How TV, Streaming Has Changed Scouting
When ESPN asked college softball to make changes to speed up the game for television with regards to programming, we did.
How did they respond? ESPN has supported game and sponsored a February tournament with the top teams in the country in Clearwater, FL.
So, the obvious positive of this event is superior exposure for the college game and softball in general. Fans want to see more college softball and ESPN has done its homework . Softball as a game and fans are being rewarded for their loyalty and the payoff is huge.
However, television is changing more than just fan and public exposure. Television, along with the hundreds of games being streamed on the computer, has changed the visibility for scouting opponents as well.
In the old days, we spent time sharing scouting reports with other teams that had like opponents as ourselves. Many times we used stat sheets along with collecting three to five reports from other schools to compare and see if there were some commonalities to be ready for with upcoming teams. Some problems would arise. Many times they were inconsistent, some gave great reports and some were a pure waste of time.
Interestingly, some coaches don't care to spend the time on scouting reports at all and feel that focusing on their own teams game is what counts. Some coaches ask the question, "Why do I want to give a scout on a team that I have played? After all I want the teams I played against to be very successful and win to improve my strength of schedule and ultimately my power rating."
Football, basketball and a few other sports have traded scouting videos for years and years, probably back to the 50's and 60's. However, that was rarely accomplished in college softball. Although some conferences and teams are better than others in this process and often we were able to get a video for postseason play scouting.
With that being said, now a first-hand account is all at our fingertips in our offices and video rooms. All you need is a remote control or a computer. I would go as far to say most schools are streaming games, many times with the help of student-run, lab-based commentators and camera operators. Others are more professional with their own sports streaming links with the look of a major network production and the behind the scenes people necessary to pull it off.
The ability to scout teams with actual video and a great evaluator, that you trust, within your staff is invaluable. You can see first hand how the stats and box scores match up with the video. What are the pitchers or hitters tendencies? Do pitchers tip pitches or do certain fielders tip location and pitches in general with their movement and positioning? Is the catcher tipping pitches with set up or signals? Where are the hitters swing holes?
Many times you get several camera angles that can give you information as well with different angles of the pitchers and hitters. Things like team defense positioning or how a team reacts to bunt situations, first and third situations, etc. Sometimes there can be subtle scouting cues like coaches body language, dugout presence or even stealing signals.
One use for live video is to watch umpire set ups and seeing if the zone is consistent, high or low zone, expanded on the inside or outside, etc. Many times we will go into a game with a scout on the umpire so we don't chase pitches. Television and streaming video can be very valuable in this area.
Without a doubt, public video outlets have made a huge impact on the popularity of the game and it continues to grow. However, the value of public access for coaches is immeasurable.
It is so fun to see the game grow in public persona and popularity in the sports world. How it continues to grow with increasing technology is going to be interesting to observe for the future.