In-Game Analytics: Steve Specht Coaches With Confidence

Steve Specht will be the first to admit he’s an old-school coach. He’s heading into his 30th year as a coach, and he says he operates mostly by feel. The head coach at St. Xavier (Ohio) High School in Cincinnati knew what analytics were because he was approached on several occasions by suppliers with an interest in bringing the concept of analytics to his program’s football field.

“Nothing ever really transpired from it,” says Specht. “But it got me to thinking. I hired a new offensive coordinator last year — Andrew Coverdale — who is major-league analytics. He talked to me about it too. One thing led to another and EdjSports contacted us. I’m open to new ideas. I think if you don’t study ‘the new,’ you get your tail kicked in this game.”

Whether it’s new training systems, nutrition, surveys, analytics, or heart-rate variability, Specht is always willing to give something new a try. While he wouldn’t exactly describe himself as an early-adopter, he says he tries to stay on the front edge of whatever’s going on.

“I’m not going to profess to be the smartest individual in the world. But I’m smart enough to know I need to hire people smarter than I am, and I need to study and try to stay on the front edge,” says Specht. “So that’s kind of the path that brought us to EdjSports and working with them and where we are today.”

Getting Started

Anthony “AJ” Jones was the first person from EdjSports to make the trip out to St. Xavier in Cincinnati. AJ is Vice President of EdjSports Team Business, and he knows his way around an analytics panel. Before he rolled out the EdjVarsity platform for Specht and his staff one afternoon, he just talked about analytics scenarios and Specht was intrigued.

“When we sat down, he took me through a couple scenarios that really made me think,” says Specht.

AJ presented a situation in which an opponent led by 14 with just six minutes to go in the game. In this scenario, Specht’s offense is down by 14 with six minutes to go in the game, and they score a touchdown, cutting the lead to 8. The analytics say that Specht should go for two on this touchdown, and here’s why. Specht’s offense still needs to score another touchdown, no matter what. By going for two on the initial touchdown — a 50/50 play for Specht’s special teams unit — Specht gives his team an additional opportunity for a two-point conversion. If he makes it, he only needs a score and PAT to win. If he misses the conversion, he will still have a chance to tie with a two- point conversion on the second touchdown. Had he kicked the PAT on the first touchdown, he effectively limits his ability to win the game.

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“I didn’t agree with him, but he intrigued me enough to think, ‘I ought to look into this,’” says Specht. “And the more we thought about it and talked about it, the more we thought we should at least give this try. Even though, honestly, at this point in my career, I’m kicking that field goal, but forcing myself to run through the various scenarios in my mind and think critically about them, that is one of the biggest things EdjVarsity has delivered. Like I said, I’m old school, but this forced me to think.”

Growing With The Game

Old school? New school? The label didn’t matter, because regardless of labels, EdjVarsity made Specht think about how he coaches. His normal three or four possible adjustments he would make during a given game blossomed into countless opportunities to adjust and change the game.

“Those adjustments are all pre-planned,” says Specht. “With analytics, it’s all happening in real time. It’s so fast that all of a sudden, you have new scenarios you come
up with that suddenly become part of that pre-planning discussion. If it makes sense, it gets added to your work during the week. Then the next week, there are even more situations you never thought could happen. Then you start thinking about situations that, even if they don’t happen, they help you understand what’s possible. That’s one of the big positives for me. This has forced me to look at the game in new ways, analyze it and think critically about it. For an old-school guy like me, that has been priceless.”

For more information about the EdjVarsity platform from EdjSports, visit www.edjvarsity.com

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