The global accessibility of video in sport has given rise to coaches and athletes becoming connected through video and analysis.
This appetite to infuse all levels of sport with technical and performance analysis has grown US performance technology business Hudl’s footprint around the world.
The company’s full stack of video analysis solutions assists teams from the elite, professional levels such as the NBA, English Premier League and the AFL down to the grassroots, high schools and local clubs. For coaches and athletes, it’s a tech stack that allows insights into in-game and performance analysis, data, coding and opposition analysis which has opened out an ecosystem where videos are shared and exchanged for recruitment and talent identification.
In this wide-ranging conversation with Hudl’s Oceania Director Michael Conlan we began by talking about how the company’s tech stack enhances youth pathways.
I am interested in how many younger players have built up their own Hudl profiles, their own library of athletic content to help them get noticed by scouts and coaches. My thoughts are that it builds long-term stickiness for Hudl and it’s a strategy that can bear fruit when a youngster has built a library of their growth. Is that a cornerstone of the company’s growth strategy?
Michael Conlan: “Absolutely, Hudl’s perspective is we want to capture and bring value to every moment in sport. We want to be the YouTube of sport by 2025. If you look at the American football market in the US, 98 per cent of high school and colleges use Hudl. We’ve had players coming through like Ezekiel Elliot of the Dallas Cowboys, those sorts of guys, where we’ve had multiple years of their high school highlights. The content you get is pretty amazing.
“From an Australian perspective it’s quite uncommon to create your own highlights to promote yourself. When I previously worked as a performance analyst at Carlton Football Club we used to get shoeboxes of DVD’s that were sent to us from prospective recruits.
“It’s definitely been trending upwards over the last few years. Now you’re able to go through and create new videos on the fly, coaches and athletes can go through games, plays and key moments throughout the year to compile highlight recruiting tapes.”
You can see this really full, 10-year proposition unfolding in front of you.
MC: “We’ve had just under half a billion views in 2017 of our online content which certainly says that there is plenty of scope for it. Hudl has produced a series called The Contenders based around High School Football which actually won an Emmy last year all developed from our Hudl content! It’s cool to see this really grow and evolve.”
Do you feel Hudl empowers youth and grassroots coaches to understand and take some ownership of documenting athletic performance content?
MC: “From a talent identification perspective you get governing bodies across Australia who are becoming really creative in this area and are looking to capture footage of 13 to 18-year old’s, all of these youngsters coming through. Previously people would focus on the professional level, but the problem is they’ve already lost the youth development of those athletes. If you capture the youngsters and get them into talent pathways and youth academies earlier, you’ll hopefully retain them in your sport rather than code swap as much as they’re doing at the moment. It helps to build the pathway and engagement at that age group.”
It’s a volume thing. The sweet spot is the athletes and youngsters before the elite level.
MC: “Since 2015, Hudl In Australia has grown from around 250 customers to well over 1500 in just on three years. The growth has been solid, and I envisage 4000 customers by 2020 and that’s a conservative forecast. It’s all about the volume, you look at how many youth teams there are across so many grass roots sports, clubs and teams compared to for example the AFL, which has 18 professional teams.”
What sports or sports customers have you noticed an increase in using Hudl’s products in in our region?
MC: “It really comes down to governing bodies and who is more progressive in that area.
“In Australia, basketball is a good example of this. Basketball Queensland, have the massive task of managing video and development programs across a very large area. There are people using it from Rockhampton, Cairns and down to Brisbane, yet everyone’s got instant access to it as soon as it’s uploaded across the whole competition. They use it for talent identification, development programs plus the referees use it for education.”
Thinking of case studies, someone like Doug Kors who used Hudl to help him develop his career as an analyst is an interesting case to me. He progressed from Sydney FC to the Australian national team.
MC: “Doug started even earlier at the Greater Western Sydney Giants, he did an internship at the club and was there for a couple years. But he’s a football guy and wanted to move into that sport and got the opportunity at Sydney FC to go and help out for a game.
“How it went was he did a game for the club and the coaches were asking if he had to take the match vision away for a day then come back to them, and he said he could do it live at the game.
