Fairview's Tom McCartney is celebrating his 25th year as the Knights head coach in 2017 — a remarkable run at one school that seems very rare this day and age.
For all that longevity, coach "Mac" is certainly not set in his ways, especially when it comes to technology as it continues to make its way into prep sports. There is, however, only one easy way he has found to adapt to the changes.
"That's why you hire so many young assistants who know what they're doing with all that stuff," McCartney quipped recently in a phone conversation.
Truth be told, it's pretty amazing the things football teams have access to — innovations that can be used before, during and after football games to prepare and play.
From virtual playbooks and access to a team's game film on an iPad, to drones being used in practice for a more over-the-top learning experience, a vast majority of coaches are at least investigating the advantages of implementing such devices on a daily basis.
Let's face it — kids spend a lot of time at practices, and even then it's hard for coaches to get through everything they want. While team film sessions are still valuable, through the web site Hudl players are able to access game film at home and study it on their own time at the coaches' request. That could be their own team's work or even that of their next opponent, and it typically is less than a 24-hour turnaround from game night.
They say practice makes perfect, and there are less and less excuses to be made for not "practicing."
"We film almost everything, practices and scrimmages and they'll get all that on Hudl off their email," Centaurus coach Bob Carskie said. "They could have the night's game film by midnight and already have looked at it by the time we meet on Saturday. Hudl is part of our pyramid of success -- it's mandatory they learn."
Wireless technology has expanded to the game-day sidelines, too. No more so was that evident last year, when iPads were allowed to be used by coaches on the sideline to go over replays for teaching purposes.
Companies like SkyCoach have made it to where a film crew can take a completed play and upload it almost instantaneously for distribution, and huddles of players could gather around a coach with a tablet for more of a hands-on teaching tool.
"Sometimes in the past as a coach, you feel like you saw a certain look and you try and ask the questions to the right guys to identify and confirm that stuff, and now you can just see the replay and get exact information," McCartney said. "Of course, when something's not working right it can get frustrating, so to count on it (exclusively) ... you don't want to put all your eggs in that basket."
That's the kind of stuff that one sees in the pros, and for all intents and purposes it is relatively inexpensive — SkyCoach runs kits from $1,600 to $2,200.
Not quite everyone is on board, but the trend is palpable.
"We'll use every piece of technology that we can if it falls within the rules," first-year Frederick coach Travis Peeples said. "We're lucky in our district that every high school student is supplied with an iPad. They use that iPad for school stuff and then they could look up some football stuff and watch film. It's a pretty cool deal."
"We haven't gone to that, just because we want to solidify a lot of other things in our program with kids understanding the system," Boulder coach Vincent Smith said. "It's only as good as the efficiency of the explanation and the schooling. We'll work on that first."
While drones are not allowed over any stadium space during the time which there is a game being played, the flying filming devices have become another popular way to get a bird's eye view of practice as they can hover at a variety of heights — if you have the right pilot at the helm.
Again, McCartney might let someone else handle the drone. But he's not going against any ideas that will help his players gain an upper hand on their opponents.
"It's personal preference, sure, but we believe we can see some advantages that make sense to us in using these things," McCartney said. "You try and help the team situation, the dialogue and everything as much as you can."