Lou Marinelli, the 36th year head coach of the New Canaan High School football team, grew up studying the game of football with film sessions on 35mm, 16mm and even Super 8mm film.
In his early coaching years, when football video was limited to just the standard pressbox angle, he would have to wait until the film was developed — usually on the Sunday following a game — and drive to New Haven to get it.
There was even a time when he fought the use of video in film sessions.
Now, the Rams head coach, who holds 11 state titles and five FCIAC championships, along with his son and current head coach of Greenwich High School, John Marinelli, are being featured in the Hudl 100 list of key players in sports and technology.
The list features and highlights 25 coaches and administrators, 20 athletic teams, 10 athletes, 15 organizations, 15 members of the media, five data analysts and 10 technology companies for their education and use of technology in sports.
“John is actually responsible for bringing New Canaan up-to-date technology wise,” said Lou of his former offensive coordinator. “He is tremendous with that. If there’s one thing I miss about that is now I have to call him when I have a question about it, compared to when he was always right there.”
He says his son learned under the “old-school” methods of film sessions, but always was and still is eager to learn what is the latest in cutting edge technology.
“He was in charge of the technology when he was here,” said the New Canaan coach. “I got a lot of credit because of my son’s innovative methods.”
Entering his second season as head coach of Greenwich High School, John Marinelli has both experienced and incorporated what coaching under his father is like and is now taking an even more analytical approach in his own coaching legacy.
“I grew up with one of the greatest mentors ever,” said John of his father. “He’s taken me under his wing and I’ve learned a lot from him.”
After witnessing decades of success at the high school level together, the father and son duo finally coached against each other for the first time last fall at Cardinal Stadium.
“He’s as old school as they get,” said John. “He’s adapted and I think his track record over the past ten years has shown that old dogs can learn new tricks.”
New Canaan would win the first “Marinelli Bowl” by a score of 24-14 in one of their 11 wins in yet another Class L State Championship season — their seventh in the past decade.
This fall, practices at Greenwich High School are set to be more high-tech than ever.
Complete with four different camera angles, including an aerial view via a drone, the Cardinal coach can customize film review for players according to their position.
With Hudl technology, most commonly known for high school recruitment videos, now expanding to professional sports analysis and replay services for coaches, the Marinelli’s are using different analytical tools to bring their team’s performance to the next level.
“Everything is analytical now,” said John, listing variables like field positioning, hash marks and different play calls that make up just a single play of a game. “It’s just like being in a classroom. It’s like they have brand new textbooks, smartboards and anything a student needs to be successful in the classroom.”
Coaches can upload film and make comments directly with Hudl technology, sharing it with their student athletes.
“It sounds like a lot, and it is for the coaches, but the kids go home and watch 20-30 minutes per night and click on the comments so they can continue to learn off the field,” said John. “What Hudl has allowed coaches to do is incredible.”
Both coaches say the different camera angles help their players understand why and what they are doing on the football field.
“Lou and John’s stories were perfect examples of how technology, specifically video, could level up the abilities of coaches with vastly different experience,” said Derek Hernandez, Content Marketing Lead at Hudl. “Although Lou has been successful for decades, he makes a point to stay on top of coaching trends and utilizing video technology has helped him thrive in every era he’s coached in. John, whose rise coincides with the technology-driven age of coaching, is establishing his own winning legacy through video review and statistical analysis.
John says the analytical data behind a football game can almost be equivalent to a data spreadsheet with different depending variables.
“It’s almost like an excel spreadsheet,” Marinelli said. “You can filter out different things and find patterns of predictability. If you can do that, hopefully you can put your kids in a good situation if there is a pattern.”
Lou also played a role in helping the FCIAC get their games on film so that every school didn’t necessarily need to have their own videographer and so that statistics were shared around the league.
He compares the FCIAC to a collegiate conference in the ways it shares information.
“College leagues like the SEC and the ACC share film so that it’s not a competitive thing,” Marinelli said. “There’s one photographer per game and they download and send the film to us now.”
As for a drone of his own, the New Canaan coach has yet to take to the skies like his son has for Greenwich, but knows plenty of the advantages that rapidly changing technology has brought and will continue to bring to both him and his son.
“Not yet,” Lou jokes. “But we have to keep up with the Joneses.”