Athletic edge: Why a data field may be better than a home field advantage

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(Image source: The Washington Post)

“Sideline replay is allowed in high school football to a degree more advanced than what’s legal in college or the NFL, so throughout the country, coaches and players can be seen jabbing their fingers at tablets, smartphones and TVs, breaking down film from a play that happened seconds earlier.” 1

“Researchers call this era of high school football ‘a technological arms race’ over who has the newest gadget, and the sideline replay technology is opening a wider gulf between scholastic sports’ resource-rich programs and those struggling to get by.” 1

Popular options like Hudle, Echo 1612 and SkyCoach go for at least a few grand. 

John Lush, coach of Lackey High in Indian Head, explains, “if you’ve got athletic and coachable kids and you’ve got them ready, regardless of what technology you have, you can win a game.” 1

But is he right? Many high school coaches are realizing data and devices truly do offer an advantage: “With each new piece of electronics on the sideline, players and coaches can quickly solve pet peeves. [And] those fixes, added up, can mean games won and games lost,” 1 urges Ann Pegoraro, director of the Institute for Sport Marketing at Laurentian University.

In-game use of footage isn’t new, but it is catching on: Back in 2013, The National Federation of State High School Associations, the governing body of public high school football, officially made replay technology legal. And as Tom Dolan, the assistant director for compliance at the Virginia High School League, explains, “[the technology] became something where the rules committees said,‘we’re not going to be able to stop this train, so let’s get out in front of it and control it.’” 1

While the technology may be a bother to regulate, is it fair for “the haves” to indulge in a paid-for advantage?

“‘The way that technology enters into [high school sports] is almost entirely based on the financial wherewithal of the individual schools,’ said Galen Clavio, a professor of sports media at Indiana University. ‘That’s problematic if you think everyone going into the competition has the same thing.’” 1

Sport brands, including Adidas, Gatorade, Nike and Under Armour, love to tell the story of athletes emerging from unlikely places. To protect the potential of that narrative, how can brands help fight inequality across the sports space? Or should brands embrace a future where technology becomes part of the victory narrative?

1 The Washington Post, ‘A technological arms race:’ New replay devices widen the gap on high school sidelines, 11/14/16

Additional reading:

BBC, The wearable tech giving sports teams winning ways, 04/15/16

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