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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The scene is quintessential Friday Night Lights.
You’ve got a big crowd, cheerleaders cheering, a marching band playing, the PA announcer’s call and pads a popping as two teams battle their butts off on the field. You’ve also got a tent on each sideline with a big-screen television underneath it that several players are gathered around.
Sideline tents? Big-screen TVs?
Welcome to prep football in 2021, as more and more teams around the state are going high tech, using sideline instant replay systems to aid them during games.
Programs such as Hudl Sideline, GameStrat and Insight Replay provide coaches and players immediate access to any play via video shot from mobile cameras located in the end zone and press box at a particular stadium. It’s really quite something.
“I’m a relatively young coach, graduated in 2008,” said Marion’s Michael Joyner. “Just even watching ourselves wasn’t even on our own radar. We had film for a half-hour on Monday afternoon and believed what our coaches’ game plans were and didn’t really know anything until we got to the games on Friday nights.”
“About five years ago, they used to take Polaroid pictures and send them down on a zip line to the sideline,” said Mount Vernon Coach Lance Pedersen. “That is how much we have advanced in just a couple of years. People would say it’s a luxury, and I can’t argue with that. But I do think it is a valuable tool for us on the sideline and helping our kids understand different aspects of what we are looking at.”
Mount Vernon and Marion are among those tent and TV teams. They use Hudl Sideline.
TVs are more amenable to clubs that can two platoon, as entire offenses and defenses can get together and watch a specific previous play or series. Even if you don’t have that two-platoon luxury, there are iPads at the ready for more personalized instruction.
Depending on how much you want, costs for these systems are generally between $500 and $1,500. They are being used at big schools, medium-sized schools, small schools, you name it.
“More 8-man schools have some form of it. I’d say all the big schools do,” said Central City Coach Matt Miers, whose school uses GameStart. “What I love about it is instant feedback. I can watch a play and see what the defense is doing. Or I can show a player what he did on a player and correct his technique. For example, I can show an offensive lineman how he missed a defender or his angle was not flat enough.
“It’s amazing the number of times a player thinks they saw something, but when they watch the replay, they can see it how it really went.”
When you really think about it, this is NFL-type stuff at the prep level.
Pedersen’s offensive coordinator at Mount Vernon is Brad Meester, who was a center for the Jacksonville Jaguars for years. Aaron Kampman was a defensive lineman for years for the Green Bay Packers and is an assistant at Solon.
They didn’t have this type of stuff available to them when they played. Now they do … in high school.
“That’s what Aaron talks about all the time,” said Solon head coach Lucas Stanton. “When he was in the NFL, having the pictures and the diagrams on the sideline, he’d just be studying those. Now our kids when they’re coming off the field, they’re wanting to know ‘Hey, is there anything from the film that you saw?’ It’s just become a habit.”
Joyner said the perfect example of what these replay systems can do came earlier this season when his team played DeWitt Central. The Wolves prepared all week in practice for a certain type of defensive look, only to be thrown a curveball right away.
Hudl Sideline confirmed what Joyner and his coaches thought they saw.
“Noticing that using Hudl Sideline, it allows you to adjust your play calling a little quicker just to get the kids in the right position to have success,” Joyner said. “I honestly think at our level, 4A, you are putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage if you don’t use it.”
“I do think it’s starting to catch on,” said Stanton, in his second season at Solon after a stint at Anamosa. “I would say probably half the teams or just over half the teams we play have it. Or use something similar to it. To me, if you are in a close game, it’s a huge advantage. That’s what I felt like at Anamosa. We were playing some teams there that had it, and we didn’t. They had an advantage over us, to see things right away. We were in a lot of close games, and I just felt like that was something where I didn’t want teams to have an advantage over us.”
“It’s just another learning tool for us,” Pedersen said. “Another chance to give our kids a better opportunity for success.”
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