Get 'Em on the Board
It’s an approach that spans generations, how coaches teach their playbook to their players. Put them in front of a whiteboard, hand them a marker (or a blackboard with chalk for you old-timers), and watch the fear run through their eyes.
“Where are you lining up in Bunch Right formation?”
“Who’s your key on the counter against a 4-3 front?”
“What do you do when the ‘Sam’ steps up into the B gap?”
“Now, draw it up and talk me through it.”
This can create a heap of anxiety for a lot of players and hinder confidence. But the players who spend time in their playbook enjoy these mental tests.
Take Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama’s most recent QB phenom. In a recent interview on The Dan Patrick Show during Super Bowl week, Tua was asked if he's ready to prove himself at the upcoming NFL Combine.
Tua goes on to explain how his coaches kept him smart in the playbook by 'getting on the board' after film sessions. Each player draws out a play from every position and talks through the job assignments of each player, reading the defense along the way. "Those guys there at the University, they've prepared us."
Today’s players have access to a number of training tools that allow them to work in their playbook, on their own time and in their own way. Let’s take a look at how you can use Smash Routes to get your players strong in their playbook as they 'Chalk It, Talk It, and Walk It', while competing with their teammates.
Coaches spend hours drawing up plays, racking their brain as they look for that gem to attack the weak spots of their opponents. When the plays are set, it moves to the classroom where they’ll spend time whiteboarding them for their team. From there, it's in the hands of the players.
One by one, players are brought to the board and asked to recreate the play just as Coach did before them. Sometimes this happens in front of the entire team, but typically in position groups or individually. Coaches want confirmation that their players understand the entirety of the play and what their job is.
'Chalking plays,' as it’s often referred to, helps ingrain all elements of a play into the mind of the player. Preparing for where the moving parts will go will prepare the player to anticipate their actions on the field. The ability to anticipate quicker, making a player more instinctive, can mean the difference between a good player and a great one - as well as a healthy one.
Working the whiteboard has proved invaluable, so imagine if your players could do it anytime of the day from anywhere. Smash Routes provides just this as our playbook coaching app takes players through all of their plays from any position, as they chalk their plays in a simulation against various opposing plays.
To create extra motivation, we've built a mobile game around the curriculum where players earn points and rank up as they compete against their teammates.
As your players play, their comprehension is analyzed and reported to you through the Coach interface in the app. This 24x7 whiteboard test provides you real-time access to their playbook knowledge, as well as how many playbook reps they've put in.
Coaches can 'chalk it' too in Smash Routes by using our Whiteboard tool. Every play from your playbook loaded into Smash Routes is available in the Whiteboard along with all the opposing plays you choose. By utilizing your blocking scheme rules, the plays will adjust on screen automatically based on the defensive formation you load against it. From there, you can remove routes from view, flip the offense and defense, and draw with your finger on top of it with multiple-colored 'markers.'
Drawing up a play is a good starting point and leads to the next step.
“Now talk me through it.”
Reading an opponent is similar to chess as you move your players into position to create a path to the goal, or defend the one behind you. Drawing out the play creates these assignments, based on the rules of your scheme. As the player talks through these rules, they improve their comprehension as the job of each player now has more meaning when put into context of the scheme.
In addition to explaining scheme rules, a player must also understand how to communicate on the field. Terminology used for calls at the line, who’s making them and in what situations are key to being a prepared player.
The way we communicate with youngsters these days is much different from back in the 1900's. Some traditional methods have been retired as a result of social and cultural changes, and the ways in which we reach our players are different. Technology has become the preferred medium for most, so finding ways to engage ‘on their turf’ will help you connect with your players.
Smash Routes was created to provide just this; a medium that will capture the attention of your players – mobile gaming. Turn your terminology into their language and watch them compete to be the best in the playbook.
Players who hesitate to ask questions at practice will find their answers through trial and error. Practice will become more efficient, requiring less time talking and more time working on technique. And come game day, your players will all be on the same page and more prepared to execute your game plan.
The final step is to do just that – "Step It."
I’ve watched pre-game walkthroughs of high school teams across the country, whether on the field, in a gym or even in the parking lot. Anywhere you can line up your players and simulate the steps they’ll perform at gametime will help prepare them mentally and build muscle memory.
Some of the best coaches I’ve watched break this process down to every step. First steps matter so give it the appropriate focus. If you start out wrong, you’re already behind the play, so reinforce the importance of getting off right. But also pay attention to how they progress through the play. How big of a step should it be, where should their hands go, and what should they be watching to determine their next step.
Conducting these walkthroughs is important, but how many of your players have the attention span to focus through the entire session? Giving them another way to 'walk it' in their own way will help fill the gaps when their mind wanders at on-field walkthroughs.
By simulating this process in Smash Routes, players will stay engaged longer and can work on their assignments and plays leading up to the game, even on the bus ride. Preparation breeds confidence so giving your players various ways to prepare will allow them to find the method that works for them.
While video, or film sessions, have been the study format of choice for years, today's students are different. Passive learning has proven to be less effective for most learners, particularly today’s newer generations of tech consumers. Walk into any classroom and you’ll find interactive tools being used to deliver content and further engage students into the curriculum. Away from class, students study on their tablets and smartphones through apps with interactive games.
So why wouldn't we apply this same approach to teaching our student athletes their playbook?
Join the teams across the nation who are moving to the best new playbook coaching app. Get them in their playbook more and watch them work the board like Tua.