High school baseball and softball coaches are stepping up to the plate, and technology is playing a big role when it come to helping improve players’ swings. Of course, using technology in coaching is nothing new, but it has evolved to the point that coaches are able to measure their players’ performance in a much more refined, accurate, and understandable way as a result of advances in technology. Not only can new programs and apps help coaches evaluate their players, they can assist athletes in gauging how well they are progressing in their own training and let them learn as they go. Today, a smartphone or tablet can act as an additional coach, storing player data and becoming a hub where players can go to check in on how they’re doing, see where they stand, and understand where they need to focus and improve.
Tracking Key Metrics
As they say, a team is only as strong as its weakest link – so smart coaches are using technology in a myriad of ways to build and develop their players. With new analysis programs like Zepp and HitTrax, coaches are able to break down their players’ swings or pitches and track key metrics to highlight specific areas where improvement may be needed.
With Zepp, a simple, lightweight sensor mounted to the knob at the end of the bat collects swing data and communicates wirelessly with the companion app installed on either a smartphone or tablet. The app then shows coaches and players the results of each swing, including the bat speed and amount of time it takes for the bat to make contact with the ball.
In addition, Zepp allows coaching staff to see a breakdown of the exact shape and angles of a player’s swing instantaneously, along with detailed 3D and video analysis showing the swing from every angle. These metrics can then be compared within the app to other players, or even superstar athletes such as the Red Sox’s David Ortiz or softball’s Jennie Finch, giving players an opportunity to understand why and how their swings may or may not be working, down to the tiniest details.
HitTrax similarly provides real-time statistics and visual feedback, and can be used to track pitching and batting metrics. By analyzing pitch velocity, location, strike zone, spray charts, and performance trends, coaches are able to help their pitchers find their most successful pitches before walking onto the field.
An easy-to-set-up, indoor system allows coaches and players to view hits live, as if playing in a Major League stadium, while HitTrax measures the trajectory of the ball to calculate a realistic outcome. The gaming module can transform your batting cage into an entertainment hub that’s comparable to the latest game console, and can give batting practice a more realistic feel by simulating an actual game. This gamification of the learning process is also a great tool when it comes to capturing the attention of young players and getting them motivated to learn and improve.
Personalized training reports compile data from each use of either the Zepp or HitTrax program to provide each individual player with a detailed report on what he or she is doing best, what parts of a swing or pitch need to be focused on, and offer tips and drills to help with improvements. Reports focused on a single player allow coaches to hone in on the strengths and weaknesses of each player, making the overall team better.
Tracking over Time
Instead of relying on stat books or player notes throughout the season, coaches are able to quickly and easily reference the data collected through each use of Zepp or HitTrax by viewing detailed analysis and trend reports compiled over time. Consistently tracking progress allows the coaching staff to see which improvements worked best for which players, and where the changes made to individuals’ swings simply didn’t work.
Resonating with Your Players
It’s no secret that high school students love their smartphones. You’ve likely had to ask a player or two to put their phone away during practice. This kind of technology allows you to meet your players where they already are – their smartphone screens. Now, rather than just listening to a coach analyze the components of their swing, players can actually see what’s happening on screen, the way they’re used to having the majority of information delivered to them.
We’d be remiss to talk about technology and not mention the Reveal Instant Replay program for players and coaches. When the NFHS passed Rule 3-3-1 this past June, that meant that 2015 was the first season in which high school baseball and softball coaches and players are allowed to not only record games, but also have access to this footage while the game is still being played. This is a big change in the high school realm and affords coaches and their players big opportunities for real-time observation of what goes on on the field and real-time improvement. Instant replay video is as much of a learning tool for players as it is a teaching tool for coaches. If you’d like to learn more about that, or see it in action, send us an email or give us a call at 800-280-3512.
What do you think? Are you ready to take a swing at using this kind of technology to help your players up their games?