Since GoPro products hit the shelves a decade ago, these rugged, wearable cameras have offered athletes the most personal viewing angles possible. Whether attached to a helmet, kayak, dirt bike, or any other daredevilish piece of equipment, GoPro technology allows you to relive the actual experience unlike any other recording device.
The idea for GoPro was conceived during a surfing excursion in Australia, when Founder, Nick Woodman, grew tired of losing control of his handheld camcorder while riding waves. Amateur photographers could not get close enough to capture adequate shots and fastening the camera to his hand with rubber bands proved equally unsuccessful. Thus, Woodman took his passion for the perfect angle to the next level and formed GoPro in 2002.
Thanks to GoPro and to the delight of millions of viewers worldwide, YouTube has now become a breeding ground for wingsuit flyers to best each other in daunting jumps over the Swiss Alps or downhill skiers to boast their skills on treacherous runs through the Rocky Mountains. GoPro cameras have even made it into the mouths of crocodiles and great white sharks.
Away from the realm of extreme sports, GoPro is making a splash in football technology as well. Recently, the San Mateo-based camera producer announced quarterbacking mastermind and former Super Bowl-winning Head Coach, Jon Gruden, as a GoPro brand ambassador. Gruden’s primary objective in this endeavor is to exhibit the value of GoPro tech from a coaching perspective.
To activate the partnership, Gruden spent four days coaching the Hillsborough High Terriers (Tampa, FL), leading the team through his own training regimen with GoPro Hero 4’s equipped to both Gruden’s visor and numerous players’ helmets. From the individual player’s perspectives, the footage is extremely valuable when reviewing the day’s practice.
Helmet mounted GoPros allow players to relive each play and analyze their mistakes from their own angle. Quarterbacks can see where they may have missed an open man and how the defense reacts to a certain formation from his view in the pocket. Coaches can then make adjustments as to where the quarterback should have been looking and how he can improve his vision.
Similarly for wide receivers, players can see exactly where they were looking when they ran a route or dropped a pass from the first-person perspective. Refined vision is essential to success for most position groups, and GoPro offers players and coaches the most personal platform to improve this skill.
This is not the first instance in which Woodman’s wearable cameras have been used to better player performance.
This past spring, a little league baseball team in San Diego began utilizing GoPros during batting practice to further engage the youth with their own improvement. Providing the little leaguers with a chance to see themselves up close on the GoPro app on a smartphone or tablet creates a more exciting practice for the kids and makes coaching easier.
At the end of the day, implementing GoPro technology into a teams’ daily practice regimen may not drastically alter their performance, but the individual focus of GoPro footage does provide more incentive for athletes, especially younger athletes, to review their own film and study their own technique.
Wireless transfer of footage to mobile devices allows for quick and easy review, and the straightforward set up eliminates the hassles that stem from installing a complex camera system at practice facilities. Youth and high school athletic programs looking to review high quality practice film could easily add GoPros to their existing camera network or solely rely on mounted cameras all together, and save money in the process.
Beyond coaching, GoPro is also looking to redefine the spectator’s perspective on officiating.
Early this fall, the NHL and GoPro announced a partnership that brings Hero cameras onto the ice and into the rush of hockey action. Helmet cameras placed on referees not only brings viewers into the rink with the players, but they also present the official’s point of view throughout the game.
This gives fans an idea of what officials can see as they speed up and down the ice, tracking play and putting themselves in the best position to make crucial judgements. No official is perfect, and helmet cams certainly do not solve this problem, but with the NHL’s video review policy on disputed goals, it is feasible to believe GoPro footage may prove useful in certain scenarios.
In a soccer friendly between the MLS All-Stars and AS Roma in August 2013, the MLS implemented its first ever “ref cam” for official Hilario Grajeda to attach to a set of modified protective glasses. While the ref cam did not prove to be particularly effective in determining tough calls, it did display to viewers the rapid pace of a professional soccer pitch and the difficulty of the ref’s job to monitor all 22 players on the field at once.
Unfortunately, FIFA does not allow GoPro technology for referees in official soccer matches at this time, and considering their reluctance to admit goal-line technology, a rather basic and necessary advancement, it may be years before we see refs sport GoPros in the Premier League or World Cup.
Hopefully, the NHL’s use of mounted cameras prompts similar partnerships with the other major professional leagues. In addition to offering another angle for video reviews, it may gradually increase fans’ respect of the men in black and white stripes. Referees may always be the scapegoat when a controversial ruling clouds a close victory, but the average spectator may be more sympathetic when they realize the ref had an impossible angle or was screened by a player in the field.
GoPro’s entrance into the realm of coaching, player performance, and officiating in team sports marks the next step for a company that already possess a tight hold over the extreme sports market. At $129, GoPro’s base product, the Hero, is an affordable option for most casual sportsmen looking to capture and share their adventures; and the simplicity of the GoPro design and the supplementary app software make it an attractive piece of technology.
The modern sports fan desires the spectacular.
Whether it be spectacular athleticism, spectacular venues, or spectacular points of view, we now expect sports to be presented in the most engaging way possible.
Undoubtedly, GoPro’s influence on sports will continue to increase as we grow accustomed to the up close and personal perspective of mounted cameras, and the benefits they bring to the sports we love.