Film Study

As a coach, over the years, I’ve learned that what my players respond to the most is always visual.  Of the five senses, human beings respond mostly to visual stimulus.  On the field I’ve always tried to use that to my advantage in coaching situations by being able to demonstrate what I am teaching.  Fortunately, I can still run around pretty well but I know that not all coaches can.  This is where film study can be such an important teaching aid.

The most important aspect of film study is not watching the film with your players but teaching them how to watch film properly.  If you don’t do this they will simply watch the film as they would a movie or television program.  Players who are reading this post can learn from what I am describing here as well.  To make film study effective when evaluating your own team it must be taught like this:

  1. Understand the concept of the play
  2. Understand the roll of each unit in that play (offensive line, defensive line, offensive backfield, defensive backfield, and so on)
  3. Understand the roll of each player in that play

Keep in mind, this would be a teaching session spent with players on how to watch film properly.  This is not something you should do in-season.  This is an off-season fundamental just as teaching footwork on the field.  Learning how to properly watch film is a fundamental just like any other.

Every player needs to understand the concept of a play.  Why is that play being run in that situation in the game?  How is that play designed to take advantage of the opponent?  What is the objective for that play?  These would be some of the questions that should be explained so that players understand the concept.  This way when players are watching a particular play on film they understand the concept of what is trying to be accomplished at that moment in time during the game.

Every player needs to understand the roll of their unit.  An example might be the offensive line blocking slide protection.  Every lineman must realize that, as a unit, they are executing this protection in order to minimize one on one match-ups.  In other words, they are trying to create more double teams.

Every player needs to understand their individual roll.  A receiver’s roll within a play might be to run a slant route regardless of the defensive back playing inside-out leverage in press coverage.  A receiver might be taught to release to the fade, pulling the corner up-field, and then he is to plant and rip under the corner to the slant.  The quarterback will be expecting this since that is the way the technique should be taught.  The film will show whether the receiver performed this technique properly or not.  If the pass wasn’t completed due to the receiver getting tied up with the defender, this is one of the technicalities that should be identified.

Understanding all of these specifics will make it easier to understand what to look for when evaluating a play on film.  Prior to showing the play on film we explain the concept of the play, roll of each unit, and roll of each player.  We evaluate the play based on those specifics.

When evaluating an opponent this is where it is really important to teach players how to properly evaluate the film.  High school kids will have the tendency to watch an opponent’s film based on a play in it’s entirety.  They tend to see things such as how athletic, big, or fast the opponent’s players are. Rarely do they understand how to look for tendencies or keys.  It is extremely important to teach the opponent’s tendencies in a down and distance situation or by formation or alignment.  If the players understand that on third and ten or longer, 70% of the time the opponent blitzes, this would be information that is very valuable for the players to know.  This is not something that only the coaches should be aware of for play calling purposes.  Often I have seen coaches study these tendencies but then they do not make the players aware of them.  The odds of a play being executed properly increase tremendously if the players themselves know what to expect from the opponent.

Teaching players how to evaluate tendencies of individual players is also very valuable. What types of moves does a defensive end use a majority of the time when rushing the passer?  Are there any keys on film as to which move that player might use? Does he stagger his inside foot more when his initial release is to the outside of the offensive tackle? Does a quarterback always look to the side he will throw to when he drops?  Does the Mike backer always creep to within no less than two yards from the ‘A’ gap when he is going to blitz? Is the corner always looking inside at the quarterback, even though he is lined up in press, but then he bails at the snap?  There are hundreds of tendencies that can be picked up by watching film but players must be taught what tendencies to look for as well as how to look for them.  So, when you are watching film with players, pause the film often and quiz a player on a specific technique or tendency.  This should be done when looking at the offense or defense as a whole as well as when evaluating an individual player.

Teaching your players how to actually watch film, whether of themselves or the opponent, will go a long way in helping your team to succeed on the field.  Remember, how to watch film is a fundamental just like any other and my suggestion is to utilize the time you have in the off-season to prepare your players on how to do this properly!  Your ability to effectively teach in a film session during the season will increase ten fold if your players already know how to evaluate what they see!

Coach Van Tassel

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