The Duke football team, as well as the men’s and women’s basketball teams, have the thinnest playbooks in the country with iPad 3s at less then half an inch thick.
And in this case, less is more.
“[The iPads] raise your awareness and give you an edge,” sophomore quarterback Anthony Boone said.
The Blue Devil football team was the first of the three to take the digital leap by trading in their traditional three-ring binder playbooks for tablets this summer. The team’s countless pages of formations, plays, schemes and scouting reports now reside in an application called Playbook stored on the device’s 64-GB capacity.
The idea to digitalize Duke football began in May when Tom Long, the team’s video coordinator, was introduced to a company called Global Aptitude while attending a football technology conference in Indianapolis. Hearing about the upside of Global Aptitude’s Playbook application for iPads quickly prompted Long to contact Blue Devil head coach David Cutcliffe about the idea.
Following his trip, Long set up a web-conference call with Cutcliffe, Tony Sales—the Director of Duke Football Operations—and representatives of Global Aptitude to discuss the capabilities of the application.
“In 15 minutes, [Cutcliffe] was pretty much sold,” Long said.
The men’s basketball team recently announced its adoption of the technology, illustrating the willingness of Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, at age 65, to overhaul the team’s preparation rituals.
“[Krzyzewski] is for anything that can improve our players and our program,” said Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski. “One of the things that makes him great is that he adjusts to the best ways to communicate, the most efficient ways to communicate and to learn.”
The basketball team is one of the first college teams to provide iPads to its players, while the football squad is one of three FBS teams utilizing the devices, along with Syracuse and Ohio State, Long said. Twelve NFL franchises also employ the technology, and it seems as if every team at the collegiate and pro level will make the switch in the near future.
Transitioning to a paperless operation has been smooth sailing for Duke football this season. The video coordinators simply upload game and practice footage to the Playbook database for players to view each day. Additionally, all players can easily access the team’s playbook, scouting reports, practice schedules and itineraries at their fingertips, rather than having to sift through hundreds of pages of paper.
The product is conducive to learning plays and schemes more rapidly by allowing the players to watch more game film at their own convenience.
“It’s the best thing not having to carry around a big bulky binder with paper around campus,” Boone said. “You can watch [film] in your room, at the Loop, at the library, wherever you want. And [the iPad] is a cool thing to have.”
Increased security is another benefit of having the team’s valuable intel on tablets. In the past when players lost their binder playbooks, they were gone for good and anyone could access its materials. The two-level security system on Duke’s iPads gives each player his own username and password to access the device, and the video coordinators have the power to terminate the iPads’ contents from anywhere at anytime, if it is ever stolen or lost.
At first glance, the upfront cost of purchasing 120 iPads for the football team may seem financially questionable, however, they will actually save the program money right away. Assistant coaches will not waste the time and paper that they previously did printing and copying thousands of plays, schedules and scouting reports, as well as burning dozens of DVDs for players each week.
“I think in year one it’ll save [the football program] close to $30,000, and in year two it will save us close to $60,0000,” Long said.
Unlike what most people utilize the product for, the football team’s use of the device is strictly for football.
“It’s not a toy,” Long said. “Coach Cutcliffe made that clear to them. The ability for them to play games, download apps and surf the Internet has been restricted, so these iPads are specifically for football.”
The same may not hold true for Krzyzewski though.
“I think [Krzyzewski] is very excited to download Angry Birds,” Wojciechowski jokingly said.
In reality, the tablets will enhance the basketball team’s week-to-week game preparations by giving players an extensive library of game and practice footage, while also maximizing efficiency in organization and communication.
As the season gets underway in a few weeks, the basketball team will also be able to reap the benefits of the cutting-edge technology by having a leg up on its peers.
“It’s important that we stay ahead of the curve and make the best use of it, so we can be at our best,” Wojciechowski said. “I don’t think we fully appreciate how this [technology] can help our program both individually and collectively.”