Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Reduce the Clutter.....Game planning

     In my previous post I talked about how I had to reduce the clutter on my call sheet mid-season to fit my eye on what our offense had evolved to, to give our kids the best chance possible to be successful.  It also caused some changes in the way we game planned and produced our scripts for practice weekly.


Game planning is just as much an art as it is a science.  Again, how do things fit your eyes, your thought patterns, your philosophy, and your trust level with the other members of your staff.  The majority of our games are played on Friday nights.  With HUDL we often times have video (at least one angle) of that night's game ready to watch almost as soon as we get back to the field house.  For me, I may watch very few of the critical plays right after our game.  Win or lose, I need a little decompress time so I hold off until Saturday morning to evaluate.  I would say 99% of the time the saying of "you didn't play as good or as bad as you thought you did" holds true when you evaluate the film.  We evaluate each offensive position on execution of their assignment and effort. As a staff we also talk through things we could have done better before we correct/encourage our kids a little while later as an entire unit.

     When we are done with our athletes on Saturday, I continue basic prep for our next opponent.  If the opponents in your district have not taken advantage of the LEAGUE EXCHANGE tool on HUDL, you are missing out.  You have immediate access to all of your league's game tapes, once you have uploaded yours.  For example, we play Sherman week 10, but Saturday morning after week 1, we have their week 1 game tape, along with the rest of the league so you can begin game planing as early as you want to, not that I do that.

     I will watch an opponents last 2 games very quickly on Thursday, after our kick-the-field/O-D review practice, prior to that nights 9th/JV game.  I am not looking for specifics, just general scheme information and any obvious personnel mismatches (good or bad) or anything that just jumps off the screen. Then I will do the same thing on Saturday evening with the game that was played on Friday night, again not looking for any specifics, just trying to get a feel of the defense and personnel.
     We meet as an entire staff on Sunday afternoon  at 2:00 and we stay until we have our work done.  I have never worked for a head coach that believed in just being at the field house so people could see our vehicles parked there, so when we are done with our work we go home.  Some weeks its earlier than others, but when I leave I will have practice schedules done for Monday and Tuesday, complete with scripts for our TEAM RUN, 7-on-7, TEAM PASS and TEAM periods.  I will have Wednesday practice schedule done, but scripts not complete until after Tuesday practice so we can make adjustments as we feel needed after watching Tuesday practice film.

     Prior to the Sunday 2:00 meeting, I get to the field house around 11:00 AM.  My tools of ignorance are a great air conditioning unit and my headphones.  The first thing I do is finish my self-scout from our Friday night game.  I want to know what the opponent's defense knows about us.  Here are the things I want to know:
Run/Pass by down/distance
Play to the Field/Boundary
Play to Strong/Weak side
What pass family (quick, sprint, screen, play action, drop back)
What passing zone on the field (left, right, middle) (0-5 yards, 6-12 yards, 12+)

Once I have inputted those fields myself, I run the reports on HUDL.  I look at the past 3 games individually, and then a season tally of all the numbers.  Again one of the reasons that we had to tempo was because some of our very lopsided tendencies particularly in the run game.  We knew it, they knew it.  Tempo doesn't defeat that, but it does eliminate some thinking time for an opposing coordinator and any of those kids we call coaches-on-the-field.  It did give us some vanilla defenses. We did not see much blitz, but we did see some flat foot safeties at 7 yards every week! Because of the 9 man box look with the safeties down, our #1 pass was play-action-4-verticals from every formation, motion, play fake possible.  We did not have ANY blazers running the numbers and hashes but the tempo and our ability to keep moving the chains did cause some bad eye discipline at opportune times on defense and each week we knew we were gonna have some shots to hit big passing plays.  


