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Special Monday Practice Feature: Chris James gets equipment makeover, crash course in “Sports Tech: 101”

September 14, 2009

quarterback Chris James, equipped with a mounted high definition camera on his helmet during today's practice

quarterback Chris James, equipped with a mounted high definition camera on his helmet during today's practice

Chris James is not tech savvy.

There’s plenty of other descriptive alternatives to paint the picture of the Lions’ fourth-year starter at quarterback. You could say impassioned competitor, or established leader, or–if you wanted to get flavorful–resonating with a peculiar overt yet humble confidence.

But seasoned computer junkie? Not a chance–and he’ll be the first to tell you.

“Well,” he said via phone interview, carefully choosing his words for his self-description. “I’m not tech–technology…whatever you said. No. I’m not that.”

But enter Deric Raymond–a perfectly capable suitor of that illustration–and the scene explodes, revealing a picture unlike the students at TCNJ have ever seen.

Literally.

    James, with quarterbacks' coach James Donoghue between reps during the team's pass-skel segment

James, with quarterbacks' coach James Donoghue between reps during the team's pass-skel segment

For the first time in the program’s history, Raymond–a junior double-major at The College in journalism andinteractive multimedia–provided a well-deserved upgrade to the team’s technological repertoire, installing a cutting-edge helmet cam on the Lions’ signal-caller. And the senior from Brick Memorial couldn’t have been more excited about the rare opportunity.

“When I first heard about it, I thought would be cool,” he said, reflecting upon his initial impression. “I mean, anything of that stature–using technology in such a different manner–I definitely think its potentially educational.”

Well-renowned among the locker room as a dedicated student of the game, James couldn’t help but fantasize the numerous different advantages the technology offers to himself and the rest of the quarterbacks. Should the program begin to use it with more regularity, James stressed how much he’d benefit from breaking down his innate reactions in various offensive situations.

    Raymond (left) and Tim Blashford (right) installing the compact digital imaging equipment

Raymond (left) and Tim Blashford (right) installing the compact digital imaging equipment

“I think if you look at [the opportunities], it could help you see everything out there,” he said. “I really don’t tend to see everything–a lot of times I’ll only see bits and pieces. Using that technology–especially when I’m running the ball–you can see what I’m seeing but you can also see what I’m not seeing and what I should be looking for.”

The camera implemented during today’s 5:00pm practice in Lions’ stadium– a product of GoPro, a sports media manufacturer–didn’t berth the innovation of TCNJ’s dynamic media arsenal. It’s yet another innovation in and of itself.

According to Raymond–a student affiliate of the school’s public relations department–the journey started a year ago, when he was employed to help expand the office’s coverage of the Lions’ various sports programs.

“Last year, it was my idea to start a sports highlight reel,” Raymond said via phone interview. “We decided to start posting on the school’s web page, featuring the different sports of the college, different achievements and so on.”

From his perspective, the overwhelming interest and feedback that ensued left Raymond only one option. Make it newer. Make it better.

“We saw very good numbers with those videos—hits from viewers. What we decided to do was go with our strength and post some more videos of what the students like.”

    head coach Eric Hamilton on call to watch the GoPro camera's program debut

head coach Eric Hamilton on call to watch the GoPro camera's program debut

Raymond hopes that those videos–which capture action-shot footage made available by mounting the camera on extreme-sports athletes, including windsurfers and others–can help popularize The College’s various sports programs.

“What we’re hoping to do with the new technology is get more recognition on campus by using innovative techniques and different, unusual shots that you don’t normally see on a highlight reel,” he said. “We’re hoping that will bolster numbers, get more people looking at sports, bring in prospective students, even boost attendance at games.”

When he’d first heard about the opportunity from Matt Winkle–who’s gathered various keepsake footage for the team’s alumni–the idea initially humored head coach Eric Hamilton, who had a plenty reasonable reaction.

“He said, ‘hey we’ve got this camera that would be really cool if we put it on top of a helmet,'” Hamilton said via phone interview. “My reaction was, ‘yeah right.'”

As hypothetical shortly became tangible, Hamilton didn’t need much convincing to agree to the proposition.

“Well yeah, why not?” he said. “They’ve always been really good to us with all the different things they do through media relations and with the web site. We just figured we’d try something different.”

Though he didn’t guarantee that GoPro technology would become a staple in the program’s day-to-day ops, Hamilton expressed open-mindedness in gauging the compact digital imaging hardware as an eventual aide for the media’s coverage of his squad.

    head coach Eric Hamilton looks on while Raymond (left) and Blashford (right) prep the GoPro digital media recording device

head coach Eric Hamilton looks on while Raymond (left) and Blashford (right) prep the GoPro digital media recording device

“We’re kind of just kicking the idea around and experimenting with it,” he said. “We’re going to look at it and hopefullythe goal down the road somewhere is to give people perspective, you know, ‘from the eyes of the quarterback.'”

Raymond hopes that he’ll soon be posting video footage of the school’s sports programs on the TCNJ web site, providing a segment like one of another popular media enterprise.

“Hopefully soon we’ll be starting to feature monthly highlights for all sports,” he said of his plans. “Kind like SportsCenter‘s Top 10.”

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