Sideline replay systems helping OPFL teams win

London, Ontario, has quietly become the city of football champions. From the London Jr. Mustangs, who captured the first-ever OPFL championship in the summer of 2017, to the dominate Western Mustangs, who took down a powerful Laval Rouge et Or team to win the Vanier Cup that fall, the 2017 season has seen two consistencies. The first is that London teams are finding great success in the postseason, and the second? Both are utilizing GameStrat for their sideline instant replay needs.

Before GameStrat made its way to the Mustangs sideline, it was first put to the test with the OPFL team. Josh Malekzadeh, the Mustangs video coordinator and assistant receivers coach, is also involved with the Jr. Mustangs. He acts as the team’s wide receivers coach. He is also a board member and Western’s liaison for the program while also handling the team’s technological needs.

“The guys at GameStrat were working with us in the university and I never want to try anything with the university until I field-test it,” Malekzadeh said. “So, I essentially got them to set me up for the summer to try it out and if everything was kind of working well at the summer level, I would be willing to use it at the university level.”

Malekzadeh added that setting up GameStrat was the exact same at both levels. It takes under ten minutes for one person to set up the entire system.

Whether it be on the sidelines of a U Sports team or an amateur group, the benefits of sideline instant replay is the same. “What it does is it allows us to see exactly what we are getting, make the adjustments on the fly and for coaching points, it is very easy to see if there were errors where they missed and make those corrections instantaneously as opposed to making the changes after the fact, after the game has already been played,” Malekzadeh said.

“I would say there are several touchdowns we (the Jr. Mustangs) can account for that were just based off seeing exactly what we were getting and making those calls in-game,” he added. “…then, being able to make the adjustments on the defense and make sure that if a big play did happen against us, we were able to correct it and mitigate that so it wouldn’t happen again.”

By Joanna Kurowski Photography.

GameStrat, however, is much more than a tool used to make in-game adjustments. Malekzadeh said that younger players tend to benefit more from it because the system allows coaches to show players exactly what happened. “Things are a little more basic at the OPFL level, so you can really see some tendencies pretty early and show guys what kind of coverage, leverage, fronts you’re getting and be able to out-scheme it on the fly,” he said.

As with the London Jr. Mustangs, the Western Mustangs used the system almost every game. Last season, the OUA was the only league that allowed sideline instant replay in U Sports. For Western’s final two games of the season, the Uteck Bowl against Acadia and the Vanier Cup against Laval, the team was not allowed to use GameStrat. It was surely missed. “It just felt like we had no control over what we were seeing and what we were doing by being able to have the video replay,” Malekzadeh said.

In the OPFL, the Jr. Mustangs aren’t the only team using GameStrat. The Ottawa Sooners, who they played in the championship game, were also avid users of the system throughout the 2017 season. Both teams were undefeated when they entered the finals.

Beyond being used as a coaching and learning tool, Malekzadeh sees a potential for GameStrat to be used by athletic therapists. Currently, therapists will review an injury in the post-game film. But, if the team has another iPad in place on the sidelines for medical purposes, therapists could have the opportunity to review a play following an injury.

“I think it’s great that GameStrat has a home-grown system that really caters to the Canadian game more than any other one that I’ve kind of dealt with,” Malekzadeh said. “I think it is a big advantage if you can get someone who is confident enough to be able to use it at the youth level…. it’s definitely a big advantage to any program.”

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