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Coming to grips with computer hardware.

For a better understanding of the systems and components that can benefit your program

Those of us in coaching do not realize how far computers have come over the years. One bit of memory in one of those gigantic electronic brains of the 1960s cost about $25,000. Today, that same bit costs about 10 cents.

This doesn't necessarily mean that our understanding of computers and their hardware couldn't use a refresher course. A little basic knowledge can keep your budgets in line and enhance your coaching in the digital age.

Hardware, as it relates to coaching, can include basic computer components as well as video editing machines, projectors, and even digital chalkboards. An overview of computer components and systems can provide a better idea of what is available. Some important factors to consider when purchasing computer hardware:


It can tell you what computer resources are available and how they can assist you. The availability of software ranging from practice planning ( to play animation ( to statistics ( will help determine your computer needs.

An understanding of how other aspects of computer technology such as the Internet and electronic mail (e-mail) can also help benefit your program. Gaining this knowledge and staying current with industry developments in coaching technology will also help you with your players and program.


In your post-season evaluation, you may suddenly realize that you have to do a better job of tracking statistics and making reports available to staff and players. You may also feel that some of your players could benefit from a printed playbook.

Computer technology can lend a hand in determining what information is pertinent, what software can meet your needs, and whether these programs are available only for the Windows operating system and come only on floppy disks.

This will have a bearing on whether you are going to purchase a Macintosh computer or a PC (personal computer) and whether your system needs a floppy-disk drive.

You will find that most coaching-related software programs are designed for the Windows operating system found on PCs. Macintosh computers will not run these programs. Several programs have been created for both operating systems, but they are few and far between. This is a very important factor when purchasing a computer system.


Staying abreast of the developments in the computer world and assessing your computer needs will help you determine how much to spend for an adequate system.

As computer technology advances, prices will continue to drop on the hardware components that run coaching-related software. You can purchase a system in the $700-$1,000 range.


The basic computer has the following components: hard drive, monitor, processor, mouse, memory, keyboard, CD-ROM drive, printer, floppy-disk drive and modem. Optional but helpful extras include a scanner and a backup drive or zip drive.

These components come in various sizes, models, and versions, with various speeds, features and capabilities. These factors will determine how much to pay for an adequate system.

What is an adequate system? Before that question is addressed, it will help to look at a computer system's various components.

Hard Drive: Usually hides inside the system unit. The hard disk acts as a giant floppy disk, storing hundreds of times more information than a floppy, yet serves the same basic purpose as floppy disks, with three key differences:

1. The hard disk is located inside and is not removable. 2. It can store a great deal more information than a floppy disk. 3. It can store and retrieve your work more than 10 times faster than a floppy.

Coaching Point: A 2-3 gigabyte hard drive will provide plenty of space for storing statistics, creating playbooks, developing recruiting databases, etc. Prices continue to drop for faster hard drives with larger storage space for your purchasing dollar.

Processor: The microprocessor, also referred to as the CPU (Central Processing Unit), is a single chip about the size of a matchbook. The CPU, which does the bulk of our computer's thinking, is the motor behind your software. It is the most important determinant of how fast your computer runs your software.

Microprocessors come in different sizes which are indicated by a combination of numbers such as 386 and 486. The higher the number, the more commands it can perform.

A Pentium 233 MHz can handle more commands faster than a 200 MHz. The speed of the processor is indicated in megahertz (MHz).

Certain processors with a special MMX technology, developed by Intel, have the ability to run multimedia software faster.

Coaching Point: A Pentium 400 MHz will give you greater satisfaction than a Pentium 200. Obviously, the higher the processor speed, the faster your coaching software will run, but you may not see a noticeable difference. Processors in the 200 MHz range are more than adequate in running the current coaching software.

Monitor: The monitor is your computer viewing port. As you drive your computer, the monitor lets you see where you are going. New monitors are becoming like big-screen TVs.

Coaching Point: Get as large a monitor as your budget will allow, especially if you have vision problems. Since many great computer buys do not include the monitor, make sure to shop around.