     When I was done with the self-scout (usually took me 30-45 minutes), I began to narrow my focus on the next week's opponent.  The first thing I would sort and watch were all plays that scored a TD against the defense, as well as any explosive plays (runs over 12 yards, passes over 16).  I want to feel good about the game plan.  I am an eternal optimist.  It hasn't mattered to me whether we were 10-0 or 2-8, if I had to scout the 85 Bears I was gonna feel good about a plan to make our athletes successful.  I think this is a huge part of my weekend flowing on a track to building a successful unit. What offensive coach doesn't think he can score half a 100 every week???  Sometimes you have to trick yourself, but I believe in it. I had 2 main scouts that I relied heavily upon in this process.  Shona Taylor was my formations guy.  Casey Price was my secondary alignment guy.  Both of these guys took a lot of personal pride in their job performance every week and gave me EXACTLY what I needed.  For both formations and secondary alignment, I would look at the last 3 opponents.  Luckily for us, several of our opponents played against offenses that aligned similarly enough to us that we could get a good feel for where they were going to be.  I would have a feel (but not precise) for where we would get a 3 technique on 4 man fronts, or a 4i on 3 man fronts. I left that up to our offensive line coaches  (Brandon Cates, Josh Knox @CoachJoshKnox) to give me specifics when we met as an offensive staff later.  Secondary alignment was huge for me.  I needed exact information.  I asked for distance from the line of scrimmage and whether they were aligned to the field or to the boundary. For example if we had a Cover 2 corner sitting outside leverage at 5 yards depth, Coach Price would input 5b (b for boundary).  I would watch all clips by the position of the corners to see how it affected the safeties.  Because of the tempo, we didn't see a lot of movement post-snap.  We got what we saw pre-snap.  After I watched the breakdown by secondary alignment, I would go back and watch the formation break downs and look for any tweaks and twists by down and distance.  This would get me close to the 2:00 meeting.   After the general staff meeting at 2:00, I would meet with our QB/HC Chad Rogers (@CoachChadRogers) and WR coach Joel Luper (@LuperJoel) and we would make sure we were all on the same page and seeing everything with the same eyes.  Again we all trusted each other, knowing that we had spent the time in watching film individually, so when we came together as a group we were not just spinning our wheels waiting on somebody to get caught up to speed.  We could look at specifics.  We could narrow in on short yardage situations, or specific motion adjustments, or how we thought they may adjust to a funky formation that we had in mind that week. 

During this time, we would also set our formations for the week.  We got to the point where we were not signalling in formations, only the play concept.  This was a huge factor in use going faster.  So on Sunday we would have a chart and run through all of our personnel groups and by concept and match it with the formation/motion we wanted it paired with that week.  So if we were in our 11 personnel group (1 back, 1 H, 1 slot, 2 WR) we would start with POWER.  The H was always gonna align to the side of the power.  He was our kick guy.  Some weeks the back would align same side, some weeks the back would align opposite side.  This is where our self scout came into play.  If we wanted to try and bust some tendencies, we would mix things up.  On our counter play, some weeks we would pull the backside guard and tackle (the H could align strong or weak), some weeks we would pull the guard and H.....it just depended on what picture we were trying to distort to the defense, and so on and so on with all of our schemes (buck sweep, inside zone, outside zone).  We would get funky and go WR over sometimes if we thought it would get us an advantage.  Often times, we would tell our slot that he was to align to the "fastest side" meaning if the previous play took you to the right, then get your tail lined up on that side for the next play.  With our normal personnel groups, we were not trying to get pull reads so we were not overly concerned about the conflict player on the backside so just get lined up as fast as possible, whether it be front side or back side.  When we were Wildcat, we would be a lot more specific with the slot because of pull reads and needed an extra hat backside, or expansion of the conflict defender.  Our slot and our Wildcat QB (who ended up aligning as the slot) had both spent time as a QB in our program all the way up to the JV level.  They had a very good understanding of what we were trying to get accomplished and it allowed us to move fast and be in a good position for our offense.

     At 3:15, our OLINE coaches came back to us and we met as a complete offensive staff.  We would communicate to those guys any information they needed to know about formations, and then we would discuss any changes or additions to the run game and get squared away with all protections. This was the last time we would meet as a group before Monday practice so it was imperative that we all left on the same page, seeing things through the same set of eyes.   A good example of how we would clean things up at this point....one Sunday we had some great stuff drawn up on the board as skill guys.  We tied it all together with protections and scheme.  The OLINE guys come in, soak it all in, and then they let us know that we had just now drawn up six different pull paths and techniques for our guards.  There was no way to effectively and efficiently practice six pull for our guards so we pencil whipped a couple of protections and got things down to a reasonable number for the OLINE.  
     We would break and eat as a staff after this meeting.  After the meal, we were on our own to get our work done and be ready for Monday morning.  I will go over practices and game plan add/deletes in a few days.
cmeans@denisonisd.net


