Discover how your practice planning can greatly increase the speed and efficiency at which your team is able to play.
By Alan Stanfield
Whitworth University (WA)
I began coaching 16 years ago at a small high school, and have been calling plays from a No Huddle offense ever since. The largest evolution for me has been streamlining plays in two specific ways: First, the terminology used in a play, from many words to as few as one; and two, taking single stand-alone plays and combining them into a singular play concept. As a staff, we now try to live by a 25-play script rule in our game planning process.
Consequently, our players maximize the practice reps they get with specific play concepts and we think a greater mastery of our offense is accomplished through how we practice the game script. This process, more than anything else, has sped up our play calling on game day and allowed our players to play at a high tempo pace.
Every staff will go about deciding their offensive plan of attack in different ways, but clearly organizing the playbook is a key starting place for any style of offense. Our playbook is broken down into six categories:
1) Base Run: 2-3 Concepts (These don’t change week to week)
2) Miscellaneous Run: Tool box of 2-4 concepts or add-on’s
3) Screen/Draw: 3-4 Plays
4) Base Pass: 3 Concepts (These don’t change week to week)
5) Miscellaneous Pass: Tool box of 3-7 concepts or add-on’s
6) Quick Game: 4 Concepts
Sunday: The staff sets the script. Rarely are there actual new plays installed week to week, but how we mix and match our base concepts can change by opponent. For example, with our base run play (Inside Zone) we can feature a variety of formations and receiver screen options based off our specific opponent scout profile. In addition, we like to run different play-action WR screen look-alike plays that attack the field vertically when the secondary starts over committing to our Inside Zone or perimeter screen game. In every game script, we try to package our base offense to be great at three specific attack zones: 1. Interior run game (the box); 2. Perimeter (horizontally stretch); and, 3. Verticals. (See Diagrams #1 and #2)
Next, we carry our scripts through three specific play-calling situations:
#1: Openers (1st & 2nd down)
#2: Red Zone
#3: 3rd Down by distance
Monday: Game script is presented to our players in a HUDL presentation, we watch film on our opponent and then a no-contact walk through of the 25-play script.
Tuesday: Full pads practice. The past three seasons running our fast no-huddle offense we have averaged each year between 75-80% of our play calls coming on 1st and 2nd Down. Third Down efficiency is rightfully highlighted and given much emphasis, but for us we think 3rd Downs become easier when you have been highly productive on 1st and 2nd Down. This past regular season, we were the #7 team in the nation in 1st Down production. A big reason for that can be credited with how we practice our “Openers” and how we think about 1st and 2nd Down. Our offense has been at its best when we can play fast and establish good rhythm with our Openers. Much of our focus keys around our specific Run first-Pass attachment and our Pass First-Run attachment. These plays give us easy reads and allow for almost no checking of the play called. It is extremely rare for us to check a 1st or 2nd down call. Quick passing game is also heavily featured in Openers because these are rhythm throws, and then we mix and marry our vertical and play-action passes for the opportunities to take shots in early downs. A typical Tuesday plan is below. The bulk of our Tuesday energy is getting the QB’s familiar with our reads for that particular script. These can be our run reads featured in the Front 7 Run periods, our blitz reads in the Front 7 Pass periods, our progression reads in the Skelly periods, and then putting that all together in our team periods.
Wednesday: Full or ½ Pads. Red Zone is the emphasis of all team periods. I’m sure like most teams, we break the Red Zone into smaller sections: Goal line (GL-5), Red Zone (5-15), and High Red Zone (15-25). These sections of the Red Zone set up our script portion and then during all group (ie: Skelly) and team times we move the ball from those specific areas so our guys get a good sense of our Red Zone identity. Again, these scripted plays don’t necessarily feature new plays as much as new wrinkles (Tags) to plays from previous weeks. One thing we always define week to week is our “Nitro” play. This is a play everyone can run immediately from one signal/signboard.
Several games last year we would have a longer run or completion into the Red Zone and then follow up with Nitro. We forced two teams into calling timeouts as they tried to substitute in goal line personnel, forced two penalties for too many men on the field, and scored an easy one on one TD with a free play because the team still had 12 men on the field. In addition to Nitro, we like to establish either a specific formation or motion package unique to the Red Zone. This could be as small as 1-3 plays, but that give us something new not scouted, and then add to what has to be scouted the following week. On film, we really try to identify with our guys when the other team changes it’s identity in the Red Zone. Very few teams in my experience stay exactly the same, so we try and give a clear landmark. Is it the 20, 15, 10? Define that and then explain to our guys how the identity changes dramatically (ie: zone coverage team plays man). Finally, have a coach chart TD’s scored during the practice. Emphasize scoring touchdowns and even have the ball carriers score after contact in team periods.
