Wednesday, March 30, 2016

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

In this part we will talk about the actual coaching, drilling, and / or  correcting the mental processes (reads / thought processes) that may be hurting your quarterback and causing misreads, indecision, and eventually turnovers. While all these situations may not cross the lines of various offenses, I have witnessed these personally and in many cases have learned from own mistakes.

a) The sink or swim mentality

I've seen this numerous times. A coach teaches a pass pattern and the thought process. Once on the field the individual routes are thrown on air and then the pattern is thrown in 7 on 7 with multiple stimulus hitting the quarterback while he tries to sort out the read process in his head.

Thought processes must taught the same way as any other skill. For example I teach the quarterback to "give unless the hand off key makes a clear path IN FRONT of the fullback's path."I will start off by sitting there and ask the QB if I've made a path in front of the fullback.  (Notice I'm not saying if he sits do this.) Once he answers, he'll take three or four reps with the fullback just seeing the read and giving it; all the while knowing it is a give. We are TRAINING the thought process. We are TRAINING the eyes. We are TRAINING muscle memory to a particular stimulus. Next I'll give him a crash read in front of the fullback - easiest pull read and ask him what he does by rule. Then he'll take 3 or 4 reps knowing the read is coming. Training the eyes and thought process on the proper response. Once he sees this then I'll combine those two reads only (one give and one pull.)

The second day, I will teach a new pull read the same way. Then I will combine it with the one give read from the previous. Finally I will combine all three. The process is repeated till all looks have been trained into muscle memory. It becomes a reaction not a burdensome thought process.

The same is true with the pass. Take curl flat. Take three Qb's in individual and put one where the curl ends up and one where the flat to be. get a fourth to be the SS. First SS goes directly to the Curl only.  So in "I throw the curl unless" the QB would reload (reshuffle his feet) and through to the QB who is standing where the fat pattern would be. Next have the SS jump the flat. Since he's not going to the curl - throw the curl. Next combine those two. And we will progress to throw all the reads two at a time. By doing this the QB learns the read as a reaction. If you throw him to the wolves it becomes a burdensome frustrating thought process and can lead to imperfect mechanics. Thought process trumps technique and you have turnovers.

b) Bad reads in drills

I don't know how many times I've seen coaches with shields on the line split mat taking one step and popping the fullback on the side of the shoulder and telling the QB it's a give read. FALSE. In order to be a give read the quarterback must understand the path has to be in front of the fullback not to his side. The read previously mentioned would end up as an arm tackle you would expect the fullback to break. Then the coach wonders why the qb can't read the up move or gets caught by the handoff key who stepped down  and then came back out.

If you do it properly you must hit the fullback on the front of the shoulder not the side. This requires two things. You must move your feet and you will have somewhat of a minor collision if the fullback is running full speed. This is why I recommend teaching players in pads to be your reads - not old coaches like myself! (Trust me I learned from the shoulder surgery I was required after my last year at Spirit.)

The same holds true when the old coach plays the strong safety in the curl flat scenario and takes three lazy steps toward the curl and announces "good read" as the QB dumps the ball off to the flat. Then wonders in the game why overtime when the SS just opens his shoulders the QB dumps the ball and the SS makes the tackle for 2 yards.

Reads have to be full and realistic. The best way to get this is teach the players to be the read you want as you teach the QB then use the same guy everyday. Besides if you are so busy being the read and concentrating on how you are dropping, how can you coach the quarterback's mechanics. I could never figure that one out!

NOTE: It's not just using a coach as the read, it's what you expect and demand from your person giving the read.

c) Vanilla alignments by reads in practice.

This is the coach who has his defensive key (SS or handoff key or other) align in the exact same spot every time. Reading defensive reaction to a key is based three things: 1) distance from the rule (i.e. how far he is from the fullback's path.) 2) Angle he takes (the further his distance aligned the steeper his angle must be be. A 7 tech has to come flatter to get in front of the fullback then a 4 technique does. A screwed down safety from a cover two has a lesser angle then an OLB in a 3-4 to get to the curl.) 3) speed of his movement. (the further the defender is from the QB's "unless" rule the faster he has to move. (a 4-3 wide 9 better be sprinting to get to the fullback as opposed to a four tech who just has to step down. The screwed SS basically is in the curl with little or no movement. The 3-4 OLB better be on his horse.) So speed, distance, and angle are the three differentiators that a QB must understand and process in order to be a "good reader."

If you have your key align in the same spot every time (i.e. HOK on mat in a 4, cover three SS at 4 x 4) the quarterback will never understand this.

On the contrary, if on the mat ,we would have our read in a 4 or in a 5 or in a 6 or in a 7 or in a 9. Every day would be different while teaching the mental process. We would talk about the alignment as the drill was taking place. Talking about speed, distance and angle to get to the "unless" aspect of the read.

Even in our QB individual segment (other QBs as finished routes.) we may practice curl flat with the SS at 4x4 one time, 1/2 way out one time, screwed down from cover three one time.

In Part III we will deal with D through F

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