Drone provides coaches new perspective, and injured player a new role

If you happen to walk past a Wilton High varsity football team practice, you might miss it entirely, if not for a mysterious humming sound.

But there is it, hovering in place maybe 40 feet in the air — the football team’s new drone.

The remote controlled-device’s ability to take bird’s-eye-view video of practices is helping transform how coaches break down practices and develop players.

“There are a lot of schools that are using it. It’s a great teaching tool,” said WHS head coach Bruce Cunningham, who is using the drone for the first time this season. "The view is outstanding. You can see everything that happens on each play. It's so clear, and so easy to teach from."

The film from the drone really helps point out some of the big and small mistakes in practices, so the coaches can really let us know how to fix these mistakes by visualising them through the film,” said senior Sam Wright, the team’s drone operator.

Wright had planned on being part of the team as a halfback/defensive back, until his season was put on hold back in June when he tore his ACL and had to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Operating the drone has helped Wright overcome the disappointment, and allowed him to contribute to the team in a different way.

“It was pretty hard knowing that I would miss out on most, if not all, of my senior season of football,” said Wright. “Before the season started, I got myself into the mentality that I still would help the team out to the best of my ability even though I couldn't be contributing on the field. Operating the drone and helping the team visualise our strengths and weaknesses has made me feel like I really am beneficially contributing to the football program.”

Wright, who did not have previous experience operating a drone, was surprised by how easy it was to get the hang of it.

“Coach (Brian) Jacobs was a great teacher in helping me understand the inner workings of the drone and becoming a proficient pilot,” he said. “While flying there's really not much for me to do, except getting into the air and making sure that I record everything that coach needs recorded that day.”

While happy to be able to help his team out in some way, Wright remains hopeful to return to action later this season, even though he’s been told not to expect a comeback.

I have been making sure that my recovery goes well and trying to shorten the timeline of my recovery so I can make it back out on the field,” he said.

Even if he doesn’t get back, Wright’s contributions haven’t been lost on his coach.

He’s just helping out the team anyway he can,” said Cunningham. “He’s providing us with help, and helping us in a way that‘s invaluable.”