Even the most seasoned play callers look back at games and wish they had a chance to make a different call in certain situations.
Aside from putting that information in your back pocket to use in the exact same situation down the road, that's where those thoughts typically end.
Why not create something beneficial from that thought process to grow and get better? To take that a step further, is there an exercise worth creating that we can do to make ourselves better as play callers, as well as prepare the next generation of coordinators as well?
I believe there is.
During the COVID-impacted season of 2020, our first year as a staff at Comstock Park HS (MI), I noticed a disconnect between my thought process and how our offense should operate, and the thought process of our JV offensive coordinator - who was a first-time play caller. The JV offense was effective in moving the ball and scoring, but at the end of the season it was communicated with me how valuable it would be get my thought process on situations and down and distances so that we were more on the same page.
That was an eye opening comment to me as someone who is committed to not only developing our program, but also developing coaches on my staff - which is something that I don't think enough coaches do intentionally.
I thought to myself how valuable that would be in developing not only those with play calling responsibilities, but also with other guys I have on staff that aspire to be more involved in calling plays down the road. So I set out to find a way to accomplish that.
What I recently came up with is a creative idea that I plan to sit down and do with our entire offensive staff on a game-by-game basis called a second-chance call sheet. It will require some humility from your play callers, but I think the payoff can be great getting everyone on the same page, and to help develop your staff by opening up to explain your thought process as a play caller, and to ultimately learn their grasp of the scheme.
It would be highly beneficial for each coach to bring a laptop to this meeting, or you could even set it up via Zoom.
Here's what we plan to do.
HUDL or QwikCut- In order for this to work, the down and distance and data from games needs to be in your video software, and you're going to Export Data to Excel.
Start off with your first game, and do that.
PLUG INTO GOOGLE SHEETS - You will then take that data in Excel and put it into a Google Sheet, where you can share it with the rest of your staff. (I took some of the data out just to protect our play calls, but you will want your information in there from the HUDL export of data)
SHEET SETUP - At the bottom, add a tab for each of your assistant coaches. I decided to split each of our drives up to make it a bit cleaner to read, and included the relevant data for us to be able to look at the play that was called, and USING THE SAME FORMATION, what play would have been better based on the defensive alignment and their call using 20/20 hindsight.
WATCH THE FILM TOGETHER - The real ultimate value here is doing this exercise as a staff together to hear everyone's thoughts. I think that for this to work well, the formation needs to stays the same, but the head coach or coordinator can provide direction on sticking with a run or pass call to help steer the thought process.
Take some time to allow the play caller to explain their thought process on the original play call when needed. Allow time for your staff to watch the play a few times and then the opportunity to explain their thought process when they decide what they'd have called in that situation.
Take it a step further by asking your assistants WHY they like their play call in that situation. Give them an opportunity to defend it and offer why. Again, humility from the initial play caller is going to be key here.
As you go through the film together, have each coach plug in the relevant info into their respective tabs. Here's an example of one I started to do on my own from the first game of the 2020 season.
GO THROUGH ENTIRE GAME - When we get together to do this in-person, I would fully expect it to take all of an hour (at least) to go methodically play-by-play, and drive-by-drive.
Do this for every game of your season.
For us, this will be a solid off season activity, but for those playing their spring seasons right now, this might be a good in-season learning experience to do over the weekend before digging into the next opponent.
If this is your third year at the same school, there may be some value in going back to an overtime game you lost a few years ago to get some fresh new thoughts, while also having your play caller share their thought process in those situations as well.
A few additional thoughts:
The sheet is designed for offensive coaches, but the same could be done for your defensive staff, with some tweaks
At the end of the day, this exercise will help to develop a cohesive thought process on not only play calling, but also on game-planning for your program.
To take it one step further, it may be a good idea (depending on your scheme and what you expect) to bring your captains or quarterbacks, and maybe your middle school staff into the fold for something like this too.
If you've got something similar you do as a staff, with a tweak here or there that you really like, I would love to hear about it. Reach out to me on Twitter @CoachSamz.