Are you having a difficult time getting your players to execute their job or assignment on a consistent basis? Is your team plagued with mistakes or penalties? Do your players seem lackluster at times or is it difficult to know whether they are actually ready to play a game or not? If these are some of the difficulties you’ve been faced with as a coach you’re not alone! There is a solution to these problems and it’s much easier than you think.
Have you ever experienced the following scenarios?
All of these scenarios can be summed up in one statement…lack of confidence!
If your players are not confident in what they are doing on the football field they will suffer from any number of issues ranging from complacent play to mental mistakes. I’m sure you’ve all heard the statement “his brain is getting in the way of his feet”. So why is his brain getting in the way of his feet? Is it because the game plan was too difficult? Is it because there were too many plays in the game plan? Were there new plays put into the game plan that you feel your players just weren’t ready to execute? Of course, the answer to all of these questions could certainly be yes but you need to determine why these scenarios occurred!
Why was there a lack of confidence by your players? Were they intimidated by the other team? Were the players on the other team just that much better? Those explanations can certainly contribute at times but the most obvious explanation for a team that does not perform as it should and lacks confidence is due to one simple principle…preparation. There are plenty of less talented football teams that have soundly beaten more talented football teams due to great preparation. Without proper preparation your players will not have the confidence to execute their assignments properly. This goes way beyond X’s and O’s and overall talent. Your players can know the plays inside and out, exactly as you had them on the chalk board and exactly how you practiced them. They can also know all the necessary fundamentals to execute their assignments but when game time comes around all of these negative scenarios I’ve mentioned can still occur.
Here are Five Essential Tips to Get Your Players to Execute Properly:
1. Understand the Concept– Every player MUST understand the concept of the play and the concept of their assignment within that play. You can not simply put a play on the chalkboard or walk through it in practice and have players memorize their assignment. They must know the concept behind their assignment and they must know the concept of the play and how it is designed to defeat the opponent’s offensive or defensive play.
2. Understand the Opponent– Players must know the strategy of the opponent. All skilled players on offense should understand coverages, not just the quarterback, and all lineman and running backs must know fronts. A receiver needs to know the coverage as well as the quarterback, particularly zones, so that he knows where the holes are in the zones and what the responsibilities of the secondary players are. Secondary players need to understand alignments and formations and box players need to know offensive fronts. Offensive lineman must know fronts but, more importantly, they should know the roll of every other offensive lineman versus every front they face. Quarterbacks need to know it all. If you are not spending a tremendous amount of time with your quarterback in the off-season teaching him how to understand coverages and fronts inside and out, then he will never execute the offense to it’s full potential.
3. Teach Players how to Watch Film– Players in high school and even many colleges do not know how to watch film properly. Teach them how to understand the tendencies of your opponent’s players. Does a running back put his weight more on his toes when it’s a running play? Does a receiver come off the line of scrimmage half speed when it’s a running play? Does a linebacker work to within a yard of the line of scrimmage when he blitzes? Is a guard light on his fingers in his stance when he is going to pull? Does a secondary always play Cover 3 versus a trips/open formation? Do the opponent’s safeties play the run aggressively and if so, explain the benefits of great play/action fakes. Teach your players these things and don’t allow them to watch the film as they would an action movie because, believe me, they will!
4. Understand the Fundamental– Proper fundamentals are essential for success. However, you can’t teach a fundamental without having the player understand the benefits of performing the fundamental properly. This is the same as understanding the concept of the play. Let’s use a quarterback fundamental as an example here. Quarterbacks have different drop steps such as a one step, three step, five step, five step and hitch, and so on. What’s the difference between a five step drop and a five step drop with a hitch? They are each designed to create a different timing with the routes run by the receivers. A five step drop will be utilized for a receiver running a curl route at 14 yards back to 12 yards whereas a five step and hitch will be used for a deeper curl route. The extra hitch times up better with the deeper route. Explain the differences between the drops and why they are performed. Let’s use a three step drop as an example now but I want to talk about the pass protection by the offensive front. On a three step drop the lineman are firing into the defensive lineman in order to create a quick stalemate and keep their hands down. It’s probably a good idea for your quarterback to know this so that he doesn’t hold onto the ball. The quarterback does a pre-snap read, picks a side, and let’s it go on his third step. If he doesn’t, he is surely sacked as offensive lineman can’t hold that type of block for long. I’m sure most of you know this but I’m simply using it as an example as to why you should explain the reason to execute the fundamental properly. You don’t want your players to be robots and only mimmic what they are taught. Teach them the benefits of the fundamental and how it applies to the play overall.
5. Up-tempo Practice– The more often you can practice at game speed the better off you will be on game day. For those of you who have the luxury to practice one’s against one’s…do it and do it as often as you can! Create competition as often as possible as nothing will bring out an increased pace in a player than a challenge. Demand that your players turn up the field and sprint hard for at least ten yards after a catch, after a block, after a run, after an interception, or after a fumble recovery. Yes, in high school and college you are down when you hit the ground but make your players get up and sprint for ten yards anyway! Create a sense of urgency during practice so that when you get to the game your players will have already gotten use to that tempo.
If you utilize these five tips you are sure to have players who are more confident because they will be properly prepared. Confident players are not complacent, emotionless, lackluster, and they make fewer mistakes. Confident players are also more apt to quickly make up for a mistake made because they will instantly know when they’ve made a mistake due to their preparation. A properly prepared player is one who can coach himself without you. If you prepare your players properly, once they are on the field, they shouldn’t need you for anything except calling the play!