Company partnering on video software that improves sports skills

Company partnering on video software that improves sports skills

CHAMPAIGN – High school coaches will be able to compare their athletes' physical movements with ideal movements, thanks to new software from Human Kinetics.

The Champaign-based multimedia company recently announced it has agreed to partner with Dartfish USA to develop and sell enhanced sports performance video software.

Baseball players, for instance, can use the software to see whether they're throwing the ball correctly or swinging the bat as they should.

"By the end of 2006, we'll have two products available, one dealing with football and one dealing with baseball," said Amy Tocco, curriculum development director for Human Kinetics' American Sport Education Program.

"They capture what is considered the ideal of technical skills out there, making sure we have the perfect swing, the perfect pitch," she explained. "Then coaches can go out and videotape their players. They can superimpose their image with the ideal image to see where they might vary."

For example, a batter might not hold up his elbow as much as the ideal. Coaches can go frame-by-frame to compare the movements.

Dartfish software has been used by a wide variety of athletes, said Victor Bergonzoli, president of Atlanta-based Dartfish USA.

"Dartfish is used by 90 percent of the Olympic athletes, whether it's swimming, luge, bobsled, figure skating, softball," Bergonzoli said.

"When I first came to the United States from Switzerland, I went to the U.S. Olympic Committee and asked them to tell me what they needed. I came back with a full wish list, and since then I've been working with all these coaches and taking their feedback," he said.

Dartfish got its start in January 1999, and Bergonzoli spent the first year developing the technology. The company has generally been putting out one new version a year, he said.

In Human Kinetics' upcoming "Coaching Technical and Tactical Skills" series, Dartfish's software will allow coaches and athletes to analyze athletes' actions by comparing them to the library created by the two companies.

"Our video analysis bridges the gap between doing and understanding," Bergonzoli said.

For athletes, seeing can be believing.

"The key challenge when a coach speaks to an athlete is bridging the gap between the athlete's perception of what he did and the coach's observations," Bergonzoli said. "The coach said, 'You did that,' and the athlete is saying, 'Are you sure?'

"We have systems to give real-time feedback – visual feedback – right on the spot," he said.

The software uses two technologies – SimulCam, which superimposes one athletic movement over another for comparison's sake, and StroMotion, which uses trajectory footage to show the evolution of an athlete's movement.

According to Training & Conditioning magazine, Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling used Dartfish software during his 2004-05 rehabilitation from an ankle injury. His workouts were videotaped and his throws were compared to make sure his mechanics didn't vary.

"We're excited to incorporate this cutting-edge video technology into our video products," said Human Kinetics chief executive officer Brian Holding. "It will provide high school and youth coaches with technology currently being used by Olympic, professional and major college coaches."

Human Kinetics will use Dartfish software in many of the skill instruction videos it produces. The products include DVDs, CD-ROMs and Web-based courses.

Tocco said Human Kinetics will develop the script for each video and do the shooting, editing and producing of the video master. The company will also duplicate the final product. Dartfish will help review the script and initial skill list and will consult during the actual shooting of the video, she said.

Five to seven people at Human Kinetics are working on each course, Tocco added.

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