A NEW ERA OF HIGH-SCHOOL FOOTBALL IN TEXAS
Today’s generation was born in the technological era, most of the kids do not remember a time without a computer. In these progressive times learning, using the same old methods proves to be a challenge let it be English, Physics or Football.
Few years ago, A.J Smith, then offence coordinator of a small college in Louisiana, faced this very problem. In his attempts to teach a receiver to read a defense while running his pass routes. After several attempts he pulled out an old video game, Tecmo Bowl. He inserted his receivers No.47 on to a receiver in the game and directed the receiver on what route to run against a two-deep and a three-deep secondary.
Coach had tried everything in his power, telling him, drawing it on chalkboards and practicing on the field, nothing was able to help the player better than the game.
This exchange between player and coach planted the seeds of what today is a well-known Texas-based company called VAR Football.
“We’re utilizing today’s technology to teach and train football players the way young people learn today. It’s a tool to teach them in their language,” said John Paul Young Jr., chief operating officer of VAR Football.
Smith, currently wide receivers’ coach for the XFL Houston Roughnecks and chief executive officer of VAR Football, took the initiative and put together the video capabilities.
Young, who previously worked for the helmet manufacturer VICIS and is a son of former NFL assistant coach John Paul Young, is responsible for the coaching contacts and business acumen of the partnership of longtime friends. VAR Football began as a vehicle to train quarterbacks in today’s pass-oriented offenses.
“Quarterback is the most difficult position to play in all of sports, and 95 percent of football is mental,” Young said. “They’ve got pre-snap reads. They have to set the blocking, check for blitzes, make any play audibles, read the defense and make an accurate throw. With the extra reps we offer, all those decisions can become second nature instead of the quarterback having to think and react.”
There are other companies available that provide these facilities for professional teams. Young has priced it feasible to High-schools. The company currently has about 50 clients some colleges but more high-schools mainly in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.
“With the traditional press box and over-the-top camera angles, you never see the game from the quarterback’s eyes. What we needed was a way to see from his eyes and his level,” said 36-year-old Nick Codutti, offensive coordinator at Class 5A Tomball, located 30 miles north of Houston.
HOW IT WORKS
With the current technology and a dozen cameras on the field there are several angles on games available. Yet none of them can see the match from the quarterback’s perspective. VAR gives an insight on the game from the quarterback. The game is first recorded during a match or a practice and then using VR the player can re-evaluate his performance. The passes he missed, the things he did right and more insight on what can be done better. By wearing the goggles that include earphones, distractions are eliminated. Quarterbacks are forced to focus. This singular focus allows young quarterbacks more reps.
COACHING LIKE NEVER BEFORE
With the video plugged into a computer screen or a big screen TV, coaches can guide their quarterback while he’s wearing the goggles. The rest of the quarterbacks also can watch the big screen TV and receive extra simulated reps. Coaches can also circle or highlight the defender to read in order to determine where the ball should go.
“Our quarterbacks can come in at lunch and get coached even if I’m not there,” Noonan said. “They can get 25 reps in five minutes. We went through an entire week of spring practice in one hour.”
Codutti said, “We’ve gone through 30 plays in a 15-minute meeting, and you can do it without the physical wear and tear on your entire team practicing outside. The efficiency of our quarterbacks is much higher since we started using VAR. They’re more self-regulated in knowing where the ball needs to go.”
Noonan said VAR expedited the learning process with his two new varsity quarterbacks during spring and preseason practices.
The capabilities of VAR go beyond quarterbacks, Smiths original idea included a receiver. VAR can be used by all players. Receivers can study defense, while defensive backs can read the receivers.
“We need to embrace technology. I’m constantly amazed at what kids can do with it,” Codutti said.