By Mike Podoll, Associate Publisher, This Is AFCA Magazine
Here’s how the typical scenario unfolds for many coaching staffs each off-season. After taking a short break away from football, coaches finally find themselves fully re-energized and with enough free time to self-scout the previous season and dive into that long-bookmarked “Chalk Talk” article, instructional DVD, coaching book or game-film that they’ve been meaning to check out.
From this casual study of X’s and O’s, many exciting new ideas begin to germinate. As winter months roll by, they usher in the coaching-clinic season. To get the biggest “bang-for-their-clinic-buck,” the coaching staff usually splits up in an effort to attend as many speaker sessions as possible. After taking copious notes at each session, a coaching staff literally comes away from these valuable clinic events with dozens of good ideas that could be applied to their own program the very next season.
Armed with all these newly-acquired off-season strategies, coaches begin to champ at the bit to put them to work in the real world of football. After all, that’s the FUN part, right?
Adding in fresh, on-field wrinkles and surprising long-time conference rivals – oh yeah, that’s the good stuff, right there. Long before you can unleash this newfound tactical brilliance on your opponents, however, you need to take a step back and consider whether you can realistically add things in without compromising the core mission of your football program.
Does The New Tactic Fit With Your Football Philosophy?
Every team has a system of core beliefs and goals they adhere to as a football program. Does this new concept you’re considering dovetail nicely with those core ideals? Adding a tactic, for example, that requires speed, deception and finesse, may not be consistent with a program whose core team tenets are based on power and imposing your mental and physical will on opponents.
Does The New Tactic Fit Your Team’s Personnel?
It’s easy to become enamored with a new scheme due to a clinic presentation and the charisma of the person who is lecturing. Some football clinicians are dynamic public speakers and have the ability to convincingly sell the merits of their topic. Or maybe, you simply want to implement something that has always “tripped your trigger” as a coach. Before you dive into anything, ask yourself if the new tactic fits the skill sets of the players on your roster.
The primary goal for any strategy is to place your players into positions where they can be successful. Adding in a new play that calls for pulling, agile offensive linemen – while you’ve got powerful, yet slow-footed guards and tackles – may not be the best idea. Or if you’re considering installing a blitz that calls for a particular front defender to drop into pass coverage, and he stinks at dropping into pass coverage, you may want to re-think adding that blitz altogether.
Will This New Tactic Be Effective Versus Next-Season’s Opponents?
Look at your schedule next year, does the newly proposed scheme match-up against those teams? If not, it may not be worth the time investment necessary to install a new tactic.
How Will You SELL The New Tactic To The Other Coaches?
Other coaches on the staff need to buy-in to any new tactic you may want to install. If you’re a head coach or coordinator, you’ll need to sell the new idea to the position coaches, because they’ll be the ones charged with teaching and implementing it. If you’re an assistant coach who is suggesting the idea to the head coach or coordinator – do your homework! You’ll need to show your research, sell the merits of the new strategy, explain how you’ll teach it and why adding it will be a good use of precious practice time.
Do You Have A Process In Place To TEACH The New Tactic To Your Players?
Are your players prepared fundamentally to execute the new tactic you want to install? Does the new idea require specific player skills that may be a foreign concept? Ideally, the new idea should fit perfectly within the fundamentals you already stress on a daily basis.
Practice time is limited and finite. Make sure any new tactic fits seamlessly within what you already run. Be efficient in teaching new concepts and select drills that allow you teach the new scheme while utilizing “whole-part-whole” methodology.
Do You Have The TIME To Implement New Things?
Practice time is precious. Can you teach your base stuff to new and returning players, plus focus on mandatory fundamentals, skills, conditioning and special teams – AND also implement new stuff? Do not bite off more than you can chew from a time standpoint. Remember: “Fundies are first and foremost.”
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