In the spring of 2000 I was hired as the Receiver Coach for a team called the Los Angeles Dragons in a new professional football league called The Spring Football League (SFL). Our head coach was Doug Cosby, former NFL All-Pro tight end for the Dallas Cowboys during the Tom Landry era. Coach Cosby had also been the Offensive Coordinator at the University of California Burkeley. Under Coach Cosby’s guidance I learned the West Coast Offense, made famous by the legendary Bill Walsh. One of coach Walsh’s philosophy’s is to stress the defense with multiple formations. In other words, he would run the same play out of several different formations. The number of plays in the offense are actually relatively minimal as compared to other offenses I had coached in but the multitude of different formations was staggering to me! What I learned is that Coach Walsh was an innovator. He took bits and pieces from other great coaches and molded them into his vision of an offense and how to coach players. This opened my eyes to the revelation of innovation in the sport of football.
Often, coaches learn from a coach before them who learned from a coach before them and so on and so on. What I realized was that many coaching philosophies can date back as far as 30 and 40 years. Considering the evolution of the game, I realized that many philosophies are outdated. What Bill Walsh did was take many of these principles from the past and re-create them to fit the game during his era.
That is innovation and that is what made him, in my opinion, the greatest offensive football mind to date. Even to this day, a very high percentage of teams in the NFL utilize some form of the West Coast Offense.
So, I have tried to pattern myself in that same way, as an innovator in the way the receiver position is taught. Of course, much of what I teach is common but I think it is more than just drills and techniques that can bring a new twist to the way the position is taught. I feel it’s a combination of how you relate to each player you teach and how you communicate to those players. I feel that proper communication should be primarily visual and then supported by how you express that orally. I do not feel that a player will ever learn as much by just what you say but by showing them how to do it.
Fortunately I am fit enough that I can still show a receiver how to run a pass route or how to catch a ball (some days better than others!). You can’t simulate that by what you draw up on a white board or how you describe something in writing. Players will always respond best by physically showing them how to do what you want them to do. So, if you’re a coach that just can’t do it yourself anymore I suggest you find a former or current player that can assist you in that area.
In my opinion, there is just no better way to teach a technique than visually. This is why I am a big advocate of teaching in groups if possible. Players can learn from one another by seeing what is correct and what is not as long as the coach is constantly pointing out when something is done properly and when it is not as each player performs a particular skill.
The following is a list of some of Bill Walsh’s coaching philosophies so enjoy!
8 Points to BILL WALSH COACHING “49er FOOTBALL”
1. BEAT THE OPPONENT TO THE PUNCH
2. SET A STANDARD OF PERFORMANCE AND MEET IT
3. BE PRECISE IN ALL THINGS AND ALWAYS PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO DETAIL
4. EVERYONE HAS A ROLE AND EVERY ROLE IS ESSENTIAL
5. PREPARATION BREEDS EXECUTION AND EXECUTION BREEDS SUCCESS
6. KEEP YOUR WIT AT ALL TIMES
7. COMMUNICATION IS VITAL
8. FOOTBALL REQUIRES ENDLESS ADAPTATION
7 points to ADVICE TO STAFF:
1. LET THE HEAD FOOTBALL COACH SET THE ATMOSPHERE FOR THE TEAM
2. HUMOR IS VITAL! ENCOURAGE PLAYERS TO LAUGH
3. PATIENCE! ALWAYS ALLOW A PLAYER TO REPEAT A MISTAKE (TWICE IN A ROW) TO SEE IF THE MISTAKE IS REAL OR IF HE HAS CORRECTED IT
4. STORE UP SOME OF YOUR COACHING POINTS (DON’T WORK ON TOO MANY THINGS AT ONE TIME)
5. ONLY ONE COACH SPEAKS IN A DRILL (TWO VOICES TEND TO DISTRACT)
6. DON’T STOP TALKING TO YOUR PLAYERS (DON’T IGNORE THEM – ESPECIALLY 2nd TEAM PLAYERS)
7. PLAYERS GAIN STRENGTH FROM THEIR COACH. PRESENT STRENGTH, PREPARATION, AND KNOWLEDGE
6 IMPORTANT THOUGHTS ON PRACTICE (TEACHING):
1. ISOLATE THE SKILLS YOU WANT TO DO (MUST BE SIMPLE). EXECUTION IS NUMBER ONE!
2. DETERMINE HOW YOU ARE GOING TO PRACTICE THOSE SKILLS
3. SCRIPT EVERY PLAY IN EVERY PRACTICE. ONE PLAY = ONE MINUTE
4. EXAMPLE: 49er O-LINE COACH HAD 600 MINUTES TO TEACH 32 SKILLS IN PRE-SEASON
5. ONE HOUR ON SKILLS IN 2-A-DAYS (10 MINUTES PER SKILL). USUALLY 30 MINUTES ON PASS SKILLS AND 30 MINUTES ON RUN SKILLS. ISOLATE THE SKILL – ALLOCATE TIME – LEARN HOW TO TEACH THE SKILL
6. FIGURE NUMBER OF PRACTICES AND HOW LONG EACH WILL BE TO DETERMINE ALLOCATION OF TIME
Thanks for reading,
– Coach Van Tassel