Not All Teams Sold on Using Drones at Football Practice

Not All Teams Sold on Using Drones at Football Practice

There’s a noticeable buzz surrounding the start of the Texas high school football season, and it has nothing to do with fans or the typical pomp and circumstance associated with the state’s most popular sport.

Drones reportedly are being used as aerial cameras by a handful of high school coaches – some right here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area – to film practices from an unparalleled angle. Yet while the technological innovation appears to have plenty of upside, not all coaches are interested – at least for now.

“For me, it’s a little bit of excess,” said Guyer head coach John Walsh. “It’s not anything new, the NFL has been doing it for years with various (hovering) cameras in games and stuff like that. If you can do it, great. But it’s not something we’re interested in.”

Walsh, who is in the middle of his 10th season at Guyer, said there aren’t any plans to change the way his coaching staff films practices and hinted that could be the case for all Denton Independent School District teams. Walsh went on to say his opinion on drones may be different if teams could use them for regular-season games.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the University Interscholastic League sent an email to school districts last month informing them that the use of drones is prohibited for filming scrimmages and games.

That edict likely won’t slow the growing popularity of drone usage – even if it is just for practice sessions. According to the same Dallas Morning News report, area teams like Grapevine, Dallas Jesuit and Arlington Martin were using them during fall practices. And before the UIL ruling went into effect, Martin reportedly used at least one during its preseason scrimmage against defending Class 6A state champion Allen.

Drones are being used by several college teams, including Clemson, SMU and UCLA. Proponents say they are impeccably sturdy, accurate and versatile since they provide coaches with the ability to capture video from a much larger section of the field. This is particularly important since most teams hold offensive, defensive and special teams’ drills on opposite ends of the field.

They also are able to be operated at a high enough altitude that they don’t interfere with practice or the overall safety of players.

Coaches have filmed practices for years to catch mistakes, praise players and, in general, help their teams to get better. But that process can be time consuming and often involves an assistant coach or student setting up for filming in the press box.

The coaches who were polled in the recent Dallas Morning News article said there are more advantages to using drones, and suggested the improved angles make for better football teams. There’s also the cost factor. The cost of a drone ranges close to $2,000 compared to most quality end-zone cameras that run from $6,000 to $8,000, the Morning News said.

Cheaper or not, Walsh is happy to leave well enough alone.

“We don’t feel we need that angle to watch our own kids practice. It would be one thing if we were filming an opponent during a game, but in practice we really don’t need that angle,” Walsh said.

By Steve Gamel

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