Concordia Stingers Video Coach Prove Training isn’t All Muscles

Women’s Hockey’s New Video Coordinator Continues Team’s Strong Use of Tech

Concordia’s women’s hockey is using video coaching techniques to learn from the past. Photo Carl Bindman
Concordia’s women’s hockey is using video coaching techniques to learn from the past. Photo Carl Bindman

Concordia’s women’s hockey team will have a full-time video coordinator for the first time since the program’s inception.

Laurent Nguyen is the second year John Molson School of Business student who will be taking on the position and working with the coaches to help analyze the team using video he records from their games.

The video coordinator position, last year filled part-time by Concordia’s equipment manager and men’s team’s coordinator Christopher Rappel, involves filming and marking key moments happening on the ice during games.

Nguyen’s work allows Stingers’ head coach Julie Chu and her staff to effectively break down everything from their power plays and penalty kills to how they break out of their own zone and anything else they want to evaluate.

The footage is primarily reviewed at the team’s weekly video sessions, hosted by Nguyen. The big innovation is that it can also be looked over during an intermission, where coach Chu and her staff can make critical in-game adjustments.

Everyone on the team understands just how helpful it will be to have Nguyen working alongside them this season.

“It’s always helpful to have a video [coordinator] because we need to see what we need to improve on the ice” said Stingers forward Claudia Dubois. “It’s always a plus for us.”

After training to get a better handle on his new position heading into the upcoming season, Nguyen is excited to be heading back to the team he got to know last year. The business technology management major spent last year volunteering with the Stingers.

“I used an application called Time On Ice Tracker and then whenever a player jumped on the ice, I selected their names so that their time on ice and minutes were logged automatically into the system […] It even breaks down power play, special teams, and penalty kills,” said Nguyen.

After seeing his work with the team last year, coach Chu has no worries about Nguyen’s ability to come into a new position.

“He was great and I think he’s going to continue bringing a great energy and enthusiasm this year,” said Chu. “Whatever learning curve he’s going to need is going to go quickly.”

It’s not hard to see why Chu thinks so. Nguyen’s passion and excitement for his work and the team is palpable. He’s eager to show he can do his job well with as much accuracy as possible.

Like the team, Nguyen is well aware of the value of his work.

“What is really nice is that, let’s say the coach wants to review a play during the intermission, they can select that certain play and then they can show it to their player,” explained Nguyen. “It’s much easier to break down video to the players than just to tell them.”

Thanks to Nguyen’s work, Chu and her players can not only review what needs to be fixed in game but use video as a more effective practice tool. Part of what makes the job enjoyable for Nguyen is working with people that are focused on using all the tools at their disposal to ice a winning team.

As coaches, our job is to continue evolving. As we try to challenge our players to get better, we need to get better and technology is just a resource we can use for that. – Stingers Women’s Hockey Coach Julie Chu

“I’m definitely grateful. What I’m really excited about is that we have an amazing coaching staff […] I’m really excited to work with them. The [coaches] at Concordia are really technology driven,” said Nguyen.

For a student in a program that has a focus on technology, working with such a group is a perfect fit. Nguyen cites software programs like Stevapro and Time On Ice Tracker for allowing the team to collect data on players. While their use of technology gives the Stingers a definite boost, they are hardly the only team to take advantage of the new tools that are available to them.

The use of technology in sports is becoming more prominent. Teams and athletes are looking for new ways to gain an edge and technology offers a wealth of advantages for them.

“It’s good. Even with our gear and our sticks, everything improves year after year,” explained Dubois. “We just get better with that because technology improves us in many ways. We improve as players with technology.”

The maroon and gold are certainly focused on that improvement. Concordia’s training camp featured plenty of tech-based tools used to prepare players for the upcoming season. The Stingers also use a platform called Vidswap that allows them to view tapes from their opponents’ games, and an application called Coach’s Eye, among other things.

An extremely useful tool for coach Chu, Coach’s Eye allows her to take recordings of players running drills, play it side by side with other players doing the same, alter the video with diagrams or drawings to bring focus on minute aspects of the player’s positioning and much more.

For Chu, it’s all about finding the most effective way to educate her players.

“I think we have so many different types of learners, that’s what’s important. You have the visual ones who need to see it in X’s and O’s up on the board then you have some that just by talking it out they can pick it up. Most are not that,” said Chu. “[Video]’s a huge resource learning tool for us.”

The ever-evolving field of sports technology extends far past video and apps, though. “[Technology] gives you such an edge” said Julia Peress, clinic manager at Neurocircuit, a company that specializes
in concussion treatment and neurological training for athletes.

Peress and Neurocircuit use a kind of training known as “sports vision” which involves using technology to train athletes’ hand-eye reaction time.

“It works on peripheral vision training and anticipating movement […] training the eyes to see more, see quicker, respond quicker,” said Kathy Cohen, the owner of Neurocircuit.

New technology allows the company to offer this less traditional form of training. It may not involve the weights or drills that many athletes are used to, but sports vision technology opens up new avenues for training that can bring athletes’ games to a higher level.

“We’ve learned now that athletics is not just from the neck down—it’s from the head down. You need to use your brain,” said Cohen. “You need to be smarter, faster.”

“It’s not just about how big your muscles are but how fast you can react, and how fast you can anticipate,” she continued.

Training like Neurocircuit’s technology-based sports vision model can also be of use when it comes to a hot button topic in the world of sports today: safety.

A major component of this training is based on increasing the athlete’s ability to anticipate what’s about to happen and react accordingly. In contact sports, like hockey, where damaging impacts can often surprise a player, even a split second advantage in anticipation makes avoiding a dangerous hit far more likely.

Concussions, head traumas, and the long-term damage being caused by sports-related injuries are a major concern in contact sports. Any training that allows athletes to anticipate and avoid potential injuries has a place in mainstream conversation.

Despite the benefits, many in the world of sports are wary of the increasing role of technology. Some believe that the traditional methods of training are sufficient and should be left as they are. To Peress, who studied exercise science and played varsity soccer at Concordia, it comes down to a lack of education.

“There was a reluctance to hire a strength trainer, and take [training] off the pitch and do it in the gym and I guess now we’re seeing the same thing happen with this,” said Peress. “Coaches are aware of it but I think [they are] hesitant just because they don’t understand it.”

For coach Chu, the argument boils down to using the most effective tools at her disposal to help her team win, and that she is always aware of what those resources are. “We always have to be willing to adjust and adapt to the changing of the times and to what resources are available,” Chu said.

“As coaches, our job is to continue evolving. As we try to challenge our players to get better, we need to get better and technology is just a resource we can use for that.”