Created:Wednesday, September 4, 2013 11:43 p.m.CDT
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Technological advances change film study

Illustration by Caleb West – cwest@shawmedia.com

Cary-Grove football coach Brad Seaburg remembers a time – “back in the old days” – when Rich Rasmussen would spend his Friday nights breaking down game videos.

Rasmussen, a physical education teacher who recorded the games from C-G’s end zone camera, would sit alone in the school, poring over the DVD to chart each play so the varsity staff had the information for Saturday morning’s team meeting.

“[Rasmussen] would be there, sitting still so the alarms wouldn’t go off in the school,” Seaburg said, “and sometimes he wouldn’t get home until 5 in the morning.”

Actually, “the old days” were not that long ago, but it seems like decades because technology now available has expedited everything about football video study. Thanks to hudl, an online subscription service almost every area high school team now uses, coaches can look at games, already broken down, before they even leave their schools on game nights.

Hudl makes it possible for fans to have postgame viewing parties simply by hooking up a computer to their TV. Or for players, amped up from the excitement of just playing, to review their performance before going to bed.

“If we’re on the ball, we could have the game tagged with all the data within an hour,” Seaburg said. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t say enough good things about hudl.”

Hudl has revolutionized the game almost as much as various versions of the spread-option offenses. Hudl, based in Lincoln, Neb., was founded in 2006 by a group of self-proclaimed “nerds, marketers, designers and former jocks who love sports and tech.” Hudl is targeted for youth, high school, college and even professional teams.

Hudl allows coaches to streamline editing of game or practice video and easily analyze tendencies. The package basically buys space on the hudl website for videos. Each coach and player then can access their own account and watch any video of their team or an upcoming opponent anywhere wireless Internet is available.

Packages for hudl range from $800 to $3,000 annually for one sport, but many schools have more sports subscribe, which drops the cost per sport. Seaburg said so many C-G groups use hudl – including the school’s swing choir – that it costs each one about $400.

“You can put in as many data points as you want,” said Woodstock coach Steve Beard, who is using hudl for the third year. “You can put in run, pass or kick. Then, if you only want to watch the kicking game, you can do that. Someone has to type in each play, but you can get as detailed as you want.”

Coaches then can filter what they want and hudl could give them every first-down play they ran in that game. Or what their defense did on every third-down play.

Prairie Ridge junior guard Chris Dolleton was watching two games at once Sunday, his little brother’s youth game and the Wolves’ game from Saturday at Niles Notre Dame, on his iPad.

“I probably watch 10 hours a week,” Dolleton said. “It’s really helpful to see the other film we get [from opponents] and do scouting reports.”

Every day after practice, Dolleton and his teammates review their practice before they leave school for the day. They can watch more later if they want on their computers.

“I watch film of myself to see how I did during the entire play,” Dolleton said. “I use slow motion and see how I fire out, where my pad level is, if my steps were correct, how my blocking form was when I hit.”

Coaches no longer need to meet and exchange DVDs on Saturday mornings after games. They just “invite” their upcoming opponent to watch that game’s film and the site gives them access to that game only.

“We’re looking into getting a hacker [for more games], but …” McHenry coach Dave D’Angelo said with a laugh.

Hudl allows for players to use slow motion and replays easily to review each progression during a play.

“You can see it from a lot of different angles,” Marian Central junior linebacker Michael Hartlieb said. “I always pause it to watch the formation and take a look at the play, back and forth. We see every play they have. Coach (Ed) Brucker hands out tendency sheets, a six-page packet, with all the plays they ran.”

Seaburg remembers former C-G coach Bruce Kay, who retired after the 2010 season, saying something about hudl before he left. He asked an assistant to check it out. After Seaburg was hired, the coaching staff got a free trial subscription. As the coaches tinkered with it through the spring, they started to see the unlimited possibilities.

“When we first got it, we wanted to keep it to ourselves,” Seaburg said. “It was so good.”

Too good to remain a secret for long. Now, every football team in the Fox Valley Conference is using it.

D’Angelo described the process many teams utilize during games, a two-man team entering down and distance and plays on an iPad. One will spot, the other will enter the data. After the game, that information is linked to the video and the breakdown is done.

“That takes the work on Saturday morning out of the equation for a coach,” D’Angelo said. “It will sync together with the game film. It’s amazing what you can do with it.”

McHenry even has a wireless hotspot in its football room connected to the concession stand, so coaches and players can watch hudl right there at the field.

There are other benefits to using hudl. Seaburg says players easily can make their own highlight videos right off their own computer, which he can then send with a couple of clicks to any interested college coaches.

Coaches also can check players’ accounts to see if they have been using hudl regularly. If someone is slacking, coaches will know. So after their regular homework, it’s easy to get in some football “homework.”

“I get in bed sometimes and watch hudl until I fall asleep,” Hartlieb said.