“Sydney FC have a role model academy in this country off the back of what Doug, Graham Arnold and the club have brought in. The club’s structures from under 13’s to the first team is a very well thought out approach. They’ll have coaches supporting each other, the under 14’s coach will support the under 13’s coach whether it’s capturing video or tagging games because they’ve got this cool approach that not only do they have this tech focus but the education across the whole team is easily achieved because they can push the vision across the academy and learn to play the same way.”
What are some other really good case studies that you can think of?
MC: “Even following on from Doug’s case, as he’s moved to the national team, he’s sort of got a blank canvas in a lot of ways as the national team has restructured its coaching ranks post 2018 World Cup. What they’re bringing in now is a wholly inclusive environment which is pretty exciting.
“Take the A-League for example, analysts are traditionally seen as those who sit in the grandstands of matches and wouldn’t have too much involvement in games except for going into the changerooms at halftime and showing video. Now video and data can be analysed live on the bench by coaching staff.
“The NBA has been progressive for having video on the sidelines for the last couple of years and the AFL is one of the leaders in that regard too and I’d say it’s because of the lack of restrictions around technology. Video is getting sent into the coach’s box and analysts’ breakdown the play live, this allows coaches to make informed decisions.
“Field hockey, and the Australian Hockey League, is a sport I think punches above its weight. For its smaller amount of resources there has a keen uptake of video tech with an analyst for the country and per state coding live, in-game video on the sidelines. Netball is another prominent sport punching above its weight and utilising live video analysis.”
What other sports or governing bodies that you’re seeing growth in?
MC: “Hudl has had a focus on sports such as American football, volleyball, basketball, soccer and lacrosse. What we’re seeing across Oceania is a lot of growth in sports such as Australian rules football, rugby league, rugby union, netball and field hockey. It’s because they know our technology, and whatever we bring in at the elite level, we want to make sure it’s accessible at youth and grassroots level.
“New South Wales Rugby League for example is probably ahead of the NRL in how they manage video across the whole state. They have 10 competitions currently using Hudl to manage all of their video which all leads back to NSWRL headquarters.
“Video is not being isolated to particular clubs. As soon as one person or club uploads video, every other coach or club can access it. This accessibility means you can pick games out, scout players or collate your own library for analysis or send it to us to analyse.”
It’s using tech to enhance the scope of talent identification.
MC: “We see both kids and clubs have a hunger for technology.
“From a coaching perspective, video doesn’t lie. The beauty of video in this sense is that it gives an unbiased picture of what is occurring on field that a player can learn from. From an education perspective it’s definitely changing how players and coaches interact. This is where professional teams can learn from your grassroots teams. Amateur or grassroots teams won’t have the contact hours that a professional club has with their players but what coaches can do is push videos to their players the night before a team review session or midweek training for matches to be reviewed remotely.
“Some of the more progressive AFL clubs are doing it a lot more now pushing video content to players a night before training or video review session to build genuine discussion around video rather than an old school lecture.”
Just finally, a call to action, what makes Hudl an industry leader in video analysis, in grassroots sports analysis, professional sports analysis?
MC: “Not only do we help teams and athletes win, we help to put the spotlight on junior talent. They could be 12 to 13-year old’s living in remote areas. These kids may not be picked up or identified until they’re 18 or 19, and that could be too late. The window on their development curve may be closing sooner at that age.
“Looking at identifying talent, we’re only scratching the surface. Having kids like Jaden from Sutherland Sharks creating highlights is a perfect example, he has racked up 15,000 views of his content, and some of his goals are unbelievable.
“Another two great national examples are AFL players Cameron Polson from Carlton (pick 59 in the 2016 AFL Draft) and Aiden Bonar from GWS Giants (pick 11 in the 2017 AFL Draft) who both created their own Hudl highlights to help them get recruited.
“Then you look at stuff like American football in Australia. We had a guy in Geelong make a tackle last year which had 50,000 views because it got shared on the Hudl Top 5 globally. Creating that pathway from Australia to US colleges is great, we’re helping to create a road with the potential of teams exchanging videos directly with US colleges. Then it’s the opposite direction, you look at an example like Collingwood’s Mason Cox, I didn’t realise this but Nathan Chapman from ProKick said he was sending through his kicking analysis through Hudl Technique from the US before he even set foot in Australia. It’s really great that it’s happening the other way with Hudl products having an impact on athletes from the US to Australia and vice-versa.”