Improve in an Instant: Harnessing the Power of Video

Video is the ultimate tool for teaching athletes. See why coaches are embracing it now more than ever.

Improve in an Instant: Harnessing the Power of Video

Video is the ultimate tool for teaching athletes. See why coaches are embracing it now more than ever.

No one likes being told they’re wrong, a fact Jeff Bloom knows all too well. A football coach at Peoria High School (Ill.), Bloom is used to his sideline corrections being met with pushback from the players. Whether they’re embarrassed or simply didn’t see the play correctly, players are often resistant to admit wrongdoing.

This is where video becomes a coach’s best friend. Without attacking the player, a coach can show him exactly what he’s talking about, enabling quick adjustments.

When you show them film on the sideline, it becomes a critical discussion for them to get better instead of them feeling like you’re attacking them for doing something wrong,” Bloom said. “From a teaching standpoint, it becomes a conversation and not an argument.”

Video is one of the most important teaching tools in a coach’s arsenal. As the saying goes, showing is better than telling. Here’s why.

Arguments Become Discussions

Many times when an athlete is resistant to coaching, it’s because he or she doesn’t see the full picture. Unlike the coach, who is watching the entire game unfold from the sideline, each athlete has a narrow view on what’s happening and is focused on their own assignment.

Video is the puzzle piece that puts the whole picture back together.

“I can’t tell you how many times as a coach you would talk to a kid on the sideline and you say, ‘You’re doing this wrong.’ And he says, ‘No I’m not. I’m doing this,’” Duane Maranda, the head coach at Westerly High School (R.I.), said. “They don’t necessarily understand the big picture and what you’re asking them to do. But when you show it to them, there’s no arguing with that.”

Having physical evidence helps turn down an athlete’s combative nature. If they can actually see what needs to be corrected, athletes are more likely to accept that their coach is only trying to help them.

“You tell them all the time, ‘You have to see this and visualize this,’” Mikel Riggs of Leeds High School (Ala.) said. “But being able to actually show it to them so they can see it with their own eyes, they don’t have to visualize it now. It’s right there in front of them. It’s concrete. I don’t think you can put a price tag on that.”

Improvement on the Run

There’s no better way to make in-game adjustments than to see a play moments after it occurred. Athletes tend to be visual learners, and actually showing them what’s happening in the heat of battle allows for a faster turnaround.

Keith Fagan, an assistant coach at New Rochelle High School (N.Y.) experienced this firsthand earlier this season. One of his receivers kept missing his block on jet sweep plays, but Fagan was able to pull him aside at halftime and make the correction.

“I said, ‘Look, this is what you’re doing. I know you think you’re doing what we’re teaching you to do, but the video doesn’t lie,” Fagan said. “I physically showed him what I wanted him to do. We ran that play the first play of the second half and it went 65 yards for a touchdown because he blocked it the right way. It was one thing for me to tell him. But when the kid actually saw the video, that’s what did it.”

Style Suits the Players

Today’s athlete is constantly looking at a screen. If they’re not staring at their phone or tablet, there’s a good chance they’re surfing the internet on a laptop or watching Netflix. 

Showing them video puts them in their comfort zone. They’re so used to looking at screens that it’s become one of the ways they learn best.

“They’re visual people and in today’s world, with screens and tablets in their hands all the time, visually they get it and they can see space and they can see movement,” Paul Petersen, the head coach at Eagle High School (Idaho), said. “Sometimes when I talk seams or C gaps, some of that jargon sometimes you’re hoping they can comprehend and put the dots together, but maybe not. If you visually show it to them, it’s instantaneously, ‘Oh yeah, I got it.’”

Immediate Positive Reinforcement

Video is critical in making corrections, but it’s important to call out your athletes’ wins as well. Showing a successful block, aggressive rebound or brilliant save reinforces players’ good behavior and fills them with confidence.

“It’s good for them to see themselves doing well too,” Bloom said. “It’s not always about fixing a mistake. Sometimes it’s just reinforcing what they’re doing right.”

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