Cav Clinic Practice and Game Organization

“Coaching is about Control”
•Syntax of preparation -“How we do things”
•Compartmentalize the game -“winning battles one-step at a time”
•Dictating the pace of performance -“in the drivers seat”
“How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time.
-- African proverb
A coach’s responsibility is to prepare their players for the contest they will be
facing. How our practice sessions are formatted will largely determine how successful delivering
that information will be. Our role as coach is to impart information to our players that they can
use (resource) within the contest they are presented with.
“Information is the reduction of uncertainty” –Bill Gates, The Road Ahead
What will determine the efficiency in practice formats will be how well we plan and
how common the teaching concepts remain. Know what needs to be taught, why it needs to be
taught, and the context it will be used in. This approach lends itself to a modular outlook where
concepts are built upon one another for an end-sum product of consistent performance in game
situations. Not only is this an easier way to grasp concepts, but also affords players an
opportunity to ‘win’ “mini-games”, rather than being thrown to the wolves and overloaded with
multiple tasks. This step-by-step method also elicits a greater focus from the players, since
there are only a few things to pay attention to. In each segment, only review what is important
NOW. Erase all irrelevant or superfluous information as this only hinders the learning process.
The most important dynamic involved in practice is how you structure it and how efficient your
team prepares itself for competition.
Develop consistency, familiarity, and competitiveness so your players can progressively improve.
We are to give them a basic structure that they can be familiar with, grasp a concept, and log a
“win” in each session, then move on to the next lesson.
Stage practice sessions in timed blocks,
so there is a beginning and an end of
focus on a particular area.
This puts the onus on the coaching
staff to work within these parameters
to get the message across, deliver it in
quick coaching points, then rep it to a
These practice ‘blocks’ should
preferably be in 5 or 10 minute
segments. Short and quick, concise
lessons for high-repetitions. These
short-bursts allow you to
compartmentalize the game into
winnable challenges, making it much
easier to teach the ‘body-of-work’ as
you progress.
“FUN football leads to optimistic football, which proceeds
into positive football that gives birth to winning football.”
- Coach Glen “Tiger” Ellison
This structure creates an arena where an athlete can showcase the improvement of his technique
and eliminates the temptation to just “out-athlete” everyone on the field.
These teaching “blocks” are tantamount to chapters in a book, dividing up the big picture into
manageable segments. This also helps build your practice plans, accounting for all the time you
are allotted, ensuring that all skills that are needed to be taught are included. You will have a
clear picture of what is being taught and you can evaluate if all skills are given a practical
allotment of time.
With this kind of routine built in, you will spend less time explaining drills or announcing what is
expected next – the kids will know (because of repetition) what each drill is for and when that
drill will be used.
Lastly, you can shape the mentality of your team with this efficient approach as well. You can
schedule blocks of time every practice devoted to fundamentals. This type of emphasis drills
home the importance of blocking or tackling, that gets players believing that they are a
“physical” team because we work on hitting ALL THE TIME (even if its for only 5 minutes a
practice, it is something we never neglect).
Examples of Practice Plans
Staging your practice blocks on a timeline, so that everyone stays on the same page.
Basic football fundamentals / Special teams / Offensive group / Offensive Team
Defensive group / Defensive Team / Team Competition (conclusion) / Devotional
The next step in organizing your practices is going beyond general outlines, but actually scripting
everything that needs to be practiced and WHO needs to practice it. This method ensures that
what you plan to have available in a game has been experienced by the people that need to be
executing it, as well as seeing that all players get their much needed reps.
With this attention to detail, you
will eliminate much of the
insecurity and doubt players
experience on game day. Emotion
and desire can only take you so
far, but confident preparation can
be a catalyst to sustaining them.
More specifically, you can use
these scripts to prepare for
specific situations within a game
(red zone, 2pt conversions, 3rd and
short, etc) and set up a scout look
dedicated to what your team will
face in that scenario.
“Give an account of your management….”
- Luke 16:2
By scripting the practice plays, all
the assistants can be on the same
page and can prep the next scout
look you will need. Knowing the
play will also help them assist
their players on what to look for.
Defensively, you can review your opponent’s formations step-by-step and play-by-play and how
they will threaten the defense out of each formation (what are the keys to stopping the base
play out of each formation).
