The Power of Instant Digital Feedback

The Power of Instant Digital Feedback

This month we have a guest blog from Olympic Torch Bearer, JonTait.  Jon is both a coach and  a PE specialist and assistant head teacher in a North East secondary school

The Power of Instant Digital Feedback
Historically, the essential coach’s kit that you would have been lost without consisted of a whistle, a stopwatch and a clipboard. The iconic coach’s stopwatch was usually the limit of our technological mastery and served little more than to create a facade that you knew what you were doing. However, times have changed, technology has significantly developed and we are now living in a digital world. Phones are not just phones anymore, video cameras have become outdated as quickly as they are produced and software is available at a fraction of the price it used to be. So, what does this mean for coaches and teachers? And how can we utilise this technology to push the boundaries of performance?

In the 90s, camcorders became affordable options for sports coaches and there was a significant move towards using these in coaching sessions to try to improve performance. Sessions would be filmed on video tape and played back to the group at a later date providing visual feedback. At the time this was a major breakthrough. Being able to watch video footage of your own performance was extremely helpful as it provided the perfect way to analyse your strengths and weaknesses – however, over time it left the players frustrated with its lack of immediacy, which in turn limited its effectiveness.

Research on feedback tells us that in order for players and learners to receive the maximum benefit from it, feedback should be delivered as soon as possible after the performance. This is the time when the learners are most receptive to receiving it and the time when it will have the most effect upon them. As adults we know that if we have made a mistake and we are shown how to correct it, we want to try it again there and then. Imagine having to wait another week to be able to correct your mistake. Would you be motivated? Would you remember? Would you make the same mistake again?

There’s an app for that!
Today the iPad is becoming more and more visible in the classroom and on the sports field in the hands of our coaches and teachers. The reason?  Its ability to provide high quality and sophisticated instant visual feedback to our players and learners. Gone are the days of tripods, cables, cameras and tapes. No longer do we have to wait for a week for the coach to transfer the video to a computer for everyone to watch it on. We now have the answer to our frustrations – a facility to film, analyse and then feedback instantly to our players on a portable and wireless device. Players and learners can now have access to high quality analysis of their performance right there on the field, before going back to improve on their analysed area of weakness. The result? Quicker progress, higher performance and most importantly, players who understand where their own strengths and weaknesses lie. In essence, the perfect climate for high quality learning.

How  can I use it in my session?
Here are some ideas and examples of how you could utilise this technology in your sessions:

  • Preload the iPad with good examples of the technique you are going to coach and use it as a visual cue for players.
  • Use the iPad to film individual performance and then play back instantly to highlight strengths and weaknesses.
  • Analyse a filmed performance with arrows, lines, text etc to identify strengths and weaknesses.
  • Compare and contrast a young player’s performance to one of a professional.
  • Allow the players themselves to film and analyse one another, creating peer coaching.

Fellow PE teacher and member of my teaching network on Twitter, Ben Leonard @PEeducator has been using the iPad to great effect with his classes in a range of different sporting contexts. For example Ben has found the iPad useful as a tool for providing examples of the correct swimming technique to groups of school swimmers.

Students are also getting to grips with this technology, my Year 11 (16 yr old) student leaders use the iPad every week when coaching a Year 7 (11 yr old) dance class.  Younger students are even taking advantage of this technology, with my year 8 (12yr old) basketball group filming each other and performing peer analysis on the basketball set shot.

Apps in Action - Which apps are the best?
At the top of this page you will see a screenshot of the CoachMyVideo app being used to compare and contrast the same technique within the same video window of one of my American Football players.

In my experience (and having spoken to my network of fellow PE teachers on Twitter), the main three apps that are the current favourites are:

Coach’s Eye - £2.99

UberSense - Free

CoachMyVideo - Free

With the advances in software applications recently, the iPad provides the ability to perform the following analysis within many of its apps, including the ones listed above:

  • Slow down performance on a frame by frame rate
  • Annotate footage with lines, circles, highlighters, text and voice
  • Pause footage to take snap shots of technique
  • Compare and contrast footage side by side
  • Share footage and analysis easily with fellow coaches and players

Ten to fifteen years ago you would have paid a premium for a piece of software to perform anywhere near to this, whereas now most of the apps are either free or will set you back a couple of pounds at the most. What’s more, because they are so cheap and are available on so many mobile devices that a lot of young people already have, they can be utilised by more than just the coach. Imagine having most of your young people at your session filming and analysing each other throughout the session on their iPhones – your coaching now begins to move to a new level, a level where the players are learning how to analyse themselves and their peers. We are now beginning to create the climate for self improvement and rapid sustainable progress.

If you’ve got an iPad, or the opportunity to use one, download one of the above apps to begin with and see for yourself the difference that it can make to your sessions. Remember, if you always do what you’ve always done – you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Have the courage to innovate within your sessions and take your learning to the next level. How will you improve your game as a coach?

About Jon
Jon is a PE specialist and an assistant head teacher in a North East secondary school. He has been a trained PE teacher for 11 years and an Assistant Head teacher for 5 years. Outside of teaching, Jon coaches American Football and has coached in three European Championships and one world championship for Great Britain. He was twice named UK American Football Coach of the Year and earlier this year carried the Olympic Torch as it made it’s way through the North East. Jon can be found on Twitter @TeamTait and via his web page www.edutait.com