Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Are your mental thought processes and coaching causing as many turnovers as the physical mistakes PART I

We all study film of our turnovers endlessly. We go back and forth looking for the reason in the physical aspects of the game. Did the player have the four points of ball carrying covered? Did the players mesh properly? Did the quarterback read properly? What if the cause of our turnovers, including some of the causes for the physical mistakes lay in the way we coached the mental side of the game? What if it lied in the verbiage we used? The way we taught? Or even the way we corrected?

What am I talking about? I once had a running back who made a crucial fumble at a critical time in a very very big game. It happened when he was switching the ball to the proper side but very late. You certainly could take this as a physical error as I initially did. So, when he got to the sideline, I asked the typical rhetorical satiric question "What were you thinking?" The answer was more then I expected. You see, he couldn't decide which way to cut. So when he made a last minute decision, he knew he had to change the ball but wasn't prepared to do so. Hence the sloppiness due to indecision. The error was created by a mental decision.

Take this thought one step further. What if the way we taught caused this indecision? What if the way we corrected caused this delay? Not in the case of the running back's cut but in other decision making processes. Can we inadvertently be causing turnovers? The answer is yes and here are five reasons why?

Drawing too many pictures!

The mind works by taking pictures and then processing them. In order to have a clear, quick choice the most limited number of pictures the player has to respond to the easier the decision. Simple example: If I asked you to pick a picture of a girl you liked from two pictures. pretty simple. You make a choice from two. Now if I give you 1000 pictures, your choice is harder. you'd probably go back and forth narrowing it down. The easiest choice is if I gave you one picture with one choice: Attractive?. You can understand how multiple pictures creates indecision. Indecision causes delay. Delay in the mesh or on a throw causes turnovers. Simple.

Look at teaching the triple. We teach one picture. It either matches that picture or not. The thought process "I am giving the ball unless the read key makes a direct path in front of the quarterback." We don't teach if he's a sitter - give. If he' crashes the mesh pull. If he squeezes pull. If he comes up the field give. We also do not teach teach read the helmet stripe. Or the shoulder tilt. That would be like you trying to pick that picture by checking every hair on the head. (See spatial vs. Fine focus below.)

Do all the multiple pictures lead to the same decision? Yes, on paper at least. It's just more of a cumbersome process.

The same goes for passing. Take a simple curl flat combination.

I interviewed for a college OC position and the conversation lead to teaching the quarterback to read the all curl pattern. When I talked after presenting a pre-snap method of direction I said "I throw the curl unless the flat coverage makes a direct part into the throwing lane then I go to the flat." Simple and precise. The head coach responded that they do the same. "We throw the curl if the strong safety sits, goes straight back, or covered the flat. We throw the Flat if the strong safety opens his shoulders 45 degrees or sits at depth." Think about that thought process for the quarterback. And he fired his QB coach because the QB threw too many picks!

Again it comes out the same on paper in the end but the quarterback doesn't have paper or time!

Will there be early mistakes with one way decisions? Yes. Every read has a distance / time factor built in. How far the read starts out plus his angle of approach plus his speed of approach. This is the learning curve that comes with any process but it is easier in a one way decision.

Using a fine focus read vs a spatial focus read.

I've known coached who will not run triple option football vs back to back reads. They say its too hard to read. When they try it they get turnovers. I also know coaches who get a ton of interceptions on reads that are "right" by there verbiage but nevertheless lead to disaster. Why? They use "Fine" focus when they should be using "Spatial" focus.

What's the difference? "Fine" focus is narrowing vision to a small area. i.e. the logo on the short. It is necessary once the act of throwing the ball has been triggered. It is what pitchers and shooters use. it is what allows accuracy. "Spatial" focus is the ability to see a specific action while your vision takes in a wide scope and is aware of surrounding stimulus.

Take the helmet stripe read mentioned above. That's fine focus. The problem is that he can't see the back to back coming. He can't see the second man crashing at him till he refocuses which is usually right after the smelling salts take affect.

