When Stephenville High School’s Athletic Booster Club asked Sterling Doty what he needed going into his first season as head coach of the Yellow Jackets football team, he had an unusual answer.

Doty told the boosters that he would like to have a drone with a camera to shoot video of the team’s practices from an elevated angle.

His wish was their command, and a new Mavic 2 Quadcopter has been used for practices all season.

SHS junior Dylan Jones, one of the Yellow Jackets’ student athletic trainers, usually operates the drone during each practice.

“I filmed on an EZ Cam last year, and they asked me if I wanted to try it,” Jones said. “I thought it would be cool. It’s fun. It’s entertaining to watch because all the players enjoy it.”

A LOFTY IDEA

Doty said that when he was head coach at Houston-area Class 5A school Magnolia High School, they used a drone for the same purpose.

“We had been having a drone the last two seasons, and I knew how much the angle helped our football team, so I wanted to bring (the idea) here,” Doty said.

First-year SHS assistant coach Chad Hodges — a former teammate of Doty with the Yellow Jackets in the late 1990s — had previous experience using a drone so he helped Jones learn how to get started.

“Coach Hodges knew the basics about it,” said Jones, who is in his third year as a varsity letterman on the SHS tennis team.

Jones indicated that controlling the drone is easy. When asked if there have been any accidental crashes so far, Jones replied, “No, knock on wood. It’s real steady once it gets in the air.”

Jones said that another SHS student athletic trainer, Reese Sperry, also learned how to operate the drone.

Jones said that there was a lot of curiosity about the drone at first.

“At the beginning of two-a-days, people would come and watch,” said Jones, who is in Advanced Placement classes for history, science and math at SHS. “They thought it was cool.”

On Amazon.com, prices for a Mavic 2 drone start at about $1,600, and range up to more than $2,600.

The lightweight (just under 2 pounds) drone folds up for storage, and features four small propellers. The unit is 322 millimeters (just over 12-1/2 inches) long, 242 millimeters wide and 84 millimeters tall when unfolded for use.

Jones’ older brother, Easton Jones, was a three-year standout starter at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets who helped lead the 2017 SHS team to the state semifinal round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs. Easton is now a redshirt freshman football player at Tarleton State University. They have an older sister, Kelcee, who earned a master’s degree from Tarleton and now lives in La Marque.

Their parents are Troy and Pam Jones. Pam coaches girls volleyball, basketball and track at Henderson Junior High. Troy is Associate Athletic Director at Tarleton State University.

ADVANTAGES

Prior to having the drone shooting from above, video was being shot from two angles in order to get a complete view of everything.

“Now, you can watch (the plays) in one take and the kids can understand it more efficiently. It allows you to be effective in meeting time,” Doty said.

Doty first saw a drone being used at the University of Houston.

“It’s pretty cool, and I asked their coaches (about their drone). I said, ‘I want to get one of those’.”

The trend of using drones to study football plays on video began several years ago in the NFL and at several major colleges. Now more and more high schools are in the game.

Doty estimated that “probably half of the schools are using them.”