Sideline instant replay systems changing the game

If you looked closely at the sidelines of last weekend’s OUA semi-finals, you may have noticed that every once in awhile, players and coaches would huddle around an iPad.

No, it’s not the latest version of Candy Crush. It’s an instant replay system called GameStrat, which is providing on-demand replay action on the sidelines of many university and high school teams.

The brainchild of Tunch Akkaya, an alumnus from the University of Ottawa and former Gee-Gees football player, the system is directly tapping into an already known fact in the sporting world: film is important for improvement. That’s why teams carry video coordinators, people whose sole job is to edit film for coaches and players to review. Sometimes it’s post-game, and sometimes it’s during the game itself.

The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees have fully embraced the use of instant replay on the sidelines. By Nickson Silva. (https://www.facebook.com/nickson.s.photography/)

But, coaches and players can’t keep running to the video room after every play. Having portable, film-reviewing devices on the benches are becoming a commonplace in professional sports, so, it is little wonder the trend is being picked up in the university and amateur ranks.

In the OUA alone, eight teams currently use the GameStrat system. Five of those teams earned a spot in the OUA playoffs: Queen’s, McMaster, Guelph, Ottawa and Western.

Last season, the Western Mustangs used GameStrat’s picture-to-picture system. When the company developed video-based services, the team jumped at the opportunity. Josh Malekzadeh, the team’s video coordinator, said that the team was looking for some sort of sideline technology, and the company was able to fill in the need.

The Mustangs run a three-iPad system with one in the booth and two on the sidelines, one for the offense and one for the defense. The team primarily reviews film in between series. For example, “Our offensive line coach, Jean-Paul Circelli, will say, ‘hey I need to see this play and this play,’ and we will pull it up and he can just right away see what is happening, see where the buck was, and then coach the correction,” Malekzadeh said.

Football North Clarkson players and coaches alike have been using instant replay to improve their game. Courtesy of GameStrat.

Now, with instant-replay systems like GameStrat, sideline coaches can review plays moments after they happen. They can show these plays to their athletes and help them understand what they can do better. Players can also watch themselves on screen and make personal, in-game changes to improve their play.

“Even if it is something as simple as clarifying what you saw live, the confidence that it (instant replay) kind of brings the coaches and stuff like that helps a lot,” Andrew Wilson, the Ravens’ video coordinator, said.

For the Mustangs, “I would say that most players who are aware of it, they kind of want to see what is going on, especially at the quarterback position,” Malekzadeh said. “If something happens that they (the player) can’t describe… they will ask to see it (the replay) so they can see what happened and why they weren’t aware of the situation they were in.”

Coaches perched high in the press box can re-watch plays too. With an iPad handy, they extend their memory and are better equipped to give their field-side companions advice on adjustments the team should make.

“For those coaches who are involved in the direct game-calling, you can kind of go ahead and look back and almost be a play behind, but be able to replay it,” Malekzadeh said.

Although coaches can be stuck in their ways, Wilson has seen the Ravens’ four iPad system (two in the booth and two on the field) sneak its way into the teams’ game-day operations. He said, “I think that they (the coaches) slowly, once they gave it a good chance, they’re getting into a habit and working it into their routines now.”

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