I have volunteered to help with a few high school football teams from time to time, mostly using a specialized stats program that I wrote using Microsoft Excel. Over the years I learned enough about coaching that I began to help review films, grade player performance and help develop game plans for the teams next opponent. Usually, my job kept me in very close proximity to the team's offensive coordinator and I was privy to the plays that had been selected to use for that evening's matchup. Coaching is not what most fans think, for me, when I discovered how much work and planning went into a game I was shocked. I had played football in high school and I thought that I knew a little bit about the sport, but it didn't take me very long at all to realize how ignorant I really was. The strategy involved in a game is very complicated and it takes time to work out a plan, this after spending hours "breaking down" reels of film to decipher the opponent's philosophy of play, where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and what series of offensive plays would likely produce the best results on the field. And that is just for the offense, the defensive coordinator is doing the same thing trying to figure out the best defensive alignments to stop the opponent's offense.

Every team chooses and specializes in one, or multiple offensive and defensive formations. Each different formation requires the players to learn a different set of responsibilities. Since practice time is limited, a team only has enough time to learn these formations and their corresponding responsibilities. Every new offensive play must be practiced against every defensive alignment that the team might face in the next game, otherwise, they will be unsure of their assignments in the game and the play will likely fail. Just one missed block or one player going the wrong direction can spell disaster. It is the same on defense, every player must know where to line up for any given offensive formation and if the opponent shifts formations or sends a player in motion then those alignments and the corresponding player's assignments will change. They have to be prepared and ready to adjust to whatever the opponent's offense does. These are the things that are taught in practice and they go through all known possible plays over and over until every player knows what he is supposed to do.

 Coachesturf on Wikimedia Commons

Imagine then how hard it is during a game to make changes to your game plan! When you see coaches on the sideline drawing something on a whiteboard he is not likely changing an entire game plan or putting in a new play, all that he is doing is making a minor adjustment. A slight change to a formations alignment, or changing the assignment of one or two players for a specific formation or play that their opponent is using. But you simply do not have the time to make big changes, at least not in high school, and you can't teach eleven players a totally new play or formation while the game is being played. In fact, if you were standing beside a coach during the game and trying to decide what he should do for the down, distance and time on the clock for any given play, you would be blown away by how quickly they must make their decision and send in the next play. It's third and long and you are on the right hash mark with less than three minutes left to go in the game what are you going to do coach? I know, I'll pass to my wide receiver running a post route, but wait, my best wide receiver is not in the game so now what, the play clock is ticking coach what play are you going to call. Time out, time out you call, but the official signals that you have no timeouts left, now you get penalized for delay of game and it is still third down but it is five more yards to a first than it was ten seconds ago.

So I told you all of that in order to set up this story. We were playing a rival school in a big game and it was a close battle going into halftime of a low scoring game. Neither team had been able to move the football effectively, and the teams were anxious to get into their locker rooms so that they could utilize the short halftimes to make bigger adjustments than they had time to make on the sideline during play. But on the way into the field house, the offensive coordinator was approached by an excited fan with a new play that he was sure would win the game for us. I was right beside the coach so I heard the entire conversation as this fan hurridly tried to explain his game-saving idea. As we got to the door the coach turned to the man and I was shocked to hear him say "That sounds great, come on in." Once inside the field house the coach walked the man over to the whiteboard and handed him a dry erase marker, show us he said. The man looked down at the marker and then up at the whiteboard, he had absolutely no idea where to begin! You would think that drawing up a play is a simple task, just take a look at the simple Wing-T play above, nothing to it right? WRONG! There is a good reason why not just anyone can take a football team and coach them effectively, even if you are an expert at drawing up the X's and O's on a whiteboard, there is so much more to know about football and the athletes that play the sport. It takes artistic ability, skill, fast thinking with a mind for chess, timing, philosophy, and psychology just to name a few of the needed skills and abilities. A high school head coach must also be inspirational, they become a father figure as well as a field general.

From that day forward I never saw that fan or any other would be expert from the stands approach our coach with any advice or suggestions, that ended it. If you are sitting up in the stands and you think that you know something about the game because you played in high school or you have watched hundreds of games on TV and watched the experts break down a play, let me tell you, you still don't know the things that a real coach knows and you have not developed the skills to step into their shoes. It is hard for me to watch a football game from the bleachers now that I have been on the inside, the silly things that fans say just drive you crazy. That is not to say that there are not some very savvy and intelligent fans out there, and sometimes they are spot on in their assessment of the game and in their evaluation of the job the coach is doing. But nine times out of ten the loudmouth fan that is making such a big fuss about how stupid the coach is, couldn't draw up a single play on a whiteboard and has no clue what it takes for a coach to prepare his team for a Friday night game.

This was first posted on Steemit but it is more relevant here so I'm reposting.


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