When high school football coaches in Maine began using game film as a coaching tool, it wasn’t easy. Former Lawrence High School coach Pete Cooper remembered how it started in central Maine in the late 1960s. Area coaches would drop their 16 millimeter game film off at the Fairfield home of Dick McGee, the head coach at Colby College. A courier on his way from Boston to Orono to pick up the University of Maine’s film would stop in Fairfield, pick up the local film, and bring it to Boston, where it was developed.

On Sunday, the developed 16mm film was back in the box on McGee’s porch, ready for pick up.

Now, a high school football coach can download game film from the digital camera on which it was shot to a website, or email it to his players, who can watch it on their smart phone.

Studying film has been an important part of football game preparation for decades. With today’s technology, coaches can streamline what their players scrutinize.

“What I’ll do for the D-line and O-line, I’ll give them certain plays. I’ll send them play lists for certain aspects of the game I want them to isolate on. They get it sent to their email,” Lawrence assistant coach Jake Rogers said.

This season, Lawrence started using hudl.com, an online video software program site that is changing the way film is viewed and exchanged. A majority of schools in southern Maine have used hudl.com for a few years. It is, say some coaches, a game-changer.

“It’s a great teaching tool,” Marshwood head coach Alex Rotsko said. “It has a lot of benefits. After we play Friday night, for example, we download the film into the system. We can make comments on plays and circle things on plays. We can break the film down into formations. It takes a few hours to do, but on Saturday morning we’ll send it off to the players. They have full access. They can then watch the film and see our comments. Before we even meet on Monday, they’ll have already seen it.

“It’s also a huge benefit when it comes to film exchange. We can do it all online now.”

Opposing coaches will swap game films prior to their game. Because the film is often on DVD, coaches must pick a meeting spot and do the swap in person.

Online software programs can eliminate this practice.

“We can now exchange film over the Internet,” Rotsko said. “I just got an e-mail from the Messalonskee coach (Brad Bishop). They aren’t on (hudl.com). We play them (Oct. 4). I am going to have to meet him in Freeport to do this. That is an hour drive and an hour back.”

Cheverus coach John Wolfgram said his team is in its third season using online video software programs. Like Rotsko, Wolfgram says the benefits are far-reaching.

“All our coaches use it and all our players use it,” he said. “It’s easy to send off film to colleges, too. All you do is upload it to a college coach’s e-mail. You don’t have to mail in film anymore. Kids watch a lot more film than they used to. You can glean a lot out of doing it this way. Everybody down here is using it.”

Added Bonny Eagle coach Kevin Cooper, whose team is 3-0: “This makes it a lot more like a college program. The kids watch it all the time. We can analyze stuff differently now. We can watch film more effectively.”

Coaches can use the system to highlight specific plays, even specific players.

“I can actually have a telestrator and draw it out for them. I can spot shadow specialty guys,” Rogers said. “It saves us from always drawing on the grease board and trying to show them. It’s a lot easier to show them how to run it on look team, too.”

The benefit of using online programs like hudl.com come with a cost.

Hudl.com, which is based in Lincoln, Neb., charges a sports team $800 a year for its basic package. Should two teams at a school want to use it, the price rises to $1,200. A platinum package, which offers 200 hours of video, can cost a team $3,000 a year.

Cony coach Robby Vachon says his program will join the hudl.com next year.

“If we have to fundraise, we will,” he said. “It’s a pain in the butt burning DVDs. If we have to spend $800 for the year, that is something we’ll have to budget for. The advantages far out-weigh the costs. Having the kids watch film on their own is a big benefit.

“Plus, you can also monitor how long they’re watching film and what they’re watching. It’s going to be a great tool.”

This season, the Big Ten Conference (Eastern Class C) mandated its members sign up for WatchGameFilm.com, an online film service similar to Hudl.com.

At Waterville, coaches use the software to ask players to make self evaluations for each play they’re on the field. Coaches can also personalize instruction by asking athletes to individually study certain plays.

“We as coaches can say ‘On clip 53, you missed your block,’ and they can go right to it,” Waterville head coach Frank Knight said.

Gardiner coach Matt Burgess said he, too, would like to move toward digital film. However, he acknowledges the cost could be an obstacle.

“It’s a significant expense,” he said. “This is isn’t cheap. We don’t do programs like that here yet. We’re still stuck on the DVD stage, which is OK. We’re looking at hudl.com, or something else, but we’ll see.”

Gardiner hosts Hampden on Friday at Hoch Field. Burgess and Hampden coach Kevin Canty — whose team uses an online software program for video — exchanged film last weekend.

“I gave him some DVDs and he sent me an e-mail from his phone,” Burgess said. “Once we can all get to that point, it will be a lot easier. But the key is, everyone has to have Internet access and be able to download it on their computers.”

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