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Could you use lasers to get your players to align correctly?


Imagine having the ability to use interactive lasers as a teaching tool to get your players lined up correctly, or to make an adjustment to a certain formation or personnel grouping. That may not be as far fetched as you'd think.

The idea came to me as I was reading a baseball article from ESPN talking about the Dodgers asking the grounds crew of New York Mets if they'd mind painting a few marks on the outfield of Citi Field before the game to help the positioning of their outfielders. The Dodgers planned to use an "electronic positioning device," to align their outfielders during the game, and since the Mets were unaware initially they told their opponent "no problem," but then someone in the front office in New York started to do some digging and had the commissioner's office investigate.

A few days later, the Dodgers were notified that their plans were ruled illegal, but for the past month they had been getting away with using a range finder and the device without anyone batting an eye. The Dodgers had been using the marks and the device, and combining it with player data and analytics to put their outfielders in places where players had been known to hit. Instead of having a coach yell at the center fielder from the dugout "TAKE 10 GIANT STEPS BACK and EIGHT STEPS TO THE RIGHT" they were using technology and lasers to relay that same information. Well the MLB decided that was not okay.

One MLB exec asked, "What's the difference between a coach waving his hands to move a guy right or left, or taking laser pointers to show him where to move? What's the difference? ... It's just taking the shift one step further."

While I'm not exactly sure if the Dodgers were simply using a range finder and those paint markings / a laser pointer to get their guys shifted in the right positions, or if there were actual lasers involved, it got me to thinking how close we may actually be to being able to use lasers to adjust the alignment of players, in practice at the very least. Proper alignment plays such a key role on defense that being able to show, in real time, where a player lines up after an offense shifts or versus a certain formation, can be incredibly important.

There's actually nothing stopping you from using a small hand held laser at practice right now, and for some positions that may be an interesting strategy to utilize. Imagine being a safeties coach on the practice field during a team session. The tight ends goes in motion from right to left, switching the strength of the formation, and after your player doesn't respond immediately, you take a laser pointer and draw a path from 12 yards deep (where he currently is), to a rolled up run-support position of 6-7 yards from the ball, and he immediately reacts. For a lot of guys, that approach may help them retain the information a lot better than yelling at them after the play, or talking about it during a film session. It's both visual and immediate.

As that idea continues to evolve, maybe a laser could be mounted to a drone and then used remotely to line up an entire defense to formations or motions. The possibilities are actually quite exciting.

Speaking of using technology on the field, as the NFL and NCAA continue discussions about allowing video on the sidelines - something that high schools have been doing for years - I found it interesting that Major League Baseball has a much different view of how the NFL utilizes technology than the coaching profession does.

"The NFL has totally embraced technology. We're so far behind on so many fronts, it's incredible," one GM notes in the piece.

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