Before the season began, Georgia High School Football Daily reported that – beginning this season – electronic communication devices would be allowed on the sideline and in the coaches booth this football season. Though not all teams are taking advantage, those that are can already see the benefits.
The Lamar County Trojans – ranked No. 1 in Class AA – are one of the programs using electronic devices. They’re using primarily iPhones and iPads for live input of data to be later matched with game video clips, as well as taking stills of player alignments during games. Trojans assistant Sonny Spurlock is in charge of the team’s in-game wireless communication. He said the new rule helps the team to game plan much more efficiently.
“(Live input of data) saves us a great deal of time after the game and on weekends when grading our players and preparing for opponents,” Spurlock said. “(Taking stills of players) enables us to efficiently get accurate info on what happened pre-snap. Tablets allow you to send the info back and forth rather than relying on a printer to produce a hard copy, like the NFL.”
AA’s No. 4-ranked Jefferson also saw the potential benefit of the rule change and brought a staff member on board to help the Dragons with implementation. They’ve been using a wireless network to load video of each offensive drive and defensive series from their cameras to iPads. The booth coaches use the video on the iPads to gather in-game information concerning formations, responses and adjustments. They communicate this information to sideline coaches during the game over the headsets.
The iPads are also brought into the locker room during halftime and used to answer any questions about what the other team is doing.
“We like the rule change and think it is helpful,” Dragons coach Ben Hall said. “Regardless of how many people are watching, you can miss things. This allows us to have the best information possible to make adjustments during the game.”
So with the new rule, the GHSA is allowing teams to utilize readily available technology to enhance the coaching experience. By doing so, it creates a level playing field for all teams. This wasn’t always the case.
“(The new rule) eliminates the cheating of the past,” Spurlock said. “In the last five years alone I have seen coaches in press boxes watching their own video replays. I have coached in a stadium that had a scoreboard that showed replay, with the playback monitors in their coaches’ press box. I’ve had coaches tell me at clinics and camps that they showed video to kids at halftime.”
Although teams are free to use the technology, not all are. That possibly puts them at a disadvantage, but getting on board is a matter of resources. Thomasville coach Leroy Ryals said his team is not currently using electronic communication, but that they are looking into the feasibility of using devices to help in the future.
“I actually think it is a pretty neat idea,” Ryals said. “In today’s society our kids are more and more into technology. It is just another way to teach them what we want them to learn.”
While the use of electronic communication is no doubt allowing coaching to evolve, it does have its drawbacks, as technology is never seamless. Kinks must be worked out. Back up plans must be in place. Weather can become a factor. Most importantly, teams need resources to utilize the technology – not just the cost of it, but having someone to execute it.
“It takes more personnel,” Spurlock said. “That means competent adults or students who are willing to sacrifice time for the program.”
So until the new method of coaching is crafted and perfected, some teams may choose not to use it during live action. There’s a potential risk in relying on the technology if it’s not used properly. In other words, the optimization of electronic communication devices depends on the coaching staff using them.
“It provides a competitive advantage for those who are willing to work to utilize it,” Spurlock said. “Just like any other area of your program, you will get out of it what you put into it.”
Adam Krohn covers all things Class AA football. Have a question or tip? Want to see more coverage of your team? Want to drop a line to compliment how awesome the Class AA beat coverage is? Send Adam a message on Twitter @AdamKrohnAJC and follow him for the latest in Class AA coverage.