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Evolution of a Call Sheet In-season...Reduce the Clutter

     As the 2016 Texas High School season began our offensive staff had a plan, just like every other team.  We had a good athlete at the QB position that could run and throw.  We had 2 tailbacks that we felt very good about, one of which was our best defensive player as a 2 year starter and post-season award winner at Free Safety.  We were going to be strategically balanced and throw when WE wanted to, not being dictated by the defense or down and distance.  It was a blueprint for a perfect season, but as we all know, the beauty of the game of football lies with the many opportunities to persevere through adversity and adjust to change. We had 2 different epiphanies with these young men early in our season that called for a change in the way we thought offensively, starting with our call sheet.

The first epiphany came after the performance of our tailback in the opener. Prior to the season, we were shooting for 12-15 touches per game with him.  We got in a shootout where we scored 61 points and lost.  The back ended with 300+ rushing on 40 touches.
Week 1 call sheet
    My call sheet for that week 1 ball game was pretty basic.  The top-left in white (labeled 1st half) was our first 7 plays in normal down/distance situations.  If we get 3rd/4th & short/long we would go  to the down/distance section in green.  We were opening with the POWER scheme.  It is the basis of our offense.  The other 6 were a mix of run/pass trying to show different formations with motion adjustments that we wanted to see.  The next white section was left blank to fill in at half time with our adjustments.  It was usually limited to a 3 play mini-script, along with a list of any other major ideas or adjustments our staff talked about at half.  The next white sections were our base run/pass schemes going in that week.  They are listed by scheme only, not by personnel groupings or formations. The bottom white section was our WILDCAT section that we were only planning on using on 3rd/4th & less than 3 yards to go situations.  As fate had it that night we had 11-3rd/4th short situations which aided in the 40 touch total of our back.  The rest of the sheet is pretty common stuff. There is a large section to draw between series if needed as well as halftime.  The yellow-red-orange are important sections that I don't ever want to overlook.  The yellow section is pre-game information to go over with the QB one more time.  If I ask the QB about this info and he stumbles even the slightest bit then there is a pretty good chance we do not need to be running it.  The orange section is just a script of plays to call during pregame team offense.  Its important to do what you do without showing all that you do.  Somebody is always watching!  The back of the call sheet was our 2 point chart and kill-the-clock charts.
     The second epiphany happened a couple of weeks later.  During the first drive of our first district ball game, or QB pulls a zone read, goes for 12 yards, and separates the AC joint in his throwing shoulder requiring surgery the next week.  We were prepared for the injury and had a plan.  Our #2 QB was one of our starting WR and was a 4 year letterman as a kicker.  He had a great understanding of our offense from being in 4 years of varsity meetings and practice.  The transition to him was smooth.  We did win that game and we were set up for a huge game with playoff seeding on the line the next week.  #2 QB was not the runner as our #1 QB and we had some heavy tendencies as far as running to our strength formationally and to the wide side of the field.  We are multi-personnel spread, no-huddle.  We were not necessarily a hurry-up-no-huddle team to this point but we made that switch this week with a bye and a QB change.  As fate would have it, #2 QB missed a Tuesday workout and did not play that week in the crucial district game.  Again, we had a plan that had been worked since the Spring and we did not, as a staff, make any irrational decisions based on emotions. We worked the plan that had been practiced and gave our team the best chance to win.  At this point tempo was no longer a "lets see what happens" part of our offense, it was the offense.  #3 QB stepped in and the wildcat took off. Practice changed, and so did our staff game planning meetings.  As well as a change in call sheets.
Week 10 front
Week 10 back
The big differences.....no script.  We have the SEE EARLY section.  These are the things that we wanted to see, but honestly it took longer to look at the call sheet, get the play called and get it ran, than it did to roll with it and check between series where we were at on what we wanted to see.  It was more important for us to go fast, physically and mentally wearing down a defense, then to work down a script.  The advantages to the script had been replaced because we had reduced the clutter of our offense, limiting formations, motions, and schemes.  The HAVE WE? section was our go to section between series.  It kept us honest with who we knew we had to be, to be successful as a unit.
The formation pictures and plays that accompany them became a very useful tool for our players.  In any game, we had as many as 4 guys taking the snap from center, 2 QB/WR and 2 RB/wildcat guys. We could show them exactly where they needed to align, and through our weekly preparation, they understood the scheme and what needed to happen when the ball was snapped.
     As an individual, the back page of the call sheet had more meaning to me than the front.  We went from a standard size 8.5 x 11 sheet to a 8.5 x 14 legal size.  It gave us room on the back for our strategic charts plus the additional room for my personal messages that helped keep me focused throughout the game.  The messages changed from week to week, often saving the bottom row for some of my favorite old school rap lyrics.  This week I had a quote from Denison native Dwight Eisenhower.  The colored messages again where things just like the HAVE WE? section from the front page that kept me in line with our gameplan and overall philosophy that was made in the calm and coolness of our office when things are well thought out and calculated.  After we have met as a staff and with our athletes at halftime, I find a place to be by myself for a minute or two and re-focus all of my energy on what it will take to give our kids the best chance to succeed.  It may seem like a small thing or a minor detail but we were behind in this week 10 game at halftime. I was able to to find that minute alone and thought about the message of my picture.  I touched my heart with it....in my terms.....calmed down and got myself ready to go.  That's all it took.  I was mentally locked in, and we kept feeding the beast, Tre Lyday!
We got beat in the first round of the playoffs.   In the first half of that game, we were not successful on 3 different 4th & 1 situations.  I called a bad game.  We followed the same plan at halftime, and during my minute of alone time I was interrupted by the #1 tee boy in the state of Texas, my 8 year-old Easton.

