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  • Writer's pictureRick Traugott

Getting Smart with Game Video

So, you grab your old video camera and the tripod that’s been sitting in your basement for the past…well, it was your parents, so it’s been there forever. You charge the camera and set it up in the rafters of the rink before the game, carefully asking the parent who gets the least excited during games to man the camera for you. Sounds like a terrific thing to do, it will be a great teaching tool for your players, it well help you as a coach to see the game differently (tough to see everything from the bench during the game), and you will get a better handle on what your opponents are doing.

Great plan - in theory! Although we have come a long way from coaches having two VCRs on their desk (one for the original video tape and one to record highlights on) and a small monitor, editing and using video, even in this digital age, can be a time consuming and rather daunting task. What typically is missing for the average coach is the ability to mark/code/clip the videos. In other words, be able to put a “mark” on the video that tells what is happening at that moment (usually called an event). Things that are typically marked are goals, shots, power play and penalty kills, faceoffs, breakouts, forechecks, etc. This, then, allows a coach to watch all their team’s breakouts in a row, or all their forechecks together back to back. This gives coaches real power with respect to using video analysis. The ultimate time saver of course is to be able to mark the game live - which means a video feed going into a computer during the game with someone using keystrokes on the keyboard to mark each event. This, of course, will necessitate that you have one parent manning the camera and another marking the game while it‘s happening. Clearly this video project is becoming a little more complicated. You might need some special equipment to feed the video feed live into your computer at the rink and, you will need some software that allows you to mark the game while it’s happening (which can be an expensive proposition).

Well, now what? Let’s say your best bet is to film the game and simply download it onto your home computer afterwards. One thing that would be an easy use of the video is to simply upload it to YouTube or Vimeo and send the link to your players, allowing them to see the full game online in their own time. Of course, this is then asking your players to self-evaluate the good and the bad in the game, which will probably not be a good use of the video when all is said and done.

To my mind, the best way to present video to a team is by putting together a “highlight” reel of three to five clips of a certain aspect of the game. For example, if the focus in practice in a given week is the penalty kill forecheck, then find some examples of that in the last game - both good and bad examples (I will discuss showing good vs. bad clips below). Now that you have found them, you have to edit them together in a cohesive piece. Most computers come with some sort of video editing software (iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premier). Learning one of these apps is fairly easy and with some minimal experimenting and Googling “How To” videos, you should be able to have a two minute video put together on penalty killing forechecks in no time.

The next challenge is getting your two minutes of video in front of your players. In a perfect world, you have a pre-game or pre-practice meeting in a classroom setting with projectors and screens (or a large screen TV). This allows for a captive audience and the ability for you to narrate, teach, rewind, pause, and re-watch clips as needed.

If you are providing the clips online, then uploading to a video service like YouTube and sending a link to your players works extremely well. The only thing missing is your comments and teaching points. With a little know how, you should be able to put a voice over onto the clips and delete the sounds of the rink on the original video. I like to duplicate each clip in the sequence so that players can watch each one twice. I will also often slow down the clip the second time through to 75% speed so it is just a little easier to narrate and focus on the important details. Once your video skills improve you might even be able to pause a clip (freeze frame) while you make a point on the voice over and then continue on.

You do have to consider your audience when it comes to choosing clips. Singling out players can be motivating or de-motivating depending on age and stage, gender and personality types. Here are some thoughts about good clips vs. bad clips and gender differences from Anson Dorrance, head coach of women’s soccer at the University of North Carolina:

“Let me tell you something about men. Men need videotape. I never met a male athlete whose felt he made a mistake in athletic competition in his life. Videotape is proof. If you make a general criticism of a men’s team, every guy in the room is nodding because he thinks you’re talking about the guy next to him. ‘I’ll tell you John, they’re going through you like a knife through butter.’ He can’t believe it. I roll the tape. ‘It can’t be me coach. Someone else is wearing my number.’ It’s amazing how they take no responsibility for their performance until you roll the videotape out.”

“With women, if you make a general criticism, every woman on the team thinks you’re just talking about her,” he said. “Videotape is useless. In fact, it’s redundant if you use it, the way we do it for the men. We actually do the opposite with the video we do for the women. We show highlight reels and use it to build confidence and confidence building is so much what we do.”

Using video can be a great learning tool for you as a coach. You can see where your team needs to improve and what your opposition is trying to run with respect to system play. Showing video to players can be great and it can be over used. Pick your spots carefully, consider what you are showing your athletes wisely and remember that often less is more when it comes to game film.

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