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Thursday, March 28, 2013
How Vstrator app can help your game

By Charles Curtis

Rafael Nadal
You might never be as good as Rafael Nadal, but this app can certainly help your game.

If there’s an app for everything these days, there’s even one for aspiring athletes that turns coaches into their own version of John Madden, using the telestrator as a teaching tool.

Along with two-time Wimbledon champion Don Johnson, Rob Autry, CEO and founder of Vstrator, have devised a visual training tool that takes the kind of video analysis you might get from a golf lesson, tennis pro or personal trainer and puts it into the hands of everyone from coaches to amateurs looking to improve their games.

The Vstrator app allows users to capture their performance -- whether it’s a forehand, a chip shot, a swing to the opposite field -- and break it down using telestration. A coach can go frame by frame and draw over what was captured to point out the subtleties, using side-by-side videos to help teach visually.

“Kids have a 33 percent retention rate when they see video,” Johnson told Playbook. “I know that when my daughter sees it, she can see what she’s doing. When you’re swinging a baseball bat or a golf club or a tennis racket, your eye is on the ball and you can’t see what’s happening behind you. You always need to know where your alignment is when you get to the contact point … so from my students’ perspective, they get to see what you never see.”

Surprisingly, the idea was born from a charity event. Autry says he worked with the local Jimmy V. Foundation board in North Carolina and helped created an event called Racquets for Research, bringing in tennis pros and creating a day of tennis lessons and round-robin play. When he and Johnson thought about how to generate more money for their event, they thought of adding video analysis -- for an extra $50, a participant could walk away with a breakdown of their swing on tape. “What I found out really quickly was video analysis is not cheap,” he said. “It’s [also] very cumbersome …you almost have to have an IT degree.”

So Autry spoke to someone he knew at Microsoft, who built a prototype of an app three years ago. After vetting it with coaches at universities like Stanford, USC and Duke, they worked out the kinks and released it. They also took advantage of the networking provided by cloud computing -- Vstrator also gives coaches an opportunity for a networking site Autry said was similar to LinkedIn, where coaches and their pupils could upload their videos and create something community-based. As Johnson pointed out, you can see your progress by simply pulling up a video of yourself six months ago and noting how far you’ve come with a more recent capture.

The next step after launch? Connecting with pro athletes. Vstrator launched a workout app with lessons from Reggie Bush using his training program that’s akin to P90X and Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy.

“Seeing myself analyzed with Vstrator for the first time was an eye-opening moment,” Bush said through a publicist. “It was so easy to see what I needed to work on when it was broken down in slow motion. Everyone should have access to that technology. I want everyone to have that feeling that they can get better in their training.”

Nadal mentioned he was approached by the company for a partnership, but that he loves the simplicity of his app. “What I like [about] this app is that you can be on the courts down the street, at your school or tennis facility, with your friends, coach and teammates and get the info and coaching necessary from my point of view,” he said through a Vstrator publicist.

Autry hinted there could be a golfer and a Major Leaguer involved with their own apps in the near future. Until further technology comes along -- better holograms, maybe? -- Vstrator appears to be the best way to hit side-by-side with the pros.