He was calm, calculated, and very intently looked in my eyes and saw I was struggling.  He got closer, stared me down, locked in on my eyes and he said, "Daddy, if we get another 4th down, call that touchdown play. Lets go play catch!" Things didn't work out that night, but I was ready for the second half.  Whatever it takes!

In the next few days I will get very specific about how we game planned and how we practiced. If you have any questions you can comment here or email me: cmeans@denisonisd.net

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Conversation on Sports, Adversity and the Value of Failure

Today I bring you Nick DiNardo. Nick is an entrepreneur, consultant, and public speaker focused on adversity, personal growth, and education. Throughout his career, he has interviewed hundreds of experts from multiple disciplines on overcoming adversity, dealing with trauma and stress, and the crucial role that it plays in our cognitive development and education.
Nick has dealt with adversity his entire life. At seven years old, Nick's family went from living the American Dream to a foreclosed home, divorce, and mental illness. He spent a year sleeping on the floor of a one room apartment and sharing a kitchen with 17 people.
He writes and podcasts about his journey, the story and science of adversity, and personal growth at NickDiNardo.com. Nick was a multi-sport athlete in high school football, baseball and track and played football at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

Download the Action Plan from This Episode Here


Welcome to the Wrestling with Success podcast with host Jim Harshaw Jr. In this show that uncovers the secrets of the most successful people on the planet who are also former athletes and reveals how they used skills learned in sports to overcome failure and achieve a level of success not otherwise possible. Former athletes are uniquely qualified for success if they learn how to translate lessons learned from sports into life. I help you do this by interviewing former athletes who are proven winners in the wrestling match of life and finding out how they used what they learned from sports to reach success.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

PowerPoint Playbooks

Coaches always want to know how to create a better playbook.  In this video we cover the basics of creating a football playbook with PowerPoint.




Feel free to download and use the 'diagram' template here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

IMG Academy's Head of Leadership Development: James Leath

Former Fresno State Football Player
Head of Leadership Development
IMG Academy
James Leath
James Leath joined IMG Academy in 2015. As Head of Leadership Development, James develops and delivers curriculum for IMG Academy student-athletes across 8 sports and presents to visiting teams, companies, and professional athletes.
Leadership lessons consist of communication skills, personal and group leadership, developing identity, and building team culture. James attended Fresno State University where he received his B.A. in Communication. During college, when he wasn't playing football, he was best known for being the beloved mascot of Fresno State, Time Out. After graduation, James went on to play quarterback for a semi-pro team in Fresno, CA. With over 15 years of coaching experience and a M.A. in Performance Psychology, James is passionate about teaching athletes the tools they need in order to be successful in life and in sport.
If you don’t have time to listen to the entire episode or if you hear something that you like but don’t have time to write it down, be sure to grab your free copy of the Action Plan from this episode-- as well as get access to action plans from EVERY episode-- at JimHarshawJr.com/Action.

Download the Action Plan from This Episode Here

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