Thursday: ½ Pads. Third down is the emphasis of all team periods, plus we do a 2-minute situation vs. our own defense. Again, our staff breaks 3rd down into three sections: short, medium and long. I know some coaches will specify in even more detail those yardage to gain plays on their chart, but we try to stay simple on the script even though we know what our best 3rd and 10 vs. 3rd and 15 calls are.
I mentioned earlier almost no checking on 1st and 2nd down because we normally want to maintain our fast tempo, but 3rd and 4th down present a time where you may gain enough information by going through a dummy or “double look” cadence call. This might be dictated by the opponent scout profile and what we think their 3rd down identity is, and if that can be confirmed by a fake cadence. At that same point though, if you are already in a good rhythm, I hesitate to change tempo especially if it appears the defense is tired and worn out. Overall though, the biggest change we make in our 3rd down play calling and coaching with our players is talking through how any of our base landmarks might need to change by down and distance. Again, we don’t want to introduce new plays, but we want to coach up our guys how certain routes change from “Openers” to 3rd down. We also clearly communicate when are the likely situations a 4th down play might occur and why we might want to just get a chunk on 3rd down to make that 4th down more convertible. We were 20 of 34 on 4th down, so that does show we are willing to be aggressive when going for it on 4th down.
Friday: Walk-through/travel day and meetings
Saturday: Execute the game plan!
In taking the time to be organized and scripting everything for the entire game week, we have found we don’t actually look at the script all that much during the game. Our QB’s coach has a copy upstairs, and one coach has a copy on the sideline, but as we call plays we rarely consult the chart because we have already practiced each situation so thoroughly throughout each practice session. One important note for communication is to practice each day how you call the no-huddle offense on game day. During all team times, if a coach is on the sideline during a game that is where they coach and call plays during practice. If a coach is in the press box, they are the on field coaches during practice. This has also helped us call our plays fast, regardless of practice or game time situations.
Do You Still Use Spreadsheets for Game Planning?
As coaches, we're always looking for new ways to increase our effectiveness and efficiencies. We're pulled in more directions than ever before, so it's important that we manage our time effectively to ensure we get the maximum results for our efforts.
That's why at X&O Labs we’re excited to share some good news.
About a year ago, we were introduced to the good folks at Game Planner Pro. If you're not familiar with them, in short, they have an online game planning tool that is very good for offensive game planning. We were so impressed with Game Planner Pro that our offensive coaches began using it last season... and now they are hooked.
By using Game Planner Pro, our coaches saved up to 10 hours per week on practice scripts and game day call sheets because they were only entering their plays once and then selecting which plays they wanted to include each week. It was that easy.
And that brings us to the good news... We liked using Game Planner Pro so much, we had to get more involved with the product. So now, Game Planner Pro is powered by X&O Labs.
What does that mean for you?
That's easy... just like our coaches are saving up to 10 hours per week managing their playbooks, you can too using Game Planner Pro Powered By X&O Labs.
Here's how Game Planner Pro works...
Watch this two-minute video and see Game Planner Pro in action. You’ll see how easy it is to use, how you’ll be more effective as an offensive coach and how efficient it is with your time.
With Game Planner Pro, you'll be able to easily and quickly print your practice scripts, game day call sheets (based on scenarios) and even your wristband cards.
Here’s what other coaches are saying:
Dennis Harmon at Harborfields High School told us, "Game Planner Pro saves me 6 hours per week on practice scripts alone."
While saving time is great, we're also hearing from coaches who say that Game Planner Pro helps them better prepare their game plans each week...
"Game Planner Pro helps me concentrate my offense specifically to win every situation during the week of practice," Nick Schmidt, Walnut Hills High School.
And here's the best part... You and your coaching staff can access Game Planner Pro from any Internet connected device, including mobile devices, tablets or desktops. Plus, you can print your daily practice scripts, weekly playbook, call sheets and wristband sheets at any time.
If you're like us, you don't like wasting time using spreadsheets and other outdated tools to manage your play books. That's why we invite you to get instant access to Game Planner Pro Powered By X&O Labs right now!