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Skills videos

Ken Krause

May 7, 2008
Mundelein, IL
If you want an exercise in interesting, pop out to YouTube sometime and take a look at some of the softball skills videos that are posted there. I'd never done it before this morning, but I just finished watching several. All I can say is I wonder how college coaches ever figure out which players to check out based on a video.

I've never selected players by video and claim no expertise in this area. These are just my impressions after watching.

Understand that I've helped a couple of players put together their skills videos. One was a student of mine, the other one of my team's players. Having studied video production in school (when video was still edited on tape) and having a decent laptop, I figured I did a credible job of showing off the players. Particularly since I followed the advice in Cathy Aradi's book Preparing to Play Softball at the College Level on what to show and how long to show it for. But what I found today online definitely made me feel better about what we'd done.

I watched one video where the girl talked so fast and with such sloppy diction that it was tough to make out what she was saying in her introduction. I'm not expecting these kids to be Katie Couric, but at least make sure people can understand what you're saying. Some of the videos would cross-fade between executions, i.e. the girl would field a ground ball, then there would be a cross-fade right into the next ground ball. It was probably done in the interest of time, but it did make me wonder what was cut out in-between. My understanding, from Aradi's book and talking with college coaches, is they want to see continuous action. They want to see the error, and how the player recovers. Obviously they don't want to see an entire video of errors, but one miss in a group of executions is not only ok but desirable, because it's more honest.

One video I watched had a big section of game film, also listed as something not to do by Aradi. You may think it's great that your pitcher struck out a kid, but no one knows how good the hitter was. Striking out a career .187 hitter is not that impressive. That same video also included some superimposed commentary intended, I suppose, to help a college coach know just how great the kid is. My guess is the coaches aren't looking at the results, again because the quality of the opponent is in question. They just want to see the skills. Leave the game films out.

I've also talked to several coaches who said they really don't look at a player's stats. Making them a feature of the video is a waste of time. The only stats they really care about are your GPA and ACT or SAT scores, because they want to know if they bring you onto the team that you'll still be eligible once school starts.

Awards and honors are nice, but don't put too much weight on them. I saw video of a couple of kids claiming to be "All-City" or "All-Conference" as a freshman. After watching their skills all I could conclude is it must be a weak city or conference. They were competent, but no one you'd expect to build your team around.

If you're going to add music, I'd say forget the '70s porno music and get something stronger and more upbeat. But then, I have a musical background so I notice those things. I have no idea what the college coaches feel about it, although I'd guess since they're human that having good music might encourage them to stick with your video a little longer, if for no other reason than to hear the rest of the song.

Speaking of sound, if you're doing the filming remember that the camera has a microphone. Be careful what you say while taping. I saw one video where the coach or dad (or coach/dad) had to throw in a "good" or a "nice job" after every routine execution. If I were a college coach watching the video, I'd want to make those decisions myself. No need to comment on every skill.

My very favorite, though, was a video that started out with a 10 second promo for the video house that shot it. I really hope they added it just for the YouTube version, and not to send out to college coaches. That would be a real lack of prioritization in my mind. I don't know if it would hurt the player from a recruiting standpoint, but it would definitely turn me off as a coach.

If you're getting ready to shoot a recruiting video, check out what's on YouTube before you start to see what you like and don't like. Here's another good resource, courtesy of Cindy Bristow of Softball Excellence. And definitely pick up Aradi's book. It could help you avoid some classic mistakes.

May 12, 2008
All good points. As to wondering how a college coach judges video, I'm not sure what your concern is? Are you saying these are poorly done videos or are you saying a good video can't show a coach much?
Jul 29, 2008
Thank you soooo much for posting this!

I am the recruiting coordinator for my team and have talked to many college coaches regarding video's. They all say the same things and yet parents/coaches want to do it their way.

I'm not going to mention names, but I have @ 30 video's saved as favorites with comments. There are some awful video's out there. The players skills are sub-par, video quality is bad, content is lacking, too much content, parents/coaches comments in the background, and "staged" skills.

