Video has increasingly become a crucial part of football coaching environments. The ease of which we can film & access footage has grown exponentially in recent years, to the point where the growth of this area has almost been understated! For example, five years ago, it would have been uncommon for a youth team at grassroots level to have any game video – now, you’ll see most teams either with a parent filming on their phone, or maybe even with an elevated VEO camera, if not both!
The popularity of social media, too, and the ease of which videos are shared on platforms like Tiktok, Instagram and Twitter has greatly increased the interactions people have with video content. That is before we even mention YouTube! Clearly, video is deeply ingrained in our everyday lives, and by association, crucial as part of the player development process.
This article aims to provide insight into how video can be integrated across a youth development program at a football club, using my personal experiences & current practice as a case study. It would be great to hear of others experiences, and any ideas on how this process can be enhanced.
The obvious place to start is with the most important video – the match itself. As aforementioned, most youth environments today would expect to film all games. Ideally, this is done at an elevated height. This provides a ‘birds eye view’ from which tactical elements, such as team shape, can be analysed. It also enables coaches to view off the ball actions more easily, compared to a ground-level view.
AI-based cameras which can automatically track, pan and zoom games are increasingly common. In our environment at NWS Spirit (based in Sydney, Australia), we installed a 19m high auto-tracking camera for home games, which gives us footage like you can see below.
This video is stored on Hudl, probably the most well-known analysis software in sport. Hudl provides an online platform where coaches & players can access videos. We store our game footage here and take advantage of features such as:
- The ability to create playlists of short clips from the game. We use these to highlight key points from matches, and share these with the team and/or individual players
- The ability for players to create their own clips to share with teammates and coaches. We nominate players to create these based on their personal or the team’s current focuses (e.g. killer passes in midfield). Hudl allows you to write text comments and use drawing tools, so this is a powerful way for us to check player understanding and support their tactical knowledge.
- The ability to ‘code’ games with tags for objective data such as shots & passes, which can be filtered across multiple matches to create playlists of key metrics/actions in the game. This is useful for the purpose of reviewing trends over a period of time (e.g. defending corners)
Hudl is a flexible and versatile system so serves the purpose of match analysis effectively in our environment. It is particularly effective as it allows us to work collaboratively with players asynchronously.
That then allows us to maximise the ‘synchronous’ time we have with the team in a live, face to face setting. In our environment, each team has dedicated weekly time for team meetings – which is utilised for a wide variety of purposes, including team video feedback.
To keep things fresh, we deliver this video in a variety of ways. Often, it is short (2-3 minute max) clips of positive moments from previous matches linked to a tactical theme/our playing style…
…with an emphasis on positive so that we create a culture where video is used in an encouraging & supportive way – and players do not develop the feeling that it’s being used to ‘catch them doing the wrong thing’!
These sorts of videos would be presented with verbal feedback from the coach, but in the case where we might want to engage the players more cognitively…
…we would use a video like the above which has pre-determined pauses & questions. In a meeting context, the video would be paused and players would be cold called (i.e., picked at random) to answer the questions. We would then facilitate a discussion from the themes that emerges.
Sometimes, we might show videos of world class examples. Showing elite level players can help demonstrate aspirational outcomes, and also provoke good discussions – for example, after the video below, we got players to turn and talk to a partner about their key takeaways, and then share their findings with the group.
We also try to show examples of our club’s First Grade team, to promote a sense of pride, potentially provide more ‘realistic’ role models (especially in terms of linking to our wider club curriculum), and of course, to encourage positive club culture.
One aspect we would like to improve on is providing more ‘grounded’ elite examples, such as a similar age group at Premier League academy level, or even from Australia’s youth national teams. There is academic evidence to suggest this can create more relevant tactical & technical models for players to develop their skills & understanding. The challenge here is readily being able to access this footage.
One personal goal I have in team meetings is to limit the amount of time of coaches talking, and instead encourage a more player-centred, player-led environment. In addition to some of the questioning & engagement strategies outlined above, we also allocate players each week to present video. They complete this via Hudl, share the playlist with coaches to review, and then present to the whole team during the team meeting. This provides a great opportunity for players to develop leadership and communication skills, allows for coaches to review player knowledge & understanding, and creates variety of voices & information in the team meeting to keep them engaging.
