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Using Video as a Stopwatch

I love using video to record various parts of softball practice. I have used it to great effect for finding small flaws for every batter and to improve the delivery of our pitchers. Video is a powerful feedback tool that is, in my opinion, vastly underutilized by teams. Even my players who have their own pitcher or batting coach benefit from seeing themselves on video. Yet as valuable a tool it is, video does have the drawback of being pretty intrusive in practice. Typically, we have to set up specific practice time to record our players and have a hard time fitting video into practice “on the fly” or on the spur of the moment.

However, I have found another use for video that is not obtrusive or disruptive to the flow of practice, and only takes a few seconds to set up. We often time our girls doing various activities: time it takes to run from first to second, from second to home, from touching a fielded ball to throwing it, and the like. In the past, we used stop watches to record these times, but stopwatches have some disadvantages of their own. They can vary at least a couple of tenths of a second depending on who is actually using the stopwatch, and recording stopwatch times is itself a bit disruptive as the players have to wait for the time to be recorded before they can continue.

Our solution: set up a video camera somewhere in the outfield where all the bases in the infield are in its view (as well as the pitcher). Let’s take the case of recording base running times as an example. We can run two stations with each pitch: from first to second, and from second to home. We just have our video camera record the entire time trial (we usually have all the players run both stations twice). After everyone has finished with their time trial, we turn off the camera and move on to other parts of practice.

After practice, using just about any run-of-the-mill video editing software (I use Magix Movie Editor Pro), I can review the video and use it to resolve several things at once. Going frame-by-frame, I can calculate exact times for both base running stations at once. I can also see if any of my base runners are getting poor jumps on the pitcher and if so and make a note to work on that at future practices. I can also watch frame by frame as my runners round third to make sure that they are using proper form there. Finally, I can get my pitcher’s speed on her fast ball, as well as spot-check her to see if she is developing any bad habits in her delivery.

Granted, this takes a little bit of time after practice to process, but it is WELL worth the effort. Not only have I not disrupted practice, being able to time performances passively via video, but I can also diagnose any base running or pitching problems while I am at it. Definitely a win-win, and a very productive use of video that one may not have considered before (I know that I had not).

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