Daily Archives: March 22, 2008
This is a reprint of a product review I wrote last year for Softball Magazine. The product is definitely worth checking out, so I thought I would post the review up here. Hope you find it helpful.
One of the best and most popular tools for helping player development is video. With a simple camera and playback device (such as a TV), players have the opportunity to see themselves in action and perhaps gain a better understanding of what their coaches mean. After all, it’s one thing for a coach to say “you’re dropping your elbow when you throw.” The player may think the coach means the elbow is dropping to a point just above the shoulder. But when watching the video, he/she can see the coach means it’s dropping to a point just above the bottom of the rib cage.
The camera/TV combination is fine for basic viewing, but it makes it difficult to really get into the topic. Downloading the video to a computer and watching it on Windows Media Player, Apple QuickTime, or RealPlayer is somewhat of an improvement, but those applications are still very limited in their ability to show and explain exactly what’s happening.
Recently I downloaded such a product. It is called MotionView!, a software application from AllSportsSystems. It is a feature-packed program that allows a coach to provide a thorough, multi-point analysis of a student’s performance, either from live or previously captured video.
The version I downloaded is called MotionView! Coach. It is their mid-level product, but it provides everything I (and most coaches or parents) will need.
The drawing toolbar is robust but easy to use. The basic drawing tools include the ability to draw lines, circles, and squares. An extended toolbar adds the ability to draw angles, arrows, freehand shapes and more. You can choose from six different colors, and even change the thickness of the lines as needed.
One interesting tool, especially when working with pitchers, is the ability to add an analog clock face. When you’re telling a pitcher that the hand should be between 10 and 11 o’clock when the stride foot toe touches it helps to be able to draw that clock. Keep in mind a lot of kids these days rely solely on digital clocks, which means they aren’t really sure where 11 o’clock is. But they’ll never tell you. They’ll just nod as if they understand.
Another handy tool is called the “kite tail.” This one is a bit more complicated because it first requires you to carve out a brief section (called a canister) of your video. Once you have the small clip, though, you can mark each point of a moving object to create a continuous line. MotionView! advances the frames for you automatically. Once all the frames have been marked and you hit the “play” button, the video traces the line, showing the motion. For example, if you mark the tip of the bat during a swing, you can see the whole path the bat takes. The only problem is it doesn’t give you the smooth curving line that’s shown on the Web site. It’s more of a polygon – a series of straight lines that create a shape, Still, you can gain a lot of insight regarding the path of moving object with this tool.
There’s more to MotionView! than drawing tools, though. You can run the video backward and forward, adjusting the speed from regular to slow to frame-by-frame. You can also reverse the view, turning a left hander into a right hander or vice versa. You can open two videos at once for side-by-side comparison, say between your student and a top-level player or a before-and-after comparison, and even synch them together. With the Coach version you can overlay one video on top of another, and export still shots to pass along to the students.
Sounds like a lot for just $85 (with the online coupon). But as they say on all the Popeil commercials, wait! There’s more! There is a built-in timer that shows the elapsed time in the video. You can convert a section of the video into a film strip so you can see the entire movement at once. You can zoom in on sections of the video and adjust the display to different sizes – including full screen mode. You can even type in titles or instructions that can then be exported along with the video.
The download itself is a little kluge. No matter what version you want, you have to start by downloading the free “Lite” version. Once you have done that, if you have purchased a higher level version you have to send an e-mail or go online to request the code to unlock your version. AllSportsSystems is pretty responsive but you still may have to wait a few hours to get your key code depending on the day and time you make your purchase. After I did the download the application started looking for a file that didn’t exist, and would give me an error message. But an e-mail to AllSportsSystems solved the problem quickly. They responded within 12 hours on a weekend, so I give them an A for customer service.
This is an outstanding, feature-packed application that allows you to perform an unbelievable variety of analysis. If you’re a coach looking for a better way to show students what they’re doing, or a knowledgeable player who wants to improve his/her game, check out the MotionView! family of products. You won’t be disappointed.
The basics of pitching dictate that there are two things that make a ball move — the direction of the spin and the speed of the spin. In other words the ball has to be spinning in the right direction to move as it’s supposed to, and it has to be spinning fast enough for the Magnus effect to work in order for the ball to change directions.
The fastpitch curve ball presents a particular challenge in both aspects because it requires the wrist to move in a way that’s different from other pitches — especially the core fastball and peel drop. Rather than snapping up, it has to snap sideways. It’s often described as sliding the back of the hand across a table. While I’m not a believer in the muscle-driven wrist snap on the fastball/peel drop — I see it as more of the end of a chain of events than event in and of itself — with the curve, you do have to make a strong and powerful snap across.
Easier said than done, however. It can be challenging to get under the ball and snap the wrist sideways. Here are a few tips to make it happen:
- The throwing side shoulder has to get lower than the glove side shoulder. That’s an absolute. If the throwing side shoulder comes up, you’ll have a tendency to pull over the ball rather than snap under it.
- Try to bring the throwing side elbow to your bellybutton. You probably won’t actually get it that far forward, but it’s a definite destination. The reason is if the elbow gets far forward, it will cause the arm to snap across toward the outside corner rather than straight forward. It will also make it easier to get underneath the ball.
- Keep the ball in the fingers and use the fingers to propel the ball forward as well as sideways. I just discovered this explanation tonight. I had a pitcher who was having trouble getting the spin right, so we went all the way back to the basic spin, just popping it up into her glove. What we found was she was getting it out too soon, which resulted in a riseball back spin instead of a side spin. By keeping it in her fingers a little longer she was able to get the side spin.
- Start cupping you hand under the ball just past the top of the circle. If you wait until the bottom of the circle you will likely be late, and will wind up snapping the wrist up instead of sideways.
Remember, just because you have a curve ball grip doesn’t mean you have a curve ball. If it ain’t got that spin, it ain’t a curve ball.