A picture tells a thousand words, but a video...

The use of video can be a powerful tool for both the coach and the player. As a coach, you can save yourself hours of time and energy with one good video segment. Let's say that you are trying to show a dribbling move to players and only one player can do it. When you stop the practice to have that player demonstrate, they almost always fail to do it well. If you catch them on video, you can use that to show that player to both himself and his teammates. Players love to see themselves on video and it can be a powerful motivator to the other players to push them to try and get it right. 

An even more effective use of video occurs in game situations. I always counsel my coaches to focus on individual players during the game even if it is only for 2-3 minutes. That way he has something specific to say to each player as opposed to talking about things that only apply to some players on the team but not all the players. Video is a great way to show the player what s/he is doing and it also helps the coach better evaluate individual player performance. Even if the coach only does it once at the beginning of the year and once at the end, it should help both player and coach assess how far the player has progressed. 

Here is a brief video I took from a U8 practice recently. 

This came from Coach Dona's practice on 4/28/15

Watch the U8 player in the gray shirt. The first thing he does is have a bad touch that causes a turnover. However, he immediately tracks back to challenge the attacker and the parent GK makes the save. He then immediately transitions into attack and receives a pass from the GK. He adjusts his body to the ball, makes a good penetrating touch and fires off a shot that scores a goal.

There is a lot to like in this sequence. The practice is in game conditions, so the coach doesn't stop the action at the bad first touch. The player responds quickly in both transitions and shows good awareness of his position on the field and the other team. Finally, he makes a good decision to shoot.

After he scored, I immediately called the whole team over to watch the video. They loved it and the player got some additional praise that is sure to increase his motivation and desire to get better. Without the video, that moment would soon be forgotten.

Coaches, break out your cell phones, cameras and other recording devices and start improving your practices and games.

2/22/16 update
This past weekend, I taught the D license course, week 2 with Leary Barnes. While he did a session on attacking principles, i got the opportunity to explore some other video techniques. I used photos and the regular video settings to show the coaches what information can be gathered about their players and teams during a practice session or a game.

Then, I turned on the slo-mo feature and it felt just like the replays from the professional sports broadcasts, only this time, I could see in great detail some technical issues my coaches were having as they participated in the activity.

Finally, I used the time-lapse feature which takes a picture every second or so and condenses a long sequence down to just a few seconds on a video. If I moved frame by frame, I could see things on the field that were just too fast to see during regular play.

The new features allow you to get information about your players and your team that you cannot get in any other way. As a coach, you always want to "paint the picture" for your players. If players can see something, they are more likely to try that thing than if they cannot see it. One of the coaches at the course told us about this U19 team he coached. They were constantly kicking the ball away and when not kicking it away, they were dribbling it right into pressure. He couldn't get them to break out of these habits even though they worked on it at every practice. Probably, those behaviors had developed over time and are particularly hard to break once formed. In addition, when you see everyone else doing the same thing ("the picture") you are far more likely to follow suit.

There is a reason why "painting the picture" works and that is because of something that your brain does automatically. If I am standing in front of a group of people and I raise my right hand without any other stimulus or information at least a few people will raise their hand. That is because of a type of cell in your brain called "mirror neurons." These neurons fire when you see someone else do anything. Why don't you do that thing that they are doing? Well, our brain has a very complex way of managing responses to any stimuli. In it's simplest form you can imagine it like the angel on one shoulder telling you not to do something and the devil on the other shoulder telling you to do it. You have experienced this as a form of indecision. When you saw somebody raise their hand, you started and then stopped raising yours. This happens all the time. In fact, right now you are thinking about when this situation came up in your own life.

When we try something new, we are typically very bad at it. If we see others around us that are also bad at it, then we get some comfort from the fact that no one else can do it. However, we will feel frustration when we see others doing it well (especially if we know that earlier that person could not do it well). We typically have one of two responses: we try harder even if it means that we will not look good doing it or we will stop trying to do it and decide that while other people can do it, I (or we) cannot.

Using video as a training tool helps you help your players progress. Most kids have no idea what they look like when they are doing something correctly. They also can watch you demo something dozens of times and not get it. Put that same player on video and it becomes a much more powerful teaching tool.

Imagine if you could do a before/after with the same player. Not only can the player see the successful achievement of a skill, it also makes them more likely to take on the next skill. Basically what you are doing is lowering the social barriers to learning a new skill and encouraging a growth mindset in that player that he or she can get better. What better way to highlight the season for a player than by showing him or her how much progress has been made. Video is the best evidence you can use.

So please, go and explore all the video features that your smartphone provides that may help you become a more effective coach.

One caveat to this article that you must pay attention to: PRIVACY. Never post video in a public forum (i.e. youtube, facebook, twitter, etc...) of children or adults without their (or their parents) express written consent. Your club may have a policy on this where it is allowed with written consent. They may also have a form for you to use. If not, there are lots of places to find a consent form online if you want to post to a public forum. My advice? keep it private.

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