Again, the amount of detailed preparation you put into scripting your practices will ensure there
is no wasted reps or time by your staff, players, or the team you may scrimmage, as well as
guarantee you have prepared the team against all possible looks (that nothing is by-passed during
the ‘rush’ of practice). The less time you spend making decisions in practice, the faster (and
smoother) it will run. The higher the tempo of your practice, the more stimulated your players
will be, leading to a higher participation and (information) retention rate.
The rationale behind practice organization is to do all that is possible to deliver the pertinent
information to your players so they can be best prepared for competition. In keeping with this
theme, another tool a coach can utilize is take-home handouts.
If you’re lucky, you have inspired your players
(through organization) about playing football
and improving their performance for the TEAM.
To not let this momentum go to waste, while
they are away from practice you can feed that
desire with handouts or practice (information)
supplements. A one-page review or DVD cutup
of the new plays installed, or the scouting
brief of your upcoming opponent is a good
start. If the players look at it – great. If not, it
is no loss, but it is another outreach for them
to be able to digest the lesson plan of
practice. You could take this as far as
‘homework’ if a coach wanted to.
“wisdom is found in those who take advice”.
- Proverbs 13:10
The best way to deliver concepts to your players
is to eliminate the uncertainty of a situation.
Being specific with roles on the field, we can
make their assignment crystal-clear, leaving
minimal doubt / indecision.
Let the players know where EXACTLY they should
line up (aiming points) on the field in relation to
the many landmarks they will encounter.
Landmarks such as the hash, numbers, sideline,
EMOL, etc are great ways to orient a player to
understand what area of the field he should
‘work’ (and what area of the field he can
effectively ignore). The goal should be achieving
consistent results both in alignment and
“Discipline is based on pride in the profession, on meticulous
attention to details, and on mutual respect and confidence.
Discipline must be a habit so ingrained that it is stronger than
the excitement of battle.”
- George S.Patton,Jr, War as I Knew It
As a coach, your job is challenging enough without adding more variables unto your game day
plate. Watching the clock, ensuring all the kids are playing, that you have 11 on the field,
keeping tabs on what is working (and what is not), and managing all the players on the
field….you have your hands full.
With the same amount of detail and circumspect attitude we’ve taken to practice, we want to
apply it to game day. The easiest way to do this is to ensure you have all the resources you need,
so not to miss anything. Those resources largely involve the information you will need to make
your decisions throughout the game. With this need, we want to be able access snap shots of
information needed – developing a game day call sheet. Useful information you can use during
the game includes;
•Depth chart
•Plays to call
•Play script
•Down & distance scenarios
•Position / player plays
With all your information at your finger
tips, the game will slow down (less wasted
time with decisions) and you will have more
time to effectively lead your team.
Also, with all the information consolidated
to a page, you can print multiple copies to
fellow coaches (equipping everyone with
the same information to make decisions
from). Now, everyone knows the play being
called (and can effectively supervise their
game day responsibility) as well as being
able to track substitutions.
You can further maximize your efficiency
with your game calls by categorizing your
plays by field position and situations.
Not only does this allow you a clearer play
selection (matching scenarios with the
highest percentage play), but it also allows
you to focus your practice sessions
accordingly (“its 3rd and 7 inside the 15, we
are going to run ’47 C’”, and run these
situations in practice so the players will
have a clear definition of their role in this
For instance, you may have a signature 2point play or a “money” 3rd and 8 play.
Rather than pulling these blindly out of the
air under the pressure of game day, you
have a well-thought out plan of attack that
you can refer (and your assistants) in the
course of a game.
Taking this a step further, you can
categorize plays by positions in the event
that you, “just need to find a way to get
Johnny the ball” or if you need to give the
2nd string B back some “candy”, you have
an easy reference for what plays suit those
QB wrist coaches are an excellent way to bullet-proof
your play-calling system. You can store as many or as
little information on these sleeves – with their main
function to work as a tool-box for your players.
With easily accessibly legible plays ready to be called,
you eliminate the variable of miscommunication of
players running plays into the huddle.
The amount of plays are you house on a play card is limitless.
You can hold as little as 5 and as many as 50. You can include as
much information as you feel is necessary. Formation, play, cadence, and read….or simply just
the play, the main thing is to provide a way to get the right play in in a timely fashion.
A great way to utilize this tool to its potential is to break up the play card into three or four, 10
play lists. Each list can be identified by how you call the play in; digits called in above the head
(“HAT”) 1-10 (I.e. “HAT 5” = play 5 in the “HAT” list). You can repeat this logic for the “WAIST”
list (all digits called below the waist, are found on the “WAIST” list). You can expand the lists to
include “CHEST”, “RIGHT”, or “LEFT” giving you a total of 50 play call options.
