by Lisa McRitchie on 12/13/11 at 05:00 PM ET
With shows like HBO’s 24/7 and the Aquila Production Oil Change, fans have been given a new view of NHL locker rooms, players and the off-ice life. Whether you know it or not, if you have seen either of these shows you have likely seen a new coaching tool; Smart Boards.
We all know that technology is constantly changing, but the Smart Boards are interesting because they are used and have an impact in so many different parts of society. These boards are fast becoming essential classroom tools, corporate boardroom pieces and now a coach’s best friend.
So what exactly are these Smart Boards you may wonder? This Calgary based technology really took off in 1991 after receiving a government grant, one that helped the company in a matter of months start turning a profit. Because the money given to Smart Boards was a grant, it couldn’t be paid back to the government. So instead, the company started making Smart Board donations to schools. This act caught my attention. This is of course a kind and generous act that will help students, but could also inspire ideas and students to help them strive for greatness.
Smart Technologies’ products have been popping up in schools, boardrooms and now locker rooms. Approximately 1/3 of both the NHL and NBA teams, as well as 2 CFL teams are confirmed to own and use smart boards. Smart boards were not in my rural schools, nor in my programs at university, so I couldn’t tell how these boards would be used. After a chat with Chris Laing, the Oilers’ Account manager for Smart Technology I now have a better idea.
If you’ve had the opportunity to see the most recent season of Oil Change, you may or may not have noticed the newest addition to the Oilers; a new Smart board. Coach Tom Renney first mentioned the board after the Joey Moss cup in September when Renney said he liked it and had used one in New York. Through the magic of film, and the in depth look that a series like Oil Change provides, hockey fans are given a chance to have a closer look at some of the teaching tools that the coaching staff is able to employ.
With the Smart Boards, the coaching staff is able to study video, draw symbols, animate what plays should have been made, possible outcomes, whatever they would like their players to see and add in voice notes. They can then record these drawings, symbols and animations and play it back during team meetings as you might do with an animated power point. The coaches are then able to pause, change, playback and fast forward through the video as need be. This technology also allows the staff to record whatever has been done in the team meetings and give the files to the players who can watch at their leisure on nearly any portable electronic device. This not only helps with learning, but to make coaching more effective. It would even be possible for coaches to deliver messages and instruct drills even if they could not be at the arena for whatever reason.
The best part of this method of instruction and study is that it allows those players who may have questions, or may need more time to study plays and figures the time they need and the opportunity to ask their questions at a later time and one on one. This also allows for travel time to be teaching time as well. When teams have a hectic travel schedule, the coaching staff can turn the airplane into a classroom should they need to. When we have movies, music and seemingly all information at our fingertips at all times, it only makes sense that it apply to the sporting industry as well. The NHL is a big investment and highly competitive, every team wants to have every tool possible at their disposal.
You may have already seen smart boards used in a hockey situation already; you just didn’t know that that was what you were seeing. Kelly Hrudey in his Behind the Mask segment on Hockey Night in Canada has used 8 touch screen plasmas that use Smart Technology to illustrate his point. The RDS panel also use smart boards to discuss and analyse games. The same is true of HBO’s 24/7 series. When you see the coaching staff standing in front of their big white boards in their locker rooms, and you think that it looks like a scene out of Star Trek, we are really seeing the evolution of information sharing and teaching.
While some people may recognize Smart Board technology or similar technology from competitors, not all of us have been exposed to it, and don’t recognize what we see. At the same time, it’s not always possible to know how it is being used, and I for one was quite interested in just how much this type of technology affected the everyday life of the Oilers as well as other players in the NHL.
Teams spend a lot of money on coaching staffs, player development and scouting, so it only makes sense that they would use whatever was at their disposal for teaching tools.
For the Oilers specifically, Chris Laing has advised me that they have made a few installs for the Oilers, enough to give them an “electronic competitive edge.” Of course we cannot discuss exactly what it is that the Oilers have implemented and using, but we do know that the Oilers are adapting well to the technology. There have been several changes to the Oilers’ roster, but the special teams coaching staff has remained the same. There is no way to know with any certainty, but I am curious as to whether or not the new teaching tools implemented may have helped to bring the Oilers from last years positions of 29th ranked PK and 27th PP to this seasons’s 13th ranked PK and 3rd PP. I can’t see that teaching tools would have hurt.
The sport of hockey is more than just a physical game, the mental aspect can be huge. By better preparing and sharing understanding, teams can even spend less time in a board room setting; players can do more preparation on their own if they need or want more time with ideas and plays. Players could even come up with ideas on their own and now have the tools to help them explain their ideas. They can draw, plan and record and then email the file to the coach.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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