Terry Sanford assistant football coach Bill Yeager recalled the time several years ago when a local dentist invited him to play golf one weekend.
Yeager declined. At the time he was head coach at Terry Sanford. He explained to the dentist he would be spending the weekend with his football coaching staff viewing film of last week’s game and next week’s opponent and developing a game plan for the following Friday. “He was a little taken aback that we didn’t just show up Friday night and play,’’ Yeager said.
The technology involved in reviewing video and making game plans each week has improved by leaps and bounds since Yeager’s days as an assistant under former Terry Sanford coach Mackie Hall.
In the 1970s, the game was filmed with a movie camera, then the film was bussed to a processing company in Wilson. It was returned by Sunday so the coaches could watch it, find out what they needed to know, then prepare the team for the next game.
It was around the mid-1980s that the first big change took place with the arrival of home video recording. Coaches balked at first, not sure if they could find a way to project the images from the VCR onto a large screen so they and the players could see what was happening. At Terry Sanford, they borrowed a projector from the library that blew the video up where it could easily be viewed.
Video transitioned briefly from VHS to DVDs that were burned after a game was over and then shared with opposing teams so they could prepare.
Terry Sanford’s current head coach, Bruce McClelland, spent his entire career as a Bulldog player in the late 1980s watching his games on VHS tape.
It was not until around 2010 and thereafter that video took a quantum leap with the arrival of HUDL. HUDL was a company offering online cataloging and sharing of football game video.
The technology is light-years ahead of the old film in cans and reel-to-reel projector method. Almost the second the game is over, coaches can load digital video onto a computer. HUDL allows them to break the game down play-by-play, and it’s possible to share the video via the internet with the entire coaching staff and team members.
Players can get individual plays to study on their home computers so that the coaches don’t have to bring the whole team together just to watch film.
It also makes the sharing of video with other teams much easier. In the past, Cumberland County coaches would meet at the old Shoney’s in Westwood Shopping Center on Saturday mornings, sometimes enjoy breakfast and swap videos to prepare for the next week’s game.
For the state playoffs, they’d travel to a halfway point between the other team and swap video there.
Now, it just takes a few computer clicks to send the full game report across the county or the state.
It isn’t cheap, though. “The base package is $1,000,’’ McClelland said. “We also have the endzone stuff. That’s another $1,000.’’
The endzone view, which McClelland said teams don’t trade with other schools, gives the coaches a sideline-to-sideline perspective of play in the line so they can analyze the splits between linemen, blocking assignments and other aspects of the game.
The goal of all the technology is the same as it was when they were watching black-and-white film, Yeager said. “You just want to eliminate mistakes and get better.’’
PHOTO: Bruce McClelland and Bill Yeager hold artifacts from the ways they used to view their games.