This method helps your quarterback feel enabled to call plays, and empowers the coaching staff
to call plays quickly without being pressured to repeat the exact play they want, they just have
to “select from the menu” and send it to the huddle via hand signals.
For those that commit to the wrist coaches, an even more involved method can be utilized and is
best utilized with the NASCAR tempo (in the tempo offense section).
You can create individual wrist coaches for each position.
Each sheet would list the play call (just like the QB wrist
coach is set up) but list the assignment associated with the
play for that position. In the example shown, the L (“X”)
position wrist coach would list the NASCAR plays so the player
can quickly glance at the play call and his assignment to
ensure there is no miscommunication or missed assignments.
This approach requires the coaching staff build a master table
filled with all the plays they intend to run in a spreadsheet
that links to each printable wrist coach, so that all wrist
coaches match (from week to week) and guarantee that all
the assignments are correct. This involves a little more work,
but also affords the coaches to use an aggressive
implementation calendar, as there are not many assignments
that NEED to be memorized (the wrist coach aides the player In remembering his responsibility.
“Rapidity is the essence of war; take advantage of the enemy’s
uneasiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack
unguarded spots.”
– Sun-Tzu, The Art of War
In addition to controlling your players with techniques and fundamentals, we want
to influence as much control during the course of a contest to give our players a favorable
advantage on each play. A fairly easy way to accomplish this is to keep the pressure on your
opponent to correctly perform. Making a decision within 30 seconds is considerably easier than
making that same decision within 3 seconds. With tempo control, we are looking to speed up,
slow-down, always altering how the defense is going to be attacked, as well as dictate how many
opportunities we will have during the course of a game.
This approach discourages our opponent’s coaches from making simple
adjustments, forces their players to perform under (manufactured) stress, and promotes
miscommunication with their defensive assignments.
Our players can gain a psychological edge knowing they have an advantage (even
when they can see they might be out-matched physically) they can use at any time during the
game to put the defense on their heels. This also promotes a greater focus during practice (hightempo) as well as paying attention in the huddle or set in the formation.
We use varying game speeds to gain this competitive advantage. Among the few
speeds we utilize;
•Standard (huddle up) where we huddle up after a play and the coach signals in the play to run
•NASCAR (no-huddle) where players line up in base formation then listen to the audible from QB
•INDY (no-huddle/no-check) players line up and execute a series of prepackaged plays
Advantages of using a Tempo Offense
•Control tempo of the game (fast,slow, normal)
•Create artificial momentum (offsetting opponent advantages)
•Magnify the offensive advantage (cadence, play, formation)
•Appearance of “something different” (looming effect)
•Control substitution
•Limit fronts & coverages
•Freezing allows you to see exactly what the defense is doing
•No guessing with play-calling
•Magnify conditioning / weaker opponents
•Eliminate inefficient ‘lull’ before and after plays
•Establish a reputation (prepare for anything)
•Packaging plays allows you to set up counters (defending the
entire field = minimizing concentrated attacks)
•The forced attack requires more effort from secondary players to
be accountable for run support
Using Freeze
The first tempo that you can utilize is “freeze”. This is nothing more than utilizing
a hard count to draw the opponent off sides. With the “freeze” play in your arsenal, the defense
conscientiously has to slow down and play hesitant and circumspect. This is the first stage of
limiting the aggressiveness of a defense on the field. We are disrupting their rhythm – changing
their starts and get-offs. What they have been conditioned to react to (cadence) is no longer
valid – now what do they do?
“Freeze” can be called from any tempo you use. Whether you are in no-huddle
(INDY), hurry-up (NASCAR), or your standard tempo, hard cadence can be used to attack a
defense to slow down their aggressive style and/or gain a ‘cheap’ 5 yards. What is involved with
“Freeze” is lining up in a formation, then have the quarterback call the cadence with hard
inflection. The players have nothing to learn, just that when a “Freeze” play is called, to just sit
in their stance. The quarterback will go through the cadence through three “huts”, and if no
response is drawn from the defense, the quarterback is free to call a time-out (to avoid a 5 yard
penalty for delay of game). You can use all your standard presnap motions with “Freeze”.
This is a ‘low-rent’ approach to controlling game tempo, but is a good start to
dictate the game at YOUR speed and force your opponent to play with less aggression.
