Watching videos is one of the most critical activities an athlete can do outside of practice itself. This often underrated activity is disregarded by many athletes today who would rather watch a random video on YouTube instead of a video of themselves or other athletes competing.
The truth is, watching people play can increase your own motor abilities just as if you were playing.
Kids Don’t Watch Sports These Days (But they should.)
It’s a common lament among coaches. “Kids just don’t watch sports as much as we did when we were young.”
This is true. But can you blame them?
When coaches look back on what they did in their youth, it’s an apple to oranges comparison.
First, when you watched TV, sports was probably the most exciting thing to watch. (Next to Golden Girls, of course.)
Also, you were less likely to watch TV in the house before mom had you empty the trash or do the dishes. Being out of the house, playing was a better option than being in the house having to do some chores.
When you were in the house, watching the game on TV was a great excuse NOT to have to do the dishes. “But MOM! The game is on!”
Most coaches today didn’t have an iPhone in their pocket either. Full of endless distractions of fun and exciting yet trivial content to pull you away from whatever the task at hand was.
Comparing today’s athletes to those of yesteryear is an unfair comparison at best. However, watching sports on TV actually helped the athletes of the past.
Yes, it’s true; watching videos actually made those athletes better as a group. All because they watched sports.
How Video Helps Performance
For most parents, telling your athlete to watch more videos is probably the last thing you feel like doing. But in the grand scheme of athletic performance, it can be a vital step.
Many coaches can relate to the increased performance of their athletes after watching a video of elite athletes playing. Watching talented athletes can be exciting. It can also be a bit demoralizing if an athlete feels too far away from the ability of those athletes. But it turns out; there is a legitimate, scientific reason for watching the video and the increased performance.
Studies show that when we watch someone else doing an activity, mirror neurons in our brain start to encode that movement even though we are not the ones who are moving.
By watching someone in person or on video, perform a task, our brains are laying down the circuitry to complete that task independently.
How To Use Video To Improve Performance
I’m always baffled when parents tell me, “Oh, my athlete won’t let me video them.”
If that is the case, your athlete isn’t serious about becoming great.
Parents don’t want to appear as
Now, this doesn’t happen randomly, but if I splatter enough paint towards the wall, I’m eventually going to cover it.
Ideally, an athlete sits down and can deliberately watch a video of skills they are looking to improve upon. Seeing hundreds of edited clips would be ideal, but I fully understand that it’s not always feasible.
If all I can do is get that athlete to watch their sport on video, randomly, I’ll take it.
The truth is that many aspiring athletes ARE watching their sport using either Instagram or TikTok. One of my athletes called me the other day out of the blue to let me know that his teacher had confiscated his phone during class and was surprised to see that his entire Instagram feed was nothing but ski racing clips.
I do believe there is an osmotic behavior that young athletes have. And while they may not be watching a complete game like their coaches might have when they were young, that doesn’t mean they aren’t watching and encoding some of those skills into their brains.
How Parents and Coaches Can Help
We all have a high-definition video camera…in our POCKETS!!
I remember my mom showing up to every one of my high school games with a VHS Camcorder on her shoulder the size of one of those portable stereos we had back in the ’80s. I would take those videos, head to my room, and break down every game I played.
I did my stats. I reviewed every save and every goal. When goals went by me, I visualized how I wanted to make that save. Little did I know this time spent would be scientifically proven later, but I can tell you that it was the reason I became an All-American and a Division One recruit.
Investing in a small camcorder can make a world of difference. With minimal effort, that video can be uploaded to a cloud, and your entire team can have access.
There is a myriad of services out there that provide video breakdown, but I will argue that nothing beats having your copy at your fingertips.
Every goalie should have a camera fixed on them all practice and all games. No excuses. Afterward, the goalie should go through that video and revisit the saves they made or missed.
Every other athlete should have the ability to have a video of their practices. This isn’t something to be reserved for when “things get serious.” It should be part of your team, just like warm-up and cool-down.
Create a culture of video around your team. A parent with a camera on a tripod in the stands is not ‘that’ parent. They are the parent of an athlete serious about improving, and that is something you want everyone on your team to be serious about.
Encourage Video Review When Your Athletes Are Injured
While injuries can feel devastating, they can be an excellent time for an athlete to reset and work on visualization and skill acquisition.
I cringe every time I hear someone advocate that an athlete should ‘rest’. What is ‘rest’ to you? Is it doing nothing? Is it sleeping? Is it sitting on the couch while your ankle or knee, or anything else, heals?
Rest to an athlete is a complicated time and one of the best ways to keep that athlete ‘active’ is by having them review video. Just as watching a video can pave new neurological pathways, it can also keep an athlete going dormant.
Now don’t have them dwell on the video of crashes or mistakes. Have them look long enough to get the lesson and then move on. Your athlete shouldn’t be living on ‘fail’ videos or anything like that.
Your brain is searching for that positive image, so be sure to focus on what they want and not on what they don’t want.
Video is not just some nice-to-have. To aspiring athletes, it is a has-to-have. Video helps the brain carve new pathways and helps reinforce old ones. We all have video cameras in our pocket. USE THEM!