Crazy-cool inventions making sport safer, easier to teach
An IFO (Identified Flying Object) hovered over Plymouth High School's football practice Aug. 15, its micro-sized camera filming players 70-some feet below who were wearing futuristic-looking pads on their helmets.
The future has arrived for high school football, which is embracing higher-technology advancements like drones and Guardian soft-shell, impact-absorbing helmet pads.
Plymouth Head Coach Greg Souldourian explained the program's drone -- which can be used only during practices, not games -- has become a vital teaching tool for players and coaches.
"When I started coaching, if you filmed practices at all, you were doing it on the back of a golf cart, on a ladder or lift -- you needed some kind of apparatus," Souldourian said, explaining the benefits of drone usage. "Using a drone to film practice is such a great tool. The picture quality is awesome and being able to see practices from the air is so beneficial because you're getting video from a different angle."
Souldourian recruited four members of the Wildcats' girls basketball program to operate the drone. They've become so knowledgeable at piloting the four-legged device that it's almost as easy as banking in a layup.
"At first, it was hard to pick up, but the more I flew it, the easier it got," said Plymouth senior Chloe McClain, who operated the drone along with fellow senior Elli Britton. "On a 1-to-10 scale (with 10 being the easiest), it's a 10. It's fun to fly. It's kind of like playing a video game, but it's real life."
Britton said watching the live feed of practice from the drone's perspective is entertaining.
"You can see pretty much the entire field from an interesting angle," Britton said. "The players will come over once in a while and want to watch the (live) film."
Souldourian said the drone cost in the neighborhood of $1,000, but its value to the program is priceless.
"It's such a great teaching tool," he said. "I know a lot of schools are starting to use them.
"The girls do a great job; they picked up how to operate it very quickly and they are a huge support system for our football program."
Technology is playing a key role for the Wildcats at ground level, too, thanks to the invention of the Guardian impact-absorbing helmet pads.
The two-inch thick pads snap onto the exterior of each player's helmet, adding a layer of brain safety to the sport.
"You can barely feel it," revealed Wildcat player Titus Quinn. "And it's helpful absorbing some of the shock when your head hits the ground."
Souldourian said the Guardian helmet pads costs roughly $45 a piece and can be used for multiple seasons.
"The safety technology available now -- not just the Guardian pads but the pads inside the helmets -- is amazing," Souldourian said. "The Guardian pads help protect the brain when there is a blow to the head. More than anything, it helps prevent injury when there's a whiplash effect.
"When it comes to player safety, every little bit helps. I would do anything I can to keep the kids safe."
A recent Michigan High School Athletic Association rule change limits the amount of time during the week football teams are allowed to conduct live hitting drills -- another step toward making the game safer.
"We're allowed 90 minutes per week of live hitting," Souldourian said. "The rest of the time it's tagging of the hips instead of all-out tackling."
If you have a story idea for SocialHouseNews.com, please contact Ed Wright at 734-664-4657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.