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ChartExport 92By Mike Kuchar, Lead Research Manager, X&O Labs

We all know coaches watch film, but how do coaches, particularly successful ones, watch film? We surveyed high school defensive coaches that have won more than three-quarters of their games the last three seasons and asked them how they game plan- from elements like delegating film work to staff, which information to give players and how to translate game planning to practice planning during the week. Use these methodologies today to gain an advantage Friday.


By Mike Kuchar

Lead Research Manager

X&O Labs

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In August, right before the season began, XandOLabs.com conducted research on what high school staffs are doing to prepare their players on a weekly basis.  This particular report focuses on defensive staffs and what they look for when breaking down offenses.  Sure, many of our reports are centered around scheme, but we wanted to provide readily available research to coaches in-season on some ideas they can implement today to gain more efficiency in game planning.   We broke down our research into the following categories:

  • Sequencing in Breaking Down Film
  • Delegating film work to coaches
  • What to include in scouting reports
  • What information needs to be presented to players
  • Gaining an advantage on your opponent

Editor’s Note:  It’s important to note that based on our research, 88.7 percent of coaches are using HUDL for scouting breakdowns.  All of the information below is based off using that program or something similar.


Sequencing in Breaking Down Film


We all know that coaches study opponent’s film, but we wanted to find out exactly how they broke down film.  How much time they spend on it?  What they look for?  How do they gain an advantage?  To us, it seems film work can either be a formality or become a distinct edge.   But how do you get that edge?  When we surveyed coaches, we found the following things interesting.  To start, 30.9 percent of coaches watch film 2-3 days per week.  The next highest response was less than two days per week, which 27 percent of coaches declared.  What’s more is that the majority of coaches that have won over three-quarters of their games the last three seasons watch opponent game tape less than two days per week.  Only 20 percent of coaches will watch film up to five days per week during the season.  Sure, time may be tight- with most high school coaches being teachers as well but research does show that in order to be successful, you don’t need to watch film on your opponent every day. 

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What’s even more interesting is that the majority of coaches, 52 percent, will break down all of their opponents films and 44.1 percent start from the previous game and work backwards.  Many of said that it depends on the point of the season whether or not they will watch every game their opponent played.  Some rely on simply watching the previous two or three opponents or just breaking down opponents who played against similar defensive structures to theirs.  Whatever is the case, the Saturday before the next game seems to be the starting point for most coaches to break down film, with 43 percent of coaches choosing this day as a base.  Yet, 38.2 percent of coaches that have won more than three-quarters of their games will start their film breakdowns over a week in advance before playing their next opponent.  

Delegating Film Responsibilities to Coaching Staff


Many high school programs employ between 5-10 coaches per staff.  Some are paid and some are volunteer assistants.  The question arose in how the head coach is delegating film work responsibility among his staff.  Some programs are two platoon teams with a separate staff for offense and defense while other coaches work on both sides of the ball.  We did find that at least 10 percent of defensive coordinators break down all opponents’ films on their own and just present their findings to the rest of the staff.  While we didn’t have enough conclusive evidence to decipher between two-platoon and one-platoon coaching staffs, we did focus our results on only those programs that won more than half its games or more during the last three seasons. 


Composing Your Scouting Report


Once this information is data-entered, coaches will typically generate a weekly scouting report to give to players.  But, we made the mistake of assuming all coaches provide their players with a weekly scouting report.  In fact, not giving one wasn’t even a choice on our survey.  We were mistaken.  Research shows that six percent of coaches do not distribute a scouting report to their players.  While this number may be marginal, the reasoning for not doing so lies in the capabilities that HUDL has for generating a presentation, which can be shared electronically with players.  Less paper equals less opportunity to read, which for teenagers in high school may not be a bad thing.  But for those coaches that distribute a scouting report to players, 45.4 percent say it should be fewer than four pages.  What’s too much?  What’s not enough?  We explore that question below.

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All of this is useful information, but coaches are careful about what gets into their players hands.  We’ve all heard the phrase “paralysis by analysis” get thrown around in the coaching profession, and we all want our players to play fast.  So, what should we give to our players, and what should we keep to ourselves?  While some coaches mentioned they don’t give their players anything, others suggested distributing at least the top four categories of the list above.  

Gaining an Advantage in Film Study

The last component of our research asked one question;  “What is one thing you do successfully in your film breakdowns and scouting reports that gives you and advantage on game day.”  We took top responses from programs that have won more than three-quarters of their games the last three seasons and detailed them below:


What You're Missing:

Join XandOLabs.com exclusive Insiders program and gain full access to the entire Research Report including: 

  • Reader responses on efficiencies in film study and why coaches that have won more than three-quarters of their games the last three seasons only watch opponent game tape two times per week.
  • Why you need to start breaking down opponent’s game tape over a week in advance.
  • Reader responses on why elements such as formations, key players and top plays aren’t the only things you need to analyze in defensive game planning.
  • Reader responses on the twelve components you need to address for a complete scouting report.
  • How dozens of successful coaches from high school programs all over the country are gaining an advantage in game planning from attacking protections to holding players accountable for watching film.
  • How game planning correlates to practice time- readers responses on what to use and what not to use when scripting a practice.
  • Why 88 percent of high school coaches are using HUDL for film breakdown and what they are doing with it that you may not be.

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This was a rewarding production for the staff at XandOLabs.com, simply because there are so many different ways that coaches, particularly successful ones, are breaking down film and using that analysis to put together a game plan.  Every day during the week seems to be invaluable and what you do during the hours of those days could mean the difference between winning and losing. 






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