Is sports technology too focused on solving complicated problems, rather than obvious ones?
It is a well-known cultural norm in sports that many coaches spend a lot of time breaking down game tape. Think of any popular sports movie you’ve seen in the last twenty years and you can find a scene with a coach in a basement or office going over film (usually on one of those vintage projectors where they are literally cutting up a reel). We’ve come to accept this practice as part of the conventional wisdom of what a sports coach is supposed to do.
However, if we look a little bit closer, there is a glaring question that emerges about this entire process. After talking to countless coaches over the last few years during research for a software project I’ve been working on, a common theme presented itself. There is a sentiment amongst many coaches that “players either don’t watch video or know how to watch video properly” even when provided with the footage. As a solution to this concern, a few forward thinking and motivated coaches will bring a player into their office, show them a clip and ask them “What do you see happening here?” as a way to invoke critical thinking and get the player to think analytically about what is happening in the video rather than just follow their own movements around the screen. More commonly, coaches tend to just reduce their reliance on video, just offer up lectures and not even attempt to get any feedback from players or pay a service to clip up their video and let it drift off into the ether.
If coaches are spending all this time (and/or money) breaking down game film, why has there been no technological innovation around how players can interact with it? After all, if a core purpose of breaking down game film is to help your players make better decisions and improve, why are we still relying on the same rigid and inefficient methods we’ve been using for the past 10 years.
Over the last decade we’ve seen major improvements in the way that students and teachers engage in the classroom through greater adoption of “active learning” strategies, increases in efficiency of technology workers through well designed collaboration tools (ie Trello, JIRA, Slack, etc), so why can’t we apply the same innovations to sports, performance improvement and video? It seems this is more of a low hanging fruit that can drive player development improvements more immediately than any of the crazy wearable, VR and tracking technology being developed (which is cool too). Specifically, I am talking about flipping the video coaching model by allowing players to self analyze and collaborate with one another rather than taking dictation one-directionally from a coach. If this “inverted classroom” model is being adopted in schools and shows dramatic improvements in math and engineering test results, why not in sports?