That said and those are the majority, I have noticed an increase in quality video's. I save them because I may like the music, the intro, or something in there just sparked an idea.

Here are my additional suggestions:
1. Have a honest, dis-interested third party critique your video for skills and presentation.
2. Turn the sound off or edit the "that was great" out. Your parents or coaches aren't going to convince a college you are great.
3. Update your video every 6 mos.
4. You don't have to have a big, costly production company do these. Any newer camcorder that comes with editing software will suffice.
5. If doing yourself, check with more experienced friends or even college coaches to make sure you are covering what they want- # of angles, scenario's, length of video, etc.
6. Have a plan before you go to the field to shoot.
7. Be neat in your presentation (players) and have anyone helping you (other fielders) the same. Tuck in shirts and wear matching clothes. The best scenario would be to have you and your teammates in your regular uniforms.
8. Spend the time on YouTube or team websites investigating what works and what doesn't.
9. DO THE VIDEO. I see postings and am asked this frequently: "One of the colleges on my list just asked for a video and I don't have one. Will you help me?" Without one, you have just told a coach you were unprepared.

Thanks for the post Ken! I'm going to copy and paste your thoughts in an email to our team.

Ken Krause

May 7, 2008
Mundelein, IL
All good points. As to wondering how a college coach judges video, I'm not sure what your concern is? Are you saying these are poorly done videos or are you saying a good video can't show a coach much?
A little of both I suppose. I didn't think the videos looked particularly good from a skills standpoint. Maybe they just weren't, and better skills would've shown better.

For the pitchers I saw, it was hard to see ball movement shooting from behind the pitcher. Maybe it would've worked better from behind the catcher (curve or screw), or from the side (drop or rise).

I know no kid is going to get signed off a video, so it's just there to perhaps entice a coach to find out more about the player. But that has to be tough too, given the volume of videos I've heard college coaches receive. I'd be interested to hear how college coaches go through videos, and how many are worthwhile v. how many are just of no interest.

Ken Krause

May 7, 2008
Mundelein, IL
Thanks, Texas. Glad it was of help. I like your idea of watching YouTube to see what works and what doesn't. It's sort of what I did by accident I suppose. It also gives some perspective on where a player is versus "the competition."

Nice checklist, by the way. I agree with all of it.
Dec 3, 2008
Ken --

I get several videos per week. Sometimes, they come with popcorn for my viewing pleasure. Seriously.

I get videos ranging from very, very well-edited and professionally done to incredibly amateur. Often, I appreciate the amateur one more; for many of the reasons you already pointed out. Specifically, I like to see 5+ groundballs hit to someone in a row, instead of all the "good" fielding edited together. I'm not an idiot -- even with the sharp editing I can see the balls she missed sitting in the outfield behind her, even if they didn't include that particular play in the video.

I don't mind the music. But, I like to hear the game. That is, I like to hear the bat hit the ball, the ball hit the glove, etc. It's probably just a visceral love of that sound, but I like it.

As I said, I like continuous shots.

I don't like when they only show a player's swing, without seeing where the ball is going. I want to know whether, when she swings that hard, she's putting the ball to the fence, or just past the infield.

How do I review them?

I always listen to 100% of their introduction.

I can probably tell within 2 or 3 swings (or 2 or 3 defensive plays) if the player is recruitable for my program. However, they worked hard on their video and I give it my attention. I don't claim to watch the whole thing. I'll fast forward after a few grounders, a few home-to-first times, etc. if she isn't at our caliber. But, I'll go through and make sure there isn't an aspect of her worth watching. OR, for that matter, worth passing on to one of my many contacts at Division II, III or JuCo.

If a player looks impressive on video, we get in touch. We talk to her coaches. We invite her to a camp or make sure to get out and watch her during her season. As you said, we do not exclusively recruit off video. In fact, of all our commitments for the class of 2008, 2009 and 2010, I have only once begun the recruiting process from a video. I have never even seen videos for the rest of them. Playing on highly recruited gold teams, I would be surprised if they even had one.

That's my two cents.

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