The one mistake you’re making in player Meetings

I was fortunate enough, through a mutual acquaintance, to be able to spend some time with Jerry Glanville last summer, picking his brain about defense, player evaluation, and football in general.

Before we go any further, I can assure you that he is exactly the guy you’ve seen on those NFL Films highlights. He was every bit the wacky, hilarious, and fiery coach that football fans know him as, but make no mistake, the man knows football.FPI703010327AR_b

One thing he said stuck with me more than just about anything else. When talking about his time as the defensive coordinator at Hawaii, he mentioned that by that point he had completely changed his philosophy on time spent in the classroom. Fed up with players losing focus during film sessions, he resolved to spend more time on the field in walkthrough periods, engaging his players and forcing them to interact, rather than having his players nodding off in the back of the room and not getting any better.

My favorite Glanville quote sums it all up. “One walkthrough equals three meetings.”

As coaches we have a limited amount of time with our guys each day, and each week. If you’re working at the college level, your time spent with players is incredibly scrutinized and monitored, so it’s extremely important that you make each minute count. So it follows that you have to ask yourself whether you’re spending the time you do have with your kids as efficiently as possible? Are you getting the most out of each minute?

This is why the Glanville quote stuck in my mind so much. With so many distractions that kids today have grown up with, and with as much visual and mental stimulation as they have become accustomed to on a daily basis, it’s become increasingly difficult to keep your kids’ attention.

You have to ask yourself what you’re going to do about it. Are you going to blame the kids for the society that they grew up in that rewards instant gratification, and where focusing on anything beyond five minutes is a herculean feat in and of itself? Or are you going to do what successful coaches do, and adapt your plan to the personnel you have?

Mark Dantonio
I’m not saying you shouldn’t demand your kids’ attention when you’re speaking to the team, or when you’re watching film or going through drill work on the field. What I am saying is that coaches should be more aware of the biological and mental reality of trying to hold a group of adolescents’ attention for more than a half hour at a time.

I love football. I love talking about it, writing about it, going to clinics and learning about it, but even I start to get a little restless after sitting in one place for more than thirty minutes at a time. Even most clinic talks, depending on where you go, aren’t much longer than 45-50 minutes long at the most. So if coaches have a hard time sitting still for more than an hour, what makes you think a kid who’s girlfriend just dumped him, or who has trouble with his parents at home, or who just plain doesn’t love football as much as you’d like him to can sit there and absorb everything you’re saying?

Still not convinced? In a 2012 Time Magazine article titled “Why Long Lectures are Ineffective,” the author cites a study from 1976 that examined students attention spans in the classroom:

Breaking the session down minute-by-minute, the study’s authors determined that students needed a three- to five-minute period of settling down, which would be followed by 10 to 18 minutes of optimal focus. Then — no matter how good the teacher or how compelling the subject matter — there would come a lapse. In the vernacular, the students would “lose it.” Attention would eventually return, but in ever briefer packets, falling “to three- or four-minute [spurts] towards the end of a standard lecture,” according to the report.”

Like we discussed earlier in this post, coaches have limited time every week with their players. What time they do have should be used as effectively and economically as possible. What this report says is that anything past 25 minutes of lecturing is essentially better spent doing something else.AR-130709872

What else could you do? To quote Jerry Glanville: “One walkthrough is worth three meetings.”

How many plays do you show after a game? Do you watch each one? With the widespread availability of HUDL, it’s become easier for even HS coaches to create precise cutups of what they’d like to show their kids. You can even create notes to be viewed later by your players, including things you may not have had time to cover.

One thing you might try is using scout cards to walk through the four or five biggest plays on each side of the ball from the previous game. Line your offense up and show them the looks that gave them the most trouble. Walk your players through the correct mental decision making routine. Do the same thing on defense. It’s a great way to get inside your players’ heads and find out what they’re thinking and what they’re seeing. You may be surprised at how different your perspective is from theirs.

These principles aren’t necessarily limited to Saturdays or Mondays after games of course, but no matter what you’re doing, there are two main points to remember.

  1. Use your time efficiently and economically, while at the same time evaluating ways you could be spending your time better.
  2. Keep your students (players) engaged as much as possible. Force them to participate, even if that means you don’t spend as much time together as a whole group in the dark watching film.

It is the constant effort to re-evaluate ourselves and our routine that makes football coaches so unique. While coaches in other sports often guard their trade secrets with their lives, football coaches make a habit of traveling far and wide to share with one another and find the best way of doing things. We should take pride in the fact that the men who teach our sport spend so much time learning from one another and attempting to improve. It is the best life lesson we could ever hope to pass on to the young men who are the very foundation of this great game.

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