Hudl Focus Helps Alvark Tokyo Conquer Japanese B-League

Few coaches in world sport are more experienced at live coding - or indeed more successful - than Hiroki Iwabe of Japanese basketball team Alvark Tokyo. Aged just 27, he first used Hudl Sportscode nine years ago as a student coach at the University of Tokai, and is now assistant coach and scouting coach at the all-conquering Alvark Tokyo team, back-to-back champions of the Japanese B-League.

Working under Serbian head coach Luka Pavicevic, Iwabe also uses Hudl Focus in conjunction with Sportscode and believes it’s vital to work with them together in his role. “It isn’t just about video analysis - to me it’s much better to integrate the two roles,” he says. “Modern basketball is really complex - there is a ton of strategy and data - and in reality coaches have to know the information in an integrated way. Sometimes we can use these numbers, sometimes we need to know more about specific parts of the game such as the coverage to give more context - that means that just being a video analyst is not enough.”

Daily team meetings, when players can see clips and go through them with the coaching staff, are ingrained at Alvark. “It is a habit, just like eating lunch or dinner,” says Iwabe. “Of course players don’t like it when they are pointed at in front of the team by the head coach to say that a certain play should have been improved, but the reality is they need to know. And they are used to these meetings as part of the culture so it’s not really a question of whether they like it or not, they accept it is how we work. “They respond well because there is so much information that we can give them. It makes it easier for them to make adjustments to their game.”

It is here where Hudl Focus makes such a big impact. “Focus helps me to share information. Players, especially younger players, really want to see clips from practice. I can easily share everything and every coach and player can access every clip. It’s really important for my workflow, the fact that it’s automatic from capture to sharing.”

Live coding during games - which the B-League allowed at the start of last season - is also key to Alvark’s success, and Iwabe’s experience using Sportscode was vital. “Basically I coded everything, every piece of information,” he says. “At half time, first I can show the offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator some of the important moments. They talk to the head coaches about good points, bad points. As I listen I can edit at the same time and then the head coach can talk to the players - sometimes I need to provide objective information if things are not going well!

“It is so much stronger to show a clip than just tell them. It helps them to understand different parts of the game, such as the coverage, and it can really help.”

The scheduling of the B-League can also pose teams with difficulties as there are back-to-back games at weekends meaning that players need to adjust quickly depending on who they are playing. Video analysis helps enormously here, and allows players to look at their own performance as well as that of the opposition. Hudl Sportscode plays a key role to put enormous information into short presentation in such a short term for Coach Meeting in Sunday morning

The key work is done during the week, however, with the tone for training set on a Monday, and team meetings and practises seamlessly connected. Morning training is less intense - “more of a walk-through” - but ramps up in the afternoon with more emphasis on video work in the lunch time.

“Hudl Focus is really important in practise. I’m usually using a Sony camera in every practise with live coding - coding every possession, including stats such as two points made, three points made, pick and roll, off screen and then some specific player information. I can tag the coaches to particular instances live and after practise the coaches can show the players individually. It is a simple workflow.”

That said, the human element is vital to bring some context to the analysis. Working with players on a human level to go through the plays is equally important. “Our head coach doesn’t like to just work with the numbers because they don’t tell the whole story,” says Iwabe. “Of course in the coaches’ meeting we analyse every number - points per position, other advanced stats, a lot of stats. But for the players, just seeing the numbers can lead to a misunderstanding of an opponent, so that’s why my coach thinks a clip which is related with numbers is better than just numbers.”

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“Focus helps me to share information. Players, especially younger players, really want to see clips from practice. I can easily share everything and every coach and player can access every clip. It’s really important for my workflow, the fact that it’s automatic from capture to sharing”
Hiroki Iwabe, Assistant Caoch, Alvark Tokyo Basketball

Those clips can delve into granular detail, enabling players to work on very specific aspects. Iwabe says: “We start at the transition, which is very important in basketball. It’s important to know the set plays, and defensively most of the meeting includes that content. But the offensive meeting is different in that it is more about the opposition coverage; our offensive system has a lot of pick and roll plays so it’s very important to understand the coverage we will face - are they an aggressive or passive team or do they switch? This sort of information is very important for both coaches and players.”

Iwabe believes that coding in sport is set to become ever more important in the future and believe the possibilities for its development are vast. “Currently we use opponent performance data from the past - we watch recent games and adjust how we will play,” he says. “The next step for live coding is to create stats or graphics during live games so that we can make that analysis in real time. Then it can be something that enables us to make future assumptions based on what is happening currently, a little like Artificial Intelligence.”

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