Memory: The random-access memory, or RAM, is the computer's memory or workspace. Software is loaded from the hard-disk drive into RAM. RAM is a type of short-term memory measured in megabytes.

CD-ROM: Most new computers come with a CD-ROM drive that acts like a CD player. CD players can also play games, video clips, sound and music recorded on a compact disk. New DVD (Digital Video Disk) players do the same thing, but they are faster and hold truckloads of data.

Coaching Point: It is hard to find a system that does not have either a CD-ROM or DVD drive included. You have to have one or both because the software you purchase may be available only on CDs.

Floppy Drive: Appearing as slots on the front of the system unit, these devices read from and write to diskettes. A floppy-disk drive, or simply a floppy drive, allows you to store your work on a removable disk.

The drive is the thin, usually horizontal opening in the front of the computer. Standard size is 3 1/2 inches and they generally hold 1.44 megabytes of information. You can think of them as a cassette music tape that you can record onto or record over.

Modem: Connecting to the Internet will require your computer to have a modem - which is usually standard equipment. The modem sits inside or outside the computer and connects to your phone jack. It can dial numbers for you and connect to remote computers all over the world.

Keyboard: Although the location of keys on your keyboard may vary, all PC keyboards contain number, function, and arrow keys that carry out specific commands on how your computer functions.

Mouse: The mouse is a palm-sized instrument that sits next to your keyboard and lets you select commands and other objects that appear on the monitor. You usually use the mouse to point, click and double-click.

Printer: Printers range from inexpensive dot-matrix, which print each character as a series of dots, to expensive laser printers which operate like copy machines. Also available are ink jet printers which spray ink on the page to produce characters and images.

Scanner: This device converts images such as photographs or printed text into an electronic format that a computer can store. As we see images and convert them into impulses to be interpreted, so does a scanner. They look and behave much like a photocopier.

Flatbed scanners can scan objects in a variety of sizes and shapes, including pages from a book, without damaging the original. If you plan on scanning a lot of text, keep in mind that flatbeds can accommodate only one page at a time. Scanning multi-page documents can be a slow, tedious process because you have to manually remove one page and insert the text.

Coaching Point: A scanner can import everything from clinic notes to scouting reports that are eventually stored into your computer. A flatbed is the way to go because you always want the capability of scanning a page from an opponent's media guide for scouting purposes.

Zip Drive: It is critical to have a backup system for storing all of your information in case of a computer problem. You do not want to see a whole season of statistics lost forever because the information was not backed up. Backing up means copying all of your important information to a disk or a hard drive that is independent of your computer.

Coaching Point: Make sure you back up all of your vital information. You never know when your computer is going to have an off night and forget where all the important data is stored.


As coaches we constantly stress the importance of spending extra practice time on our weaknesses. The same advice holds true for computer technology. You can set aside a small block of time a couple of days a week to study up on it.

The Internet is a great resource for coaches and offers a vast amount of information on computer hardware and sports-specific software. Be prepared and you will never fear coaching in the digital age.

Standard hardware components and ballpark prices

These will enable you to access the Internet and run most software, including specially designed coaching software for PC computers.

Basic System Including the Following Components = $1,000

* Processor: 233 MHz

* Monitor: 14[inches] or 16[inches]

* Memory: 32 MB

* Hard Drive: 2-3 GB

* CD-ROM Drive: 24X

* Floppy: 1.44 MB

* Modem: 56Kbps

* Mouse

* Printer: Budget Color printer less than $200


* Scanner: 300-600 dpi (dots per inch) - less than $100

* Zip Drive: $100

Michael May, a highly successful basketball coach for the past 19 years, is also an authority on sports computer technology. He has just completed Practice Planner Pro, a state of-the-art practice planning soft ware program for all coaches that runs on Windows '95. You can reach him at
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scholastic, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:May, Mike
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Oct 1, 1998
Previous Article:Forever Young.
Next Article:1998 buyer's guide and directory on team apparel.

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