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The Digital Difference

Baseball Excellence has used video for years to help improve players’ technique and performance. In the last few years technology has radically improved with the use of digital equipment. Cameras and computers can now do amazing things. We recently discovered the Pro-Trainer software designed by Sports Motion, Inc. This is fantastic stuff and you will hear more about it very soon.

Below is an article by training guru Vern Gambetta.

We are reprinting parts of this article with permission from Training and Fitness magazine.

The Digital Difference

"Today's low-cost, easy-to-use digital video cameras and software can make a blockbuster out of your training program.

By Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta, MA, is the President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems, in Sarasota, Fla., and the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning, and can be reached through his Web site, at

Training & Conditioning, 11.9, December 2001,

These days, video analysis has gone digital. The click of a mouse provides instant access to requested scenes. Baseball coaches can easily scrutinize a hitter's recent plate appearances, searching for flaws in his swing.

Despite the new technology's advantages, many strength coaches and athletic trainers fail to recognize the vast potential of video in their jobs. Performance testing, baseline setting, rehabilitation programs, and program design can all benefit from digital video. It can even help motivate athletes.

Don't be scared off thinking that digital video is only for techies. With little more than a one- or two-year-old personal computer and the same digital video camera that you use to record your child's birthday party, you can improve your athletes' performance. If you have the inclination and money, more sophisticated systems that feature specially-designed hardware and software for analyzing your athletes are also available.

The first use of video is for improving your testing program. As you've heard me say in these pages many times before, testing is an integral part of a performance program. Most testing focuses on quantitative outcome--how high the athlete jumps or how fast he or she runs. If the time or distance is acceptable, then it is labeled a good test. If the time or distance is poor, then it is called a bad test.

I feel very strongly that we are missing something by not recording our testing efforts. Having a moving picture of the athlete improves testing in two ways: It provides a visual baseline and it allows us to more clearly see an athlete's technique and performance.

Another important reason to record baselines is that, if the athlete is injured, you now have objective measures to use in bringing him or her back to full participation. Bill Knowles, ATC, CSCS, Director of Team Performance International in Vermont, uses video when rehabbing skiers, especially after ACL tears. He chronicles each athlete's progress and compares the videos taken during rehab to a pre-injury baseline video taken on the slopes and during off-snow training. He burns the video onto a CD and sends it to the surgeon, who can view it on any office computer. This allows the athletic trainer and physician to better discuss the athlete's progress and set goals aimed at getting the skier back to his or her previous level.

Videotaping the athlete ultimately allows us to better assess his or her problems. Instead of knowing only that the time on the athlete's agility test is slow, we can review the test to see where the deficiency is. Is she not using her arms efficiently? Is she moving her head too much? Is her posture the problem?

I also note what the athlete does well. If her feet are incredibly quick, but her arm movement slows her down, I'll design a program that takes this into account. I'll want to make sure that as she does drills that concentrate on arm movement, she will not lose the great foot quickness she already developed.

Another idea is to use digital video in a narrow, focused application. For example, record the baseball team with the intent of analyzing only the mechanics of base stealing.

Beyond using video technology to test athletes and design programs, I'm finding it is a great tool for motivation and teaching. The video allows the athletes to plainly see what I see instead of what they think happens. Being able to show them this works wonders for my athletes in many different applications.

The video can further motivate by providing a sense of accomplishment. If athletes can see their progress over one month, one year, or even four years of testing, they will understand that their training efforts are sound investments.

Going hand-in-hand with motivation is video's ability to be a teaching tool. I use videos of past athletes to show current athletes how to perform a particular workout. These unedited videos show people making mistakes as well as doing things correctly, which assures them that even the greatest athletes struggle early.

Current video technology allows split-screen comparisons between a novice athlete and one with ideal technique. With the skilled performer on one half of the screen and the athlete in question on the other, he or she can evaluate what needs to be done.

As exciting and thought-provoking as the use of digital video is, it is only a small addendum to what a coach can and should be doing. Video can back up your hunches, illustrate mistakes or problems, and motivate your athletes. But video can never replace the years of knowledge and experience you bring to the job."

Baseball Excellence uses digital video evaluation for all aspects of the game. If you go to our Onlnine Store you can learn more.

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