We’ve all seen it when we watch NFL broadcasts. Players, generally quarterbacks, grabbing a tablet device after an offensive series and going over the plays from the previous drive. Or maybe it’s an offensive line coach showing his lineman plays from the previous drive on a Microsoft Surface while they’re resting on the bench. It’s borderline futuristic technology that probably only exists in the NFL and maybe big colleges, right?
This year, Gig Harbor High School, Peninsula High, and many other high schools across the country have instant replay capability on their sidelines, thanks to an app called Hudl Sideline.
“It’s started to trickle down to the high school level where it’s become affordable for us to essentially have instant replay on the sidelines,” Gig Harbor coach Aaron Chantler said.
Here’s how it works. One camera is set up in the end zone before the game, and an iPad is used in the booth for filming. This gives each play two camera angles. Someone in the booth has a remote, which cuts each play into clips. Every play is a separate clip.
So if Chantler asks his offensive coordinator in the booth, “What clip was that play where (sophomore quarterback Ben) Hollenbeck got loose for 20 yards down the left sideline?” the offensive coordinator can answer, “Clip 42.” Then, Chantler, or someone on his staff on the sideline, can bring up the clip on the iPad within 15 seconds to show to his player(s).
So when Chantler is seeing something and his quarterback is telling him he’s seeing something else, the video becomes a visual tool for helping the coaching staff show players what exactly they’re talking about. Chantler said he can think of times at least once a game where seeing something on film helps a player make an important adjustment during the game.
“It’s a confirmation of something that was already in the game plan or they’re showing something on film,” Chantler said. “Before we got (the app), we were really trusting our guys to tell us what they’re seeing. We might not see it if it’s on the far sideline. Now, we see if they’re really seeing that. If they see it, or I see something, it’s like, ‘This is what we’re going to do to attack that.’ … It definitely makes an impact every week. It kind of trumps all, which is kind of nice. You just go the film. My eyes lie, their eyes lie, but the film won’t lie.”
In total, the Gig Harbor booster club provided the program with seven iPads over the offseason: Four on the sidelines, two in the booth and one for filming.
Gig Harbor’s program didn’t have the iPads last season. In Gig Harbor’s only loss of the season, during the playoffs, Skyline High had the technology. Whether or not that contributed to the loss, Chantler said he felt it was a disadvantage for his team.
“We had a couple players that needed to see, (and) were more visual learners and needed to see what we were telling them,” Chantler said. “Maybe that could’ve helped. So we made it a priority to get them in the offseason.”
It isn’t just for quarterbacks. The offensive line unit is the group that probably gets the most run out of the technology. After every series, offensive line coach Cory Lien takes the iPad and shows his players what he’s seeing.
“The O-line being able to see the end zone version right away is really good,” Chantler said. “It’s a pretty cool tool. You definitely get a glimpse of what the guys in the pros can do.”
So what’s next? Chantler said he thinks instant replay review for the officials is in the not-too-distant future.
“I’ve always said it’s only a matter of time before some sort of replay system entered into high school football,” Chantler said. “People think I’m an idiot for saying that. I think with this kind of technology, it’s not maybe that far-fetched.”