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pressboxBy Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs

It's the game within the game that matters, which is why XandOLabs presents new research on how offensive and defensive coordinators train their spotters in the press box.  With some states allowing the use of technology in the booth these methods could mean the difference between wins and losses.

By Mike Kuchar

Senior Research Manager

X&O Labs


Insiders Members:  Click here to read the full version of the report including exclusive downloads.





Now that we’re all approaching mid-season form, we felt imperative to address perhaps what might be the most under-coached aspect of on field coaching decisions- press box communications.  We’ve all been in situations when our spotter in the booth is caught “watching the game,” and not what he’s supposed to be clued in on.  Training your spotters is a difficult task, one that can only be mastered with the combination of disciplined eye training and plenty of experience. 

XandOLabs.com sent its survey on press box communications to 3,900 coaches- only offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators and head coaches at all levels that reported back on the methodology they use in the press box.  We heard back from coaches who had worked with their spotters for over twenty years and some who were in the process of training a beginner up there.  We’re more than happy to report on our findings below.


Case 1- Personnel in Press Box

Before we begin with the most common protocol used in the booth, we wanted to present some findings that we found interesting on the personnel in the booth.  We wanted to start with the head coaching position and find out how many coaches are tied into game day communications.   It seemed like the visual of the stoic head coach, ala Tom Laundry, pacing the sidelines without a head set is lost in football lore.  Truth is, we found that 83.6 percent of head coaches wear a head set on game day.   This wasn’t so shocking.  But there are some- like the University of Michigan’s head coach Brady Hoke, that choose not to do so.  It was this sixteen percent that we felt we needed to explore.  We reached out to the small minority to find out what those head coaches are doing when not on a headset and here is what we found:

“ I go between the coordinators when suggesting things or asking questions, but only when I deem it a necessity.”- David Bice, Sardis High School (AL)

“An assistant with a headset stands near me and passes information to and from the press box.”- Joe Fabrizio, head coach, St. Petersburg High School (FL)

We found that those head coaches that opt not for the headsets are naturally not coordinators.  They spend the majority of the game delegating responsibilities- such as personnel, calling offenses and defenses- to their assistants.  Some of these coaches choose also not to be on the phones in order to eliminate clutter, which can be a constant distraction during the course of the game.  We found that the majority of coaches, 58.6 percent, use more than five headsets on game days.  This is more than double the amount that use up to five (see survey results below).  Considering the majority of our survey responders where high school and mid-major college coaches, we found this number to be particularly high.  The protocol these coaches use during the game will be discussed in further cases, but the fact that there can be that many “mouths” going during the course of the game is staggering.  Managing that communication can be a chore.  What we found even more interesting is that even though many programs are using more than five headsets, 37.5 percent of these coaches have only two total coaches in the press box.  Now the issue becomes how to delegate responsibility to those two coaches, which we will explore now in futher detail. 



Case 2- Offensive Responsibilities and Communication Protocol

The first question we wanted to explore regarding the offensive side of the ball was how many offensive coordinators are in the booth as opposed to being on the field.  We found that 63 percent of offensive coordinators choose to be on the field, which is significantly lower than defensive coordinators on the field.  We know that most coordinators choose to see the “big picture”- fronts, coverage’s, movements, etc. which is particularly why many major college programs have its offensive coordinators in the booth.  But as far as high school and small college coaches are concerned, the majority chooses to be on the field and trust their spotters up top to do their jobs.   Despite having a possibility of five coaches on headsets, 48 percent of these coaches only allow up to two other coaches talking on the headsets at the same time. 


Case 3- Defensive Responsibilities

It’s clear that Defensive Coordinators choose to be on the field more than offensive coordinators.  Based on our research, 81.3 percent of defensive coordinators that took our survey are on the field, rather than in the box.   We found various reasons for this fact- most of which are centered around the philosophy of defense being more of an “emotional” side of the ball where the DC could be on the field helping with adjustments presented by the offense.  While this may be advantageous in talking with players, it may be difficult to track various offensive groupings that are coming into the game, which is probably why 53.5 percent of defensive coordinators say that offensive personnel is the most important valuable information provided by the spotter in the press box (see survey results below).   When it comes to communication, 45.3 percent of coaches allow up to only two other coaches talking on the headsets at the same time.



What You're Missing:


Join XandOLabs.com exclusive Insiders membership program and gain full access to the entire research report on Press box communications including:

  • Multiple spotter protocols for the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
  • Single spotter protocols for the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
  • How coaches at various levels are training their spotters and the methods they use to do so.
  • Access several templates that coaches use on game day.
  • Plus much more…

Join X&O Labs' Insiders Website. Click Here!



What we found is that the majority of coaches created their press box checklist through a series of trial and error, like most adjustments made in coaching.  We’re hoping you can use some of the ideas presented here and implement them smoothly into what you’re already doing.  




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