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Technology changes game - High-Def

Hudl, iPads, revolutionize prep football

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Technology changes game - High-Def

Sierra head coach Jeff Harbison goes over video with defensive players before a recent practice. Sierra uses Hudl to study video


POSTED August 29, 2013 10:24 p.m.

On a sticky summer afternoon, the familiar sights and sounds of football season return to this Central Valley stadium.

Tis the season of the 7-on-7 passing tournament … only in the north end zone, it feels more like Super Bowl Media Day.

Several tiny cameras are lifted high in the air by tripods, capturing a bird’s-eye view of the field below.

It’s an interesting clash of old versus new – helmets and high-def video, pads and new points of view.

For coaches, it’s not enough to see the action from the field or press box along the sidelines. Knowledge is often king in a game so physically demanding, and having an eye in the sky shooting down the center of the field offers a fresh perspective.

“In the past, we’ve been restricted to the side view,” said Lathrop’s first-year head coach Steve Wichman, formerly the freshman coach at Kimball. “Back-view cameras let us see the line play.”

Small innovations in technology have revolutionized the high school game, from high-def video to iPads and iPhones to the proliferation of networking sites.

Nine years after MaxPreps became the authority on the dissemination of news and information on high school athletics, Hudl has emerged as another industry force.

Only their specialty is game film – not rosters, schedules and statistics.

Hudl was founded in 2006 on the simple premise that coaches could make video, diagrams and presentations available to their target audience over the Internet.

In the past, coaches would record or burn copies of their game film, and then meet an opposing coach at a designated location over the weekend to exchange tapes or DVDs.  The time, plus the gas expense, made the whole process costly and laborious.

Hudl simply expedited the weekly ritual by inviting in today’s technology. Now, teams and scouts can access game film across the country just a few clicks.

The entire Valley Oak League utilizes Hudl, Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said.

“Film study is film study however you want to look at it,” Wichman said. “It’s necessary. It’s a teaching tool, a way to prepare coaches and players. There are different ways you can look at film. The innovation of the Hudl network has made exchanging film a lot simpler for us coaches.”

It’s already proven itself to be a valuable commodity in the Valley Oak League.

Harbison swears by it.

Sierra’s championship run in 2009 was defined, in part, by the players’ buy-in to Harbison’s requirements of the Hudl program.

“For the motivated ones – absolutely, it’s an advantage,” said Harbison, who initiated the program within a week of discovering it in 2009.

His players are not only required to break down film as a team twice a week, but they must also study their position and opponent at home. Each player is given access to the program and proper training.

No one has taken the at-home film study more serious than John Perez, a senior with the 2009 Timberwolves.

The linebacker ranked among the Timberwolves’ statistical leaders that fall with 70 tackles, three sacks and one interception. His 48 solo stops were tops on the team.

Perez would talk with Harbison each weekend, reviewing Friday’s performance while also looking ahead to the next opponent. He would parlay that conversation into his at-home film study, dissecting his opponent’s tendencies.

By the time Monday’s practice began, Perez would be locked into his assignments and the game plan. His preparation, Harbison says, was instrumental in the program’s first-ever Valley Oak League championship.

“He was a great linebacker,” Harbison said, “and he took us a long way through his preparation.”

Sierra went 11-2 and 6-1 in league play, and advanced to the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

While Manteca High has utilized an iPad on game night to relay calls for a few years now, East Union has gone next level with its Mac/Apple products.

Head coach Willie Herrera and his staff have equipped their iPad and iPhones with the Coaches Eye app, which allows them to break down footage frame by frame.

During the Modesto Junior College passing tournament in July, Herrera used the application to record his quarterbacks’ footwork.

“We’re always looking into incorporating technology in our program,” Herrera said. “As long as we get access, we want to try and take advantage.”

To contact James Burns, e-mail

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