Finally, it is worth noting that videos in team meetings do not always have to be technical/tactical. We have a focus on holistic player development, so often videos may involve information about mental skills, focus on player education (e.g. nutrition) or sometimes simply be a relevant news or sports story from the week which can facilitate a discussion.
There is only so much time in the team meeting, though, and so increasingly we have looked for ways to provide more video to players, especially through the use of mobile video. Again, it is worth reflecting on the changes in the last few years – kids today are very used to smartphones and their endless possibilities!
So although we might like kids to spend less time on their devices and more time training, we are believers it is important to meet the needs of players and the way they interact with the world! Therefore, we provide lots of mobile videos to support their development.
In this particular team, this is primarily done through Whatsapp groups. This enables us to manage the security & privacy of participants (with informed consent from parents/guardians) and control the flow of communication.
The aim is to ‘prime’ the players prior to each session with a video that highlights upcoming focuses. Here’s one example below…
Again, it’s a mixture of ourselves/world class/First Grade examples used here, with an emphasis on…
- Keeping the videos short (2 minutes max!), to fit in with the trends we see on Tiktok/Instagram in terms of attention spans!
- Using clear visuals & linking to our club curriculum/vocabulary
Like with the team meetings, these videos may be more holistic in nature. For example, we have one training session a week dedicated to individual development (you can read more about this in this Twitter thread) which emphasises the development of personal skills, which we then highlight in videos like the one you see below in another Twitter thread…
Unit & individual videos
Sometimes, though, there are clips we want to show the players that are specific to them individually, their position or their unit (i.e. defenders, midfielders, strikers). Therefore, we also have videos we provide to specific groups of players, primarily to prime them for a session focus…
This one, for example, is clearly about our “poachers” making blindside movements to get free to score. We send the video to the players, they watch it – and then we can reinforce at the start in our framing of the session, encourage them to try and practice it in the practices, and even use an iPad or such to review the clips mid-session to reinforce coaching interventions.
A similar process can be followed for individual players. Here’s an example of annotating a players match footage with key vocabulary & diagrams so they know what they’re working on in the session…
…which means they come into the session prepared to work on something specific from their individual development plan, and we can reinforce that quickly & more effectively by referencing it in our interventions and feedback.
To reinforce a previously repeated point, it is always about developing people, not just players. Therefore, mobile videos to units and/or individuals might simply be motivational, or educational…here’s an example of the latter for our leadership group.
What you will possibly have noticed is that all of the videos used have a specific title card at the start. This is very deliberate. We want to purposefully create an environment where players feel connected, and that they belong to the team.
Creating this clear, consistent visual identity is a way in which we can bring this to life. In the same way that clubs brand their social media pages with tailored graphics, colour schemes & fonts, we want to do the same to give both that “professional” feel to the videos, but also to remind them of the environment they are part of each time they watch.
It also helps to reaffirm key themes or messages – “never take a backwards step” is very pointedly reinforced at the start of each video for a very purposeful reason. The arrows have meaning; the colours have meaning; the branding is designed to remind them of the environment we are facilitating.
There are also “sub-themes” within this branding. Here’s a title card we used for a specific cycle in the season…
…where again it is only a very small detail in the scheme of our wider program, but there are key messages & imagery embedded within the title card to reinforce our culture.
The shark is also deliberately placed across a lot of this branding. It is a big part of our culture – and one final way in which we try to use videos is to reinforce our values and environment.
This, for example, is an extract from a motivational video we showed the players during the season…
…which is just one of many we use to not only motivate, but also to keep the environment fun and engaging – here’s one of us really tapping into the shark theme…
Shark compilations are not going to develop players on their own, but it does form part of a wider process and program in which video can be thoughtfully and deeply embedded to support learning. In an information-rich world, it is pertinent to try and engage players across a variety of mediums & platforms with clips that can help them develop their technical, tactical and holistic outcomes.
Crucially, it is vital we recognise the nature of the modern adolescent in how we deliver our video. Some general principles that have emerged include the shorter the better, and the greater the collaboration, the more powerful the learning. This whole process, though, is an evolving process – one which we’d be interested in any feedback on, and/or suggestions of environments where similar practices are being delivered.