The same is true in passing. A coach explained this to me with the curl flat by saying that "we read the flat players numbers. If the quarterback can see one, two, or zero numbers and their tilt." I asked him what about robber coverage. His answer was "we live with that!"

Sure you have to teach pre snap awareness of possibilities. (i.e. is #2 in a back to back position.) Once you do though, spatial focus allows you to see and reaction to stimulus surrounding your read. (i.e. the flash on #2 crashing while you were reading #1) With practice in a spatial focus read the quarterback cab react to outside stimulus precisely and correctly.

The "Loading principle" in all muscle movements

In order for any muscle action to take place you have to load it to get it out of a state of being static.

Think of a baseball player batting. He goes to the plate with his muscles loaded to swing. (you can actually see the load in many batters as the pitcher winds up.) He then reacts to the ball out of the strike zone by stopping his swing. If he went up with a list of reactions (i.e. "If the ball is down the middle I swing.""If the ball is low I take" "If the ball is on the inside corner I swing" "If the ball is on the outside corner I take" etc.) he would have to load after the pitch was thrown. Needless to say, he'd be a little behind.

The same is true with the quarterback. If I say I am throwing the curl unless ......" when I hit my drop I am loaded to throw the curl. Vs. a"fudged" dropper I am still throwing the curl by rule but my load allows for it to be on rhythm and quicker into a smaller window. He only has to reload if he throws to the flat and that is part of the rhythm.

The same is true in the one way "give unless" decision. It's just like the batter reacting to his initial load and swinging on a strike or stopping the load on ball outside the strike zone.

Like the batter, the quarterback who works off a "listing" of mental processes will not be loaded and late on throws causing interceptions or in the mesh too long causing fumbles.

Being too simple

Considering we are talking about being simplistic this is here because the extreme doesn't work either. He is the coach who says "curl or flat throw to the open man." What is exactly the open man and how does the quarterback get there?

This is the same coach who watches film and says "he should have thrown the flat because he is open." What brought the quarterback to the flat?

Along this line is the attempt to be too simplistic in structure that it causes turnovers due to the quarterback properly executing the mental process. This happens in play design. Take the all hitch pattern. Simple in design. Coaches try to make it simpler by running all the hitches at the same depth. They do this to simplify teaching.

So now the quarterback goes though his read either outside to in or vice versa depending how its been taught. The problem is the timing will be there only for the first load. By the time the quarterback reloads for the second choice the hitch has been sitting there and jumped.

Good play design accentuates good mental training. In this case if the read was outside to inside, the inside route should have been deeper. If it was inside to out then the outside route should have been deeper.

Decisions that lead the quarterback to the dark side

What do I mean by the dark side? It is the area of the field that the quarterback cannot see due to the verbiage in his mental process. This has a lot to do with play design and application of the thought processes to that play. To explain I will give you two examples:

1) Any pass play with a crossing pattern. In our case let's say the tightened is running a crossing pattern from left to the right. If the quarterback's thought process brings from left to right also, he is throwing into an area he has no vision of (Since his eyes were on the other half of the field when they brought him to the drag, even spatial focus will not tell him what he is throwing into. ) This leads to interceptions. Ones thrown to a defender just sitting there in the dark side.

Rather any crossing pattern must be read from the finalized side to give the quarterback a vision into the are he is throwing and avoid interceptions.

2) Inside breaking routes (slants, curls, digs) must be read from the inside out because of the same problem as the crosser. If the mental process brings the read from the outside in. (deeper slant to inside slant) then the quarterback is susceptible to interceptions by people he cannot see. If the mental process brings the quarterback's eyes from the inside out.the only problem defender will be a chaser not an unseen defender. (i.e. "I am throwing the inside slant unless" not "I am throwing the outside slant  unless")

In part two I will talk about how certain correction methods lead to turnovers

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