Sports Videos: Top 5 Mistakes Parents Make When Videotaping Youth Sports


Looking at the volume of video cameras ubiquitously splayed about any youth sports venue on most weekends, it becomes strikingly clear that parents WANT to preserve the memories of their children’s athletic accomplishments!  Many hours are spent capturing the events, and we all know the high expectations that accompany this activity…”My son is going to be so happy to see his own sports video on TV!”

The zeal is knocked down a few notches when it comes time to download your camera footage into the computer….and then a few notches more when trying to figure out the editing software…and unfortunately bottoms out when the finished product doesn’t elicit both the smiles and repeat viewings that were so earnestly hoped for.  What happened?

Very frequently the issue lies with the post-production, and this website covers how to overcome such video editing shortcomings in other discussions.  Most importantly, no editing…and therefore no final sports highlight video…can overcome mistakes that frequently take place during filming.  Most of these errors are so easy to fix yet most parents did not know they were making them…and once the event is over, there is no going back in time to film it correctly! Let’s figure out how you can make some quick adjustments and immediately improve your videography skills!

Opportunity #1: Watch the action through the viewfinder!

Step one when heading out to the fields or swim meet is to decide if you want to enjoy the game live as a fan, or focus on videotaping the best possible sports highlight video…it is impossible to fully accomplish both!  American Sports Memories is happy to do the filming so you can fully enjoy your children’s athletic endeavors, but if you want to put a camera to your eye with the goal of capturing your own usable footage…then give the project your best effort!

This means watching the majority of action through the viewfinder and/or small LCD screen…accept it!  If it hasn’t happened already, you will soon know the irony of watching your child score a run, only to realize that you failed to capture it on film despite having the camera running.  Or, you did capture it but it was blurred or obstructed…and no amount of special effects or editing can go back in time to get it right!

Seen all too often is that father who is holding the video camera in the general direction of the action.  Great intentions were prevalent at the start, with both hands holding the camera steady and careful tracking of the action in the first quarter.  Then the filming focus was diluted, and the parent started holding the camera with one hand while watching the action live, occasionally looking back through the LCD screen to make hopeful adjustments in angle.  Finally, the parent puts the camera away to enjoy the rest of the event, giving up on capturing the climactic finish or, worse yet, not filming their own child’s winning goal…which is going to be one of the first questions asked after hugs and high-fives!

So pick…enjoy the game, or give yourself all the right ingredients of raw footage to create the best sports video your child ever watched.  You can’t do both, and deep down you know it!

Opportunity #2:  Work the zoom!

The easiest way to film the action and still enjoy it live is to avoid using the zoom.  Back it all the way out so the action is comfortably bracketed in the viewfinder. Things rarely move out of the camera field…and if so, a quick wrist flick adjusts it right back in…and it’s a lot less work!

Unfortunately, when you go back and watch the footage on your television, what used to pass as young athletes moving around a large field now looks like individual pixels floating on a green postage stamp.  Jersey numbers are illegible, facial expressions are non-existent, and the action is so far away that the game becomes a rumor.   Your best intentions may come up short as video viewers yawn after a few minutes, or politely excuse themselves away from the television to engage in something more compelling….

A good videographer will constantly be using the camera’s zoom function.  Pan back to get overall shots of the field…go in further to bracket the two strikers confronting the other team’s midfields on the soccer field…go in further to capture the facial expressions…then come back out as the offense moves into scoring position so you don’t miss a key event.  Don’t worry about uneven zooming timing or blurriness…you can make all of that disappear during editing.  The key point is that you captured action from different zoom levels, which leads to an infinitely more interesting video!  It also helps you during post-production, since transitions are easier to apply when sequencing adjacent clips from different zoom levels.

Conversely, too many parents think they always have to use every last drop of that 20x zoom function they paid for…even when a special forces sniper would find it impossible to hold the camera steady at max zoom!  It’s okay to zoom until you see your hand tremble overcome the stabilization feature of the camera…that moment of “too far” can be snipped out in post-production…but stop there and back out!  Continuing to zoom on from that point forward wastes your memory, both your filming and your editing time, and most importantly keeps you from effectively capturing any action that happens during that time!

Another opportunity for improvement is combining the zoom while panning the camera.  Many parents like to pan left to right, or zoom in on a steady wrist…but miss the basic yet powerful effect of a slow zoom simultaneously combined with a slow pan.   Try it!

