“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke
NLL Hall of Fame legend Les Bartley (Class of 2006) was one of the first NLL coaches to implement video and game film into weekly game prep. This was back in the late-90s and the early 2000s (when he was with the Toronto Rock).
Way back in those years, there weren’t common ways to access information on the go or whenever your heart desired. MacBooks, iPads, and other advanced technologies weren’t available to the public then. So, if you were a player or coach in the National Lacrosse League during that time, you needed to have other methods of studying for your upcoming game.
Calgary Roughnecks Head Coach Curt Malawsky played in the NLL from 1998-2009. He is now considered to be one of the best coaches in the NLL. As a coach of an NLL team in 2023, he understands how far technological advancements around the league have come. It’s fascinating to hear him explain what things used to be like compared to how they are now.
“I think it’s 10x better,” Malawsky said. “Players can go online during the week and access film – we usually used to wait until the weekend to get film, or back then, you would go in the back after a game and watch the games on TV. Now, early on in the week, players can watch every shift of that game. If they want, they can isolate specific things like a defensive shift or watch a defender repeatedly to pick up their tendencies and trends.”
As Malawsky alluded to, nowadays, teams around the NLL can use all sorts of advanced video technology to help them improve, both as a team and individually. He’s been advocating for the team to implement these more advanced technologies, and now he and his staff are learning how to get the best out of these newer programs. The NLL has an agreement with Hudl available for every team. Hudl is a platform that allows teams to clip and organize highlights, plays, sequences and more in a convenient way for coaches to scout and players to break down film without needing to watch the full game.
Looking at the Roughnecks specifically, they use a handful of programs to help them midweek or even in-game. For example, programs like XOS Digital (now Catapult Sports) is an in-depth and sophisticated sports analysis and data collection program that is intended to enhance team and player performance. The Roughnecks can utilize this technology by running through video to make clips to regroup in moments like halftime.
Other programs, like GameStrat, allow guys on the coaching staff, like Roughnecks Video Analyst Shawn Cable to sit up in the press box, or where ever he can find a place to settle in for a game, make game clips and then send those immediately down to the bench to Malawsky and assistant coaches Bob McMahon, Brian Beisel, and goaltending coach Tyler Richards.
There is a lot of parity in the NLL. Because of that, so many games can be decided by a goal or two. Cable mentioned that having access to technology such as GameStrat can make a difference in the final result.
“We’re starting to find some value where we can use it at TV timeouts or our own timeouts,” Cable said. “Times like that allow us to make changes on the fly to help with the results. Our games are so close a majority of the time, so any minor adjustments you can make in the middle of the game can make the difference between a win and a loss.”
Having access to an abundance of relevant analytic information has changed the way coaches can teach their players. Sure, there are instances where in-game, a player can make a simple or minor adjustment here or there, but it’s during the weekday prep where these technologies help make the magic happen.
Within hours of completing one game, coaches can have dozens of individualized clips available to send to their players. On the flip side, players who want to correct or adjust specific parts of the play can request certain clips and information in an attempt to never make that same mistake again. Like Malawsky said, such technologies make game prep much easier to get through and make it much easier for players to improve their game.
“It’s evolved now to a point where it’s way more user-friendly,” Malawsky said. “It’s so much more accessible, and it’s all broken down for the guys, so they don’t have to spend two hours going through a game. Now you can go through a game very quickly.”
We’re just scratching the surface in this article as to how technology has changed how coaches and players around the league can use these newer technologies to enhance the play on the floor.
As the play on the floor and the technology behind the scenes continues to improve, it will become increasingly difficult to determine if what we’re seeing to place on NLL floors is real or if it’s magic, and I don’t think anyone has a problem with that.