Caught on the rebound

15th June 2007 at 01:00
You can be sick as a parrot about your game, but with a digital video you can targetyour mistakes - and overcome them, Stephen Manning discovers

It really was a game of two halves, Brian. There was the playing, and then there was watching it back on digital video to analyse what went wrong and how to improve, aided by those snazzy on-screen graphics that show you where the ball might have gone with just a slightly higher kick.

But what is normally the preserve of television pundits is now finding its way into schools, with digital technology affecting even remote curriculum areas, such as PE.

At Rawlins College, a school for age 14 upwards in the village of Quorn, near Loughborough, Leicestershire, pupils doing sports studies A-level coursework are filming themselves playing a range of sports - football, cricket, athletics - and then, via instant playback on a laptop computer, comparing their performance on screen with other pupils, or even famous sportspeople.

The focus is on individual skills. One young cricketer, for example, filmed his innings in order to improve his cover drive (a batting motion), by comparing it in minute detail with that of Michael Vaughan, the England cricket captain.

More pragmatically, umpiring or refereeing disputes can be clarified immediately, which cuts out a lot of arguments.

In some ways, this approach, though familiar to us via television, seems quite contrary to the spirit of sport. So does it affect how the young athletes see themselves? It varies, says James Tobin, one of the PE teachers.

"Some are apprehensive; they don't like seeing themselves on screen, and aren't keen to analyse themselves. But at A-level you need to think competitively, and assess your capabilities and shortcomings in detail. Of course, there are others who want to be Andy Gray, and think it's perfectly natural to be on screen."

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