was still collecting plays in his notebook and burning through Pink Pearl erasers like they were going out of style! Sure, the video distribution was easier, but coaches still had the hand-written play call sheets. So when we joined the 21st century the following year, we upgraded our stat guy to a basic tablet app where he could track stats electronically, but he still had to fixate on the smallest details to ensure that the stats where correct.

That was also the year I was tasked with keeping track of the play call sheets. I wanted to make sure there was a way we could get this info on Hudl so our players and coaches had the information they needed. With that in mind, I devised a spreadsheet on Excel that was an exact match to the columns on Hudl. Everything was accounted for – down, distance, offensive play call and formation, defensive front and blitz. However, our stats remained completely separate from our breakdown data. This “system” worked for us during the year, but was cumbersome in how labor-intensive it was getting everything into Hudl. After each game was intercut, I would go through, play by play, and enter the data from my spreadsheet. It did become easier as the season progressed, but the fact that we weren’t able to run any reports really limited post-game breakdown.

When Hudl released “live tagging”, it changed our entire game day routine, because it takes care of tracking the game play-by-play and player stats. Our stat guy uses the team’s iPod to track stats just sitting in the booth with a roster. And since the live tagging feature is laid out in such an easy fashion, he can actually enjoy watching the game while gathering data (notebook and eraser be damned!). One of the coolest features is the option to view how we’re doing from a stat perspective at any point in the game. We generally look at our run and pass yards to make adjustments if needed (so we don’t settle into one or the other). Once the game is done, we’re able to send all of the live tag data to our Hudl library and simultaneously report stats to local media in time for the next day’s newspaper.

We’ve also changed how our plays are tracked on the sideline. Because the live tagging fills in every basic column in Hudl, all we have to do is write down the play call. Now we only need two guys to watch the game and work together in the booth tracking stats and play calls – checks and balances.

To me, the best part about live tagging is how fast it is for me to upload our play call spreadsheets to Hudl. What used to take over six hours now takes less than two – and that includes intercutting the film, matching the live tag data, and running reports. Within hours of the game being over, everything we need to coach our players is available and the kids are able to watch that same film (with corresponding play calls and blitz packages) from home.

By breaking down that data to see what we need to do against opponents with certain defenses and offenses, we’ve been more competitive this year than years past. Live tagging has been such a great tool for our program and we’ll never go back! The ease of use, the amazing connectivity, and how much it opens up Hudl is something that every program should take full advantage of.

Greg Gerber is the wide receivers coach at Greenfield High School in Wisconsin. In the Hawks’ fourth season with Hudl, Coach Gerber’s favorite feature (besides live tagging) is the highlight editor, which allows him to create weekly pump-up videos. Best of luck to Greenfield as they prepare for the first round of the playoffs this Friday!

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