Coaches and players watch the footage — 14,000 high schools use Hudl — to strategize and scout other teams.CreditBen Sklar for The New York Times
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SAN ANTONIO — Time for some Texas high school football, heavily assisted by modern technology.
On a recent 90-degree Saturday night at Heroes Stadium here, with the lights flickering on at sunset, the Knights of Byron P. Steele II High School opened their season before a crowd of more than 6,500.
“I feel good,” said Scott Lehnhoff, the Knights’ coach. “Everybody feels like they’re in the right place.”
If they weren’t, cameras around the field and stands probably would have caught it. And that footage would be part of about 40 hours of digital action that Mr. Lehnhoff studies, edits or shows his team every week.
The Knights are part of a technology revolution that is transforming high school football nationwide and creating opportunities for companies that supply equipment and services. Many sources finance the sport, including school boards, parents and booster clubs. That all adds up.
“Lots of high schools in this country now spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, even a million, on football,” said Angela Lumpkin, the chairwoman of the sports management department at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. “Over $3 billion nationally wouldn’t surprise me.”
She added, “With all the emphasis on winning games, getting players to the next level, the tech companies can smell the money.”
The Byron P. Steele II High School Knights in San Antonio, watching game footage in preparation for their next opponent. CreditBen Sklar for The New York Times
In Minnetonka, Minn., the city’s high school football team has invested in Riddell sensor nets that fit inside helmets to measure impact. Riddell, a leading maker of football helmets, started selling the nets last October and has already outfitted 3,600 helmets, at $150 each. Riddell has also sold to 172 teams a $200 monitor for tracking head impacts that can be set at high school, college and professional levels.
Teams are also using apps like GameChanger that track scores and stats and provide recaps, and Coach’s Eye, for split-second analysis of sports moves and marching-band steps. Scorbitz promises to “create new revenue opportunities” for schools by automating scoreboards to deliver information to people’s phones.
A Nebraska company, Hudl, has built a multimillion-dollar business by putting footage from 14,000 high schools into servers it rents from Amazon. At peak times, 30 hours of video a minute is uploaded, said John Wirtz, Hudl’s chief product officer.
Coaches, players, parents and fans watch the footage to critique performances, strategize and scout other teams. At some high schools, including in Magnolia Heights, Miss., Hudl footage is even filmed by drones.
Hudl charges schools up to $3,000 for 200 hours of video, about what it costs to equip four of the 85 varsity Knights.
Hudl works with 18 sports besides football for high schools, colleges and professional teams. It has also employed a statistician to look at student clips, vitals and geographic location, with the goal of ranking high school athletes nationwide.
Robert Westbrook, a school board member in the Knights’ district, said the rise of technology in football made sense for students who are accustomed to technology in every area of their lives.
When children grow up with smartphones and playing Madden NFL on their Xboxes and PlayStations, Mr. Westbrook said, “football is more natural when the coach sends them film.”
In San Antonio, Mr. Lehnhoff and an opposing coach, Mark Smith of the James Madison Mavericks, swapped team footage in the week before the recent game. That is a tradition dating to the days of Super 8 film, sometimes one that involved hours of driving for the exchange.
But the video now goes quickly and cheaply to the cloud-computing servers of Hudl.
The Knights use Hudl, a web service, to put together game footage.CreditBen Sklar for The New York Times
Short clips are edited and sent to players’ phones, with praise and pointers. There is training video for the team, and game video for the Thursday parents’ pot luck. Fast-paced action compilations edited by the coach and his assistants got the team pumped before the Knights’ game against the Mavericks, providing the visuals as Mr. Lehnhoff urged the players to earn redemption after last year’s loss against Madison.
Other video posted on Hudl is taken by parents and students; it also makes its way to YouTube, Facebook and school websites.
“The kids give me scouting reports,” said the 33-year-old Mr. Lehnhoff, a third-generation Texas high school coach. He shook his head as he marveled at the changes to the sport. “They know who’s been hurt, who’s got a new play.”
After viewing plays in his office, he said, “I’m on the couch with my iPad while my wife watches ‘The Bachelorette.’ ” Mr. Lehnhoff often watches Hudl footage of games from other schools. “I watch freshman games to try and figure out what that other coach is preaching to his varsity.”
After all the preparation for the recent Saturday game, Madison received the kickoff. But six plays later the Knights had their first touchdown. A second came soon after from L. G. Williams, the Knights’ star senior quarterback.
L. G. Williams, the Knights’ star senior quarterback, during halftime in the game against the James Madison Mavericks. CreditBen Sklar for The New York Times
L. G.’s parents have filmed him since third grade, and now he oversees a “crew chat” that keeps tabs on players at other schools based on their online postings. Texas State, 30 miles away in San Marcos, Tex., saw L. G.’s video, and offered him a position at the college next year.
By the time he’s a college senior, he said, “I don’t know what kind of technology they are going to have, but it’s going to be fantastic.”
His arm helped earn Steele a 35-0 lead by halftime. The marching bands came out in full force, having rehearsed to online videos, using apps that store music and manage field navigation. Madison’s color guard has a sharp flag twirl, tuned with the Coach’s Eye app.
By the fourth quarter Mr. Lehnhoff was using his younger players, giving them playing time — which will then be studied. The final score was 35-0.
Mr. Lehnhoff left the field under a waxing quarter-moon, filmed by his wife, Megan, with her hand-held video camera, as he hoisted their 1-year-old daughter, Landri, on his hip.
The coach was already thinking about the next week’s game with Laredo United South. “They’re going to have a hard time with us,” he said.
Still, by 8 a.m. Sunday he was back at school, planning for the week ahead and watching game film.