Mobile technology is a game-changer across many industries, and major league sports are no exception. The Denver Broncos are staying ahead of competition with the launch of a digital playbook on the Apple iPad for the 2012-2013 season. With the help of the PlayerLync application, Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network and protective case maker OtterBox, players and coaches have real-time access to video highlights, playbook updates, competitor reviews and much more in a mobile yet sturdy package.
Deploying 150 tablet devices across the Denver Broncos organization was no small feat, and – as always – it was a team effort. The internal video and information technology departments collaborated for about a year to determine the best way for the Denver Broncos to go mobile. Considerations included platform, security, connectivity, functionality and protection for the delicate digital playbooks.
When it came to choosing the device, the team considered what was already being utilized.
“We started to use players’ iPads a few years ago,” said Steve Boxer, Denver Broncos video director for the last 16 seasons. “We started loading a little bit of video for some of the players on their personal iPads, and then it kind of blossomed into a big thing.”
"When you go walking through the locker
— Russ Trainor, vice president of information
The iPad, coupled with the PlayerLync application and a robust wireless infrastructure, promised a secure and fullymobile solution. However, there was still concern regarding how to keep them safe. Coaches and players are on the field, in the locker room and constantly traveling, so the risk of broken devices is significant.
PROTECTING THE INVESTMENT
“Since I pay the bills for those things, breakage was definitely a concern – we wanted a good case for it,” said Russ Trainor, vice president of information technology. “We did our due diligence. The players and coaches will be using the iPad in the training room, they might be taking them on the field, when they go on the road, in hotel rooms or on buses. I’m sure they’re being thrown in backpacks and just thrown around in general, so we needed a good sturdy cover for them.”
Once word got out that the Denver Broncos were moving to a digital playbook, the staff received a plethora of case options to assess. Among these was the OtterBox Defender Series – a multi-layer protective case that includes a built-in screen protector and a screen shield that doubles as a stand for comfortable typing and hands-free viewing.
“By far and away, the OtterBox cover was everyone’s favorite,” Trainor said.
FROM THE FIELD
The digital playbooks were rolled out to players and coaches during minicamp and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Gone are the days of lugging around 500-page three-ring binders of the latest plays or multiple DVDs to review video.
“It’s an exciting thing, because I’m into technology,” said Eric Studesville, running backs coach. “I think technology is the way that everything is going in football. The availability of the video on there is what I think is fantastic. You can take it with you anywhere – on the plane, at home. It makes it easy.”
Studesville has found the video review features on the tablet to be especially helpful due to the immediacy, portability and easy touchscreen controls. He is also excited to see the players he works with finding their own best-practices for using the technology.
“I’d had an iPad before, but I was excited to see how it would work for the Denver Broncos,” said running back Willis McGahee. “I mainly use it for my playbook studying – trying to learn plays and watch films of different teams. It’s different than what we’re used to doing. We can still take notes and footnote things. We can highlight things we need to study. The main thing is that I don’t have to flip through all of those pages – it’s just scroll-up, scroll-down and it’s right there for you.”
For players and coaches alike, the premium protection is an added benefit. The Denver Broncos provided the iPads, but replacement devices could come at a cost to the users.
“I was excited about the protective case because it’s more than likely that I would be one of the ones that would need to replace something in time,” said Studesville. “You throw it here or jam it in a bag there, in the overhead on a plane… they do get bounced around on a pretty good clip, but the fact that they’re protected makes it great. It’s more efficient and you can do more with it.”
EFFICIENCIES AND SAVINGS
More than halfway through the first fully mobile season, the Denver Broncos are already realizing cost-savings and efficiencies due to the digital playbooks. Updates to the playbook no longer require the printing and manual distribution of pages and the printers are having fewer maintenance issues. The video team can do more, faster.
“We’re able to push video and content from anywhere we are at in the country,” said Boxer. “When we’re at a hotel and need to get a game, I can just log in and push that game to anybody’s iPad. We were never able to do that before. You had to be at your desk. Going mobile is definitely saving time and I think it will save money in the long-run, too.”
Without a doubt, the devices have changed the way information is processed and disseminated throughout the organization. The OtterBox Defender Series is keeping the technology up and running, to wherever the team is off and running.
“When you go walking through the locker room, the iPads are everywhere,” Trainor said. “They’re on the floor,
they’re in the locker, under bags, under shoes… But really I don’t worry about them. I don’t have to worry about them. They might take a little bit of a beating, but they’re in the OtterBox cover and I haven’t heard of anyof them breaking.”
Professional athletics doesn’t get tougher than football, and technology protection doesn’t get tougher than OtterBox, the Official Protector of the Denver Broncos’ Digital Playbook.
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