Golf, tennis, swimming, track and field, bowling, soccer—name a sport and someone, somewhere, is videotaping it for some reason. "Videotaping is bound to have a dramatic effect on all sports throughout the country," says BYU basketball coach Ladell Andersen. "It will raise the level of performance on both an individual and team basis." Says Rod Woodson, Purdue's cornerback, All-America hurdler and videophile: "It's going to be an important tool in the future in all sports."
And that represents only the tip of the video iceberg. Video technology matured so quickly and became so instantly accessible to so many people that its effects cut across ability and age. In the long run, the effects of video may be as profound for the average Joe working to get his bowling average above 170, as for a professional athlete.
Video has enormous potential for the younger generation, which has grown up on VCRs. Thousands of documentarian daddies can be seen in the bleachers these days; a nine-year-old can strike out three times in a Little League game and be watching his batting flaws 15 minutes later. There are parents who take this a step further and send home-made videos off to colleges in hopes of getting their kid a scholarship.
"Some are even putting subtitles on their videos, like 'The Bull Stomps So-and-So,' " says a bemused Tom Hersey, football coach at Canisius. Hersey says he doesn't expect to find a player that way, but "We do look because you always have that feeling, 'Hey, if I don't look at that kid, someone else will get him and he'll come back to haunt me.' "
One video dad, Jerry Craft, president and owner of CCTV Inc., a cable television firm in Jacksboro, Texas, even started a regional video recruiting business after his videotapes, which he sent off to 17 schools, landed a football scholarship for his son, Clint, at the University of the Pacific. "If your kid's an all-stater you don't need it," says Craft of his Sports Video Resumé business. "But it was really good for a player like Clint, who played at a small school and didn't get much attention."
If Junior doesn't like to watch himself on film, he can still go home and plug any number of instructional videos into the VCR. He can get his tips from the immortals, like Pete Rose (Baseball: The Pete Rose Way or Pete Rose: Winning Baseball) and Mickey Mantle (Mickey Mantle's Baseball Tips for All Ages), or from lesser lights such as Mets batting coach Bill Robinson (Basics of Hitting) or former Cincinnati star Vada Pinson (Baseball—The Art of Hitting: Vada Pinson).
Indeed, one of the major outgrowths of the video revolution has been a proliferation of self-help, instructional and entertainment sports videos. Move over, Jane Fonda—everyone's in the business. There are more than 800 different sports video programs, either instructional or entertainment, estimates Ken Ross, who heads CBS/Fox's burgeoning sports home video department. "The coming of home video is like the Gutenberg printing press," gushes Dawn Morris, president of Morris Video, a California-based home video firm. "It's that revolutionary." Ferdinand Marcos, who knows something about revolutions, might agree with Dawn. Last December a videotape of Marcos was made showing him going through his daily calisthenics routine to assure the faithful in the Philippines that he was fit and ready to return. However, the tape was confiscated by authorities before it could be shown.
Many of the instructional tapes are excellent. Many are merely strange. If you have just one wish for the week, let it be that your children are not parked in front of the VCR watching that pro wrestling classic, The WWF's Amazing Managers, or Lisa Sliwa's Common-Sense Defense.
The biggest phenom of the instructional market is Bob Mann's Automatic Golf. It has sold more than 500,000 copies since it hit the market in December '82, making it the largest-selling instructional video ever, not counting Jane Fonda's aerobics tapes. Mann, 51, was a top amateur golfer in the '50s but rarely plays the game today. His tape contends that if the golfer sets up correctly, "the swing becomes an expansive, pleasurable action that is truly automatic." He feels that this formula is responsible for his success. Others in the industry, however, argue that Automatic Golf sells because of a clever marketing strategy. Mann has consistently reduced the price of the tape and it now sells for $12.95, much less than most instructional tapes. Also, he has gotten Automatic into specialty stores, like pro shops and sporting goods outlets, rather than depend on video stores, whose customers tend to rent rather than buy.
Automatic is certainly not prospering because of its production quality. One leading retailer of instructional videotapes says: "Mann's tape has kind of a living-room quality to it. I moved it out." But many other retail outlets have moved it in. And, in Mann's defense, his instructions are clear and concise. "A poor instructor tells you everything he knows," says Mann, "but a good instructor, like myself, tells you what you have to know."