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GAME WEEK PREPARATION
In my growth from a young eager coach to a more stable veteran, I came to the realization that as a staff we spent a great deal of time in many areas of preparation and practice. Each of you knows the hours you spend on the game.
Before we go on, would you individually or as a staff complete the following survey. Please take some time and try to get your answers as accurate as possible. The results may surprise you and it will help us later on in the clinic.
IN SEASON WEEKLY TIME MANAGEMENT SURVEY:
1. How many hours per week do you spend analyzing your opponent?
2. How many hours per week do you spend preparing your own game plan?
3. How many hours per week do you spend preparing the practice schedule?
4. How many hours per week do you spend meeting with your players?
5. How many hours per week do you spend coaching on the field?
Now lets add them up and see what the total will be for you.
The actual hours may vary from staff to staff and may depend a great deal on your areas of responsibility, but I have found over the years that the percent of time allocated to each activity is about the same.
Next is an area that I want you to think about before answering and is our clinic topic for the week.
6. How many hours per week are spent preparing coaches for game day?
Coaches individual responsibilities on game day is one of the least practiced and yet most important areas in the game of football. How can we improve in this area and be as well prepared as our players? There are six major areas that I feel need to be addressed.
The greater responsibility you have as a coach, the more clearly defined is your role during a game. If you serve as a head coach, an offensive, defensive, or special teams coordinator, you have a fair idea as to how your time will be spent during the course of the game. It is the remaining members of the coaching staff who can truly help the team win if their responsibilities are clearly set and their talents arc used to the fullest.
1. Finding the person for the press box job. Since the tremendous reduction in live game scouting, the marvelous ability to see a play once and to recognize it immediately has been lost, or at least greatly diminished. It is becoming a lost art. But it is just this ability that is needed by the coach who works from the press box. To find the correct person, I always conducted a test rather than just assigning someone to the job.
Each assistant coach came into the video room with me, one at a time, and sat down with a clip board and yellow pad. I would then begin showing a game, running each play only one time, and then pausing the video to give the coach time to record the play he observed..
We continued this exercise for thirty plays and then we stopped, turned on the lights and compared his play sheet to what actually happened on the field. Without the clicker and the ability to run the play back, over and over again, this becomes a much more difficult task. This process may be something each of you could try.
Some people are just naturally better at seeing the whole picture and with practice they can get even better. This is true from both an offensive and defensive point of view. Once we found the coach with the best natural ability, it then became important that he find the time to practice on his own.
Watching an offensive play or a defense just once and seeing what is taking place is an ability that is truly valuable and coupled with other game day organization can make the difference in winning.
When I was the Defensive Coordinator for the number one defense in the NFL at Tampa Bay in 1979, one of the greatest reasons for our success was the work of Abe Gibron. Abe was our press box man, the very best I have ever coached with, and he would usually only miss identify one, or at the most, two plays each half His ability to furnish me with accurate up to date information on how our opponent was attacking us allowed me to make instant adjustments, giving us a tremendous advantage.
Going to the press box should not be viewed as being banished to Siberia, it is one of the most important responsibilities a coach can be given during the game.
2. Practicing as a staff under game conditions. The very next step, once we have our press box coach identified, is for the entire offensive or defensive staff to practice together. Each coach will have an assigned task. We would set aside thirty minutes to an hour three times a week to prepare ourselves for game day.
Prior to going into the video room to begin our practice we would assemble the papers and boards that we would be using in the game. This would include our recording sheets. The person in the press box and one assistant coach on the field would have identical sets of recording sheets. We would use one sheet or more for each series. Each new series would begin with a new recording sheet Below is a sample of the sheet we used during the game to record down and distance, field position, defense called, opponents personnel, opponents formation and play, and the result.
Series#________ Quarter___________ Score _______ to _________ Pg. _____
| Play# | down dist. | Field Pos. | Per set | Formation | Play | Result |
| _____ | __________ | __________ | _______ | _________ | ____ | ______ |
Defense Called ____________________________________________________
| _____ | __________ | __________ | _______ | _________ | ____ | ______ |
Defense Called ____________________________________________________
In order to have the most area to record and make notes we would space out the page so that we only had 10 plays per page. Hopefully, the actual number series during the year, which have more than 10 plays, will be very few.
For our practice session, each of us would also have a copy of our game plan for the week. Our practice time would consist of the following procedure.
Our goal was to make these sessions as near to game conditions as is possible and to always have identical information on the field as we did in the press box. Using as little light as necessary, with the video off, the person recording on the field would call out the down and distance and field position for the next play. This information would come from our break down sheets. Both the field and press box coach would record this information, on the appropriate play number.
I would then call out the defense to be used, which was recorded by the field coach. We would then turn on the video, run one play, and stop the video. The field coach would call out the result while the press box coach recorded the play as he saw it. We would quickly move to the next play of the series and repeat the same exact procedure. When a series would end, we would stop and the field recorder and the press box coach would practice quickly exchanging information as they would under game conditions..
3. This exchange followed a set pattern. The field coach would speak first giving the play number, down and distance, field position, and defense. After the press box coach matched and entered this information on his sheet, he would then give the personnel set, formation, play, and result, which the field coach entered on his sheet. This exchange of information continued in this manner until every play of the series had been duplicated. With this set procedure in place and practiced, during a game we were assured of having the same information on the field and in the press box which allowed us to communicate better and more efficiently and to make needed adjustments much sooner.
