Introduction to the Chalkboard app

You might already have seen Hilltop’s new Chalkboard app. I launched version one during the final game of the 2015/16 season, using the tool to describe Rooney’s opening goal.


Too impatient for instructions? It’s not really complicated. Go here.

The chalkboard app is a quick way to describe moves and to illustrate tactics. A few possibilities are…

  • Describe a goal in a few clicks, save the image and tweet it (especially good if you’re at the game!)
  • Draw and share team line-ups
  • Illustrate a tactical point
  • Create images for blogs and match reports
  • Build animated gifs to describe player movement
  • Record data to use in other software like Excel or Tableau

These instructions come in two parts; drawing on the pitch, and building animations. If you already know how to draw a static pitch, you can skip straight to animation.

Using the app is simple. Click two points on the pitch and a temporary arrow will be drawn between them.

chalkboard 1

Then on the left hand menu, specify the type of event you’d like to add. For this example, we’ll add a pass.

Click ‘Add to Pitch’ and your temporary arrow will be replaced by a chalk one. Your arrow might be a different colour. Don’t worry, you can change it later.

chalkboard 3

Keep following the same process to add more arrows.

chalkboard 4

Text labels can be anything you like, but are usually player names. You don’t have to label every event. Clicking ‘Add to Pitch’ with an empty label box is fine and can help to stop your chalkboard becoming cluttered.

To delete a line, double click on its beginning. There is a button at the bottom of the menu to clear the whole chalkboard.

‘Player Position’ and ‘Opponent Position’ are different types of event, that draw a single point, rather than a line.

You can use Positions to add static players to a chalkboard describing a move, or to draw a team formation. Let’s add some defenders to the example.

chalkboard 6

To add a position, draw a (short) temporary line in exactly the same way as for other events. When you click ‘Add to Pitch’, the position will be drawn at the beginning of your temporary line.


In the ‘Format’ menu, you can find text boxes that let you add titles to your chalkboard.

You’ll also find options here for changing colours. These are deliberately quite limited to maintain the chalkboard feel, but should be enough to make sure you don’t have to use rivals’ colours for your own team!

Finally, the format menu also has options for changing the pitch background, in case you come over all continental and want to draw on a Juego de Posicion chalkboard. Thanks to Tom Worville (@Worville), who shared a handy R function for making this switch.


To save your chalkboard, use the File menu.


There are options to save an image of the pitch, or to save the underlying data as a csv file. If you’ve previously saved chalkboard data, you can load it again here.

If you’re in a hacking mood, feel free to open up the csv file and change it. By editing a saved csv directly, you could upload data sourced from elsewhere, or create a perfectly aligned template that you’ll draw arrows onto later.

Pitch coordinates are 100 x 100, with ‘x’ being the long edge.

Loading data doesn’t clear whatever’s already on the chalkboard. Your loaded data will be added to what you’ve already drawn.

Once you’ve had a play with drawing on static pitches, you’ll be ready to learn about looking up players and animating them in part 2.

Now go and have fun drawing chalkboards! I’d love to see what you come up with. You can find me on Twitter here.