Roughly a year ago, my friend/life mentor Coach Dan Boice of UK WBB left a book on my desk titled “The Circle Maker” by Pastor Mark Batterson. The book shares the story of Honi, a prophet that prayed boldly to God for a miracle. I was challenged to pray the type of bold prayers that would allow God to demonstrate His omnipotence. I had always wanted to contribute to a site, so I prayed to God to open up a door. THE NEXT DAY one of my closest friends – Matt Jones – reached out, inquiring my interest about…you guessed it….contributing to Coach’s Climb. See, I grew up on two things in Kentucky: faith and college hoops. This is one small instance where the two converge. It’s a privilege to share some of my knowledge with you, and I truly appreciate you for taking the time to read this. I am passionate about serving others and always happy to share ideas, so if you have ideas or questions PLEASE do not hesitate to reach out. Hopefully this article will inform you on the process/workflow at the collegiate level (where I have spent most of my short career), and inspire some new ideas.
Step 1: Identify your purpose for the film.
Beginning with the end in mind allows you to evaluate film more intentionally. It also gives you great direction as to exactly what you need to analyze; you don’t always have to watch an entire game!
I’m a big purpose guy. In my experience, film is used for three purposes: self-scout, opponent-scout, and recruiting. Self-scout film – probably the most popular – is typically oriented for the consumption of the team, and is often used as a tool of reflection/self-evaluation. Practice film, individual workouts, and the infamous, grueling post-loss film sessions would fit within this category. Opponent-scout film is typically intended for the staff’s consumption, but is usually passed along to the team in smaller doses. An example of this would be an opponent’s personnel edit, highlighting the tendencies of each key player. Lastly, recruiting film has emerged as a tool used (almost) exclusively at the collegiate and professional levels to evaluate potential prospects. Partnerships between Synergy/Krossover/BallerTV and AAU circuits/events have made life much easier for schools lacking resources.
Step 2: Obtain and prepare the film.
There are two ways to obtain film: to live capture it, or to download it from a film exchange source. In my experience, the home team is responsible for the live-capture, but the away teams are also welcome to film the game. The basic equipment required for capturing a game includes a camera, an SD card, and power (you’d be amazed how handy a 50ft. extension cord can be in these situations). If your software allows to live-capture directly into the system, a converter box (that converts the camera feed into mp4 format) and relevant wires are also necessary.
The most common film exchange source in college basketball is the Synergy platform. Synergy is a subscription service and has several features. You can download entire games from the Video Express application or you can use Synergy’s website to filter what you want. Think of Synergy’s web application as an interactive box score, where each number corresponds to a clip of the relative statistic. If you aren’t familiar with Synergy, I would highly recommend you to check it out! (Definitely find someone with a login you can borrow). It seems that the most common source/software for film at the high school level are Krossover and Hudl.
In addition to obtaining film, it is important to organize and archive anything you might need. I can’t overstate how important it is to organize film on the front end so you can easily access it when you need it. Software such as XOS and Sportscode have built-in folder features to help facilitate this process. I highly recommend backing everything up on an external hard-drive. This can also be an effective storage method for anyone without software, especially if you take the time to set up folders for every category (more than happy to share my method!). The general theme seems to be film everything re: self-scout (games, practices, individual workouts, pre-game shootaround, etc.), and download everything opponent-scout & recruiting from a one of the previously mentioned sources.
Step 2a: Prepare the film.
This is where software comes into play. The most common software used to prepare film: XOS, Hudl/Sportscode, iMovie, Synergy Editor, Krossover, and iMovie. Most of these allow users to cut and live-code. “Cut” is simply the term used to condense film, since you are cutting out all of the unnecessary downtime. Additionally, XOS and Sportscode enable users to “live-code” meaning users can cut the game live (as long as there is access to a camera feed) while simultaneously labeling clips with specific information such as ball screen defense or play results). This method combines several steps into one (obtaining, preparing, and labeling the film. When live-coding, the more information you can label, the easier it is to reference on the back-end. It is imperative to be consistent as you code, but more on that later. If the ideas of cutting and live-coding are abstract to you, think about how a DVD has chapters accessible in its main menu. Each chapter corresponds to a specific point in time in the film. This is the same concept with cuts. Each cut corresponds with a specific time in the film, and you can “customize” the chapter titles with different labels (i.e. ball screen defense or play results).
Opponent scout film requires the most preparation and organization. Opponent-scout film is rarely live captured (the exception would be tournaments with a short turnaround). Think about this, once you finish playing one game, your focus turns to the next and all of the opponent’s games up until that point need to be prepared. Opponent-scout prep is a different beast since you are required to work several games ahead, so you are essentially preparing film for at least two teams at any given time.
In my experience, the magic number is 5 games per opponent, and they are typically the 5 most previous games. Exceptions might be blowouts (coaches usually don’t want to scout), games vs. other levels of competition, or maybe there was an opponent outside of the previous 5 games that plays a similar style to yours (great way to see how they will defend your actions).
With all of the overlap during film prep, it is super beneficial to create a schedule. This schedule should include all the games each coach wants to see of an opponent – organized chronologically – so you can keep up to date one day at a time.
Step 3: Evaluate the film.
