Coaches: Go Mobile With Your Playbook In 2014!

A new year calls for a new change, right?  The use of technology in sport has grown exponentially over the last three years and you may be wondering how to get started.  From advanced statistical analysis to motion capture movement scouting, some technologies may be too advance or require the use of equipment that you may not have the funds for or the skill to use…..yet.

My suggestion?  Start small with technology.  Keep it simple and add one new technological strategy at a time and by next year, you’ll have a collection of tools, resources, and skills at your disposal to use on and off the court, field, pitch, or rink.

So, where do you start?  Again, keep it simple and start small.  Most coaches today own a smartphone.  In fact, Business Insider projected last year that by the start of 2014, around 1.5 billion people across the globe will own a smartphone.  That’s 1 out of every 5 people on this planet!  So with that in mind, and with the growing on-field/on-court usage of tablets like the iPad and the Galaxy Note, it may be best to start with that technology.

One thing I’ve caught myself doing over the past few years while sitting on the couch watching games, is writing down plays on my iPad or iPhone.  I’ve always been an X’s and O’s person, from drawing plays up during scouting trips with my dad during elementary school to designing and simulating plays on the SNES’s (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) NBA Live 97 video game in middle school, the art of play design has always intrigued me.

Desktop Drawing Tablet

Desktop Drawing Tablet

Artistically speaking, one of the biggest game-changing technologies for artists over the past five years has been the introduction of tablet technology- both in the mobile form (iPad, Galaxy Note) and the desktop form.  With this tablet technology, you are able to draw using a stylus pen and take notes and draw pictures or diagrams.  With this technology in mind, let’s connect it with coaching.

Last year I attended a coaching clinic where Stan Van Gundy, former head coach of the NBA’s Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, spoke and demonstrated his offensive sets and quick hitters. The coaches in attendance, my father and brother included, were scrambling to write down as much information, diagrams, and progressions as possible. They were basically writing page after page of notes and plays.  Coaches, we’ve all been there!

Last week, I asked my brother for his notes on that clinic and he said he had no clue where they are.  As most coaches can attest to, paper documents can be “misplaced” or forgotten about and can be hard to find a year or two later.  To my brother’s surprise though, I still had all of my notes, diagrams, and plays saved and was able to easily send them to him via email.  How?  Because during the clinic I was taking notes and drawing plays on my iPad.  Throughout the clinic, by using my iPad, I was able to make notes and draw up plays quickly and then save them.  The idea isn’t to replace the pen and paper, but rather to make note-taking and information retrieval easier to do in the future.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how I did it:

***This demo was created using an iPad 3***

1. Download the App Paper in the Apple App Store. It’s free: LINK.  NOTE: there are quite a few apps out there that will allow you to do this. I chose Paper because of the way albums can be organized)

2. Open Paper and read through their tutorial, “Making Paper”.

3. When you have a good grasp on how to use the app, start adding and creating different playbooks by changing the “Journal Settings”.

4. Once a playbook is made, you can open the playbook and start drawing your plays, diagrams, and adding notes.  I recommend using a stylus pen when drawing. Warning: my stylus penmanship is a work in progress.

Here’s how it looks!

5. You can also create scouting reports for each team on your schedule.  It is an easy and convenient way to keep track of your notes and take them on the go.  In addition, once you have a playbook saved, you can easily send it to your other coaches or even players to look over in the form of a PDF document.

6. You can also draw out and design practice schedule and diagrams.

7. Another benefit with this app is that it allows you to keep your notes from coaching clinics in one collection.  Again, how many coaches can easily (and immediately) pull up their notes from a coaching clinic three years ago?  This obviously helps with organization, but more importantly with speeding up the retrieval process.  Everything is in your iPad and, as started earlier, can be shared using the export feature (the box with an arrow coming out of it seen below).

8.  I’m a big NBA guy, so when I see a play I like, it goes into my NBA folder.  You can essentially do the same with any team that you follow or a coach that you admire.

The benefits of going mobile your playbook are profound.  With your new digital playbook, all of your plays are now mobile and can be retrieved on-demand. Additionally, the Paper application that was used features functions like emailing your collection(s), color coding, and “send to app…” where you can send your content to other apps for further functionality (think Twitter here).  To paraphrase, it is incredibly easy to share your plays or playbooks if you see the need to.  The sharing function allows for you to distribute your playbook with players and other coaches in an easy, hassle-free manner.  Players today are technology-native and feel comfortable using this technology.  Use that to your advantage!

Hopefully this blog post gave you some insight on how technology can positively impact your coaching and that you find value in organizing your plays, practices, scouting reports, and other basketball-related information into a mobilized form.  Again, start small and add small pieces of technology throughout the year.  The benefits of doing so will hopefully give you an edge in 2014 and beyond!

About Dr. Zachary Binkley

Zachary W. Binkley, PhD is Assistant Professor and Program Director of Exercise and Movement Science Program. He is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Special Interest Group on Basketball.

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