‘Hudl’ program finds home with football teams, officials

A list of things that have revolutionized high school football in Louisiana might include the veer or spread offenses. Or it could feature a particular defensive scheme or weight-training regimen.

What’s trending now in the digital age is hudl. That’s right, hudl. Not huddle.

Just remember that hudl is a film-related component that helps players who will be in a football huddle get in position to make that next play. And then some.

“Hudl is a lifesaver,” Baker High football coach Richard Oliver said. “I got introduced to it a few years ago when I was an assistant at Zachary High.

“I was used to burning DVDs or copying videotapes and then driving across town or wherever to exchange films. With hudl, you don’t have to do that. It saves you time, and it’s a teaching tool.”

Breaking down hudl

Hudl was among the exhibitors at last week’s Louisiana High School Coaches Association’s Coaches Clinic. Louisiana territory manager Justin Hansen displayed perks of the five-year digital video system.

Hansen, who also services three other states, explained the origins of hudl, the brainchild of three University of Nebraska students who were charged with downloading and copying game video in 2006.

“What you had at Nebraska was a multi-million dollar editing system,” Hansen said. “But you could only access at the facility, and these guys were dubbing something like 200 copies a week. There was no web integration like you had in business technology.

“They worked to create a web server to integrate video. Once that was done, all you had to do was go to the server. You could email it, or coaches could access it from the server.”

Hansen said that when coach Bill Callahan left Nebraska and went to the New York Jets the next year, he took hudl with him. While several NFL teams and Division I colleges use hudl, the founders quickly saw high schools as the major market for their product.

Product and demand

Hudl was first sold to high schools in 2008. The company now sells to 12,000 high schools across the nation. Hansen said hudl services 75 percent of high school football programs nationally, including 82 percent in Louisiana.

Prices vary. Hudl can also be used in other sports, including basketball and soccer. The Louisiana High School Officials Association also uses it to educate football officials.

Some services, such as a basic film exchange, cost as little as $200. Other packages range from $800 to $6,000 depending on the number of sports and desired features.

Once a football game is finished, coaches transfer game film from a video camera to a computer and upload it to hudl. From there, the video can be exchanged with other schools. Schools also can email it to coaches and players less than an hour after the game.

Fast forward

Louisiana schools started using hudl in early 2009. Zachary High coach Neil Weiner was an early advocate and got others, including Dunham’s Guy Mistretta, who was then at Redemptorist, to sign on.

“You know, I don’t exactly remember how we got started,” Mistretta said. “I think one of our assistants (current Catholic High assistant Eric Held) got us involved through Zachary.

“As soon as we saw how easy it was and what you could do with it, things changed for us. There weren’t many schools on it then, and when you found another school that was, you’d get excited and compare notes. There’s really no downside to it.”

Swap no more

Baker’s Oliver bought hudl during his one season as head coach Ferriday High. After away games, Oliver would have an assistant coach upload the video to hudl. By the time Oliver got back to Baton Rouge for weekend visits with his family, he could break down film and communicate with players and coaches on game plans.

So when Oliver took over as head coach at Baker a year ago, hudl was one of his first purchases. Oliver estimates the hudl system saves his coaches between eight to 10 hours each week. Holy Cross coach Barry Wilson said Oliver’s estimate is conservative.

“This will be our second year with it,” Wilson said. “Any concerns I had about it went away as soon as I started learning everything you could do with it. I’d say it saves us between 10 and 12 hours a week.

“Not having to drive someplace to swap films is only part of that. It also allows the kids to make their own highlight tapes, which also saves time. Kids are so good with video anyway.”

Highlights and spotlights

Players can access films via computer, tablet or smart phone. As hudl has grown, so has the number of hudl-based videos put together by athletes and displayed on Internet platforms like YouTube. College recruiters also can access it.

Players posting videos is now so common, Baker’s Oliver has developed a form hudl etiquette and sometimes has to remind players what they should and should not post.

Hudl can break down film to show tendencies of an opponent. Coaches can highlight certain players on a play or can actually write on the screen to get a point across. Text notes can also be recorded.

The ability to telestrate, highlight plays and record notes is valuable to more than just coaches, according to LHSAA Assistant Director Keith Alexander, who oversees officials.

“Officials are like players in some ways,” Alexander said. “You can talk to them after a game and tell them something needs to be done differently. But the light really comes on when they see it on film. Being able to mark on the film and make notes is amazing to me.”

The LHSAA and LHSOA pay for Louisiana’s officials associations to also be on hudl. Alexander and the LHSOA President Bryan Greenwood conducted a workshop at last the LHSCA clinic to show coaches how valuable it is and why they should send film and questions about plays to their respective officials’ association.

“It (hudl) hasn’t changed the game,” Alexander said. “But it changes how we can see it.”