Opportunity #3: Filming from different heights

It is so natural to hold the camera up to your eye level during the game…especially a long game or swim meet where the bleachers are hard, your back is sore, and your arm aches from filming.  As a result, all of the action gets filmed from the same height off the ground.  This loss of perspective makes the addition of post-production transitions more challenging for you, and afflicts your final sports video with a sense of monotony for the viewer.

The next time you are at your daughter’s soccer game, take some time to hold the camera down lower at chest level (using the tilt function on your screen helps).  When you get back to watch this segment on a large-screen television the difference becomes immediately apparent…even though it is only a few inches!  Now the action was filmed from her eye-level and perspective, which puts a very different spin on things.

To spice it up even more, take some time to hold the camera over your head, elbows straight, and pointing almost straight down.  This is a powerful effect if the ball is near you, about to go out of bounds…a great angle to look down on two players trying to work their technique near the sidelines!

A very dramatic shot can be had if you put the camera down on the grass, tilted up.  Getting a few grass blades in the bottom of the frame may or may not make a difference, but most compelling is the footwork of a soccer game…or the cleat hitting first base bag with the force sending some dust up into the air…or the exaggeration of a vertical leap while making the jumpt-shot in basketball.  It’s a whole new and exciting angle on the action…one that most parents miss, yet is so easy to capture!

Opportunity #4: Frequently change shooting locations during the event

Most hour-long sporting events can be rolled up to a 3-5 minute compelling sports highlight video.  Yet those concise video highlight can seem long, boring, or unimaginative when all of the footage is taken from the same place.  While watching your child compete, force yourself to change positions three or four times during the event…even more if you really want to excel.  For a football game, definitely try to change bleacher heights during the game…move from the midfield to the red zone during scoring opportunities…and try to get some shots from behind the end zone.  Always respect the direction of play so your highlights maintain continuity, but moving around will also allow you to capture facial expressions on the bench, reaction shots of your family, and gesticulations of the coach.  You can drop those in wherever you see fit during post-production so they make sense (those cheers don’t have to be for that exact same play in the final video!), but if you never get the angle to get the shot, you can never use it!

Blending Opportunity #3 with Opportunity #4 means you will be constantly working the zoom AND changing locations during the game.  Once you download the raw footage into the computer for editing, the power of these two opportunities becomes abundantly clear…look at all the varied and interesting different clips you now have to work with!

Even a 0-0 tie in soccer can seem far more compelling in a sports video if action sequences are interspersed from different angles.  A high-scoring basketball shootout becomes monotonous when everything is videotaped from the same seat.  The opportunity to improve is clear….move around…a lot!

Opportunity #5: Stay away from the center of the screen!

Somewhere along the way we got it in our heads that the gods of symmetry mandated all action be in the center of the screen.  Watch the cameras swivel frequently on the wrists of the parents as they unconsciously follow this decree, dutifully keeping their children directly in the center of the LCD screen.  Not only are the inadvertently ensuring a monotonous final product, but they are increasing their own difficulty of adding effective transitions in post-production.  An advanced editor can sacrifice resolution to add a post-production zoom which enables an off-centered transition, but odds are the parent who made the filming mistake will only know how to edit a centered player scene transition to yet another centered player scene…which means the final product looks less professional and doesn’t flow as smoothly while watching.

The proper technique is easy, but takes some getting used to.  Let the player who is facing, for example, to the left have their back right up against the right border of your camera….it’s okay!  All the empty space on the left side of your LCD screen will lend itself to longer fades into another shot where the sequence starts in the center, or on the right.  Want to get even fancier?  If the action is moving from side to side, get the camera ahead of the action to a blank field and start recording while holding the camera still.  The action then comes into the screen, moves across, and exits on the far side…if you have the discipline to keep holding it still!  Then move the camera ahead and try it again!  During post-production editing, blending a few of these shots into the sequence really adds spice and interest.  This is an especially effective technique for filming swim meets, and allows you to pre-position your shot with possibly a stronger and steadier zoom than you would otherwise accomplish.


Once you commit to filming the action while sacrificing personal enjoyment of the the experience (you can’t effectively do both! And remember, we’ll film it if you want to focus instead on enjoying the moment), incorporating just a few additional techniques will dramatically improve the quality of your raw footage!    Move around, actively and relentlessly work the zoom, try filming from different heights, and allow the action to go off-center…all simple adjustments that enable incredibly powerful results!  Not only does the post-production software time become easier and more creative, but the final sports video will immediately bring those genuine smiles out when the highlight is viewed…over and over again!

Read More in our New Book!

How to Video Your Children's Sporting Events