Extra Points: Brian Spano 9/16

Brian Spano

By Brian Spano PrepsKC Staff Writer
Posted: September 16, 2010 - 7:47 PM

When you think high school football, you don’t necessarily think all that much about technology; however, over the last decade or so, the way high school football coaches view their own and their opponents’ game “film” has changed.


Back in the day, these highlight reels or game films were recorded on real 16mm film, so there was a long and sometimes painful processing time that went along with it. With the introduction of the camcorder, videotape made game films much more convenient and, more importantly, immediate.


“When I was coaching at Shawnee Mission West, we used two 16mm cameras,” former West and Lee’s Summit North head coach Harold Wambsgans explained, “one to shoot the offensive plays and one to shoot the defensive plays. One of our objectives was to buy a third camera to shoot the entire game, but that became very expensive when you consider having three reels to process each week.”


In fact, the story of how coaches went about exchanging game film with upcoming opponents sounds almost archaic compared with today’s standards.


“We would take our film to this company on Truman Road, just off Troost to have it processed,” Wambsgans remembered. “We would use a 16mm projector to grade the players, and it allowed us run the film in slow motion and reverse to see each play. Sometimes the film would break, and we would have to splice it with Scotch tape.


“While I was at West, we had a fundraiser to purchase a total of five of these projectors so each coach could have one.”

When it came to actually exchanging film with the opposing coaches, because there was only one copy, they were a little reluctant to part ways.


“It was kind of like an espionage thing,” Wambsgans said. “You didn’t want to share your film for fear you wouldn’t get it back. You always had to remember to ask for your film back because other coaches would forget to return them.”

Wambsgans recollected a story about former West coach Dick Purdy when he was still coaching at Chanute (Kan.) High School


“As soon as the game ended on Friday night, he would put the game film on a bus to Kansas City to get it processed, and then the company would send it back to Chanute on Saturday by bus,” he said.


These days, every parent, student or fan has some kind of hand-held device that will allow them to record the game or, at the very least, highlights of the game. When it comes to the team shooting its own video of the game to study and exchange with opposing coaches, high-tech is becoming the norm.


Coaches study every nuance of every play. They use video to correct mistakes that may have been made in the previous game, game plan for their next opponent and make adjustments or tweaks on certain plays.


Paul Cox has been recording Lee’s Summit West football games, since the inception of the school, from his game-night vantage point in the end zone.


“It’s been fascinating to see how the evolution of videotaping games has changed over the years,” Cox said. “The software technology is so amazing that coaches can use a split screen on their computers to see two different camera angles during the game: one from the end zone and one from the press box. It also allows them to edit video clips and email them to coaches and players for download after the game.”


One concern when producing high school football videos is that the coaches want to see entire formations so they can evaluate the plays. But the parents, for their recruiting highlight videos, want to see tighter shots of touchdowns, receptions, interceptions, and good passes.


An experienced sports videographer can better predict when the quarterback is going to throw the ball or run with it and can relate to the coaches in the press box, talk with parents about the plays, and share in the excitement of a winning team.


“It’s funny, we were old school at West, “Wambsgans said. “We thought nothing was going to replace 16mm.”

Wambasgans and Shawnee Mission West were on the cutting edge at the time, but my how times have changed since then.