Kelley Leary has been at the helm of the varsity boys’ volleyball program at Cambridge Rindge & Latin since 2004.
The ball, the net, and the court are constants. But game prep has evolved with technology.
“I see almost every coach now filming their games,” Leary said.
For a number of programs, a camera and tripod have become as essential as a ball and a net. Coaches or managers set up cameras before matches, either on their own end line or in the back row of the bleachers. They offer teams a view of their matches from different angles, giving them the ability to critique technique on a granular level.
Players who study film receive immediate feedback on details they often might miss, or not see.
“When I do my approach, I don’t swing my arms far enough so I don’t get as high as I could be,” Acton-Boxborough senior hitter Philip Cai said. “Looking at the film, I’ve noticed that so I’ve been trying to get my arms back more.”
In 2008, Leary created a private Facebook group for her Falcons to watch film, long before the advent of organizations like Hudl. Players view clips from previous games and she’ll discuss improvements and highlights in the comments section. Even alums join in. Since the 2008 season, Cambridge has qualified for the postseason 10 times, advanced to the sectional semis five times, with one sectional title and one state championship (2012).
Leary also conducts classroom film sessions once per week, but “I don’t overload it.”
Wayland coach Phil George limits film study to roughly three times during the regular season, but before every tourney game.
Before last Thursday’s match against Lawrence in the ALS One tourney at Winchester High School, Wayland met at the school to digest film from the previous day’s loss to Needham. George printed team stats for his players.
Like many coaches, he prefers to place a camera on the end line.
“It’s easier to see the positioning of the offense and the defense at the point of contact,” said the coach. “It’s easier to hit pause and see what the hitters see.”
Wayland, which has reached three consecutive North semifinals and the 2017 state final, also has a team Hudl page, in which George will post clips for players to study.
Milford takes it a step further, utilizing Hudl Assist. Coach Andrew Mainini sends game film to Hudl, which edits the feed into short clips, with annotatations, and returns the finished product within 24 hours. The Scarlet Hawks watch film at team dinners and Mainini will have his players do self-evaluations away from practice.
“Sometimes I’ll say, ‘take a look at these 20 clips, let me know what you can improve,’ ” Mainini said.
The Lincoln-Sudbury Booster Club bought the team a projector so coach Liz McClung can show game film on the gym wall during practice. She prefers to make her strategic decisions based on instinct while observing the flow of a match. But the veteran coach understands the analytical advantages game film brings, especially when scouting teams.
“I always think about Bill Belichick and I like to look at how he teaches his players,” she said.
Greater New Bedford and Boston Latin, the only two undefeated teams in the Globe’s Top 20, use film, but sparingly.
“We just try to get a good view of what we’re doing, trying to fix timing,” said GNB coach Richie Gomes, whose team has made eight postseason appearances in the last 10 seasons.
Boston Latin uses film in real time during practice, but does not watch game footage often. Coach Konst Dimov uses an iPad app called Coach’s Eye, which has a slo-mo mode, features tools to draw on different clips, and can compare improper and correct technique side by side.
“I really don’t like to show [my] teams film because sometimes [other] teams can give you a false sense of reality,” Gomes said.
Brookline coach Dana Jones is an outlier. He doesn’t use film.
“I know [film] is a great tool,” he said. “It’s good to have it there for games and such. I kind of eyeball it and look at what we need to work on.”
Are the film sessions as intense as teams viewing football footage? No. But the trend has added a new dimension to how coaches and players approach practices and games.
■ Twenty-five volleyball teams from the Northeast, including eight from EMass, will compete in the Rhody Invitational Saturday at Rhode Island College, not to be confused with the Little Rhody Invitational, won by Brookline, on April 15. Greater New Bedford, Milford, Taunton, Newton North, Lincoln-Sudbury, Central Catholic, and Newton South are scheduled to participate, in addition to Agawam, Minnechaug, and St. John’s-Shrewsbury.
■ Greater New Bedford became the first EMass program to clinch a tournament berth win a 3-0 win over Taunton on Thursday. Senior Gavin Ciarcia collected six kills and eight digs, senior Tommy Girard had 19 digs and senior Riley Robichaud tallied 25 assists. The Bears haven’t lost a set, winning 30 in a row. GNB lost to Newton South in the South quarterfinals last season.
■ Newton South (5-2, 4-2 Dual County League) fell from the ranks of the undefeated Tuesday with a 3-1 loss to Boston Latin, highlighted by a 25-kill performance from junior Bogdan Ivanov, 46 assists from Tyler Tse, and nine blocks from Miroslaw Wierzbicki. Latin (8-0) has sole possession of first place in the DCL. The teams meet again May 15 at Latin at 4:30 p.m.