Before evaluating, reflect on the purpose of the film you established in the beginning. It is paramount to understand exactly what you intend to evaluate. Here are a few important questions to answer: Am I going to present this to the team or the staff? If so, when and how (film or just my findings)? How many times will I need to watch the game or certain segments? It can be difficult to effectively evaluate multiple things simultaneously. These questions should help you allocate an adequate amount of time. Once you’ve clarified your intent, it becomes much easier to organize information. Whether you are live-coding or tagging information on the back-end, organization is key, and consistent terminology is probably the single easiest way to achieve this.
Tips for Effective and Efficient Film Evaluation
- Have a method on how to document and organize what you observe. Some coaches like to take notes on paper and timestamp it according to the game clock. Others type it into a word document or some sort of pre-made template. Others use the software to label as they go. While some methods can simplify the process (and make life much easier for your video guy/gal), what’s most important is finding a method that works for you. However, an emphasis should be placed on organization.
- Create templates to facilitate your workflow while also promoting organization. Consistent terminology promotes and sustains organization. There are a couple of terminology hand-outs that I often reference (more than happy to share them!). I would recommend a separate template for each type of film you analyze. Some items to consider for your template:
Self-scout: chart anything that is an emphasis. Loose balls, turnovers, rebounding efforts. If it matters – chart it. Set tangible goals for your team. Remember: rewarded behavior gets repeated.
Opponent-scout: Ball-screen defense, post-defense, half-court defense (zone vs man), full court defense (press, etc.), offensive tendencies, sets, late-clock offense, special situations/ATOs, and personnel notes/tendencies. Terminology is particularly important when organizing an opponent’s offense.
- Use analytics for context. I believe in analytics. I also believe in my own two eyes couple with my competence. Ultimately, I believe you get the best result when you combine the two. I typically start with analytics. Defensively, I want to know what % of possessions a team plays man vs zone defense, or employs a particular ball screen defense. Next, I apply film to attempt to identify their philosophy. Do they zone because they have played poor shooting teams, or is zone part of their defensive identity? Are they trying to hide certain players in the zone? Which lineups play the most zone? You get the idea…try to identify the common denominators. Offensively there are a few stats I like the most: OREB%, TO%, shot tendencies, and shot efficiencies. Maybe a team takes 45% of their shots from 3, but they score 55% of their points from 2. On the offensive side, I want to identify Pareto’s Principle (80/20 rule: 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the cause). Do they take a lot of 3s because opponents are conceding them? Or because they believe it gives them the best chance to win? Do we want to emphasize defending the paint or the perimeter? Analytics might be deceiving, but film can have the same effect.
Step 4: Present the film.
As coaches, it is our job to filter the information we pass along to players. Some of the best advice regarding film was spoken by a 17thcentury French mathematician/philosopher – stick with me here – Blaise Pascal quoted, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” As I previously mentioned, it’s important to allocate yourself enough time focusing film can be tedious. It is critical to know your audience in these situations. Condense film accordingly, present film accordingly.
While many coaches practice the K.I.S.S. theory (Keep It Super Simple), I believe in the Taco Bell Theory. Taco Bell has generated a fortune from different combinations of meat, cheese, lettuce and shells. The same theory applies to basketball – everything successful is just a different combination of spacing, cuts, screens, and passes. It’s not rocket science like some people make it out to be, however, the attention to detail should parallel that of a NASA scientist.
I’m sure there are studies pointing to the optimal time a student-athlete can focus during a team film session. From personal experience, everyone seems to tune out after about 10 minutes. Film sessions can quickly become counterproductive thanks to information overload. Here’s some advice I can offer: engage players by making film interactive.
Ideas to Engage Players During Film
- 1v1 film sessions
- Show clips of interviews or any third-party – let them hear it from someone else
- Push content to their phones through apps like JustPlay and FastModel
- Add effects to the film via KlipDraw or ChyronHego
- Allow players to prepare film and lead the film sessions
- Pose a question – keep everyone on their toes
- Turn it into a game, assign points
A common question is when do we show film and how much? Rule of thumb: every day before practice we review self-scout film, usually about 15 minutes. 2 days before a game, we introduce opponent personnel with about 4 clips of each player (5ish minutes total). The day before a game, we introduce an opponent’s offense and some defense via film (typically have started working on defending their actions without explicitly telling our team by this point). Game day we review both personnel and offense/defense edits immediately after walkthrough and prior to pre-game meal, and show a condensed opponent personnel edit about 30 minutes prior to the game. Opponent offense/defense edits are usually finalized AT LEAST 2 days prior to a game so a game plan can be assembled by the staff. It seems that most staffs split scouts evenly among the assistants, but some staffs have a coach that specializes in this area and tackle most of them, and some staffs treat each scout as a team effort. Throughout the year, guys are constantly watching film in coaches offices (1v1 or in small groups) every single day… whether it be film of an individual workout, a Kobe Bryant interview, Andrea Trinchieri talking PNR spacing – the guys are learning and bonding through film with the staff.
I can’t tell you the optimal amount of film to watch as an individual or a team, but I can tell you that if you want to be great at something, it is important to immerse yourself in it. I’ll leave you with some of my favorite advice, and its applicable way beyond film breakdown:
- Whatever you aspire to do, take action and just do it. Trust your competence – there are very few things you can’t figure out by just doing.
- One of the best ways to learn how to do something is to talk to someone that has done it before.
Hopefully this made some sense and inspired an idea or two. I’d love to hear your feedback and answer any questions. If you’re ever in the SWFL area – please give me a shout. Until then, TGBTG!