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Posted: September 10, 2013 8:42 p.m.

Overhauling the games

Technology adds new dimensions, strategies to high school sports

Matt Smith/

Technology has changed the way high school sports operate on the field and in the dugout.

A decade ago, most fans would enter a softball game and see a scorekeeper with a scorebook, a pad of paper and a pen, furiously scribbling down the last at-bat as his/her team stepped to the plate.

Today, fans are still likely to see a scorekeeper with a pad, but it's more likely to come fitted with a camera and a keyboard instead of blank paper and lines.

Technology has forever changed the way we play and view sports, and that change has made its presence felt in Newton County.

From softball to football, our fall sports now come with a charger attached, as more teams across the county adopted technological advantages that help both coaches, players and college recruiters.

From recreational leagues to the majors, technology is here to stay, and those teams that have already adapted to the 21st century are getting a leg up on their compeition.

Softball adoption
One sport that has seen the largest growth in technology use this fall has been softball.

Around the diamond the traditional chalk and metal ping of the bats still draw fans, but along the sidelines and inside the dugout, new technology is making its impact known.

The biggest change has come in the way that teams score their games. No longer confined to just the scorebook, coaches and parents alike are turning to their smartphones and tablets to help them keep tab on how their programs are doing.

“There are two main changes that I’ve noticed in the game," Social Circle coach Michelle Broderick said. "The first thing is the scoring system that we use to keep the book.

"We use a system called iScore online, and it’s really nice because it goes ahead and does all the averages for all of our players," she said. "It’s very instant and after the games we can get instant feedback on how our players performed. We can also send out the scores and stats to our parents or the media so they can see the play-by-play. If you want to see a batting average for a game, you can pull it up, or if you need to see season averages, you can do that as well. It’s just very convenient for everyone."

Eastside head coach Jason Stokes agreed with Broderick that online scoring has probably been the biggest change that technology has brought to the game.

"I think it’s affected the way we keep score more than anything," Stokes said. "The way we keep our stats is so much more advanced today. Video is also becoming a bigger priority for teams.

"In recruiting, the coaches want to see the girls hitting and fielding. We want to get to where we can video every single game."

Both coaches said that improvements in video technology have changed the way colleges recruit their players.

"We have to look at it as if we were college coaches," Stokes said. "If I’m a college coach, I cannot get to every single game. Video is the way that most of them are getting their recruiting done. It makes it easier on them and the girls as well.

"If we have a player who wants to go to Missouri, she doesn’t have to go all the way to Missouri. She can send a coach a clip here or a clip there or talk to him online. It’s simplified it for the good of the players."

Broderick also added that equipment enhancements have helped her program on the field, while increading player safety and reducing fatigue.

"Another major change I’ve seen in the game is the type of pitching machines that we use today," Broderick said. "In the past, you just had a standard pitching machine that was at one speed. Our new pitching machine can do change-ups, curve balls, drop balls-a lot of different pitches that our players may not get to see in practice.

"It’s nice because it helps them develop their skills without our pitchers using their arms," she said. "It doesn’t wear out their arms.”

On the gridiron
Technological advancements haven't been felt just on the diamond, but they're making their way on the gridiron as well.

Just as with softball, football recruiting has been revolutionized by technology, changing the way that coaches and players interact with colleges, while opening the door for better opportunities for prospects.

Alcovy football coach Kirk Hoffman remembers the many nights he spent helping players put together game tape for prospective colleges and how the process has changed today.

"Recruiting wise, technology has made our job so much easier as coaches," Hoffman said. "I used to spend three to four weeks, eight hours a day, just helping kids in recruiting.

"Whether it was splicing together video, contacting other coaches or setting up visits, it took a lot of time that could have been spent elsewhere. Now we have online services, like Hudl, that we can directly upload film on to," he said, "At Hudl, recruiters can check out film. It’s really been a positive experience for our players and it opens up the recruiting game. College coaches can see our players any time and really get a feel for how they play the game."

All three Newton County teams currently host a page on Hudl.com, a site that allows teams to upload game film, rosters and schedules. The page can be visited by anyone and you have the opportunity to see individual pages for players that included individual game film and stats such as their position, height and weight and their class.

Many football teams across the state also use the online service MaxPreps, which hosts schedules, results and stats for high school teams across the country. Each sport has a dedicated page that coaches can update before and after games.

Along with changes to recruiting, Hoffman believes that technology has changed the product on the field.

"I think that technology has opened up offenses and changed how we play," Hoffman said. "It’s so much easier now for coaches to share information and it’s changed the way we approach practices and games. ... Today, you can share film instantly and everyone has it available.

"It’s been a great tool for us to use and it’s opened up networking opportunities," he said.

While traditional customs and compeition may still bring fans to the games, you can bet that technology will continue to play a big role in how teams play and practice in the future.

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