Calling “freeze” in the course of a game can be done through your standard,
huddle-up tempo or by including it as a regular play on the QB play card / play sheet. The
quarterback would just call “Tight (formation) Freeze (play)” then break the huddle and run the
In hurry-up (NASCAR), you can make this call with any “F” word (‘Florida’,
‘Franklin’, ‘faith’, etc). While the team Is setting on the ball, the coach can just yell out
“frisco” (any ‘f’ word), the quarterback repeats it four times to the players set in formation,
then initiates the hard cadence.
In no-huddle (INDY), you can insert ‘Freeze” in the sequence of plays you have
packaged. This works especially well if the team you are facing knows you are capable of
performing no-huddle and prepares their defense to react on cadence.
Example of FREEZE
Using Indy
The next tempo you can utilize with minimal practice time is “INDY” (think of INDY
500 race cars). This is a no-huddle speed where we are trying to run plays as fast as possible. We
are looking to get 5 plays off in under a minute. These are high-percentage plays we practice
everyday that we have packaged in a series. This package will never change. Once the INDY
package is defined we do not alter it (it has to be something the players can remember without
Packaging the plays is completely up to the coaches, but it is best if you can group
plays that compliment one another and can stress the entire length and width of the field, so
that your attack isn’t one-dimensional. An example is;
INSIDE (2 Wedge)
RIGHT (88 Power)
LEFT (99 Power)
LEFT (99 Power Pass)
INSIDE (2 Wedge)
Rather than trying to memorize a handful of plays, we simply teach it as
“middle,right,left,etc”. That is all they really have to remember, because it becomes a natural
progression of thought(We are running to the right, what play that we use runs to the right? “88
Power”). To limit the amount of things that could go awry, all plays are on first sound (“GO”)
once the ball is set.
Once INDY is called, it is no-huddle urgency until the play series is exhausted or the
coach calls a time-out. At the end of each play, the players are admonished to quickly get the
ball to the official (this aides our tempo) quickly so we can get set for the next play. After the
last play in the series is ran, the offense resumes the standard (huddle up) tempo, unless the
coach signals otherwise from the sideline.
You will find that many times when confronted with a hurry-up offense, many
defensive coordinators will use a time-out to attempt to regain control of the game speed and
try to coach up their players to what you are doing on offense. This also increases the tempo in
practice and gets kids fired up to move so quickly (serves as conditioning as well).
Example of INDY
NASCAR is a hurry-up speed, slower than INDY, but faster than our standard tempo.
We are striving for snapping the ball 14-16 seconds after it is put in play. NASCAR is used to vary
the tempo that we operated at and allow us to open the entire playbook in a simplistic checkwith-me approach. This is best used when you have a few formations installed, that you can get
in and out of. The main thrust of NASCAR is to threaten a defense with quick count, freeze, and
formation adjustments. The tempo of NASCAR promotes the tool of audibiling into better plays
than the one originally called.
Because we can effectively change the play at any time, the linemen always remain
in a 2-pt stance to remain comfortable and be able to adjust to a long-cadence.
The cadence of NASCAR involves a FORMATION, GROUPING, & DIGIT PLAY and is
repeated twice to ensure all players received the call. This allows us to communicate in our own
language and further confuse an opponent. The play calling is driven solely from wrist coaches
worn by all players (even linemen) by position.
FORMATION - call the formation to be run out of (“TIGHT”, “SPREAD”, “SLOT”, etc)
- “F” word = Freeze / “D” word = Dummy call / “City” = pass / “State” = run
- even is to the right / odd is to the left
DIGIT PLAY - 1 – 9 series on the NASCAR call sheet
“SPREAD – A RIP! TEXAS 66 – 22! TEXAS 66-22!”
“SPREAD – A RIP! – formation with A motion
“TEXAS” = run play list
“66” = first two digits are dummy numbers
“22” = first “2” (even number means play to the right)
“22” = second “2” (2nd play from Texas column)
You can turn this into a check-with-me system by
using the dummy calls (“Dallas 66-70”, “D” word is no play) to run
through a cadence, then look to the coach to see if they want to
go ahead with the play or check into a different play. Remember,
this approach allows us to use ALL of the presnap time to find the
play we want to run, as well as keeping our players focused on the
To signal in the play, the coaching staff will need to utilize a grease
board or number chart to flash at the QB so he knows what play
series to call from. All formations and motions will be shouted
from the sidelines prior to giving the number play call.
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