Then we would begin with new recording sheets designated series two. We would usually do thirty to forty plays at each practice session. At the end of each session we would go over the information we had assembled and see how it compared to what had actually taken place in the game. There is no doubt in my mind, that by kickoff, this weekly practice had us ready to perform our game day duties at a much more effective level.
4. During one of our weekly game day coaching practice sessions we would also practice our half time presentation of information procedure. It was the responsibility of our press box coaches, while the offense and special teams were on the field, to compile and organize our information for halftime.
Prior to this practice session we would prepare one blackboard just as we always did in the locker room prior to going out on the field for pre game warn-up. Because time is so limited at halftime I always felt that the more we could do prior to the game the greater the opportunity we would have to provide our players with needed information and help them make necessary adjustments.
For our needs, on one side of the blackboard we would have down and distance areas. We had these broken down in the following manner:
1 and 10,1 and long, 2 and 11+, 2 and 7 - 1O, 2 and 6- 4, 2and 3-1, 3and 11+, 3 and 7 - 10, 3 and 6 - 3, short yardage, goal line.
Each down and distance area would also have listed 1k [inside run], OT [off tackle], OR [outside run], DW [draw], [DP [drop back pass], PA [play action pass], MP [sprint out, dash, or waggle type of passing]. SC [screen].
Using the information from our scouting report, in each down and distance situation we would list, next to the appropriate letter designation, the number of times our opponent had run that specific type of play The press box coach would have this information duplicated on paper for his use in preparing for our halftime.
After the blackboard was prepared with the down and distance, letter designations, and the number of plays [done in white chalk] run in each area, we would proceed to do a video practice just as outlined above. The difference with this practice session would be that we would take a longer time between series to allow for the transmitting of play information and then the compiling of information.
While the press box coaches were compiling this information, the coaches on the field would be compiling the defenses called, using the same down and distance break down. I divided the defenses into: Z2 AND Z3 [zone 2 deep and zone 3 deep], Z20 AND Z21 [zone 2 deep with outside lb’er dog and zone 2 deep with inside lb’er dog], Z30 AND Z31 [the same as above only 3 deep], MF [man to man with free safety], B50, B51, B5C, B5S, [5 man rush with both outside lb’ers coming. 5 man rush with both inside Ib’ers coming, 5 man rush with 1 olb and 1 inside lb’er from the opposite side coming, 5 man rush with an olb and jib from the same side coming], B6B AND B6S [6 man blitz using lb’ers and dl, 6 man blitz using secondary, Ib’ers, and dil].
When we had practiced for a half or at least four or five series of our opponent on video, we would stop and enter the information on the previously prepared blackboard. Our actual game day numbers were always put up in yellow chalk.
5. The next area that we practiced involved not only the coaches but also the players. We would practice for a few minutes each week our substitution and off the field procedure. When we were on the field, I wanted all the immediate substitutes directly behind me. This would include a fourth dl, an Ilb and Olb subs, goal line players, and nickel and dime backs. We would then yell out the defense and the substitute player would enter the field and the appropriate player would come off
We would then call out change of possession and all of the players on the field would come off and go directly to a specific area of the bench and sit as a group. I would then face them with the remaining defensive players behind me. The players not in the game had the responsibility of bringing water and towels for the players exiting from the game. Any adjustments or comments concerning our play would be communicated to the entire team at this time. I never had to search for anyone and I always knew that all of the players were aware of any changes we might make during the game.
This type of practice is not tiring. It was often done when we were out in shorts, but it is worth the time and energy getting it started properly because it will pay tremendous dividends during the heat of the game.
6. The next area that we practiced was our halftime organization. Because the time is so short it is imperative that every second is organized and accounted for.
Prior to practicing as a team, I felt that we needed to verbally communicate to the players how the time management of half time would operate for them. The first two to three minutes was given to them to take care of their individual needs, but then we wanted them in their assigned seats.
We always tried to have the defensive backs together on benches on the left facing the blackboard, the linebackers would be on the front right with the defensive lineman behind them. This was the same way we wanted them seated following pre game warm-up. This seating arrangement served three purposes; one, you could quickly tell if someone was not there, two, it was easier to make certain that all the players heard any changes we were making in their area, and three, when I finished my general comments, the individual positions coaches had their players together as a group, prepared to listen. The defensive lineman would just turn around to hear their coach.
As halftime neared, one of the press box coaches would go to the locker room and put up the numbers from the first half of play on the blackboard. How we were being attacked was in yellow chalk and it was easy to see how their attack differed from their previous games.
At the end of the first half, we would meet immediately as an entire defensive staff, communicate any changes, and decide what I would focus on during the halftime talk. I tried to limit my presentations to two or no more than three critical areas which needed to be addressed. As you know, much of this discussion should be on going during the course of the game, but for practice it needs to be duplicated.
During the beginning of the year, we would physically practice this halftime procedure two or three times a week until it became second nature to all of us. Each of you can make your own individualized adjustments to the information needed and the presentation. Do what helps your players and makes you the most effective coach you can be.