Photos Andy Calvert
A well known fact in coaching is that everyone would love to get a leg up on their opponent. Coaches look as hard as they can for that advantage if it’s there to be found. Coach Jeff Hunnicutt of the Model Blue Devils believes he’s found an advantageous opportunity for his squad, and it involves statistical analysis.
“The situation that just happened to roll across my desk,” Hunnicutt says. “I took it and ran with it because I saw it as an opportunity to help our kids.” That opportunity was being provided by a group name Hound TALINT
Hound TALINT uses statistical assessment to combine both qualitative opinions/intuition and quantitative performance metrics into universal analysis. For Coach Hunnicutt, utilizing Hound TALINT and their methods forced him and his staff to get away from the old-school way of analyzing their players.
“What we found out from the data and statistics was really intriguing and made us further understand why some kids, let’s say a kid we presumed to be lesser athlete, were making a lot of plays,” Hunnicutt says.
“We’d assume a kid can’t play in space, or a kid can’t be a cornerback or safety or an athletic position like that. Well, after testing the kids, by having them run and follow auditory and visual instructions, we were able to see who could do what and have data to tell us why it played out as such.
It was really just unique in the aspect that one of our kids that makes a tremendous number of plays for the team was one of the highest testers, and yet he’s not the fastest, nor most athletic kid. We were able to see his impact by identifying his reactive standpoint by going back through the audio and visual data that was created.”
Hunnicut hopes he can push the testing and analysis into Model Middle School football. “They have actually developed something that we can use as early as middle school,” he says.
“We’re able to show that a kid can probably play a position and we’re able to see who needs to be where. My comparison example is this testing is like the concussion test that’s performed every two years: you have to establish a baseline for each player. Once you start at that baseline, you can gauge if a player is growing or how the player is doing and how we are doing as coaches and educators to benefit that. And the data is something the kids can see and you can tell them who, what, and why.”
Another benefit for Hunnicutt and the Blue Devils is that the testing created even more competition amongst the players.
“The players loved it. We were trying to get ready for a state playoff game and getting ready for this testing at the same time, so their competitive juices were at a boiling point. They worked and they forced each other to work. Kids are gonna challenge each other if they’re any kind of competitor whatsoever anyway.
That’s something we liked from it because they started competing in the testing and they really didn’t know what they were competing for when we were doing the actual testing. Anytime a kid thinks they’re in competition for something, and if they’re able to compete within that, it’s great for any coach.”
Overall, Coach Hunnicut has enjoyed the analysis and has shared the process with his coaching peers. “It was very intriguing to me. We were kind of the guinea pigs in this and it was something I wanted to share with my fellow coaches in the county.” Also, using the information, he and his staff were able to create new drills to utilize and strengthen the talents of his players.
“It blew me away. I’m probably not the greatest promoter of this, but it’s something I think coaches can use, especially at the middle school level or even as freshmen, just creating an initial knowledge point. We could have wasted a couple of weeks on a kid practicing trying to force a kid into a position. Well now, data can show you that the kid can’t do it and tells you why. It can also point out why another kid may be the one for the job.”
Looks like these Hound TALINT guys helped the Blue Devils find a secret weapon and Coach Hunnicutt is excited about the future of his program. If you would like to know more how about sports data analysis can help your squad, Hound TALINT’s website is www.houndtalint.com.