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Emily Cohen
Emily Cohen

The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games are now but a memory, but the accomplishments of the most notable and visible athletes, such as Alex Morgan, Gabby Douglas, Allyson Felix, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Usain Bolt, are clearly going to have a long-lasting impact on youth athletes with similar aspirations of glory.

But getting to that elite status takes thousands of hours and thousands — or even hundreds of thousands — of hours of training. And these athletes aren’t training alone: they’re spending these hours in the gym, in the pool, on the track, or on the field with personal trainers and coaches. And it's not just during the sport's main season: it's year-round and involves tremendous sacrifices of time and, yes, money, by the athlete and his or her family

But how many parents have that kind of money to invest in private trainers and coaches?  

Enter the new era of personalized sports instruction via mobile app. Capitalizing on the mobile device trend, a number of apps have sprung up focused on helping parents give their kids the edge of private coaching at a fraction of the cost. Obviously, none are promising that they'll turn your youth athlete into an Olympian, but they do aim to help your child improve his or her skills using today's latest video and mobile technologies.

Since I have a high-school baseball player, and Fall is the time for baseball players to work on their basic skills in preparation for the traditional Spring baseball season, I took a look at a few mobile apps specifically targeted at baseball and softball players.  

Extra Innings Mobile Instructor

With nearly 40 training centers located around the country, Extra Innings, a well-known indoor baseball and software training facility, expanded its reach about a year ago with the Mobile Instructor app. Parents and coaches can record players’ batting stances or pitching motions and submit the video for evaluation by one of the company’s experts. The expert analyzes the player in the video and provides tips for improvement, complete with notes and voice-over comments, with a 48-hour turnaround. Coaches and parents can mark-up their players’ video with a variety of tools, including ball icons, a full-screen grid, and text notes. To date, more than 6,000 people around the country have downloaded this $4.99 app, which is available on the Apple AppStore for the Apple iPhone and iPad.

Coach’s Eye

Also priced at $4.99, the Coach’s Eye is a mobile video analysis tool for baseball as well as other sports. As the name implies, Coach’s Eye is primarily targeted at coaches and lets Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users record a youth athlete in action and instantly provide feedback, using voice-over and mark-up tools to point out improvements. Relying on the user’s own knowledge rather than hired experts, Coach’s Eye lets youth coaches break down a swing or pitch on a frame-by-frame basis with slow motion playback. The coach can then bring attention to correct – and incorrect – motions with voice comments and mark-up tools, before sharing the video with the athlete, his or her parents, and other coaches. Coach’s Eye can also be used for soccer, track and field, golf, general fitness, and more.

Go Coach Baseball

Developed by Human Kinetics, a well-known publisher of sports instruction manuals and books, is the baseball-specific app in the Go Coach series. Rather than focus on videotaping and analyzing players, Go Coach Baseball includes 32 video clips and 11 animations demonstrating a variety of skills and drills to help coaches run a better practice. The app includes a slow-motion video setting that helps coaches break down the each skill in detail to better understand the right way to perform every drill and how to position players properly for accurate skill execution. From hitting, bunting, base running, throwing, fielding, pitching, and catching, Go Coach Baseball gives coaches access to step-by-step instructions for a total of 27 skills around the diamond. Priced at $1.99, the Go Coach Baseball app is available for Apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users at the Apple AppStore.

What do you think of mobile apps for sports instruction? Have you tried them? Are they a viable alternative for athletes who want to compete at the elite level but can’t afford expensive private instruction? Or are they just another app that will get lost on your mobile device after the initial novelty wears off? I’d like to know.