Panthers utilize technology to learn from football film


By Lance Catchings

Watching film has been around for as long as the game of football. It has many uses. Coaches use it to scout opponents and tweak their game plans to hopefully get a slight advantage. It can also be used as a teaching tool to help players better understand their own responsibilities on offense, defense or special teams.

Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Jeff Walker and his staff utilize this tool just like all other coaches in Texas and he believes it has come light years from where it used to be.

“Back in the day, we used to have to watch film in the film room,” Walker said. “We had VHS tapes and half the time they would get caught in the machine and those type of things. Now it is all digital, so it has changed the game immensely. I can still remember coaching even further back when they had the projectors. Back then we only had about a 20-minute film session and we would watch the other team on Mondays. If we were going to watch film that is how we did it.”

One of the greatest advantages of new technology and film going from tapes to digital is the coaches exchange. High school coaches generally exchange films with the opponent for the following Friday on Saturday mornings, which could at times be challenging.

“One of the biggest changes has been about how we exchange films with opponents,” Walker said.

“Not long ago to exchange film you had to get up and drive to go meet those people. It was a nightmare for coaches to get up on Saturday morning, get tapes copied and then find a place to meet if you were playing an opponent that was three hours away. You had to meet them halfway get tapes and make copies.”

Fast forward to the world of digital technology and the Internet and film has completely changed.

“One of the advantages that we have now is the Hudl website,” he said. “It is a great system and it is pretty much a monopoly on film. With that service we can now watch film 24/7 anywhere in the world and so can our players. They can watch hours upon hours at home just by pulling up Hudl and checking into their account. They could watch every game of an opponent like Hutto 100 times start to finish on their own time. The availability and access we have now with technology is just unbelievable. Every one of our kids’ parents can go on Hudl and watch our games and see exactly what we see in the film room.”

Another advantage of new age technology is how quickly things can be done. In the old days, a tape would have to be copied and cut to get what you wanted on it. Now everything can be done on the fly.

“Now we can cut film while we are filming the game,” he said. “During our football games they are already splicing the film upstairs in real time. I can’t tell you how far technology has come and how much it has changed the game of football.”

Hudl is as simple to use as typing in the name in Google and then searching the team or specific player you want to watch.

“As coaches, we utilize it a lot,” he said. “The Hudl system is such a neat system because it tracks how long the kids watch. For example, I can get online it will say Brenden Ketchem has watched this Hudl tape for an hour and 16 minutes and someone else may have only watched it 15 minutes or not at all.”

Coach Walker doesn’t expect his players to go online and break down the film of an opponent. He leaves that to the coaching staff and they relay what they have seen to help their players.

“We use it mostly for the coaches,” he said.

“Our kids have a lot on their plates already with school, football and we also want them to have time to just be kids. As coaches we watch a lot of film and relay to the players what we see. We probably don’t watch much more than what we used to watch just because of time restrictions. When we had VCRs, it was a nightmare but now we can watch it anywhere. I myself probably on average watch about 40 hours of film per week.”

Walker and his staff watch the film of the Friday night games on Saturdays as a teaching tool and to correct mistakes made in game situations.

“We always watch our film on Saturdays,” he said. “We slow it down and grade our kids, so they can see what they did. We split up offense and defense and break down our steps we are taking wrong and all that stuff. We use a PlayStation 360 remote with a joystick to watch Hudl of our film. We use laser pointers to point out different angles and those type of things. What we do is try to find everything we did wrong and correct it.”

With so much access to game film, the players can also use it to get noticed by colleges they are interested in.

“Our kids can also make their own highlight films from it, which is great because colleges use Hudl,” he said.

“We don’t make a lot of highlight tapes of our kids. The kids make them themselves and send them to the colleges they want to go to.”

It is no secret that film in football has come a long way. The impact on the game in Texas high school football is easy to see.